This was our hilliest, most challenging day since the mountains of the Basque Country, with 740 meters (~2400 feet) elevation gain. Fortunately, we are much more conditioned now, almost one month later, and while the hills weren’t easy, they weren’t cruel either.
Throughout the hike, even as we moved closer to Santiago, the end still seemed very far away. Now that we’ve entered Galicia, however, our walk feels less like a random hike through rural Spain and more like an actual quest. It’s all coming together.
Today’s destination, Ribadeo, isn’t just any old city on the Camino del Norte. It’s the point where we leave Asturias and enter Galicia, the region of Spain that’s home to Santiago de Compostela. Every pilgrim, no matter which of the many Caminos they are walking and no matter where they started, ends up walking through Galicia, and by crossing into it, we would start the final leg of our journey.
Today was a long but relatively unremarkable day. Tomorrow will be our last day in Asturias; when we cross the border into Galicia, we will be entering our last Spanish region and the one where the city of Santiago de Compostela sits. We are getting closer, a fact that is finally starting to feel real.
After days of forming expectations about the Camino–either, “Today’s going to be terrible,” or “Today’s going to be easy”–and getting it wrong each time, we finally learned our lesson and tried to have no expectations. And it was a great day. Despite some rain and some asphalt, the walk was pleasant, mostly through forest and countryside, and the length was short, about 10 miles.
When we started this morning, we were feeling pretty confident. We were tired from yesterday’s monster walk but knew that, at twelve miles, today would be “short.” We marveled at the fact that our perspective had changed so much that we considered twelve miles to be a short day. In the morning before we started, I had visions of sitting at a cafe sipping tea and writing blog posts all afternoon after rolling into Cadavedo around lunch. Easy peasy.
Today was all about endurance. It was going to be our longest day yet. Earlier we’d had two long days (21 and then 20 miles), but both times it was because we’d had to hike further than we’d expected to find shelter. Today was a planned long day that would help us get back on schedule after our rest day and several short days earlier in the month.
“Travel is not supposed to be comfortable.” —Quote from a travel blogger we enjoy reading
“Boy is she right about that.” —Dale
We decided to take a full rest day today and bus ahead to the city of Aviles, thus skipping what was considered by our guidebook to be the worst stretch of trail on the Norte, due to heavy industry and significant road hiking.
Buelna to Ribadesella: walked 20 miles + bussed 14 miles
What a day today was. Yikes.
It started out normally enough. There were twelve of us at the communal breakfast in the Buelna albergue that morning, and the hospitalera, an older woman named Victoria who’d hiked the Camino multiple times, was full of hugs and enthusiasm and love for us us peregrinos. It was a nice way to start the day.