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Day 9: Gijon to Aviles

I was stopped five times today by strangers, including the police, during a stage that didn’t have a lot to offer, but Aviles had a surprise.

I am writing this in my hotel room watching the rain fall and a lot more is expected to fall. According to an average of my weather apps,  50mm in 24h. Sounds very much like I will be walking in the rain tomorrow.

Today’s stage was 28kms from Gijon to Aviles, the stage, I read somewhere, known as the stage one can drop if you are going to drop one. I took an alternative route for the last 8kms – more later.

After a great breakfast – Gijon’s El Moderne is highly recommended – I was walking by 8 o’clock. The first eight kilometers were through Gijon’s suburbs followed by a industrial coal mining area. Finally in the countryside and I encountered my first crisis of this trip. As I started to climb a hill, my legs felt so heavy that I couldn’t move them. I stood upright and rested for a minute or two, and then tried to walk again, this time without any problems. I have no idea what caused it, and thankfully I didn’t experience anything the rest of the day.

After a pleasant walk through farmland, without grazing cattle, there was a long stretch through yet another eucalyptus forest. I met two Danes and we had a chat, before I moved on. I also met a Canadian couple and two Dutch (not walking together).

I learnt something today. I have been noticing signs with a triangle and two circles below for some time and today realised that it depicts a cycle and is the cycle route.

The peculiar thing about today, was that I was stopped 5 times by people not walking the Camino. Leaving Gijón, a man asked to take my photo – I later learned that he’d also asked the other walkers. Then a man in a van at a traffic light (he was waiting to turn left, I in the middle of the crossing waiting for green) asked if I was walking the Camino and gave me thumbs up. A man in Aviles asked me the same. At the point where I was about to take the alternative route into Aviles, a lady in a post office car stopped, and told me not to walk through a tunnel and told me in perfect English that the walk into Aviles was the worst of the Camino, so be strong.

I hadn’t planned to walk that stretch, and planned to walk through the tunnel to start an alternative route, but she waited until she saw I was going in the “right” direction. To get back on track, I walked along a road with entrances to the motorway. Just as I was passed them safely, there were sirens behind me and a police car from Guarda Civile pulled up. I explained that I wasn’t walking along the Camino route but an alternative and showed him the trail on my phone. He said OK, but warned me not to walk on the motorway – as if I even considered it.

The alternative route was nice and not industrial, walking along more backroads and passing a lake where there was a a large water-sports facility, and finally walking into through a commercial and residential area with some nice houses. The last town before Aviles was Las Vegas – in no way comparable to the US version. I love the sign below indicating that Aviles is not Las Vegas.

I made it to the hotel by 2pm, and it was still sunny, as it had been more or less all day. I checked in at 2pm and found a place that still served the menu at 4pm: mixed salad, fried hake and potatoes, cheesecake and a bottle of cider, all for 15€. No longer hungry, I walked around town that like many towns in the area has a historical centre and especially Plaza Espana, where I ate, with the town hall and church is very attractive.

I visited the Niemeyer Cultural Centre, designed by the Brazilian architect who gave it its name, and saw a couple of exhibitions by Spanish artists, the building was more spectacular than the exhibitions.

Just as I was leaving the cultural centre, the rain started. Thank goodness that Spanish housing blocks are often built with arcades or bits that stick out over the pavement, so you can walk close to the wall without getting too wet. Earlier it had rained at 12 o’clock for 5-10 minutes. Of the four weather apps I have on my phone, only Denmarks Metrological Institute app had predicted it rain at that time. What worries me is that if that app is correct, it has by far the worst prediction regarding rain tomorrow. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Taking the alternative route into Aviles saved the day. Walking through industrial areas and suburbs, both out of Gijon and into Aviles would have been a hard slog, but the walk into Aviles along back roads and passing the lake was a pleasant alternative. Also Aviles was a really nice old town and the architecture of the cultural centre interesting.

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