Quite apart from the extravagant beauty of the scenery and the spectacularly aching appendages that I’ve been endlessly banging on about, there have been many other memorable firsts, including walking a mountain range in The Basque Country with Marc Bolan; playing chicken with the local rail network in Cantabria; and being eyed up by a bull in Asturias.
But I think also it’s fair to say that today’s adventure is right up there in the annals of new experiences.
I got hit by a truck.
Don’t worry, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as it sounds (never let the truth get in the way of a good story) – if it was, I clearly wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.
If you take the time to do a quick Google image search of ‘The Camino of St. James’, ‘The Santiago Way’, ‘El Camino del Norte’ (my one), or even, if you’ve got the energy, ‘El Camino de Compostela de Santiago’, you’re very likely to come up with the sort of photographs that I’ve posted to date.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, there tends to be a complete absence of the type of photo that I’ve used as today’s header, showing an example of one of today’s little yellow way-markers (just to prove that I wasn’t going the wrong way).
Almost every section of The Northern Way has got its own stretch of tarmac involved, as I’ve mentioned before, but very occasionally there’s a stretch like the one above that makes you question the sanity of the Spaniards, although they are also usually mercifully brief.
Having set off bright and early from Llanes this morning, I was making pretty good headway on today’s 29km hike to Ribadesella; after about 7km or so I found myself on a fairly quiet B-road looking out for signs for the next bit of countryside…and the next minute I found myself in a ditch.
A driver of a bread van that was passing at a thankfully fairly leisurely pace clearly misjudged the distance between his wing-mirror and my over-sized backpack, and the former clipped the latter sending me not exactly flying, but certainly stumbling rather faster than I would have liked into the aforementioned ditch.
Obviously it was a bit of a shock, but I quickly realised I had sustained no more serious injuries than a bit of wounded pride; which was also entirely out of proportion to the stick that the van driver was getting from the other drivers who had been passing by – knocking peregrinos into ditches is clearly not the done thing around here.
Despite my protestations that I was absolutely fine, the van driver, who I think was in more shock than I was, insisted on taking me to the local hospital…back in Llanes…where I had started walking the best part of two hours earlier.
We then had to wait another half hour for the receptionist at the hospital to type in my passport details and finally present the driver with a bill for 62 Euros for a medical consultation for me (that I would have had to wait another 2 hours to receive), which she seemed to be insisting that he pay.
I thought it looked like he couldn’t really afford it, and I certainly didn’t need it, so I suggested a deal via sign language that if he drove me back to the scene of the crime plus another 3km or so to make up for lost time, we’d call it quits.
I may not speak Spanish, but it was fairly clear that he was happy with the arrangement.
As regards the title of today’s post, don’t worry, I haven’t got to a stage on this pilgrimage where I’ve started to interpret accidents of fate as mystical experiences. (That sentence doesn’t really work, does it?).
It was only an excuse for a bit of Bowie, really.
The more vigilant amongst those of you who have been following this blog will have noticed the absence of a post yesterday.
Unlike previous explanations, WiFi was actually in plentiful supply.
So I’ll just come clean. I took a day off.
Somehow, it seemed as if it was gradually taking a bit longer to walk the same sort of distance each day, and blisters aside, I felt like I was starting to lose a bit of Camino mojo.
But just in case anyone who has been kind enough to sponsor me so far feels a little short-changed, I should add that I spent my day covering a fair old distance via another mode of transport. 15km to be precise. In a kayak.
The Sella River is a stunning waterway that travels through Los Picos de Europa, the same mountain range that I had seen in Cantabria and whose name apparently derives from the fact that they were the first sight of Europe for ships arriving from The Americas (thanks, Wikipedia).
Arronidas, where I started the journey, is about a 40 minute drive from Llanes. And the journey ends at El descenso del Sella, tantalisingly close to Ribadesella, my next destination. Given my experiences today, maybe I shouldn’t have got a bus back to Llanes after all…
The map below, if you’re interested, will give you an idea of the kind of terrain the kayak trek travels through, but for me the most important feature was that it was flat, flat, flat. And that I could put my feet up all day. If you look closely, you’ll see that they needed it (yep, that’ll be the sponsorship sympathy vote again).
And talking of maps, I mentioned in the last post that I would be officially crossing the half way line today. And I have.
Arriving at Ribadesella today meant that I have now covered 432.4km of 825km (that’ll be about 268 of 500 miles).
And this it what it looks like (and how far there still is to go).
Anyway, that’s quite enough excitement for one day (or two, even)