From Cóbreces to Bodenaya

Cóbreces - San Vicente de la Barquera (21.4km) - Pendueles (26.7km) - Celorio (19km) - Ribadesella (24.8km) - Sebrayo (31.5km) - La Vega de Sariego (23.2km) - Oviedo (27.1km) - San Juan de Villapañada (29.5km) - Bodenaya (24.5km)

The biggest update for this week is that I have now departed from the Camino del Norte (coastal route) and am walking the Camino Primitivo. This route covers roughly 300km - from the Norte down to the Camino Frances a few days before reaching Santiago - and is the first major pilgrimage route to Santiago.

Albergues, and our sleeping situations, continue to provide a source of some entertainment (with outcomes of varying comfort levels). At the end of a long, hot day (and following a night of being harassed by a very determined mosquito), Ro and I arrived in the small town Pendueles. We made a beeline for the albergue, feeling confident at our chance of getting a bed as we hadn't seen many people during the day. However, when we reached the front door we discovered that it was 'completo' (full). Our back-up option was a room above the bar, so this was our next port of call. Unfortunately, the bartender broke the bad news to us that all his rooms were also full. Just as the bed-less-ness panic was about to set in, the barman pointed out a house down the road that sometimes offers rooms to pilgrims. So, we traipsed up to the front door of the beautiful, huge house, and tentatively tapped on the door. The saying 'third time lucky' really held true for us, as we found ourselves being beckoned inside by a petite elderly Spanish woman who did indeed have space for two weary pilgrims. Our room for the night was the same price as a bed in the dormitory... But we had a double bed each in a private room with high ceilings and antique furniture, and a balcony that ran the length along the face of the house! The following night, a similar change of plans led to us sleeping in another private, shabby-chic room by the beach...

Continuing the theme of accommodation, I have finally had a night sleeping on the floor (it only took eight weeks). At the end of our first official day on the Primitivo, we arrived in the tiny, five-house, hamlet of Villapañada. It transpired that a lot of people had taken two days to reach this albergue, and had thus arrived much earlier than us... And filled all the beds. Luckily for Ro and I, the hospitalero (person responsible for running an albergue) was an absolute wonder of a human being and went out of his way to provide mattresses on the floor for eight of us. We had to fetch the mattresses from storage across the road, and I'll never forget the image of the people in front of me walking up the path to the front door of the albergue, with mattresses held above their heads! There wasn't a lot of room on the floor, so all the mattresses were squished together to form one large bed, with a washing line strung up above us. I slept surprisingly well!

Last night's albergue in Bodenaya was also a memorable and unique place. Ro and I rocked up dripping with sweat, but received one of the warmest welcomes I've had to date. David, the hospitalero, has walked the Camino seven times and therefore understands what we were going through. He gave us cold water and juice, demanded our socks for washing (socks which were soaked through with sweat, even I was pretty reluctant to touch them). One rule we had to agree to was that the albergue, his home, was also our home. He views all pilgrims as family and treats us as such! After a delicious, fresh and healthy dinner, all 22 residents voted for what time to be woken up in the morning. After several propositions and a bit of bartering, we settled on 6:20, at which time we were awoken by Ave Maria playing softly throughout the house, and the smell of fresh coffee... The warmth of our host, and the attention to detail, created such a positive atmosphere.

In terms of the actual walking this week, there have been some absolute crackers (a favourite word of Ro's). We had a fantastic sunbathing session on a hilltop with a view of the Picos de Europa mountains; we crashed a fancy golf tournament; we got caught in the middle of a morning cow commute... We saw the Bufones de Arenillas, a geographic feature in which cracks in the rock cliff above the sea allow for eruptions of seawater up to 20m high when the waves are strong. It is very uncommon for this to occur during the summer months, however we were incredibly lucky as it was moderately stormy the day we were passing. As we approached the area, we could hear a low rumbling, which strongly resembled a snoring dragon (or, at least, what I imagine a snoring dragon to sound like having never experienced it first hand). At first nothing happened, but we patiently waited and after a short while there was a violent rush and a cloud of sea spray spurted out of the rocky crevice in front of us. It was a little bit on the terrifying side, but completely mesmerising - we had to force ourselves to walk on!

The morning that we left Celorio on day 55 is one of my highlights so far. We left earlier than normal that morning and were rewarded with the last rays of a beautiful sunrise as we reached the beach. Shortly after this, we passed an incredibly serene abandoned monastery, set amongst the trees. Our only company as we explored were two friendly and curious horses, who had free roam of the grounds and buildings. Moving on from the monastery, we climbed up through some woods that resembled a jungle, popping out onto a fern-covered cliff above a spectacular and untouched beach - it felt like we were on a Carribbean island...

And a final note: after a blissful five or-so weeks, the blisters are back - and with a vengeance! Let's hope all my coping mechanisms are as effective as they were last time!