One Wednesday afternoon in mid May found half a dozen of us engrossed in the internet. Loles asked for attention. She spoke with the speed of a locomotive as most Spaniards do.
“Did you understand any of that?” Paul asked.
“Not, really. Something about the day of the internet. She said something about groups and a course,” I replied.
“We don’t need to go on a course. I’d not be able to understand it anyhow,” Paul said, returning to uploading some of his photos to Flickr. I nodded in agreement.
Loles came over & plonked herself down beside us.
“Entiendes?” she asked.
“Un poco,” I replied.
She knows we have a basic understanding of Spanish; enough to have a basic conversation and to get by with our daily business. I can often understand more than I can speak, which Loles knows.
Speaking slower & clearer, she confirmed that May 17th would be the Day of the Internet. She explained that she was asking people who used teleCentro if they would like to take part in a geocaching day.
I looked at Paul quizzically & he returned my look. Loles nodded, noting our puzzled looks. I understood most of her explanation. She then showed me a site on the internet in English so that I could understand geocaching more fully.
Seemingly, there are more than 700,000 caches hidden in over 100 countries across the continents. A cache contains a stash of inexpensive articles, along with a log book. A series of coordinates lead you to the cache. You’re welcome to take an item as long as you replace it. Signing the logbook records your visit.
“We’ll give it a go. It sounds like fun,” I smiled insanely. This time Paul nodded.
“It’ll be fun,” he said. “We’ll be integrating and practicing our Spanish too.”
This time I nodded.
Sunday morning arrived & we headed to Brieves with eager anticipation. We were introduced to our team mates, Jose, Amelia & Berto. After a quick introduction to the GPS we were off. We followed a series of clues whose answers gave us the next co-ordination that we programmed into a hand held GPS gadget. An hour and a half later, we were back at teleCentro. Not only had we made new friends, we’d found a new hobby; eccentric as it might be.
The clues had revealed much of Brieves. It’s a typical Asturian village with a population of just one hundred. It’s characterised by its seven ancient stone arches and immaculate horreos used for storing grain. Each house displayed pots of vibrant red geraniums. Although small, the pueblo is a labyrinth of narrow lanes. It possesses two chapels that boasts a deep Catholicism. It’s close by the Rio Esva whose waters are famed for its salmon fishing. A small tributary runs through the village serving an old mill that’s still in use today.
Having bid ‘Hasta luego’ to our newly found amigos, we retreated to the nearby bar. Reflecting over a well deserved cup of coffee, we decide we’re hooked. It’s a hobby that we can incorporate with our existing love of walking & travel.
Now, what was that website......?
“Felices,” Loles said, greeting me with a bigger than normal smile, on the 12th of July.
“Igualment,” I replied as the previous day Iniesta had delighted Spaniards everywhere by scoring the only goal that took the Spanish team to their first world cup glory.
Loles looked puzzled, then realised I didn’t know what she was talking about!! Nothing new; I rarely know what people are going about but that doesn’t stop me from enjoying life.
Seemingly I had won a prize for participating in her geocaching day as part of the International Day of the Internet some weeks previously. Exactly what for, I’m not sure. We’d just gone along & enjoyed ourselves. I said to Paul that maybe it was because we were the only English that had taken part. Despite not being fluent in Spanish, we’d worked as a team with Jose & Amelia. We’d supported Loles. Maybe that was the reason, we’ll never know. However, I did feel chaffed.
Thursday morning arrived. We walked the 15 minute walk to the village school in Munas where we’d agreed to meet Loles. It was easier than trying to direct her along the single lane back tracks that lead to our house. We had a vague idea as what to expect from the day but nothing more. Paul & I just planned to expect the unexpected, enjoying what fate threw at us.
We travelled along the E70 A8 autopista towards Gijon towards Villaviciosa, a town we’d bypassed many a time & never ventured into. I’m never quite sure why, but the name always suggests bushes of buddleia to me. Yeah, so i have a vivid imagination. The town was attractive in a typical Spanish way. We just skirted the centre, finding a sandy, stone floored car park that was only a third full. Close by was a back street bar where we took our refreshment break. Paul & i had already agreed we were going to pay for Loles; after all we were using her petrol & she needn’t have nominated me. It felt right to treat her.
For some reason Loles thought I didn’t like the toilets in the bar. I’m not sure why; I can use a hole in the ground anywhere! However, I appreciated her thoughtfulness. She proceeded to take us to the Alsa bus station to see if theirs were any better. I’d already done a wee in those of the cafe. But I went through the motions & thanked her for her consideration.
Then on to Cobranes where the ‘presentation’ was to be. We had half an hour to spare which gave us the chance to walk along what passed as the main street of the village. Cobranes is located in the central eastern part of Asturias known as Oriente. It is surrounded by grasslands, wooded valleys & indigenous forests that make a natural landscape of quiet & rural tranquillity. There are a number of marked nature trails around the numerous paths that offer breathtaking views over the surrounding mountains such as the Picos de Europa, Sueve Mountains as well as those of the Redes Natural Park.
Emigration to the Americas forms an important part of Cabranes’ history, much of which is highlighted by the beautiful, traditional homes of the Torazo Indians. Cobranes also celebrates the feast of the Virgen del Carmen with a traditional procession & colourful bouquets on the last Sunday of August.
Cabranes boasts its fame of high quality Asturian gastronomy. Beans are the pitu de caleya then there are the sausages & honey. It focuses though, on the rice pudding & borona. Every year there are festivals of rice pudding in Santa Eulalia (second Sunday in May) & Boron in Torazo (first Sunday of June).
It’s natural splendour & serenity couldn’t be done in thirty minutes. The need for a return visit has been embedded in our minds.
Due to start at midday, the ‘ceremony’ started with Spanish punctuality at a quarter past the noon hour. It was an occasion to celebrate the investment being made into the internet in the province. It will be many years before broadband reaches mountainous pueblos like mine but heaps of money is being poured into the advancement of a fast speed internet access reaching all the areas of the province. Who knows what time will bring?
A couple of dignitaries spoke for some fifteen minutes. Paul & I were pleased we were able to grasp the gist of what they said. Then there were the presentations; just four! Two certificates & two prizes. I was awarded one of the prizes! It was a hand held GPS geocaching system. I was thrilled as after the geocaching event in Brieves we’d said we’d like to do more of it but the basic ‘thing’ costs around 50$ which is money we couldn’t warrant taking out our budget for something so frivolous. Who says God isn’t good?
Loles took a photo of me receiving my prize. She said I looked nervous; I was just relieved that no one had asked me any complicated questions in Spanish I couldn’t answer!
Tummies rumbling we decided that it was time for lunch. Loles said she knew of some inexpensive places in Gijon, the provinces largest city. This industrial port has been much rebuilt since the Civil War when it was bombarded by the Nationalist navy. The city’s most famous son is Gaspar Melchor de Joellanos, the 18th century eminent author, reformer & diplomat.
There are many bars & restaurants in Gijon all competing for business. The current financial situation is keeping all their prices low as they vie for business. We found a pleasant bar opposite the Isabella Catolica, an area of tranquil parkland in this otherwise concrete jungle. Menu del Dia was just 5€ 90c. I was adventurous & chose marisco soup, albadongas & flan.
Then followed a walk along the promenade. The beach was crowded which I found somewhat repelling. I know of many more serene beaches in Asturias well away from civilisation. There were several dozen, colourful, stripy changing tents reminiscent of the 1920s. They just gave the whole beach a somewhat comical postcard feel.
On the way out of Gijon, we circled a roundabout which had a topiary horse in the centre jumping over a fence. It was a reminder of the horsey connections that Gijon has. There was a big exhibition centre close by that shows many equestrian events.
Tums satiated & bloated bellies walked back to normal it was time to hit the autopista back to home.