I’m sipping a cup of tea in the little kitchen of the albergue in Cadavedo right now; this albergue is old and worn, small and basic. The kitchen is a sink and some plates and utensils, but there’s also one of those things that heats up water, and several boxes of leftover tea. Perfect for me with this lingering cough. And with a long wooden table filling the room, the perfect space to catch up on some writing.
I’m two days into the Norte now (two walking days that is), so lets backtrack to where I was yesterday morning. I woke up in my hotel room in Oviedo, and I felt… still not great. But I didn’t want to sit still any longer and I figured I’d try to walk, just to see how it would go. There’s no way I have enough time to make it to Santiago- I did the San Salvador in 5 days and not 4, like I originally thought I would, and I lost a day due to being sick (plus I’m going to have an extra day in Scotland because of flight logistics, which took off yet another day off of my Camino-ing). So basically this means that I need to do some trimming, and I thought that the best place to begin would be at the beginning. My guidebook has this to say about the link between Oviedo and Aviles: “… this is not the most pleasant of walks- you’ve only just passed the industrial outskirts of Oviedo before joining the highway into Aviles…”. So yesterday morning I took a bus from Oviedo to Salinas, a small town about 7km past Aviles, and began walking from there. But before I could start walking, I was instantly stopped by two young Germans, sitting on a bench. “Do you speak English?” the girl asked me. She and her friend had gotten off track, and worried that they had lost the Camino.
I had just stepped off the bus and hadn’t quite figured out where I was yet, myself, but together we figured out the route. I let them walk ahead of me because almost right away, I could feel that walking was going to be a strain. Not as bad as the day into Oviedo, but I wasn’t feeling as good as I hoped. The day was sunny and bright- thank goodness no rain!- and while I knew I wasn’t far from the coast, unfortunately this day’s route didn’t allow for even a glimpse of the water. The day felt uneventful and long, though that was probably because I still wasn’t feeling well. Mostly I just wanted to arrive at my destination. I toyed with the idea of trying to find my own room again, knowing that getting good rest was still so important, plus I didn’t want to bother anyone with my coughing. But in the last few kilometers I didn’t really care if I had my own room or if I was in an albergue; once again, I just wanted to arrive.
And when I did arrive, to El Pito, where my guidebook promised there’d be an albergue and a couple pensiones, there was “no room at the inn”. The woman running the “albergue” (I’m not sure what it was, more like a hostal and it wasn’t just for pilgrims I don’t think, and it took reservations and it was sort of expensive), she wasn’t very helpful. She just sort of looked at me and said, “sorry” and told me that I could just keep walking to the next town with an albergue, which was 12 kilometers away. At this point it was already after 4:00 and I wasn’t feeling well and the thought of another 12 kilometers just made me want to sit down. There was another pilgrim there- who had made a reservation- who tried to help me, and I was so grateful for it. She sort of bounded over to me, stuck out her hand and said, “I’m Marcia Jane, from Germany” and then we sat on the ground and looked through her phone for ideas of where I could stay. It was good to be in the company of another woman, and someone who was kind.
We didn’t find much, though both Marcia Jane and the owner of the hostal thought that I could give the camping sites a try. And I started to walk towards them- in the opposite direction of the Camino, under a still burning sun- I walked and walked and then thought, “What in the world am I doing? I don’t feel well, and I don’t even have a tent. I don’t want to do this.”
So I just decided to keep following the Camino. My guidebook said there was a hotel in another 2 kilometers, and when I arrived there, lo and behold I found an available room. Hurray!! This place was in the middle of nowhere, there was nothing else around, but I had a room and it had a bed and much like the day when I walked into Oviedo, I took a shower, washed my clothes, and then fell alseep.
Middle of Nowhere to Cadavedo
As I slept in that big hotel room in the middle of nowhere, Spain, I had strange dreams. Or maybe they weren’t so strange- I dreamt that I was back at my apartment, then back at my parents’ house for a few days. It was a little reprieve from the Camino, just a little time to rest up and figure out what to do. It’s what I had fallen asleep thinking about- if I continue to feel sick, if I continue to be isolated, do I want to keep going? And if not, where do I go, and what do I do?
I woke up this morning feeling as though something had shifted. I definitely wasn’t totally better, but I felt like I had a bit more energy, and that was definitely true as I walked. Not my normal Camino energy by any means, but I didn’t feel like I was dragging myself along quite as much.
It was a long day, 34 kilometers, but there weren’t many (or any!) options on places to stay until I arrived in Cadavedo. The walk was bookended by brillance- I walked just at the edge of gorgeous, secluded beaches, a sprinkling of sunlight falling through the tree branches, just enough to make everything feel like it was glowing.
But in between? It felt like 30 of the day’s kilometers were under a gray sky, on a narrow track that was advertised as the coastal route, but which stayed too far from the coast, and always up up up and then down down down. Then repeat. And repeat. And repeat. There’s beauty around me, I know there is, but it’s been harder for me to see it. Everything feels a little harder than it used to be.
This Camino feels different. I’m not even sure what I’m comparing it too- I wonder if it has anything to do with just starting in the middle, feeling as though I’ve been plucked down into something totally foreign and strange. Or that I haven’t figured out how to belong here yet, but since I’m here I have to just go, but I don’t really know what I’m doing. I see a few clusters of pilgrims throughout the day, and everyone smiles and greets each other, but I’m not part of anything or anyone. I don’t know these people, not yet. Many of them already know each other. Or maybe I’m still in the mindset of the San Salvador, where there were no other pilgrims, it was just me and the path and that was different, but ultimately, it was good.
In any case, when I arrived to Cadavedo, I was worried that the albergue would be full. It had taken me the full day to walk, and I arrived at 4:30 (which is a bit late in the day, especially when there are lots of pilgrims on the path). When I rounded the corner, following a sign for the albergue, the only building I saw looked old and faded and my first thought was, “Oh no, this albergue has closed.” Turns out, it’s just an old building. There were some young Spanish guys sitting out in the back and a woman washing her clothing in the yard, and when I went upstairs I saw a sign posted that the hospitalera would be back at 6:30, and to take a bed in the meantime.
There were several beds open (and the albergue never filled up) but despite being around other pilgrims, it was still a very quiet night. The Spanish guys kept to theselves, and there were only a few others. I chatted with Yoko, from Japan, and later with a girl from Madrid, but everyone mostly did their own thing.
Was it like this for me last year? I’m trying so hard to remember. Somehow this feels very different to me, but last year, there were definitely evenings when I felt rather alone, or when I shared an albergue with people I didn’t know. And besides, I’m not feeling well! Of course that throws everything off- the walking, the eating, my connections with others.
So, everyone, that’s the recap on the last two days. Definitely a different sort of Camino experience for me- one that’s more challenging, not quite as fun, not quite as carefree. At least for now. But you know, as I was walking today, I asked myself, “Would I rather be home?” And I think of the dreams I had last night, of how nice home would be, just for a few days. But only a few days, and then I would be restless, knowing that I had more of summer to be off exploring and having adventures.
These days are adventures- maybe not the sunny, laughing kind (fingers crossed those come soon), but they’re important adventures to me all the same.