Camino de San Salvador day 2: Pola de Lena- Oviedo- Gijón

Day 2 of this adventure started with a lot of excitement and eagerness to get going despite the change in weather, and soreness in our legs from the previous day. 65km separated us from Gijón, though Oviedo would be where the official Camino de San Salvador would end. We set off later than we otherwise normally would to try and enjoy lunch in Oviedo, and the road was pretty empty and mostly flat, following the valley towards the next major town, Mieres. The road follows the River Lena via the AS-375 through Villallana and then to Ujo where the Camino continues along the MI-3.

If there’s one thing you get a feeling of, is that there is a sense of this area being the most economically important part of the mountains, with old houses begging tradition, and modern connections and activity. Villages were partially picturesque, but also also had an industrial flair. This valley where the Camino passes is one of the largest, and most important in the whole of Asturias and Northern Spain, with smaller valleys feeding off it. Our ride through Ujo and to Mieres passed through many of these, and stayed pretty flat and enjoyable.

Mieres is reconnected to the AS-375, and we had now crossed the river Cuadal 13km from Pola de Lena to enter it. This was the last major town we had come across before we made it to Oviedo, and was dominated by the Iglesia de San Juan at the end of Calle Teodoro Cuesta, which is the centre of town and where you will see most of the oldest architecture. We weren’t aware of that at the time, and felt like we had struck gold with some of these sights. Lots of bars also were dotted around this part which would serve a purpose for any pilgrim passing, as well as being the last hostel available before Oviedo.

The Camino offers 2 variants after Mieres, the traditional, and the carretera nacional N-630, more suitable for cyclists. We chose the latter due to our scheduling and that we wanted to spend a reasonable amount of time in Oviedo. The traditional way leads you over the hills at Puerto de Padrun, about 200m higher than where the road branches off on the outskirts of Mieres. From there, you will end up in Olloniego and then a further hill climb to Picullanza before descending to the Asturian capital. There’s only about 1km difference either way you take.

Continuing along the N-630, we followed the course of the River Cuadal, and diverted away from puerto de Padrun and the tunnel of the autovia, and traffic calmed down quite a lot to our surprise. There’s very little positive elevation change, and the first 10km pretty much takes you on along the banks of the river, winding through tunnels and passing the villages of La Pereda, Loredo and Parteayer. Should you decide to stop at any of these places, Loredo has some charming old houses a little higher up its main street, and is only about 6km from Mieres. About 5km from that point, your experience in the lush, green mountains are now practically behind you as you cross the Cuadal and Nalón rivers, and you are traversing the industrial areas of Soto La Ribera and La Llosa. The road gets busier, and Oviedo is in sight when you reach the top of the small hill, which really motivated us to keep going at the pace we were.

Oviedo was a little chaotic upon arrival with traffic, but it takes very little time to reach the centre, where we had a friend waiting for us by the cathedral. The Sancta Ovetensis is where the Camino de San Salvador officially ends, and you can collect an official certificate of completion if you provide the special booklet as mentioned in part 1 of this trip. We were taken to a local place famous for its pollo al ajillo, and chorizo a la sidra, which may not have been the best thing to eat before finishing the trip, but it was worth it. Oviedo itself does have a lot of good places for either just a small tapa, or a full-on meal, and the Asturian cider or sidra is practically on the same level of popularity as beer in these parts, and our goal was to enjoy one in Gijón.

If you have just a couple of hours like I did, then you’ll want to make some plans to stay in Oviedo a bit longer. The cathedral, and Mercado area as a charm to it, that is worth appreciating more, and The architecture is notably different compared to that of León. We set off without any notable guide or proper map to Gijón, given that it is the largest city in Asturias, and we knew it wasn’t far away. Hopefully you won’t make as many blunders as we did trying to get out. We said our goodbyes to our friend in a rather humiliating fashion by struggling to leave, but when we did, we made it to the AS-381 which was a straight road up to Lugones, a small town 5km from Oviedo.

This is the part where we ended up racing to the beach to to an angry looking cloud looking like it was dump some rain on us as soon as it possibly could, but we still wanted to enjoy the countryside and roads as much as we could. Lugones felt a commuters town with little old history with only a church, La iglesia de San Felix on the main road itself, showing any notable history. This road is more tailored to enjoy the countryside, with only private communities occasionally passed by. The minor hill climbs are not taxing even if you’ve already travelled many kms like we had, just soak up the scenery and enjoy it. It has quite an English vibe to it, I felt.

The road then acts as a service road to the Autovia, where you are then faced with a decision, Stick to the AS-381 (which we did), or follow the GI-4 which takes you eventually to the west of Gijón. Either way, the distance is more or less the same, but on the AS- 381, you have the hardest climb which takes you away from the autovia, but leaves you being able to see the sea for the first time, which is the biggest motivation you can get. once you get to the top of this hill and descend, you have one more settlement, Pinzanes which has the last climb of the trip to run you alongside the autovia once again. This is also when I considered that we had practically made it to Gijón, as we were approaching the outskirts. The rural part of this trip, was complete.

The autovia now allowed bicycles to travel alongside it, and traffic was notably more intense in the same way it was in Oviedo. We had to really be careful now on these roads and quite simply follow the signs to Gijón, which then changed to centro urbano when you pass the A-8, Av de la constitución, which I knew took you directly to the centre of town. when you reach this street, it becomes urbanised, and when we got to the Iglesia de San Jose, which is less than 500m from the sea. A short ride to the sea later, and our trip had officially ended! 160km in 2 days across a mountain range, was another achievement that was up there alongside reaching Santiago, and we had an afternoon to enjoy our time before heading back by bus.

We didn’t stop riding as soon as we reached the beach, since Gijón itself is very spread out along the coast with the old quarter or Cimadevilla flanked by 2 large beaches, so I highly recommend riding along the cycle lanes to check out these places and enjoy the views as it is a pleasant experience, and the sidra was more than deserved, where we attempted to escanciar it on the beach with limited results (yeah there is no Asturian blood in me). Getting back was a 2 1/2 hour bus ride back, though we also had the option of getting the Regional train back to León, something that wasn’t an option When we went to Santiago as bikes were not permitted.

This trip has a mixture of everything, and most importantly, a huge amount of historical importance that is largely overlooked, and the views of the mountains made you feel like at times you were in the Pyrenees or the Alps. The first day was a different challenge, with heat, cold, and having to reach the top of the road, Whereas the 2nd day was discovering the heart of Asturias and reaching the sea, and both days I’ll never forget, and something I recommend you try for yourself.

Farewell my Brazilian Brother

This was the last trip I did with my friend Rafael, who subsequently did the Camino del Norte along the Cantabrian Sea later that summer before returning to Brazil, though we vowed we would do another trip together when our paths crossed again. This unfortunately never happened and nor will it, as Rafael unfortunately passed away in May 2020 as a result of a surfing accident. I decided to write about these trips as a memory of him and as story/ guide to anyone who is looking for an adventure. Thank you so much for reading this blog, and continue to keep an eye out for any new content I release.

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