Chapter 6: Jetset to Oviedo
I slept better that night, falling downwards instead of to my side. The slant my tent was on was still too big, secondly, my tent was soaked with the morning dew. The sun was already up and I had to get moving if I was going to catch my 9:37 train some twenty minutes from this beach. I had roughly an hour to dry my tent so that I could pack it, along with my air mattress and sleeping bag. I basically had to repack my entire bag.
I lightly jogged with all of my gear, the last kilometer. I got nervous because the train station wasn’t even open when I got there. All of the doors were closed. Across the tracks, I noticed a boy in his late teens with an older man resembling a father.
“Heeeeey! The train to Oviedo coming this way?”
– “Si, come this way!”, they pointed to a path over, around and up to the queue.
The boy was barely eighteen and puffing down a cigarette in an impatient manner.
“Where are you from?”, he prodded at me immediately upon seating myself. Not interested in playing the role of American, I told him I was from Lithuania.
“How far away is that, can they understand Galician?”, he quickly followed.
– “No, it’s in no way related to Spain or this language, or even Basque”, I responded. Quickly it became clear to me that in his mind, I was from some distant region of Spain, like Andalucia or even Portugal.
“Say something in your language”, he curiously asked. I told him how to pronounce “Labah dyena, sumush-tinis”, or “Good day, sandwich” in Lithuanian–a favorite Lithuanian phrase I stole from a friend. He looked at me perplexed like I was some wizard that could understand his native language but not the other way around. He took out his wild card and starting telling me about the Galician language.
I had already dug into trying to make sense of Gallego, or Galician in Galician. After the month I spent learning Portugal Portuguese before ever reaching Portugal, and then using it there for almost two weeks, Galician to me felt like a cross breed between Portuguese and Castilian Spanish. Various words and grammar rules mirrored Portuguese, like the “X” that usually makes a “sh” sound, and the rest was either Castilian or uniquely Galician. In other words, if somebody spoke Galician to me, I’d be dumbfounded, but if they wrote it down for me I’d be able to make some sense of it.
Like a wizard, I amazed him that I knew the basics of Galician. He related to me that he was not from here, but he had relocated here a few years ago and quickly learned Galician through schools because it’s such common use as a local.
The train was as late as a nervous adolescent girl going on her first date. It was a two-car locomotive with a giant section of its façade graffitied with amateur artwork. I got entered the semi-empty train, found my way to the first open row and discharged my bags. This train was going all the way to Oviedo, 76 train stops and over 200 kilometers away. I needed a breather after the last two days as well as a place to wash my clothes and walk without all my gear. To Oviedo it is!
It cost my close to €20, though I was excited to see more of nature and the coastline; much of this route went along the ocean!
When I said I needed to wash my clothes, that was no understatement. At one point early in the ride, my feet were asking for air to breathe, so I unsheathed them from my shoes and rested them on the floor. At the next stop a grandmother entered and sat one row ahead and across from me, and right away she started glaring at me, giving me tell tale signs that my socks reeked, by covering her nose and flashing me contemptuous medusa-like stares. I couldn’t take her glower, I scurried to change my socks and stuff my feet back in their casing. Then I melted into my chair and watched the world fly by me.
The views were glorious, yet obviously, I was only getting the cropped glary view through the glass window. Nonetheless, it felt good to be covering a huge chunk of distance, almost that which I spent over a week walking on the Camino.
People got in, people got, at almost every stop. We passed the larger city of Viveiro, then Ribadeo, and further along the ocean. There was a young boy with a clean haircut sitting across from me with headphones and jamming out. He was obviously bored as he made some looks at me every now and then. He started the chatter. He tried to enlist the help of my phone to help him discover a song out of a mix. He couldn’t help but rock his head out to the beats of this song, he even gave me to listen. I learned his name was Carlos, he was 18 and he was returning home from Galicia. From what I understood, he was a delinquent and therefore didn’t go to a typical school, but now cut grass and something about aspiring to be a bouncer. He was very chatty once he opened up and I enjoyed the chance to glimpse into a native’s life. He was rolling through photos on his phone of him, his home town of Tineo, him doing rowing exercises, but mostly pictures of him; the selfie craze is everywhere!
After I told him I don’t use Instagram, he gave me the “Man, you crazy! You don’t know what you’re missing!” talk, followed by an introduction course how to get a girlfriend from Instagram. He then navigated to one of his girlfriends’ Instagram profile and scrolled through her pictures, half eye-fucking the photo, half looking to see if I was doing the same. He started explaining to me the method to get a girl like this, “First, you find a hot girl you like. Second, you send her a message. Something like ‘Hi’, or ‘Hey Baby’ and then you start talking with her.” His girlfriend lived in a city some 300 kilometers away from him, I asked him about this detail and he looked puzzled by the ridiculous question, “Dude! She or I can fly down to see each other.”
By now we were no longer in Galicia anymore but in Asturias. I asked him for recommendations of places and wines here, and he looked at me silly. “Asturias doesn’t grow grapes, we grow apples and make cider here!” He told me to go to any bar in Oviedo and ask for a cider. He bragged on any Asturian bartender’s behalf that they could pour you a cider in a glass a meter below the bottle and not splash a drop. Having learned the basics of physics, I laughed his ridiculous statement off, though I’d see for myself.
Once we got to talking about places, Carlos had a full photo album of him in his hometown of Tineo and how amazing it was there. A woman in her late thirties wearing tight jeans and a black leather jacket poked into the conversation and recommended me a place called Proaza. She mentioned unbelievable mountain views and even something about bears! It was in the opposite direction from the coast but not very far from my destination, Oviedo.
Somewhere after Navia, a team of muddy bikers boarded from wet sopped forest pathway. Carlos regressed to his headphone music and WhatsApp messaging as a group of 4 adult bikers now dominated the conversation. For the next hour, I could zone out into my own world staring out of the window or zoning back in when I wanted some conversation. They got off, then Carlos, then there I was once more alone in a, mostly empty, train. I had been on that one train car for close to seven hours by the time I ascended out of the concrete passages of the Oviedo train station. It was after 5 pm and it was time to figure out where I was going to sleep!
Oviedo is the capital and largest city of Asturias, with over 200,000 people. It felt large and modern walking down the main street. I quickly learn there’s a Camino de Santiago municipal Albergue in this city, as this is on the Camino Primitivo route (Camino de Santiago has many routes). It was early evening and I was worried the Albergue would fill up. I hurried there and discovered that the people working at the Albergue didn’t care that I was going backward, as I told them. I felt an ounce of guilt claiming a bed, considering I spent the whole day on a train, but you must realize, my clothes and I reeked and I needed to recharge both my phone and my spirits.
I got clean, made clean and went out to see the city.
What can I say about the city, that I hadn’t before? It was old, it had a huge cathedral, lots of shops selling Asturian sausages, ciders and cheeses and even more bars selling cider. It had old pretty alleys, but more so I think I was just glad to be free of a train and the sky was setting gorgeously.
I shopped for cheeses, sweets and a cider and returned to the Albergue to plot my next adventure–to Proaza!