The Road to Santiago.

October 14, 2004

Photo of Cuobos de memoria.
Cuobos de memoria

Llanes to Piñeres

This has been one hell of a day! It started at 6 a.m. when the roar of the train engines jolted me awake. I had left the window open to get some fresh air, but I should have realized that an albergue which used to be a rail depot would be next to some trains — trains that warm up their engines early in the morning. Fortunately, they only roared for about 15 minutes and then went into an idle mode and I was able to fall back asleep.

I wanted to take some pictures of Llanes, but at 9 a.m. the light was still a little weak, so I went to breakfast. I had a café con leche y un pinchon de tortilla española (coffee with hot milk and a piece of potato omelet on a roll) and read the newspapers.

My main photographic objective was to get some shots of los cubos de la memoria  (blocks of the memory) for which the town is famous. At the entrance to the harbor is a series of break­waters which include a great number of giant square blocks of stone. An artist painted many of them that are above low tide. I didn’t find out whose memories are depicted but they certainly are colorful and unique.

Photo of crab traps.
Crab traps

On the piers, men were spreading out and inspecting their nets. I came across a big pile of what looked similar to lobster pots. I asked them, ¿que son estos?  (what are those?) They replied: trampas para los cangrejos (traps for crabs).

The camino kept changing from road to path to highway to country road. At one place the town road was being dug up by a backhoe. The workmen saw me coming and signaled for me to pass. They waited for me while I jumped over the ditch.

Most of this trail had been passing through rural places, void of pueblos (towns or villages). Now I was worried about where to eat. It was 12:30 when I reached the town of Bricia. It was too early to get a meal because they wouldn’t open until after 1:30. Consequently, I had two choices — kill an hour waiting or continue on to the town of Naves, which was only 5 K away. I stopped a man and asked if there were many restaurants in Naves. He said si,mucho (yes, many).

So I headed for Naves. The wind was kind of strong along the ocean and I began to tire. By now, I definitely needed food. Well, to make a long story short, there are many restaurants in Naves, pero cerrado en invierno (but closed in the winter.) The next town was Villaromes. It was only about a kilometer away. Same story — all closed.

As I walked along, I picked a few figs off of a tree. They tasted good, but they certainly wouldn’t give me enough nutrition. The next town was only a kilometer away — cerrado.  In the following town, I finally found a bar that was open, but the kitchen was closed. All they had (besides drinks) were potato chips and other snacks. I tried to talk them into making me some­thing, but they refused. There’s a restaurant down the road only a half a kilometer way. Oh, yeh! I’ve heard that one before.

So, glumly, I put my pack back on and trudged down the road. Thankfully, there I found a restaurant and it was open. I had a very good meal and a badly needed rest.

The next couple of hours were quite pleasant, walking through farm country. When I finally got to the town of Piñeres, I had trouble finding the albergue. People didn’t know exactly where it was or, if they did, they didn’t explain it to me well enough. I kept doubling back and kept looking for the place.

I was starting to get desperate. I don’t know if it was stress or the meal that I had had, but I was under pressure — I needed some servicios (services, i.e. toilets). When I saw a bar, I thought: great! I can ask directions and use the toilet. Little did I know that I was entering the Bar from Hell.

There was a woman behind the bar and a man leaning against it. (They were straight out of central casting for a Stephen King or Alfred Hitchcock movie.) I said hola, buenas tardes (hello, good afternoon). They just looked at me. So, I ordered a café con leche (to be polite) and asked for the servicios. The bar lady dourly pointed to a door in the back wall.

When I went in there, I just groaned. It was a “no seater!” Instead of an ordinary toilet, the no-seater is a porcelain receptacle in the floor which is about 3 feet square and 3 inches deep. It has a hole in the center that is about 6 inches in diameter. That is the target. And to guide you in hitting that target are two corrugated footpads placed strategically on either side of the target hole. To hit aforementioned target takes some agility and strong upper leg muscles, especially if you hope to not soil your clothes.

To add insult to injury, there was no paper! I went back out and asked for some papel hygenico which the bar lady reluctantly retrieved for me. I could swear that she was smirking when I came out.

When I asked her where the albergue was she answered me in a very rapid manner. I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of asking again. Then I tried calling the number that was in the guidebook — no answer. I tried again — still no answer. After a while, the bar lady said that the number had been changed. I asked her if she knew the new number. She opened a notebook and rapidly spouted out the number. It took me two repetitions before I wrote down the correct number.

So I dialed the new number. A woman answered and I told her that I was un peregrino who wanted to stay at the albergue. She said something very rapidly — the only thing I understood was adios (goodbye) which she said before hanging up. I asked the bar lady to help me but she wouldn’t dial the phone. I redialed and thrust the phone at the bar lady. The only thing I could understand was when the bar lady said. Nada, entiende nada (nothing, he doesn’t understand a thing.) When she clicked off, the bar lady told me espera para ella a la albergue (wait for her at the albergue). I said thanks, smiled through clenched teeth, and left.

I started back toward the last concha I had last seen and tried a new path. As I passed an old house, I almost ran into the hospitalera. I asked her where the albergue was and she said aqui (here). She let me. The house didn’t actually look so dilapidated on the inside. She opened the blinds, switched on the lights, and turned on the water heater.

After I showered and put on some clean clothes, I tried to take a nap but couldn’t sleep — I kept expecting Jack Nicholson to chop down the door. After I got some rest, I got up and decided to eat the food I had been carrying in my pack for special situations. And this was special because nothing could make me go back to that bar, and certainly not to eat a meal there.

As always, before I eat I test my blood. I was surprised to find that it was 76 mg/dl. Maybe this was why I was cold, tired, and paranoid. The morning reading had been 78. Perhaps I should cut back on the Lantus, my bedtime baseline insulin. Obviously, my metabolism was changing. And the stress of the day probably was also to blame.

Actually the wine, toastees, and a can of pate made a nice meal. For postres (dessert), I had two mandarin oranges.

Photo of watch tower.
Watch tower
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