Antonio had set out a self-serve breakfast for us in the kitchen and I was joined by two other peregrinos who had slept upstairs of the main building (I would find out later in our journey they were two teachers who were long time friends that traveled together each summer for a week).
Our breakfast was the typical coffee, ham, olive oil, bread. For some reason, it was always the best coffee, ham, olive oil and bread! I had asked about bananas the night before and Antonio told me to just take them from the small cooler in the lounge. After consulting with one of the peregrinos on where the compost or recycle bin might be (there wasn’t one), I brought mom some thing to eat.
I had guessed correctly that my clothes would be damp but I put them back on anyway. Mom was slower to dress, she was not used to putting damp clothes back on. I told her it looked like today was going to be warm and muggy and there would be rain anyway. So far our weather was similar to a warm day in the mountains back home. There were more than a few days on the PCT that I had to put my wet clothes back on and hope they would dry as I walked.
We left to misty skies around 8:30am and played leapfrog with others who had left Grado and San Juan this morning with a much earlier start. I soon donned my bright orange umbrella and my mom her poncho, I was glad I had tights on under my skirt and a long-sleeve wool shirt. Layers are best on the Camino.
There were lemon yellow lilies lining the road into Cornellana, a tranquil town whose main attraction is a working nunnery. As we arrived outside town around 9:30am, we took a lovely walkway along the river that circumvents the town and arrives directly at the nunnery and leads up and out of town. It was too early to visit the nunnery, mom was rather disappointed. I reassured her there would be no shortage of such places in our time in Spain. Here the Camino climbs up a windy road and through a few more tiny villas.
We continued to be passed by rushing pilgrims, more than a few doubling back because they had missed arrows. The Camino twists and turns, you have to be diligent. We stopped to eat a snack at chapel in Quintana and walked along ferns growing out of stone walls. A cute set of honey pots declared in Spanish: “Borrow what you need, give what you can”.
At a small roadside stop tucked in the alcove of a business there were vending machines filled with small snacks and beverages and a Camino journal to sign. We were joined by a set of twins from Spain, a brother and sister, both decked in large dark ponchos. We exchanged stories and soon parted not to see them again.
Slugs slithered across our path and dangled from tall grasses as we made our way through a lush green valley towards Salas, the next larger town. There were patterns in everything: stone walkways, gardens and gates, it was hard not to stop and take a plethora of pictures.
It was a climb again up to Salas, where we arrived around 1:30pm for a cold drink and snack in a small bar. There wasn’t food to order at this hour so we mostly ate snacks in our packs. It looked like quite a few pilgrims who had passed us seemed to be staying here.
We called ahead to Bodenaya, and spoke with David who initially said that he was first come, first serve. He asked me how many in my party and I mentioned that I was traveling with my mom. He asked how old. When I told him 72, he declared he would save us a spot. Yes, I used the senior card but at least it wasn’t my idea. I had really been looking forward to staying at his albuergue but since it was the only place in Bodenaya, getting there with my mom and not having room would not have been a good thing.
We didn’t linger long in Salas as we still had more than 4.5 miles to go to Bodenaya. We started out of town and were soon on a wide grassy road through forest. Rusted logging machinery caught our attention and an abandoned slough diverted water across the “trail” we had to rock hop over.
There was a new albuergue with open glass windows alongside the road, it’s owner calling out to passing pilgrims. Then we left the forest for more road and more road. As the rain picked up, Mom and I fortified with chocolate and passed the famous infinity sign with peregrino walking as we made our way under another overpass.
We finally arrived in Bodenaya just before 5pm and David welcomed us into his albuergue. The first room was were we left all our wet things and gathered around a long table in the main room for tea. David would later tell us that this was where the animals used to sleep and the living quarters were upstairs.
David made things feel like home and family. He served a family style dinner after we had all taken showers and shared a story of how we were all family now. Several of the pilgrims at the table we had passed or been passed by earlier in our trip and we had a chance to get to know them more deeply. There was the father son duo we had seen earlier and a young 19 year old French woman who had started at her village in the middle of France walking to Santiago by herself. So many different stories and reasons for walking the Camino.
There were signs on the wall such as “Today I Choose To BE Happy” “Hoy Escojo Ser Feliz” and there were stickers and pins all over the rafters from previous pilgrims. I left a PCT sticker so if you see it there you will know it is mine! After a delicious dinner of pasta salad, hummus, soup, bread (all homemade and vegetarian), David treated everyone to little yellow arrow pin to wear for the rest of our journey. He even gave me one to bring home to my son as a way to encourage him to maybe take his own journey someday.
David took time to talk with everyone about the next stages using a wall map of the Camino. Where to stay before the junction with Los Hospitales and the differences between the two routes. He also had us come to a consensus on our wake up time in the morning before we went to bed.
David had saved the one separate room for Mom and I and I was glad we did not have to sleep in bunk beds. It was a little hard later that night after everyone was in bed because I was talking with mom about our plans for the next day and she couldn’t hear me when I whispered so I probably spoke loud enough for everyone out in the common area to hear. Ugh, I think I am that loud American.
My stay at David’s albuergue was everything I had hoped it would be and one of our favorite moments. David even did all our laundry as we slept! Little did we know, however, the adventure that tomorrow would hold for us.
We woke up on an overcast day in our half empty public albuergue in Escamplero to the sound of rustling peregrinos. Quietly packing our things, we weren’t the last to leave but definitely not the first. Mom was still getting used to the daily packing and unpacking that was going to be our routine for the next three weeks. I waited in the small kitchen area eating food I brought from Oviedo yesterday as she got ready.
Our second day on the Camino started out at 9am filling our water bottles in the courtyard and heading out on the road. We would start out on pavement but it would be less than what we had the day before.
Our first stop today was at the Capella de Fatima, another small chapel on a tiny hill alongside the road. Surrounded by freshly mowed grass, we could peer into its small room through a tiny barred opening in the wooden door. This chapel didn’t have a porch area but a picnic table to the side offered a seat. It was still early so we didn’t stay long, just enough to help take pictures of a few peregrinos arriving at the same time.
The Camino here consisted of green forest on worn dirt paths, a stream with wooden bridge, curious horses leaning over barb wire fences, and pink rhododendrons that reminded us of home.
Our second stop was in Paladin, after navigating multiple intersections where the shells pointed in a different direction than the yellow arrows. It pays to not take those for granted, old shell markers tell a different story than new road signs and shiny tiles attached to the buildings that are generic and all face the same direction.
In town there was a home with a vending machine covered to match the stone wall next to it, we turned to visit the hotel and cafe, Villa Palatina around 11:20am. Most of our peregrinos from Escamplero were here sipping coffee. Meals times are all askew, just stop when you feel like it, eat when you feel like it. I enjoyed some coffee and a croissant, then some fresh squeezed orange juice. It appeared to be a relatively new albuergue and the patio has large and welcoming.
Leaving an hour later, we made a quick stop at a fuente (fountain) across from the hostel and continued on the Camino.
We soon had one of my favorite encounters on the Camino, school children out on a walk, yelling “buen camino” with the most enthusiasm and “COCHE” or “CAMION” on the road to warn all those within hearing distance. I snapped a selfie of Mom and I to capture them trailing behind us.
San Miguel beer cans are a common sight as litter along the road everywhere and purple morning glories trail up from the fields. It’s always interesting what you notice when you aren’t in a car. In Candamo we had another river crossing and the most interesting building built with an outcropping of the rocky cliff wall split down the middle.
The majority of the homes in the tiny villas we pass are a mix of rustic stone and wood with brightly painted doors. So far, most of the peregrinos we encounter speak Spanish.
As we approached Grado, a chapel called up on a hill to our left. We followed a group of four peregrinos up the paved road and stopped for a snack with a view of the valley. Two women and a father-son duo seemed to know each other and be traveling together but they kept to themselves. I took of a layer, the day had warmed up enough to not need my fleece or tights. We didn’t stay long, however, a real lunch beckoned ahead.
It was a long flat stretch into Grado with fields of tall grass and orange poppies. Sunflowers greeted us as we arrived at the town limits. Be careful not to just follow those in front of you, actual Camino takes a turn left first and then into town. Many peregrinoes who passed us were rushing into town to get to the albuergues but ended up missing the signs and we arrived in the town center before them.
We stopped at a cafe in the middle of town to eat lunch around 2pm. Here I learned that bocadillas equals a large sub sandwich every time. And the meat is sure to be fried. Lunch is usually the biggest meal of the day and folks will linger. I ended up chatting with gentleman named Tony (in Spanish). Over a cider, Tony talked about the town of Grado and we watched weary pilgrims wander from the local albuergues to find lunch after checking in. Mom and I debated our stop for the night and I called ahead to reserve in La Doriga about 5 more miles ahead.
It was a climb out of Grado and the skies threatened rain but it never materialized. The father-son duo passed us on the climb but we did not see them again in La Doriga so we guessed they stopped at the hostel in Villapanada.
We passed friendly cows hanging their chins over wire fences and it was a lovely view back down into Grado and the green rolling hills. Brightly colored plastic clothespins decorated empty laundry lines as we continued on. In the next villa a cute little self-service coffee stop sat on someone’s front porch and there were gardens filled with greens and beans.
We made it to La Doriga and Ca’ Pacita around 6:30pm. The front of the building held the bar and restaurant (it looked more like an eclectic hippy lounge). We had the cabin out in the back with the patio seating with two sets of bunk beds. The owner let us know we may have company but no one had reserved them yet.
After taking a shower and washing our clothes to hang to dry, we enjoyed a light dinner of ham and bread among the VW van posters and Christmas lights in the lounge. Chatting with the owner, Antonio, I found out that Tony called to check and make sure we had made it okay. They were old friends!
It began to rain as we went to bed, I was glad that the cabin had a cover to keep our laundry from being drenched. Not that it would most likely dry, damp clothes were sure to greet us in the morning with the humidity. The albuergue was quiet and no one came to take the empty beds.