As we walked out of our hotel we saw the Austrians walking up the road with Cavi who we found out was actually Javi. We were stoked to see each other once again, exchanging hugs, kisses and "shakas". Today we learned their names, Ernesto and Lisalotte. The steep climb out of Gijon led us past fields, forests and farms again on top of the hill and once we plummeted down the hill on the other side we found ourselves in the next little farming village.
The Camino always takes the route past the village church, which was empty, so we sat in the churchyard and enjoyed a picnic lunch of whole grain pan (bread) which avocado and Asturian cheese.
Fueled for the next leg into Aviles, we continued on through a long stretch past the industrial wasteland that leads into the city.
Once a thriving steel foundry town, it all looked like it had seen better days. We felt like we were walking through what would be the perfect movie set for a film about Chernobyl, it had that depressing, eerie, spent feeling about it. The warehouses and huge old production yard looked abandoned with broken windows and weeds taking over the buildings, while the enormous gas pipe running the length of the industrial area was leaking noxious gases that almost suffocated us as we walked past.
We got caught in another thunderstorm and waited out the worst of it undercover at a cafe bar in the city center where we learned there was a week of festivities happening centered around an international Duathlon.
Not wanting to waste half a day, we pressed on, leaving our friends in town. The way led us past the huge St Thomas of Canterbury Church built in the 1300's.
From the hilltop outside of the town we could visualize how the city had been built along an estuary. Evidently, it boasts being the flattest land in the municipality, much of it reclaimed from the sea.
Another four hours of hiking brought us to the quaint village of Santiago Del Monte.
The village church was built in 1130. Not knowing how our evening was going to progress, we made and ate our supper in the grounds before pressing onwards and upwards out of town. Once again we found ourselves in wilder surroundings on the top of the hill and scouted for a suitable campsite, finding the perfect spot in a clearing amidst a bluegum forest.
Now comfortable in my wonderful, spacious but compact Big Agnes Flycreek UL3, lying on my comfortable Big Agnes sleep system, I reflect on how fortunate I am to be experiencing this wild and crazy adventure. I am so grateful to those friends and family who are with us in spirit and send encouraging messages which really lift our spirits and spur us on.
Best items in our packs by far over the past two days has been our rain gear which allowed us to keep moving forward: pack rain covers, rain ponchos and trekking umbrellas. Don't leave home without them!
We awoke and packed up our camp by 07:00 in the morning. It was raining and must have been pouring all night judging by the muddy trail and huge puddles of water along the trail. Our tent kept us completely warm and dry!
The trail took us past a beautiful medieval village with a castle, and then another.
The entire morning consisted of mostly off-road trails that were completely muddy due to all the rain. We did experience some lovely coastal views as we progressed.
I almost stepped on a fair sized snake which reared its head and hissed at me, then slithered off before I could take a photograph. Following that incident a little way further down the path, Josh said that I did actually step onto the next snake but I didn't realize it. I felt bad and hoped that it was okay, considering it was much smaller but it did slither away, with a little shimmy according to Josh. I was unaware of the fact that there are so many snakes in Spain, apparently there are 13 types, 5 of which are venomous.
We made our way through many more villages where absolutely no humans were to be seen.
Even in the town marked as a large "dot" on the map, we arrived hoping to at least find a pharmacy to purchase treatments to treat our achy bodies with. We were exposed to a town that was "empty". There were no stores and it appeared that 80% of the town was shuttered up and for sale. It was a little freaky to say the least. It seemed as though the only thing that was keeping the town alive were the Camino hikers.
After passing through a few more villages, the Camino offered two routes. A coastal route and an inland route.
We took the coastal route and after about 23 miles for the day and with huge thunderclouds overhead we checked in at Pension Prada in Santa Marina, so happy to be out of the rain. The "Wise Pilgrim" app brought us along this route.
Tomorrow we have to pull out all the stops to get to Otun. Buenos noches from the Camino.
Day eighteen was a big mileage day. We're motivated to get to Ribadeo, the last town in Asturias and then make our way south in Galicia towards Santiago de Compostela. These northern villages on the eastern side of Spain are very sleepy and we walked through multiple villages without seeing a soul.
Each village is separated by a deep valley and you can either hike the road around the valley, or go through the valley on an unpacked trail which is a gorgeous choice as you plummet down through rough foliage and some of the trails take you to a beach, then comes the steep climb up and through the next village.
We were certainly rewarded with some epic ocean vistas as we plodded along on our injuries, trying our best to use mind over matter to get us through. Hardly any of the towns had any stores and finally we went through one that had a pharmacy which enabled us to purchase ibuprofen and arnica ointment.
By late afternoon we arrived in the beautiful and very picturesque port town of Luarca
with smelly clothes and aching limbs but the Albergue was full, so we pushed on to Otun to find a campsite, completing 37km/ 23 miles for the day.
Now cosy in our wonderful tent we are extremely happy campers. We achieved our goal for the day, have clean dry clothes, as the campsite has a washer and dryer, we're showered, fed and I've got the most comfortable sleeping bag in the universe!
Best items in backpack: Big Agnes Tent, Big Agnes sleeping pad, Black Diamond trekking poles.
Good night from el Camino Del Norte .