Tineo to Pola de Allande 25.7 kilometers

We have to make another decision; if we follow the official Camino Route there is nothing for us for 39k and on top of that the weather is bad. So we must take the low level route. Something we will regret later, but for now it looks the best option.

Again we are blessed with breakfast at the hostal. Only pastry and coffee but we are fit for nothing without it. After this we walk back to the market square. The Camino turns sharply uphill from here through the town. Then when we leave the town it continues uphill on a dirt track. We start gaining on an oriental looking couple, but we stop to look at the House of El Ultimo Pilipino. Normally a stamp is available here, but for whatever reason not at this time.

We pass through more woodland and gain on the Orientals again. They have split as the woman walks more slowly and the man waits. They are very friendly and keen to practice their English. The reason he seems so tall is he is carrying a child on his back, so she must carry most of the luggage. They are from Korea and must complete the Camino in a finite time in order to catch their flight home. We pass and re pass them for most of the day.

There is another diversion here to Santa Maria de Obona Monastery, the book says it is optional so we ignore it.

When we reach road again it is wet and slippery. When we turn, my boots can get no purchase and I go skidding down. Fortunately I fall on my back and my fall is broken by my rucksack. I am not hurt but I was shaken and tried my best to avoid the tarmac while it was still wet.

After 12k we arrive at Campiello. There is more here that it states in the book and we stop at Casa Ricardo, an alburgue bar and shop. To rest and refresh. After we had our stamp and were sat with our coffee Ricardo himself came over to talk to us. He gave us a history lesson and much good advice: Spain was divided into two kingdoms and the king of the southern kingdom invited the moors to help him defeat the king of the north. Unfortunately the moors decided that they wanted it all and after defeating the northerners killed the king of the south. Now Asturias was particularly difficult and stayed independent, but their King Alfonso had other ideas. Alfonso11  did the first Camino on the route we now know as Primativo, it crossed all the highest mountains and at the top of each he set up refuges or Hospitales. he appointed lords from the francs and allowed them land and tax free status in return for defending them. This is where we get the term “Franchise”. He invoked the name of St James, who was supposed to have arisen and helped drive back the moors, while riding a white horse. So it was from here that the Reconquista started. All pilgrims at that time needed a stamp from  Santa Maria de Obona to allow them to stay at the hospitales.

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From here we passed through some beautiful countryside for 2k until we reached Borres. We were not ready to stop yet, but for those taking the Hospitales route this was the last chance. It looked a horrible place and only one alburgue, we could not even see the bar. So we moved on knowing we had missed our chance to change our minds and go the hospitales route.

After another kilometer we saw a big sign, there was no chance of missing this one. Straight on for hospitales and left for Pola de Allande. The book makes little sense here we follow the arrows for about 2k then we hit the road. Not a sign here and the book appears to send us straight across. There is no straight across only a left followed by a right a hundred yards further on. There was a bus shelter at this junction a good place to stop, have a drink some fruit and check the GPS. As we thought Pola de Allande was to the right. So we about turned and followed the road. We found out later we were not the only ones to make this error.

There is a footpath running parallel to the road and slightly below it. It is a comfortable place to be, following the road, but apart from it and cutting off the big corners. We gained on a woman who was walking in a dress, she stopped and we passed her by with enough distance not to speak. Later down the road we found a bar. It was beer time so we stopped for a rest and got talking to another woman, she was a companion of the woman in a dress. Seems they walk apart together a lot. They are from Canada, does that explain it? Anyway her friend (in the dress) had made the same error as us up the road.

We left the bar as did the two women, separately again. We left the road again for 3k of dirt tracks boulders and streams until we hit Pola de Allande. In the town we spied a bar, it was closed, back tracked and found another at the cross roads.

We had a drink and pincho and sat by the street. One of the two Canadians and told us she was in the hotel around the corner. Sounded a bit pricy to me the disadvantage of booking ahead.  We crossed the road to Hotel Lozano 10e cheaper and looks a bit better to me. Later we tried the hotel for food but the kitchen was closed as was the kitchen in Café Victoria. So we again returned to our bar on the corner Pizzaria Café El Centro, well the clue is in the name. We just had to have the Pizza Diablo. The waitress said “Es muy picante” I told her it’s ok we’re Welsh. It was a joy to have something with that much taste, loved it.

We saw a lot of pilgrims in there that night, the two Canadians, the German who had shadowed us and a few others we had passed over various days and hailed with “Buen Camino” it was almost like an alburgue dinner.

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La Espina to Tineo 11.3 kilometers

There are some big stages ahead, so it was time for some decisions. We should be taking a rest day today but from here the next stage would be 37k so instead we are doing a short stage instead.

Early morning in La Espina we were surprised to find one or two bars already open, so we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast before we had gone too far.

The way out of town was easy for a change. There was only one road so we took it. Soon though we were travelling through thick fog and unable to find the arrows we followed the road. This was a mixed blessing as the traffic was getting worryingly close, we had to wave our torches about to ensure we were seen. But the advantage was after  about 5k we passed another bar and were able to have a second coffee.

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At about the 10k mark the sun had broken through and the fog was starting to lift. Knowing we did not have far left to go we stopped at the picnic area we passed.  We had some yogurt and fruit and relaxed.

The last kilometer is often the worst, but not today. Although it was all main road and foggy we had made good time. As we walked into Tineo we passed many places, but somehow it did not yet feel right. We were rewarded for our perseverance by a gorgeous market square alive with people milling around and haggling for the best prices.

On the road to the square we found Pension Corono overlooking the market street and with a view across a scenic and verdant valley. The only downside was there was no Laundromat. There was a tinteria where they will do a wash for you, but that would involve us staying an extra day.

The sun was now out and we sat in the square with a beer just soaking it up. This was the first real sun we had since arriving in Spain and I was not about to miss my opportunity. First time we came across the Spanish custom of pinchos as well. This place had pieces of bread with boiled ham on, very nice it was too, although Viv did not like the excessive fat.

Later we set off looking for food. We bought some provisions in the supermarket, but without cooking facilities we could not make a meal, so we wandered around the town. The local alburgue was in a four star hotel, their menu was way over our price range. Everywhere else, the kitchens were closed. As we wandered around we noticed we were being shadowed by another guy obviously a pilgrim and also looking for food. The quest was having little success, so we tried the bar at our pension, nope. He did however point us down another street where we did get menu of the day and of course wine. We did not see the guy shadowing us again and assumed he had found food somewhere else, but a few other pilgrims did find this place.

 

 

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Santa Eulalia de Doriga to La Espina 21.3 kilometers

In the morning it was difficult not to bring mud inside our shed. The boots had been outside in a box, but we could not put them on outside as it was again raining. We were out before Luis and never saw him again, so it is on the Camino.

Behind the bar the road went steadily uphill. We followed a mix of gravel paths and minor roads for 3k until we came to the outskirts of Cornellana. Here we had a choice, we could follow the official Camino route or stay on the road and go through the town. We had no breakfast yet, the choice was easy. About 300 yards along the road we saw a filling station with a café. The thing with Garages is they are more or less 24 hour and so it was we were lucky. The seats were outside and the rain had not quite stopped so we sheltered under a canopy with our coffee and cheese and bacon roll.

Refreshed we carried on and re-joined the Camino after about a kilometer. More minor roads and footpaths, but we were diverted on what seemed to us a strange route. Then we saw more European money at work. We were diverted to avoid the construction of another flying road. Giant cranes lifted sections onto huge pillars that reached into the sky and scarred the beautiful valley. Men crawling up the side of the pillar like ants on the forage. All this to divert traffic from the minor roads that weave through the valley. Roads that carry maybe a dozen cars an hour. I reflect on our own roads, overcrowded and potholed, and the fact that it is our money paying for this abomination.

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As we follow more footpaths and minor roads we keep passing junctions and roundabouts where it says the road is closed. All this in preparation for another new road to nowhere. After another 10k we arrive at Salas. We come in along a board walk that goes over a flood area. It is like a big park where you can relax or when the river is in flood it takes the water before it hits the town. Halfway through the town we stop for a beer and some food. A lot of the local trade seems to revolve around feeding pilgrims but not much else.

At the top of the town there is a sewing shop and I can finally get some decent needles and thread.  The woman asks if it is for Viv or me to do, I have no idea what difference that makes. Do women use a different needle than men? Then we have an argument about the colour, “grey” she says, “no it is green” says I. She is quite insistent, but I am the customer and my pants are green. If she is colour blind she is in the wrong job.

We have another 7k of mixed road and footpath, before we arrive at Bodenaya again the end point of the stage, but there is little here. Only another kilometer to La Espina where we arrive on a top road that seems to run parallel to the main road. There is a sign pointing to the left for food. We follow it down but it is just another of those places with vending machine’s. We get a stamp and a chocolate bar, but the flies are to bothersome so we do not stop.

Just down the road we find Hostal Dakar, double room and menu of the day, and to top it they have a large screen TV. After we had washed and rested we explored the local supermarket for tomorrows lunch. We get some bread fruit and yogurt, and some cheap deodorant, hopefully to kill that wet dog smell. Of course all our gear is back at the Hostal and we get caught out by the rain. The heater is on some sort of complex remote control, so we have no way of making it work. We just have to hope our stuff dries in the bathroom. At least I can now repair my pants, you find what is really important on the Camino.

The food is good as is the wine. I just love this giving you a whole bottle with your meal. I sat drinking it as I watched Wales finally knocked out of the European Cup. It was great while it lasted and at least now many Spaniards know where it is. Instead of “I know Wales, Londres” now we get “Wales, si Gareth Bale” we are taking small steps.

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Oviedo to Santa Eulalia de Doriga 30.3 kilometers

It was good to get breakfast, for a change before we left. Again we were fortunate, it would be a long time before we hit civilization again. Across the street and we then cross the railway. A guy with a briefcase was going our way and we started to wonder whether this was some new way of doing the Camino. I think that all the construction going on here just diverted everyone onto the same route.

Eventually though we enter a park and then leave on a series of minor roads. The book says there are sufficient bars along the way today, again I call into doubt that the writers have actually done this. 4k in we arrive at San Lazaro Paniceres there is nothing here. after another 2.5k we arrive at Capilla de Carmen. There is a stamp in the porch at the church, just to prove we were here, but nothing else. Fortunately we have our sausage rolls to sustain us.

After walking 12k we arrive at Venta del Escamplero. Our only reaction here is “Thank god we stopped in that Hotel last night”.

The walking is good and the views are great but “Bars no hay” as they would say here. It was 25k before we found anywhere. We stocked up at the supermarket and seriously thought of stopping here. Why we did not is anyone’s guess, there seemed to be a lot of people stocking up, probably to stop in San Juan de Villapañada. But a donativo alburgue is all that is there.

The road is getting more rural now and we are starting to climb. In front we see a guy in a  hat and we gradually gain on him. He stops to read something by the side of the road unwilling to join in conversation, it seems. As we passed him it appears we also passed the alburgue, only by checking the GPS did we find out. Just as well we did not want to stop then.  The road is narrow and dirty, so when we came upon a tractor pulling a donkey, we were stuck behind it for some time. The guy in the hat was gaining on us again.

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After another 5k we were knackered and Santa Eulalia was a welcome sight. But there was nothing here, we walked around the church in despair. Across the road was a tumble down bar that gave us hope, then we found it shut. The guy in the hat arrived, there was a sign that said there was an alburgue, but you have to ring. My phone is on a UK network and I do not know the code for this place. Fortunately the guy in the hat was Spanish and he rang for us. We found his name was Luis and he had just started from Oviedo. He was a nurse and his girlfriend had dropped him off and would pick him up again when he had finished.

It was a good half hour before the owners arrived and showed us to our luxury accommodation, bunk beds in a shed. The shower was not the best either. It was here I discovered deodorant spray; people often leave things behind in alburgues. Despite washing I still smelled awful, my clothes were infused with sweat and the smell of stale socks, so the spray that had been left was liberally applied all over. Viv said I smelled like a cheap perfume factory, but never the less I felt a bit better.

On advice from the book we had enough food with us and did not eat at the bar, but Luis enjoyed quite a good meal it seems. The beer was good and the fresh air in the shed soon had me drifting into a deep sleep.

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Pola de Siero to Oviedo 21.7kilometers

We get an early start again, woken by the sun streaming through the windows. At least with the place to ourselves we were not disturbed and can take our time packing up. We have to unlock the place to let ourselves out and leave the key in a box. We worry about leaving the place unlocked, but I guess, we are not the first and this must be a regular thing.

Nearly all roads today, although we have a minor path in the first few k. At 3k we reach El Berron, despite what the book says, there is nothing open here, so we carry on. After another 4.5k we come to Meres, nothing open here either.

After another 4k we come to a bar, not far from the next town, but we were taking no chances. Not the most salubrious of places but the bocadillos were good as was the coffee. After this we have to cross the road again. We leave the main road only to cross a medieval bridge and then get stuck at a level crossing. We stop at a Farmacia in the hope of getting some toothpaste. You would think that on the Camino you could get small sizes but it just does not happen. Unless you are prepared to Viv is not happy with me or the GPS and now feels we should have followed the road.

We ask some locals and they just want to direct us to the alburgue. Eventually we arrive at what looks like the old town, still no waymarks, so we ask a policeman. First year Spanish “sigo todo recto” he said, go straight on. First year Spanish I can easily cope with. Soon we were in front of the Cathedral. The whole place is swarming with tourists. Cameras silly hats tour guides and more Japanese than a karaoke festival. Already fed up by the lack of directions and after our normal solitude we were unable to cope, so we left the sights of Oviedo almost unvisited.

There are shells now on the road that we can follow and soon we see the next split. This time though we make a conscious decision to stay with the Primitivo and not to rejoin El Norte at Aviles. again though this was an almost disastrous choice.

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We cross a busy intersection, the benches here allowed us somewhere to stop and eat a bit of fruit. Although we had not done a great distance, we were tired from all the indecision. On the other side of the road was a  Chinese bazar. I managed, with the help of the assistant to get a needle and thread. My trousers were getting embarrassing so I needed to do something.

We now had yellow arrows again so when we found a place called Hotel Fuente La Plata we were confident in our ability to take or leave it. How much, I asked 90euros the lady said. Too much said I and we walked out. Unknown to us there was nowhere else to stay for another 12k, this was where it was almost disastrous. No food, no washing, no showers and a very long day. Fortunately the patron, being a business man, would not let customers escape so easily. He ran after us 35euros he said with breakfast, well that will do me.

We showered up and I got to work with my needle and thread. Not being used to these things the thread was too thick and strong for my needle. I managed to sew one button on and the eye on the needle burst. No more sewing today then.

Again this place was not bursting with eating places but there was one across the road, with platos by the dozen. Oh the joys of a big burger washed down, of course, with San Miguel. We found a nice pasteleria and bought some sausage rolls and cheese rolls for the journey tomorrow.

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Villaviciosa to Pola de Siero 26.4 kilometers

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Horneos used to store corn for the chickens. The unusual pillars prevent rats from climbing in.

 

We got up not in the best of moods. Still slightly hungry after last nights poor meal and in dire need of coffee and some breakfast. We bumped into the Spanish ladies again but they were moving more slowly than us, we were on a mission for coffee.

We travelled thirteen arduous kilometers before we found a bar. We had our heads down and our eyes all but shut, without food and coffee we were fit for nothing. So glad were we to find food we just ordered and sat down not noticing the French couple sitting there again. By hand gestures and the word “Oviedo” we realized they were asking for our destination tonight. We said “No Gijon” they looked askance “No Gijon Oviedo” they said. After much hand gestures and the help of some others we found out we had taken a wrong turning outside Villaviciosa and now we were on the Primitivo and no longer El Norte. We could turn in Oviedo and rejoin El Norte or we could stay on the Primitivo, the decision could wait. Either way we were not going to Gijon tonight.

Oviedo was too far for us today and the French left while we ate our late breakfast, we would not see them again.

Just then John arrived jumping up suddenly from behind a wall. We all stocked up with water and he joined us for the day. Funny how Viv calls me The Mallory Bunny and struggles to keep up, yet her and John are off in front all day and now I can’t keep up.

 

The day passes quickly though, at the back I can more or less go at my own pace just occasionally catching up with the conversation. John seems to have an opinion on every political situation. I tell him he is not entitled if he has never voted. You cannot blame those who choose to vote for their opinions if you cannot be bothered yourself.

Eventually we arrive at the outskirts of Polo de Siero. We pass a few bars and eventually stop at a bar in the square, drink time. John, it seems, has a schedule and we work out that he can just about manage it, but he will not be stopping here. We give him my number and he promises to call, then we set off to look for a hostal. John, being over helpful asks some local guys and they set me off for the Hotel Loriga. We wave goodbye, this is the last time we see John.

No amount of ringing the bell will bring a response  at the Hotel so we set off to look for another. It is quite futile so we head out toward the alburgue. The hospitalero welcomes us in and gives us a stamp. There is male and female shower room and toilet. It is quite spacious with three shower cubicles in each. The book says 18 beds but we can only count twelve.

Anyway being in an alburgue meant we could get everything washed and hung outside. We were early enough to have the place to ourselves and enjoyed the free time, before heading off to the square again for food.

In the square we hit the usual problem, nobody was serving food. In the end we went to a kebab house that was doing platos and had chicken and chips. We may be getting plenty of exercise but we are not getting healthy food choices. Beer in cans as well, living the high life here.

We returned to the alburgue and the hospitalero was gone. It was locked up, but we had a key. Inside we were totally alone, for twelve euros we had a huge building to ourselves. We are in for a peaceful night.

 

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Ribadesella to Villaviciosa 34.6kilometers

We slept well in our bunks, because although the beds were not the best our chalet faced out of the campsite towards open country. The rising sun woke us early though so we dropped the key in the plant pot as requested and set off.

We came to another split in the Camino, the lower road leading to an alburgue, (My guide updates said this was an unnecessary diversion). But just a couple of yards in front of us on the alburgue road we saw  a young deer. Startled by us it jumped up and leaped over the hedge. It made the early morning rise really worthwhile.

We passed through La Vega but aside from the church, which was closed up at this time of the morning, there was nothing. Even the promised bar was nowhere to be seen.

Next we had another uphill climb on another medieval road, it seemed to just go on and on. After another 7k we came to La Isla and at last an open bar. It was still raining, so as well as food and coffee it was a chance to just dry our things out a bit.

Soon after we came to Colunga. They had two supermarkets so we bought some food, some yogurt, fruit and some gaseosa. It had stopped raining by now so when we saw a bench at the top of the town we decided to stop and have a light lunch.

Another 9k on highways and minor roads and we arrived at Priesca. Apparently the Pre-Romaneque church is one of the oldest on the camino, but it was locked up. The picnic benches and quiet wooded area outside provided a welcome short rest, where we finished off the gaseosa and our fruit.

Only another 3k to Sebrayo but it was downhill and muddy. Another strange place for a stage ending, the alburgue does not even have potable water. There was a new one however just further along, but when hospitalleros come running out to try and get custom I worry. This is one, one horse town we would not be stopping in. Another kilometer down the road we passed a donativo kitchen with vending machines. We came across a few of these, a rest place for pilgrims and a source of income for some. We stopped and had a KitKat and coffee. Vending machine coffee not the best, but we were now getting tired and hungry, getting near the 30k mark again. We were sorely tempted to turn back to the alburgue, but turning back is something we avoid at all costs.

The road to Villaviciosa was steep and loose gravel, not my favourite. Until it leveled off before crossing the main highway twice. then the long the road into town. As we entered town we were met by a guy who wanted to talk. It appears he has something to do with the Camino and was determined to send us to an Alburgue. We were not having a lot of success with hostals and then we bumped into a group of Spanish ladies we had met in Boo. They told us the alburgue had private rooms, so we followed them to the Alburgue. They had no private rooms left, so we walked on and a few yards later we found a hostal. There sat having a drink was the French couple from La Franca and Columbres. We had a day off and they walked at speed, I never found out how we managed to catch them up.

A bit of a grotty place, but it did us for the price. We had paid for the private bathroom, but I think that the shared one was better. Still it is only one night.

We returned to where we had met the Spanish women for some food. There was also a launderette across the road, so we got some of our clothes freshened up as well. The food was not the best, they had one of those menus supplied by the company that does ready meals. The choice was any one of two microwave meals on the list. Bolognese  it was then and a bit of salad. We heard the microwave just behind the screen, no attempt at deception.

Later we tried to get some ice cream and that did not go so well either. We wandered around the town and could find nothing of quality,again only factory made stuff and a place packed with kids.

Villaviciosa may not be exactly viciosa, but it was not that welcoming either.

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