Camino del Norte Days 15, 16, 17, 18

September 18-21, 2022
Ribadasella to Navia

DayDateFrom-ToSunriseWeatherStart# HrsMilesKmElev.
1518-SepRibadasella-Colunga8:0361 Cloudy6:416:1516.426.41574
1619-SepSoto de Luiña-Cadavedo8:0657 Cloudy8:448:3914.924.02293
1720-SepCadavedo-Luarca8:0856  Clear6:356:2012.219.61112
1821-SepLuarca – Navia8:1153 Clear6:445:3912.720.41090

Day 15, Ribadasella to Colunga ~ Sept 18
After a welcome day of rest (and laundry), we left the beach, and started our trek toward Colunga. The benefits of walking before dawn are seeing beautiful sunrises and walking before it gets too warm. We passed a bunch of hand-painted signs on posts, listing cities where fellow peregrinos were from. The man who owned the property had a make-shift mini golf course, and he asked us if we wanted to add Park City. We declined, but it was fun seeing all of the signs.

We’ve started seeing the hórreos in Asturia. These are buildings that were used to store and preserve food, specifically grain, away from moisture and animals (particularly mice and other rodents) and to keep them in an optimal state for consumption. They are characterized by raised pillars and grooves in the perimeter walls to allow ventilation. Hórreos are mainly found in the Northwest of Spain (Galicia and Asturias).

We walked through the charming little village of La Vega, where the townspeople have painted gorgeous murals on their houses. The walk was mostly on paved country roads, and we walked through eucalyptus forests. I learned from Ismael, my cousin’s son-in-law, that the eucalyptus trees are terrible for the environment. Brought from Australia, they grow quickly, and then are cut down for paper. Invasive and highly flammable, the trees dry out the land surrounding the forests, and are the cause of many of the fires in recent years. As you can imagine, the issue is political: the environment versus the economy.

We arrived at Hotel Mar del Sueve in time to take quick showers before having a wonderful lunch by the sea at Restaurante Vista Alegre with Charo, Ismael, Guillermo, and Martín. It was the last time that we will see our cousins until we hopefully return in 2024. Of course, we had rodaballo and a bottle of Rosé from Navarra.

Day 16, Soto de Luiña to Cadavedo ~ Sept 19
This was our final “jump-ahead”, where we skipped a few stages and cities (Gijon and Aviles among them). When we arrived in Soto de Luiña, the driver dropped us off at a café, where we could thankfully get café con leche and some food before starting our 15-mile trek. I told the café owner (who was full of advice for all of the peregrinos, and who reminded me of Seattle Chef Thierry Rautureau without the hat) that we had skipped those cities, he said it was a good idea, because that part of the Camino is “feo” (ugly).

By the time we had a “real” breakfast (eggs, bacon, fresh-squeezed orange juice, café con leche) and socialized with the café owner, it was 8:45, 2 hours later than we usually start walking. We met a lot of other people that day, including 2 students from London who will arrive in Santiago 2 days before they start University.

It was a beautiful walk, along high cliffs above the sea. We should have looked at Google Maps a little earlier, as we passed right by our “Casa Rural” and kept walking in search of a specific restaurant…. which was closed. We ended up eating at a small place that had not-so-great food, but we were very hungry, so we would have settled for anything. However, I did try Martín’s favorite dessert, the tarte de la Abuela (Grandmother’s cake), so it was worth the stop. We backtracked to the Hotel Astur Regal, where they apparently also serve lunch! If only we had known…..

Day 17, Cadavedo to Luarca ~ Sept 20
We had a relatively short trek this day, but we still left very early. We passed a lot of churches, chapels, ornate cemeteries, and what we later learned were “paneras” (bread baskets) similar to the hórreos (granaries). The panera has a flat roof with an easel; hórreos have gabled roofs that join at the upper point. In addition, paneras are usually larger, and have bases of more than 4 “legs”.

As we walked into the gorgeous town of Luarca, we were awestruck by its beauty. The cobblestone streets, the views of the beaches, the energetic vibe of the town… and that was before we climbed up to our hotel, the Casona el Gurugu. As luck would have it, the owner was passing by as we were trying to figure out how to get into the lobby. AND, his sister and her husband, who live in Texas and speak perfect English, happened to spot us at the same time.

This hotel has to be one of our favorites along the Camino del Norte. It has been completely renovated, from the panera that is now a conference room, to each room specifically designed with an important historical person of Luarca in mind. We stayed in the “Gines” room, and later learned about the man for whom it was named and designed.

Gines was in love with a local woman, but they were not allowed to get married because he did not have any money. He went to “the Americas”, ended up in Cuba, made his fortune, and returned to Luarca, only to find that his love had married somebody else. He stayed in Luarca and wanted to buy the grandest coche (car) to show off his wealth. The room was designed in a Habana (Havana) theme. The bar was designed as an Irish bar. The owner, Avelino, his wife Esther, his sister Isabel, and her husband Nelson, were charming, and happy to share the history of this gorgeous place with us. Based on their recommendation, we had a delicious comida at La Perla Negra (The Black Pearl). I mistakenly ordered lubina (sea bass) instead of rodaballo, but it was delicious.

Mike and I agreed that we’d love to come back to this charming town, and to spend more time at this equally charming hotel. PLUS, it’s at the top of the town, meaning that we didn’t have to climb up a hill to get to the Camino the next morning.

Day 18, Luarca to Navia ~ Sept 21
The walk from Luarca was relatively flat, with beautiful views, beautiful beaches, pine forests, and open countryside

The plan was to walk to La Caridad, about 20 miles, and then get a car to Ribadeo. By the time we reached Navia I couldn’t walk another step. We decided to stop at a bar for something to drink (cerveza for Mike, Coca Cola for me), and we called a taxi to take us to Ribadeo. I was very grateful that we were traveling through a town instead of a forest where it would have been impossible to get a ride. When we did the Camino in 2017, I was determined to walk every step. This time, I’m struggling a lot more, and I decided that there is no shame in cutting a few miles from our plan…..

And then Mike suggested that I may want to skip the next day (La Caridad back to Ribadeo) altogether. It was billed as a relatively short day, not many hills. But I was in a great deal of pain, and I opted to stay back at the Parador and have a massage. That rejuvenated me, hopefully enough to make it the rest of the way to Santiago de Compostela. Big downside of skipping that stage: I totally missed the Playa de Catedrales.

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