I pack up my back pack. By that I mean, I wash my sticks and empty the water bladder. I pull out my lightweight city backpack and fill it with the things I need for travelling – food, wallet, book, iPod. I can’t believe the 5 days with my friend has gone so quickly, yet I feel like it’s been longer. Though I’ve only walked for 4 days, I feel like it’s been 2 weeks. Time has warped, slowed down.
Breakfast is at 9am and there are quite a few people from the hotel dining. Where were these folks last night? I thought we were the only ones (just about). I have my cafe con leche and tostada, pay the bill and we are ready to go. I reach the bus stop in plenty of time and turn to my friend to say good bye. There’s no point her waiting around for me. My bus is another hour and fifteen. We wish each other “buen camino” and “till the next camino”.
Yes, we talked about doing another camino together, on a different stretch. I think it’s because we did travel well together, we were at similar paces, and we walked alone for the most part. We really only came together to rest, or when we hit the town. My friend is particular in where she stays so I left it to her to decide. The only time I started to feel irritated was when we kept walking everywhere to find a better place – and I was already so tired.
To kill time, I went to church. I hadn’t had much of a chance to do this. My friend isn’t religious. Visiting churches is not her thing. It’s not mine completely – I have seen many churches in Spain by now – but I find the solitude soothing. I said a prayer for my husband’s grandmother who had just passed away, and reflected on her long life. How will I look back, if I make it to 97, I pondered. What will I remember?
After I emerged, there was still another 40 minutes to the scheduled time. I eye the closest bar, thinking about another cafe con leche, but I decide against it. I will be on the bus for the next 2 – 3 hours with no guarantee of toilets. The bus stop slowly fills up and I begin a conversation with a pilgrim who’s just seen her mother off. She is going to Oviedo to return to Germany. She accompanied her mother for a week before sending her mother forward. Her sister will join her mom at a later stage and they will walk for 2 weeks. She talks of her mom skipping Santiago because it’s too touristy. Amazement crosses my face. It seems so crazy to me to walk the entire length of The Way of St James, only to skip the city where he is buried. Especially if you’d never been there before. It’s like walking the entire length of the Roman road to Rome but skipping Rome. And of course, it’s none of my business.
Catching the bus was easy. In total, it’s about an hour to Gijon, with stops at Villaviciosa and other towns. At Gijon, which looked pretty grim in some sections, the bus stopped at the train station. From there, I headed to Lane 2 to await the regular bus to Aviles. It really was quite straightforward. I felt quite proud of myself.
I got lost finding my way back to the old town. I could work out my position on Google maps, and the maps kept spinning around every time I moved. It took me at least 15 minutes to work out where I should be heading. Once there, I check into the Don Pedro hotel.
Small at the front, it goes a long way at the back. Like a rabbit warren. I am led to a room on the third floor with no windows other than a roof window. It looks nice and lets in a lot of light, but I realise later that you can’t open it when it’s stuffy. Having off loaded my pack, I skip out in search of Burger King and sightseeing. I also want to figure out the route to the bus station for the next day.
Aviles Old Town is quite medieval and is larger than I had expected. I think only the old town is nice. The newer sections are functional and industrial. It was nice to find the camino route and the church where the original route passed. In some ways, Aviles reminded me of a smaller version of Santiago de Compostela.