Archive for April, 2012

Ribadesella to Llanes, again. April 1- 3. We reach Santiago – just not THAT one, yet

April 4, 2012

I last posted on Saturday evening in Ribadesella (that’s one of our Camino places, like Reims, which we just can’t pronounce so that a local understands us!).


The view from the youth hostel , early Palm Sunday morning. This could be a good place to stay.

We had a lazy Palm Sunday morning drinking coffee and eating sticky buns, waiting for the blessing of palms outside the church at noon. We have a little daily prayer which we try to say each day, and while we were doing this perched on a step outside the church my sister called on my mobile to tell me that my 91 year old mother had had a fall, and was in hospital, awaiting an operation. I would be kept informed.


The first arrivals at 11.45


11.55: more people gather


12.13 and the crowd draws closer the the church doors


12.15 and your can just see the priest on the steps about to bless and asperge the ‘palms’


Palms held up to catch the drops of holy water


The priest is somewhere in the midst of the crowd

We enjoyed watching the gathering people with bunches of greenery and the smartly-dressed children with ornate corn dolly type arrangements of palm leaves, and I even got out my sketch book.


People-watching leads to people-scribbling

After a thorough blessing and splashing with holy water many folks trooped into church for mass, and we joined them. It was standing room only, although eventually some men bunched up and let me sit on the end of their bench.

After church and a couple of savoury pasties for lunch we set off for a mini stage of 5 km to a pilgrim albergue at San Esteban de Leces,

crossing the bridge where I was fascinated by some ancient boats rotting away in the water


walking along the sea front past more ostentatious villas built by los indianos in the early 20th century,


There were several magnificent houses along the sea front. It’s a pity the light was so gloomy.


But even in dull light these tiles seemed radiant

and making a short diversion to some signposted dinosaur footprints. At the end of the path, we searched hard, and did find some dents in a layer of sedimentary rock which MIGHT have been them! (pictures will be posted anon)


I wonder what I thought I saw here?


Nope, I can’t see any footprints here either

After a short pleasant walk up a valley past a newly renovated lavadero


I do like to see a well-kept lavadero


With a useful illustration demonstrating how to use it. (Other attire maybe worn)

and a lovely purple house with even the washing line poles decorated with painted flowers, we reached the albergue at 4pm, with two hours to wait until opening time. It was a remote spot, a few houses by the road, and a pull-in where cars seemed to turn around for no apparent reason. I sketched the church,


I put this in, not because I think it’s a very good sketch, but because it shows how I was feeling relaxed and creative!


and Peter read and dreamed – we felt really relaxed. Just before six Dolores arrived and let us in, stamping our credentials and taking our 5 euros per head.


The Asturien camino association has a strange creature for a logo. Its head looks like an artist’s palette to me.

It was a big old ex-official building of some sort, with echoing rooms and high ceilings. Although the walls had been painted recently. the lower pink dado was showing tide marks of rising damp on the outside walls. There was minimal cooking equipment available, a microwave on top of a computer desk, and a few bowls and glasses in the cupboard beneath. We cooked baked potatoes and ate them with tuna and sweetcorn. We were the only residents, that night.

Good news came during the evening that my mother had come through her operation and, now out of pain, was cheery and, because of her memory problems, wondering why on earth she was in hospital at all! My sister and brother-in-law, who had been with her since the fall, had gone home, happy that she was in good hands. With new confidence in our walking ability and our guide books and maps spread before us we worked out every night stop between here and Santiago, pleased to find we could get there well in time for our flight home.

Next day we set off early, in obedience to the rules which stated we should be gone by 8 am. At last we seemed to have got into our walking rhythm. It was a quiet, very rural sort of camino today with lots of nature to enjoy.


Primroses AND violets


Another roadside orchid


A man with a horse drawn cart, and a horreo (store for grain etc. on legs to prevent vermin getting in)


What a way to paint your garage doors!


Ferns in a dry stone wall


And more dry stone wall, with ivy leaved toad flax. I don’t know which I love more, the delicate tiny snapdragon type flowers or the name.


As if the delight for the eyes wasn’t enough, there were plenty of sounds to enjoy as well.


By noon we had covered 12 kms, with two stops, one for coffee and one for a drawing.


Something here I wanted to note for future reference I think.


We had a tortilla bocadilla ( french bread sandwich with a spanish omelette as the filling) for lunch, and were so fresh and energetic that we decided to make a diversion uphill to an old church, Santaigo de Gobiendes, which ‘Eric the guidebook’ tells us was a significant camino site in the old days.

In the way of Spanish churches, however ancient, it was locked in the middle of the day. We sat outside with our little prayer office, the church to our left, a stunning view of mountains (the Sierra de Sueve, I think) ahead, with a soaring bird of prey, and a field of grazing and tonkling horses to our right.


A misty view of the mountains, which have been to our left all along.


When I picked up my phone to read the meditation (on my Kindle app) I noticed two missed calls from my sister. I rang her, and learned that my mother had died just a few hours ago, following an unforeseen complication. It was so quick that no family member had been able to get there, but good to know that she had been so happy the previous evening, and that she had not had to go through a slow and distressing illness, which with her deficiencies of memory and confusion would have been horrid.


My mother would have liked these white periwinkles, I thought when I saw them on the verge in Santiago de Gobiendes, as do I.  So I took a photo.

Initially I was urged by my family to continue walking, as the funeral would be some time away, but as we talked Peter and I decided that it would be better to go home sooner rather than later, and to keep the rest of the Camino for another time. We had, after all, reached Santiago – just not Santiago de Compostela!

So we walked down to La Isla, where there is another pilgrim albergue, cherished and managed by Angelita.


The Albergue at La Isla is in the old school building

It’s well equipped and pleasant

Here we made phone calls to inform our children, and began to plan a route home. Our son booked us a passage on the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander on Thursday  Рa much calmer journey than a flight from Madrid which would have involved a long coach journey and a busy unfamiliar city and airport.

There were lots of pilgrims (well seven) in the albergue that night, and we especially enjoyed the company of two German girls, even showing one how to knit a five or six pointed star!


Fellow pilgrims in the kitchen/dining room at La Isla, doing what pilgrims do – talking about the route


We all individually or in pairs cooked pasta with tomato sauce! (Traditional pilgrim fare!) Angelita told us where to wait for a bus in the morning (a request initiated in Spanish and understood – even in a short week our Spanish has come on loads).


Our last horreo for this stage of our Camino, in La Isla.

So yesterday, Tuesday, we returned to Ribadesella by bus, where I was still intrigued by the old boats disintegrating in the estuary:


Tide out now


Close up



and the tide coming in again to give reflections

then to Llanes on the narrow gauge FEVE train. We are staying in the nice hostel here in Llanes for two nights, and then taking a coach to Santander on Thursday morning, for the ferry leaving at 3pm. In Llanes tonight there is to be a Holy Week Viacrucis – procession for Holy Week, which will be interesting.


LLanes is well known for this art installation: its huge brightly painted concrete sea defence blocks. The hill in the background is where we trudged for hours wondering if we were ever going to arrive, just a few days ago.


We weren’t the only ones admiring the art


Al sorts of images are there if you look for them – including this scallop shell


here is the town in the background – it all seems to fit together, doesn’t it?


There were other attractive corners of Llanes. It wasn’t a bad place to spend a couple of days.


Wednesday evening was horribly wet. Here is the band gathering dispiritedly in the square outside the church.

In the event it was too wet for the procession to take place. The Virgin Mary was carried a few steps across the church, and a few steps backwards. The band made a joyous noise (or fierce-some racket) while she moved. Then everyone gathered under the porch in the rain, and slowly dispersed, under umbrellas blowing inside out. I can’t make the videos upload, but if I find a way, I will .

So here ends stage six (or is it seven?) of the Buchaneers Pilgrimage. Never mind, the Camino will still be here when we return.