i was born in australia, but my parents are from asturias….as a child, we often visited this northern province of spain, and i have powerful memories of visiting bimenes and tuilla during these early years of my life. i have memories of a different language, of green, towering mountains, expansive emerald fields bejewelled with wildflowers in the summertime, the smell of chamomile growing wild in front of my aunt pacita’s house, cows, donkeys, the smell of cow manure (which to this day i associate with wholesomeness, fertility and abundance), generous tables, sidra…….. as an adult i have come back to asturias on various occasions to hike and to spend weekends with friends tucked inside cosy houses atop mountains, spending glorious evenings sitting by the fire drinking sidra and laughing.
arriving in asturias on this camino is a rebirth. arriving by foot has given me a new, deeper connection to this precious land ~the land of my father and the adopted land of my mother. with each footstep, i feel the earth linking me to my family all the more deeply, connecting me to my roots.
leaving cantabria i walk into asturias after crossing a bridge in the township of unquera. at the bridge, i stand for a few moments situating myself. after this, i walk up a rather steep incline and when i stop to admire the view at the top, a tidal wave of emotion comes and sweeps me away. once the wave has begun its’ retreat back to the ocean, i have the presence of mind to take a selfie because i want to remember this moment forever, and i want to share this with you. we have become intimate friends, you and i. i want to share my moment of completeness, of peace, of feeling whole, because it is beautiful. in this moment, i see my sentimentality in all its’ glory and i see how it serves me by opening up my heart. although i am australian, how can i not identify with spain and with asturias? and if i did not have the opportunity to come here and do this, to connect with my past, would there not be some part of me that would remain empty? nameless?
on that day, i walk to pendueles, where once again i am able to enjoy the wonderful spirit of hospitality, this time from a hospitalero by the name of javier at an albergue called “aves de paso”. as i come into pendueles, after walking 27 kilometres, i am knackered, battered, happily exhausted. i find another pilgrim, nicole from germany, wandering the streets, in a similarly happy but exhausted state, looking for an albergue. she joins me and we finally get to the albergue, where we are received with open arms, a hot shower, and a dinner of lentejas y ensalada. accompanying us that evening are two italian pilgrims, paolo and maria. the following day after breakfast, nicole and i head off and hit the coastline once again, where we marvel at its’ rugged beauty. on the way, we find a “bufon” (i have no idea what this is called in english). waves crash into underground caverns that have breathing holes on the surface. we stand and watch as bursts of fine spray are jettisoned upwards through these holes each time a wave crashes into the space below. as i stand there, it seems to me that the hole is a mouth, and the cavern is a set of lungs ~i feel and hear the ocean in a new way, sounds rumbling up from below as she takes takes deep breaths in and out. divine.
through the earth, the ocean and the mountain, i feel this land welcoming me back. just when i thought this experience couldn’t get any deeper, here i am. i am now entertaining thoughts of leaving the camino del norte in villaviciosa and doing the camino primitivo so that i can walk through the mountains on the way to galicia. the mountains where my father comes from, the mountains that gave me my name…….