Day 3 Villaviciosa – Norena
We had already decided last night that we would skip the hotel breakfast and instead get on the road early. We were the first hotel as you walked into town but more than a kilometre from the centre and the church. Instead we set our alarm for 6.30am and returned to a little bar that we new would be open. Happy with our coffee and breakfast we were walking by 7:50, just as the sky was getting light.
Today we knew that we would meet the fork in the road which meant choosing either the Norte or the Primitivo… Of course we had already chosen the later. We also knew that today would be a long day with a big climb. There was also a second choice of taking a diversion to visit the 8th century church of San Salvador and its equally ancient monastery. It meant a little longer walking but we felt it was worth it.
So we set off, first walking along a comfortable country lane in the cool of the early morning. Before too long we met the start of the big hill. Gerry shouted back “welcome to the thunder dome” as he charged ahead. Luckily it was short and sharp and then levelled to something more manageable.
As the sun rose so did the path. Higher and higher we walked, stopping to look back at how far we’d come. We passed several small hamlets with tiny churches. We munched on fallen apples and walnuts and blackberries and we chatted with cows and calves and horses and donkeys… We even saw the odd goat and sheep. And sadly more than a few very barky dogs but gosh it was a beautiful walk.
Up and up we walked until our diversion was marked. We’d made good time so we decided to go for it. There was a clue in the name that we never considered before… It came to us as we walked down and down to Valle de Dios… The monastery was at the bottom of the valley. We spent an hour or more climbing and in one short kilometre we were back at the bottom. To add insult to tired legs everything was closed. The church was locked. The shop was closed and even the toilets were not available. There was a little bar across from the cloistered walls but yep… It too was closed.
We sat on a wall and munched our way through a bag of crisps in silence. At least we had a nice wall to sit on.
There was nothing to be done but walk. So we set off. Up again and up. First we followed the dry stone walls of the monastery complex and then beyond we followed a tiny country track, just wide enough for a tractor. Up and up we climbed passing small holdings and more orchards and eventually a cluster of cottages. In one, the sound of celtic pipes and drums spilled out and filled the valley. We stopped a while to listen before continuing ever upwards.
The sun was high in a cloudless sky so we walked from shade to shade, catching our breath in the cool spaces under the branches. Up and up we walked and finally we reached the top. Yellow arrows directed us back to the main path and ahead instead of lush rolling valleys we could see the distant peaks of the mountains we’ll be crossing in a few days.
We decided it was lunchtime and to avoid yesterday’s ‘benchgate’ we both kept a close eye out for suitable resting stops. There were benches but in full sun and we both agreed that wasn’t ideal. Eventually we spotted a bus stop… It was a little cabin type affair complete with bench. It was perfect. We shared cheese and fruit and the remainder of the crisps. If you’re a fan of salted caramel ice cream you may like to try a crisp and banana sandwich… I can recommend it.
We chatted with two guys from the US and said hello to a passing French couple before packing up and heading off. A few kilometres further on we found our first bar so stopped for drinks before tackling the final 10 kilometres.
It was hot and we were grateful to come off the road and follow a shady trail between fields and then beside the small river. The last few kilometres felt hard. We knew today would be hard but we hadn’t counted on the heat. Let’s just say we were two happy pilgrims to arrive at our stop today at Pola de Siero.
We have opted to stay in a highly recommended hotel a few kilometres off the camino. There is a bus that takes all of 7 minutes from Pola to Norena. The hotel is worth the detour, as is the little town.
We’ve showered and rested and eaten our fill and we’re just about ready for bed now. My fitbit says we walked 267 flights today and for the first time ever Mr Sims walked just shy of 31 kilometres. Thank goodness tomorrow is a shorter day!