The Road to Santiago.

October 23, 2004

Photo of roads.
Where's the path?

Avilés to Muros de Nalón

I woke up when Mario left by the door next to my bed. It was 7:15 and still dark so I rolled over and went back to sleep for another hour.

After I packed, I sat down in the anteroom to plan my day. The next albergue was in Soto de Luiña which was 31 km (19 miles) away. That would take 8 to10 hours on a good day, and to make matters worse, there were two mountains that had to be climbed in the process. I was trying to figure out how to break that stretch down into two more reasonable stages. I was thinking of going to Soto del Barco when the hospitalero suggested that I go to Muros de Nalón which was another 4 km, but he was sure that if I asked around, I could find a place to stay. I decided to take his advice.

Before I left the city, I went into a bar to get a café con leche. Lying on the bar was El Diario, one of the major daily national newspapers. It was celebrating its 15th year. Coincidentally, only a few days ago, El Pais (another major national paper) celebrated its 10,000th edition. Imagine where the press has been free for only 27 years!

I was surprised to see an obituary of Betty Hill who lived in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, which is less than an hour away from my home. She and her husband, Barney, became famous when they claimed that they were abducted by aliens one night when driving home to Exeter, New Hampshire. That happened over 50 years ago and is still getting press. I guess there are many UFO believers in Spain. I wonder if there is a Rosa Buena (Roswell) in Spain?

As I continued out of the city, I noticed that all the streets were wet. I didn’t think that it rained during the night, and then I remembered that they wash down the streets and plazas over here. Sure enough, when I turned the corner, I saw teams of men with long hoses washing the steps of the iglesia (church). Why can’t they do that in Boston?

Photo of la Monstrua statue.
La Monstrua

In the middle of the city, I saw an interesting statue. It was of a very short, fat girl with an apple in her hand. The inscription read, “Doña Eugenia Martinez Vallejo — La Monstrua.” I’ m going to research this when I get home. Monstrua means monster. What did she do to gain such infamy? (Or, is it her size?)

Photo of Salinas sign.
We're not in Kansas anymore

The first part of the trek went well and I was soon entering the costal town of Salinas. Jerie’s sister, Verlee, used to live in Salina, Kansas, and I thought to myself, “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto!”

The next town was inland but had a name that evoked the sea: Piedras Blancas (White Stones). It was here in this pleasant town with a pleasant name where my problems began.

Just after the entrance to the town, I was standing on the sidewalk, trying to decide whether to take the camino or stay on the highway, when I was approached by a man who tried to tell me where the signs were. Suddenly, he just said, “Follow me.”

I have this thing about not wanting to reject help from people who are friendly to me. How could I tell this man, who had made several caminos himself, that I didn’t care where the camino was, I was interested in the fastest route. He took me through the entire town, cutting across roads here and taking shortcuts there. And he was moving at a pretty good clip. Since he was at least ten years older than I am, I wasn’t about let him get ahead of me. When we finally reached the outskirts of town (he had walked at least two miles with me), he pointed up the hill to the camino. Then he pointed off to the left and said la carretera mala, el camino mas mejor (the highway bad, the camino much better). I thought to myself, “Gee, it looks okay to me.”

But, as I said, I don’t want to hurt people’s feelings, so I dutifully trudged up the hill as he called out “no mucho carros” (not many cars).

He was right about that! I didn’t see any cars. That is, until I decided to water the flowers. I had to do a pirouette that would have gotten me additional points for difficulty at the Olympics.

Nor did I see many people. The one man I did come across was a little borracho (drunk). I could tell because he was talking to himself. Once he spotted me, he started talking to me about his wife. I just smiled and said no entiendo (I don’t understand). He replied ¿entiendes matramonio? (Do you understand marriage?) Again, I pretended not to understand because I’d heard that story too many times when I was a bartender. “She doesn’t understand . . . .”

The path kept going up the hill and I kept following the arrows and conchas. But, suddenly, they were gone. The path was gone. The arrows were gone. And there wasn’t a single concha. All there was, was a lot of new highway construction that was connecting the autopista (limited access highway) to the airport. I didn’t know which way to go, but I could see a pueblo (small town) in the distance. I kept taking different roads that seemed to head in the direction of the pueblo. Eventually I came to a carretera (highway) and found a restaurant. I decided to have lunch, ask for directions, and regroup.

After lunch, I continued walking on the highway until I came to a country road which led down the valley. Since the traffic was heavy and kind of intimidating, I took the trail. It led down the valley and then up a hill. When I came down the other side, I was near the train station of Soto de Barco. Muros de Nalón was only a few miles away, but I would have to go back on the highway and across the bridge. Some people at the train station suggested that it would be easier to take the train. It would only take ten minutes to wind around the valley for a couple of stops and end up in Muros.

Photo of Muros de Nalon.
Muros de Nalon

After I got off the train in Muros de Nalón, I went to the main plaza and began asking if there was any place to stay. The hospitalero was wrong. Except for an expensive hotel, the only accommodation I found was an apartment for 20 euros. It had a little kitchenette and was right next to a supermercado.

In spite of its name, a supermercado is not very super, but more like a small grocery store where one can also get packaged food. I went and bought myself the makings of a ham and cheese omelet.

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