Chapter 7

I awoke at a comfortable time the next morning to the familiar noise of people coming and going, packing and unpacking. The bus to Proaza left after 9. By now, most of the pilgrims had left. I packed my sleeping bag and munched down on a fresh pack of cold oats milk and strawberry jam before leaving the Albergue to the bus station.

A twenty-minute walk later through the shady morning streets of Oviedo, I arrived at the bus station and I asked around until I found the correct bus. Today I was taking a detour in the opposite direction today along the Camino de Marius!

Eventually, the bus took off and as we drove out of the Asturias provincial capital, the real beauty began anew. Unlike the previous day’s gray weather, today’s landscapes were populated with mountains casting long distorted shadows over valleys. As the bus climbed higher and higher, I couldn’t help but jump from one side of the bus to the other to catch a glimpse of the other side; low hanging clouds swallowed entire hills & valleys. For a moment I felt like in a plane drifting through one of these clouds. The entire ride was candy for my eyes. We descended along a route winding along the mountain ridge, through a valley up until we reached a river. Another while was spent driving up the river until ultimately reaching Proaza.

I walked out of the bus and into a mountainous playground! I wandered along the side streets back and forth until I found an empty playground where I decided to eat again. The view of a sun gliding over the mountains before me added whole new flavors to the same boring food I was eating.

I wasn’t sure what to do or where to go yet by the time I finished. I returned back towards the other end of the city where I discovered a pathway going north & south. I looked at my map to see my options if I went further south I’d end up in a hard to reach a dead end. Back north it is!

By then, the morning was transitioning from a cool morning to a hot cloudless day. The path was not under direct sunlight; it was a good day to do this. Further down the path, I saw the mountainous area to my right was fenced off in thick green bars. Up ahead, I climbed onto a platform. “Wait a second, did I just see two bears walk past?”, then kept going.

Midday rolled around and I eventually reached an outdoor restaurant where that seemingly appeared out of nowhere like an oasis in the desert. There wasn’t much around but the restaurant was brimming with clients on this sunny weekend day. I craved red wine so I took a glass. I started considering my sleeping options, then, “Boy, how great it would be to camp atop one of these mountains tonight?” I kept walking…

Either the views were getting duller or I was getting more fatigued. After another hour or two, I reach the village of Turbiño through where my train passed yesterday. I arrived at the train station and talked to the woman working about my options. With a grin, I told her I was looking for somewhere to wild camp somewhere north near the coast. Wild camping is technically illegal in Asturias. My justification and/or reasoning around that is that if I leave the place exactly as how it was before I came, then why shouldn’t I be able to? Often I’ll leave it cleaner if it’s trashed.

Eventually, I settled for a train to San Esteban de Cristobal. I had no clue what I was doing but there was still time. The ride was over an hour long. I was backtracking the direction I came from going westward. I had my fun in the hills, now I was returning to the coast.

San Esteban

San Esteban is apparently along the Camino Norte route situated the mouth of some wide river, though coming from Proaza, I wasn’t impressed. When I found out that the only Albergue in town charged over 10 Euros for a bed, I scoffed at the owner and left. I went to the nearest bar with WiFi and over the course of a bottle of cider, I looked where I could sleep that night. On the coast? – Doesn’t look like there’s any beach. In the forest behind this village? – Everywhere is either occupied or on a cliff/hill side. Screw it, I’m gonna cross this river and try my luck over there…

I left San Esteban and walked but two kilometers before a car stopped for me.

After the pleasantries, I told him I was going east towards Gíjon and I was looking for a place to camp that night. He told me Gíjon was an industrial hub, nothing appealing to the eyes. That was a let down for me because I saw Gíjon was a bigger dot on the map and I believed the bigger city’s to have more to see. He told me about the beaches of Avíles, a smaller industrial city before Gíjon, a popular surfing destination. My previous campsite was on a beach, I’d try it again. The driver went out of his way to show me several spots. We reached a long road going up a kilometer or two to the river right alongside a boardwalk into a tall grassy swampland before the tall dunes. I bid farewell and off I was looking for tonight’s home.

I felt out of place being the only person not in beach attire. I was a dirty mess of a man carrying two bigs like a camel, wandering the board walk and dunes with longing eyes, looking for a flat secluded hideaway. I walked the entire length of the boardwalk and didn’t see anywhere good so I walked through the forest on the opposite side of the road, where many cars passed. Everywhere I looked was either in complete view of passing people, hilly, trash covered or overgrown with thorny bushes, I was better off in the dunes. I turned back again…

In the hour I wandered, the beach cleared out save for a few late wave surfer stragglers. After much searching I found a small flat pocket at the top of a dune, surrounded by tall grasses, out of the way and out of sight. I was home for the night. I set up my tent, cooked a can of tuna for dinner and watched the sun descend the flat depths of the ocean below me. I looked back on the day. What a peculiar and fascinating one it was.

Soon enough, I was all alone, so I went to sleep…