Today I become a superstar and meet some wonderful people.
Up, showered and packed. Rucksack with all my worldly goods comfortably rested on my hips and I’m walking along the front of the harbour. There’s only the odd pool remaining from the storm last night, and it’s left the streets granny clean.
I call into my favourite café overlooking the town square. Last night, before the storm, it was bouncing with children playing all kinds of ball games. Both boys and girls were also skipping using ropes that looked marginally thicker than the ones I remember at junior school. There were also half a dozen small scooters with tiny wheels zigzagging between the trees that grow around the periphery. The Spanish certainly take their family life very seriously and community play was all around.
The square is clean from the storm-wash and quiet now. Well, it was quiet. A man about my age, sitting at the adjacent table suddenly bursts into a rendition of “Smoke on the Water”. It’s a song by Deep Purple about a fire at a Frank Zappa concert in Montreux in 1971 when someone set off a flare.
He knows all the English words of the song but he doesn’t speak English and he’s decided to sit next to me and play air guitar whilst 🎶Dum dum dum – ing🎶 the Richie Blackmore riff.
El camarero comes out with my coffee and after a brief discussion in Spanish with my new friend it turns out he thinks I’m Ian Gilmore.
Initially, I laugh and say no but he’s insistent and would like a selfie photograph. By now I just want my coffee in peace so I agree and job done, he ‘air-guitars’ his way across the square with the words,
🎶Smoke on the water, fire in the sky🎶
…then he’s gone but the words are going to buzz around my head for the rest of the day.
I try a couple of holes-in-the-wall to get some cash. The first one wants to charge me €1.80 and then I spot a Santander. I have a Santander debit account so I go to that machine only to find they want to charge me €7 so I spit my dummy out and pay the €1.80 – even Dick Turpin wore a mask.
I need a taxi to take me to the point that I left the Camino and make my way along one of the side roads of this grid shaped town and as I round another corner I hear a familiar sound, “Smoke on the water…” so I detour to another square and the sound fades.
I know that just around the next corner is a taxi rank and I’m in luck there’s a taxi already waiting so I summon up the sketchy knowledge of Spanish and ask him if he’ll take me to Vega and get a friendly smile so I open the back door and have one leg in when…
🎶Smoke on the water🎶
I’m beginning to feel like Peter Pan with that stalking, ticking crocodile around every corner.
I throw myself across the back seat and pull the door shut. The taxi driver looks at me probably wondering if he’s made the right choice when there’s a knocking on the window and the face of my personal crooner with thumbs up and then 🎶Dum dum duuum, dum dum d’dum🎶 being played on his air guitar.
The taxi driver smiles, “Vega es, señor Gilmore”
It’s a ten minute drive to this delightful, hippy village with ancient grain stores and abundant street art. The driver points along narrow street and to the painted scallop shell on the wall. In this part of the country the hinge part of the shell indicates the direction of travel and the lines on the shell are meant to symbolise the many different routes that can be taken to arrive at the tomb of St James in Santiago de Compostela.
The taxi driver has managed to turn the vehicle around in the narrow lane and his window is open, “Buen Camino señor Gilmore”
I respond with, “But…” then give up, at least he has something to tell his wife and kids when he gets home. For the record, I don’t even look like Ian Gilmore but it’s certainly made a couple of people’s day.
“Dum dum duuum, dum dum d’dum” – I bet it goes around your head for the rest of today and if you’re too young to know the song please stream it, you’l have heard it before and recognise that riff immediately.
Vega is composed of numerous buildings, some modern, but quite a lot ancient with grain stores, standing on stilts with little barriers around each leg to deter vermin.
The quirkiest feature of the village is street art some of it so real you could walk down it. Take a look at the snaps. The Pilgrim walked with me here a year ago and told me about them. I was fascinated with her descriptions but when I saw them I too was hooked.
I leave Vega reluctantly, it’s captivating and had I thought about it a little more I could have kept everyone at the albergue awake with my snoring and enjoyed an evening here with no need of a taxi ride – but then, what of Ian Gilmore?
The Shell is indicating a small track away from Vega heading west and parallel to some protected dunes with countless birds who’re making the most of this wild land of scrub and salt. It reminds me of the Jurassic museum and as I think I disturb a large winged beastie that delivers me as much shock as I give it. I do an involuntary duck and hold up my hand for protection but it circles in a huge arc and lands where it took off but now I’m another fifty metres along the track. It waits then does another gliding arc as it checks to ensure that I’ve really moved on – or is it eying me up for lunch?
The ascent is not much more than 150 metres (500 feet) but it’s hard work with 10kg on your back and I stop a couple of times and it’s not only for the wonderful views.
Berbes is picture perfect although it does have a bit of a sting in its tale as the official marker shows the track going straight across the road and into the trees but there’s no way through the thick scrub and there is evidence of other peregrinos walking back and forth along the edge of the wood looking for the trail. I get the trusty phone out and check it against the plan I’d made on Outdooractive and find it guiding me along the road about a hundred metres to my left where there is a track and the familiar shell. I’m thankful for a bit of planning!
This part of the track avoids the road for about half a kilometre then, sadly, there’s a good two kilometres along the road although traffic is light and, in fairness to Spanish drivers, peregrinos are treated with patience and respect.
I see the welcome shell pointing up through the trees and away from the road with an alternative showing that you can stay on the road if you wish. The track to my right is the higher route and more challenging and the road is easier but tedious so I go up through the woods and don’t regret the decision as the views are outstanding and it becomes a coastal path with with a gentle breeze off the sea.
I meet a few fellow travellers and fall into conversation with some. Today we’re composed of Spaniards, Brits, two German/Swiss and an Austrian who tells me about the walks in his country and I exchange his tales for Yorkshire Ramblings in the UK.
Time goes quickly and we pass a cafe that’s just opening. It’s only 50 metres from the beach and has big umbrellas that draw me to it immediately. The sun is baking and I’m grateful that I spent the extra half hour in Ribadesella looking for and eventually buying my straw hat.
The final kilometre is along a path at the side of the road and although there is very little traffic, the heat off the tarmac is challenging so the sight of the hotel is like an oasis in the desert and I’m checked-in and in the shower in minutes. I then do an equally thorough cleaning job on my shirts and smalls. Travelling light means only three of most things and fewer if you can.
I like the hotel and particularly the staff who are friendly and accommodating so much so that I return for my evening meal there and am treated to the owner’s husband showing me a trick with a bottle of sidre and the glass. (sidre is the local cider and needs treating with respect 😎)
I think his wife has a view on his competence though and she ushers him outside using a dish cloth like a bullfighter. It’s all in good fun but there is no doubt she means it. His trick is to pour the sidre from a great height with arm fully outstretched in to a glass being held in an equally outstretched arm without looking! She’s right to not trust him as twenty percent of my purchase hits the floor before his senses get the angle of bottle and glass just right; however, the resultant aeration of the drink changes both texture and taste. I love it.
Great day meeting wonderful people and being a superstar albeit vicariously.
Enjoy the snaps.
Love G x
Please feel free to share for the armchair ramblers no longer able to get about. x