I took a last minute decision on Sunday as the sun was streaming through my bedroom window around 8am, to take a day off walking the Camino. The best part about making this decision was not regretting it for a second the whole day. Gijon is one of the biggest towns the Camino passes through in Asturias, and it took about two hours just to get from the outskirts into the city centre the evening before. A fellow Spanish Peregrino Carlos was also in town, so I actually had company and someone to enjoy the city with, as well as introduce me to ‘proper’ Spanish cuisine and culture.
The town was buzzing with tourists and locals who were out either sunning themselves on the beach or filling the bars and eating the most delicious seafood and varieties of tapas I have tasted the entire trip. It was a perfect day starting with a coffee and pastry, a walk through the old part of the city, a sneak peak into the most beautiful church during mass, a walk on the beach and a siesta following a few hours of bar hopping. Language and an inability to communicate can really sideline you in a country like Spain where the culture is so rich and conversation is so enjoyed. Spending a day on the ‘inside’ of the city in the locals bars, watching football with authentic supporters and feeling a sense of belonging was incredibly refreshing. Like swimming amongst seals in the ocean rather than looking at them through the glass of an aquarium.
Since Gijon I’ve only bumped into one other pilgrim on trail who speaks English, a man from Belgium called Ignace. Yesterday while walking through a tiny town called Soto, Ignace, Carlos and I joined forces and decided to end the day is a spectacular seaside village called Cudillero. It was only 2km off the Camino, but one of the most gorgeous villages I’ve seen along the way. The whole village has been built into the hillside with a labyrinth of tiny staircases which take you down into the centre of town.
Even better than the stunning views of the cliffs, the seaside breeze and the smell of the ocean was the food. On a Tuesday night most of the restaurants were closed as it’s still a little early in the season, but the one that was open was superb, and thanks to Carlos, we had the best meal of the whole trip: clams, meat with cheese, ham and red peppers and something that looked like fried insects but tasted exquisite!
The Camino for me is starting to feel something between a summer holiday in spring, a European backpacking excursion, and a hike. It’s been a mix of eating traditional Spanish dishes or fruit bars and gummy bears, sleeping in Albergues, my tent or a hotel, walking 43 or 18km a day, waking up at 7 or 10am, being alone and enjoying the company of others. The best part of it is now I’m not trying to steer the experience in the direction I think it should move in. I’m starting to let it take me, and if there’s one thing I learned from the PCT, it’s exactly the way it ought to be.