We managed a relatively early start this morning and headed straight to the Post Office to mail away our extra weight. We left feeling much lighter after mailing over 5 kilos and were delighted to the find that the Spanish postal service offers a “paquete peregrino” special rate, so our package cost only €6.17.
The spring in our step didn’t last long, as leaving Gijón involves navigating some truly terrible industrial areas, including a huge carbon factory spewing smoke and steam. We had to cross a dicy highway with no crosswalk and suddenly a huge truck was barreling toward us, we sprinted out of its way, but a less spry pilgrim may not have been so lucky! The view, smells and sounds of the factories stayed with us over the next kilometers, but the path gradually moved into more rural areas and finally to Monte Areo, a pleasant recreation area with forests of eucalyptus trees and some prehistoric dolmens.
This pleasant middle section was not enough respite, however, as we entered Avilés via another industrial area full of fertilizer factories and other industrial complexes. The trail is marked along a highway for 5-6 kilometers of very uninspiring walking. We decided we would highly recommend for pilgrims to skip this day by bus, or at least take a bus to the outskirts of Gijón and from the outskirts of Avilés to avoid the dangerous and very unpleasant highway industrial walking.
The treat was arriving to old city Avilés, which is quite beautiful and bustling and friendly to pilgrims. The albergue is ok, very simple. The elderly gentlemen checking us in seemed to have a bit of a memory problem. As we checked in he complimented our Spanish, and a few hours later spoke with us again saying “There’s an American couple here from Pennsylvania who speak very good Spanish” not realizing that we were that couple! The showers were wonderfully hot. We did some laundry and went to the town and get some food.
The next pilgrim albergue is over 43 kilometers away in Soto de Luiña. Most of us at the albergue are not interested in walking that far (almost 30 miles!). There are a few hotels advertised in the Avilés albergue which are about 28km away and offer very reasonable pilgrim prices, so we booked our space at Hotel Aguilar. There is a youth hostel about half way in San Esteban, but it is 1.5km off route and also costs €16 a person with breakfast– more than our private room at the hotel!