Sept. 28 – Oct 2: Navia to Ribadeo

Sept. 28: Navia – 14 miles
I’m so busy chatting with a pilgrim from Michigan, all I know is that the terrain is flat. The young woman from Taiwan we greet each day is suffering from blisters. We give her some of the extra bandages Michael received at the clinic. I tell her (as best I can) that my name for her is “Fuerte” (strong); she’s traveled here alone, speaks no Spanish and very little English. 

One minute I’m considering taking off my jacket and infatuated with the group of trees that look like the talking trees from “The Wizard of Oz.” The next minute the wind picks up and it’s raining hard. My pants are drenched and stuck to me, but my feet are dry inside my shoes, I’m dry inside my coat and I’m inside myself, thinking and plodding along.

Casona Naviega is a renovated stately mansion in the English country style. I walk around the common areas, marveling at the furnishings and, when no one is looking, I gracefully glide down the staircase pretending to be welcoming my party guests. 

Casa Xusto sitting room

Sept. 29: La Caridad – 8 miles
After a lovely breakfast, with Spanish guitar music playing softly in the background, and a conversation with a woman from S. Africa who’s on the Camino, it’s not easy to open the door and head back out into the rain. Luckily, we’ve planned a short day.

Even though our pants are drenched again, this time our shoes are soaked, but we’re chatting away. We try taking turns singing Broadway show tunes, but quickly realize we only know the first line and the chorus of each song.

We arrive at Hotel Rural Casa Xusto early and are warmly greeted by Pepe, who takes such good care of us. He reminds us there will be a festival in town starting today and suggests making us a dinner reservation. For a fair price he will wash our wet/dirty clothes and deliver them in the evening. Then, while we’re waiting for our room to be ready, he brings us a beer and some jamón.

Jamón is a staple of Spanish cuisine. It’s similar to Italian prosciutto, but with a more intense flavor. The pork hind leg of the Spanish pig is dry cured in salt. Serrano is the more typical type. Ibérico, from black pigs, is the most expensive meat in the world, with a leg costing in the range of $4500. A sign of status is to impress your guests with your jamón displayed on a stand, ready for slicing.

Originally a 200 year old barn with a residence above, the usual stone, wooden beams and antique furnishings take on an enchanting, almost magical feel here. There’s a beautiful sitting area outside our room that we have all to ourselves. We fall asleep to the sounds of music, singing and fireworks. 

Sept. 30. – Oct. 2: Ribadeo- 16 miles
Today is our last day walking in the province of Asturias. 

We delay putting our wet shoes on as long as we can. Michael has a good laugh and wants no part of my invention. I take the small plastic bags that the bathroom glasses are wrapped in, put them over my socks and my feet stay dry all day.

The path today is fairly flat on rural farm roads. When our guidebook says that the route splits after the white house with the palm tree, we wonder- what happens if they decide to repaint the house?! 

We stop to view the ocean and continue along on a boardwalk. Then, we come to a pedestrian bridge, the likes of which we’ve never seen before. On one side is a high fence and the expressway and on the other side is a lower fence and the Calabrian Sea below. The bridge is just over a half mile long, but seems to go on forever and, with every truck passing in the right lane, we feel it reverberate. With heads down, we have no choice but to keep moving.

All along, we’ve been reserving rooms weeks ahead with no problems. After researching for hours at a time, we finally realize there’s absolutely no place to stay at our next stop until Monday, Oct. 3!  “Es lo que es!” (It is what it is!). “Monta las olas!” ( Ride the wave!) Ribadeo is our first town in the province of Galicia and the last town on the coast before we head inland; the perfect place to stop for an extra night! 

We explore the churches, historic buildings and neighborhoods in this seaside tourist town. Our hotel, La Casona de Lazúrtegui, is a casona-light; “casona” is mansion in Spanish. The rooms are plain, but the building has character and the lovely salon becomes our personal living room. 

As it turns out, this hotel is not available on Oct. 2, so we’re “forced” to stay at Parador de Ribadeo Lugo. Paradors are managed by a state-run company and located in historic Spanish buildings such as fortresses, monasteries, castles or prestigious homes. This historic home sits at the mouth of the Eo River and we spend the day here relaxing, inside and out, enjoying cocktails and dinner while taking in the views.

Sept. 24 – 27: Muros de Nalón to Luarca

Sept. 24: Muros de Nalón – 16 miles
We breakfast with a couple from England and a man from Poland who left his front door in May and has been walking ever since! It’s a pleasant walk through villages and dirt trails in the forest…until the rain starts.

We find ourselves sloshing through mud and over rocks and gnarled tree roots.  Navigating puddles and trenches takes total concentration and we are laser focused for what seems like hours. I’m not sure what’s more slippery; the ascents or the descents. The rain seems to be enjoying the game it’s playing with us. Every time we get too warm and take off our rain jackets, it starts up again.

We welcome the drizzle and the change from muddy forest to road. We chat with a woman from the Netherlands who regales us with stories about each of her Camino adventures over the last ten years. It’s a League of Nations, as we stand at a crossroads with pilgrims from all different countries trying to ascertain the correct route. The yellow arrows and the shells posted along the way are our guides. At the start, the base of the shell pointed the correct way, but now they are displayed both ways!

Casa Carmina has not opened for the day yet, so we wait on a bench across the street with some other pilgrims. The mother/daughter owners are a well-oiled machine, welcoming us early out of the drizzle and getting us settled. Rather than a room of bunk beds, we opt for a private room at this albergue. The weather clears and we enjoy some wine, sitting outside on their lovely grounds. We chat with a young woman from the Netherlands, who started cycling from the northern most part of her country and plans to end up at the southern most point of Portugal. And to make it even more of an experience, she’s camping along the way!

Sept. 25: Soto de Lunas – 14 miles
Another difficult day awaits us! It’s a repeat of yesterday and we’re fixated on every muddy step, with steep ups and downs. In between, we are treated to peeks of the ocean and walks through small towns.

There’s a convivial gathering in the crowded bar and dining room as we enter Hotel Valle de Luiñas. We are welcomed warmly at this lovely rural inn and told our bags have not arrived yet. We had planned to enjoy Sunday dinner here, so we wash our faces and hands and quickly sit down. With our muddy pants and boots hidden under the white tablecloth, we decide we don’t look too bad from the waist up.

The first one in the shower each day is responsible for giving the shower report. Is it slippery? Which are the hot/cold faucets? Sometimes they are opposite.  Does it leak? I purposely let Michael go first today.

Sept. 26: Cadavedo – 16 miles
The good news: the hotel is right on the Camino path. The bad news: our guidebook rated yesterday a two in difficulty and rates today a three! Right away, we come to a long tunnel which is so dark, we can’t see a thing. By the light of our phones we walk cautiously, trying to ascertain the terrain.

By days end, we will have tackled five water crossings, each with its own unique characteristics. Whether we’re balancing from rock to slick rock, deciding the sturdiest place to step on a tree root or wondering if it’s best to go straight through or around the perimeter, we can count on our our hiking poles to get us to the other side. The narrow path that follows takes us up a steep incline, but the view of the ocean at the top makes it all worthwhile.

We’re so happy to have arrived that we don’t mind climbing the grand staircase at Hotel Rural Casa Roja, a charming renovated country home. We never tire of the stone walls and beamed ceilings that these places all have in common. It’s not much of a town, but with lovely sitting areas, inside and out, we make sure to take advantage of both. But, not before buying a bottle of wine at the market conveniently located across the street.

Sept. 27: Luarca – 11 miles
We begin with jackets on, only to take them off a few minutes later. There’s no rain in the forecast, the temperature quickly rises from the 60’s to the 70’s and it’s cloudy; perfect for walking.

The forest path is steep, but surprisingly dry. The makeshift steps, made up of twisted tree roots and rocks, force us to contemplate every step, but rather than tiring me out, it leaves me with a peaceful feeling. Walking through the small farm towns is a welcome pleasure. The old stone dwellings that look as if they’ve seen better days seem to be magically transformed into homes with just the addition of their blooming flower boxes.

Luarca is an older seaside town. What makes it unique are the white homes balancing on the cliffs that encircle the Bay of Biscay. I am fascinated to see how they are connected and still standing! The streets are so incredibly steep, I wonder how they get around on icy/snowy days. Meanwhile, two “señoras” (older women) are arm in arm, talking and laughing, as they bypass us and make their way quickly down the street!

Built in 1906, the Hotel Villa de Luarca was a residence and our room looks out to a lovely little courtyard filled with flowers. Most towns close up in the late afternoon and as soon as they reopen again for the evening, the bars, restaurants and plazas quickly all come alive. After a quick walking tour of the historic quarter after dinner, it’s time for these two peregrinos to call  it a night.