28th September, 2019
- Day 21: San Martín de Laspra to Soto de Luiña
- Distance: 32km
- Weather: Sunny and hot
- Accommodation: Albergue de Peregrinos de Soto de Luiña, €6
I have a conspiracy theory about Asturias and non-dairy or lactose-free products. I haven’t been able to find lactose-free yoghurt since entering this region but I did find it in supermarkets in the Basque country and Cantabria. Could this have something to do with a dominant dairy industry here? Of course it’s also possible no-one in Asturias is lactose intolerant…
I catch up with an elderly German man whom I met last night at the albergue and we stop at a cafe in Soto del Barco.
“Pilgrims don’t carry large cameras,” he says, looking at the camera I’ve just unclipped from my pack and placed on the cafe table. “Oh, they don’t?” I reply. “No,” he insists, “Why do you carry one?” I’ve been asked this quite a few times already but truthfully, his first comment has rather annoyed me, so I’m not sure I’ll reply… Who’s to say what a pilgrim is and isn’t? A pilgrim is everyone and anyone. You can carry as little or as much as you like. You can have your pack delivered. You can stay in an albergue or a 5* hotel. You can wear shoes or boots. Use hiking poles or not. Walk 20km a day or 30km. Carry a big camera or none at all. Listen to music while you walk or meditate on every step… well this is my view at least. I give in and reply, “Well, on the first Camino I walked, I carried a small compact camera, and then over time, I upgraded, and now here I am, with this one. I enjoy photography just as much, if not more than I like walking and if I didn’t bring it, I would miss it. It might even help me pay more attention to my surrounds.”
In a section of forest on the outskirts of Muros de Nalón, I see a man walking towards me and I don’t know why, but I instantly feel uneasy. My knee-jerk reaction is to turn around and pretend to wave and call out to ‘a friend’ behind me, (there is no-one behind). When we pass on a narrow path within touching distance, my whole body shivers and I speed up. After we pass, I turn around and he does too. I’ve passed dozens of people today and each day on this Camino and on all the other walks I’ve done, but I’ve never had this feeling before and adrenalin is coursing through me. I can hear cars but I can’t yet see the road. I turn around one more time and he’s also looking back. I reach the road and feel safe in the knowledge that I’m not alone. I’m confused by this feeling but I believe in my instincts, I have to.
I arrive late again to the albergue, it’s 4.45pm. At least they still have beds available but there’s not much time to dry my clothes. I’m too tired to go out for dinner so I buy food from the supermarket nearby and eat with some pilgrims I’ve not met before. I meet a lady who tells me of an unpleasant experience she had on a forest track when a man ‘got his pencil out.’ I’m furious. Why does this happen on the Camino and why is it considered no big deal?