14.4mi/23.17km from Berducedo to Grandas de Salime
Today could mostly be summed up by one word: dam. No, not a typo.
The massive Salime Dam dominated our day. We began with a pleasant trek from Berducedo to the next town down the way, La Mesa. We stopped there at the absolutely fantastic Albergue Miguelín – it’s brand new, and even has a swimming pool! Alas it’s a bit too frigid right now for that sorta thing. But still, I wish we’d stayed there last night. Our Berducedo albergue was quite nice also but a certain fellow traveler there stank up the bathroom in the evening, and also left his phone unattended during his morning constitutional… while its AM alarm went off. We’d call that guy a “Ben Camino” – a peregrino who does lots of inconsiderate or plain wrong things.
Annnyway, we had an invigorating 300-foot climb up out of La Mesa. Over the next ridge, we could see around 2,000 feet down into the massive Salime Reservoir, a huge artificial lake created between 1948-54. Franco’s Spain conducted nearly 100 damming projects from 1939-75 throughout the country to generate power and to support agriculture. The Salime Dam was for a time the largest in Spain and the second largest in Europe; notably, a UN embargo against Franco prevented the completion of the hydroelectric power plant until the UK smuggled Spain some turbines…
Annnyway, did you catch that part about the TWO THOUSAND FOOT DESCENT? It took maybe 2-3 hours and felt like 8-10. The entire time, we had commanding views of the reservoir and dam – very, very slowly coming tantalizingly closer. Also the entire time, we felt every downhill step on the fronts of our feet, kneecaps, and shins. Woof.
Upon reaching the dam and crossing over it, we saw dozens of concrete structures which apparently were from the time of the dam’s construction – when massive infrastructure was needed not only to build something of such scale but to house and feed the 3,500 people who did the building – make no mistake, many of whom were forced into this work by the authoritarian and cruel Franco regime. And now that we were here, we needed to climb nearly 1000 of the feet we had just dropped to get to our destination.
What was a dry and sunny morning turned into a rain-soaked afternoon as a driving rain and a heavy fog came down on us. We stopped briefly at the Grandas Hotel about a half mile (uphill) from the dam itself. There we ran into a few familiar faces we’d seen over the past few days and we all decided to walk together since we had to walk on a road with no shoulder for the next few miles, there was low visibility, and there is a little safety in numbers with a group. But it was fun! We were with a pair of Andalusian guys (the guys from Montefurado yesterday – their encounter with the old “no water for you” guy there was a little more violent than ours!!), a Hondureño who lives in Catalonia, and his German girlfriend. For the first time on this trip, we felt like we were having that social walking experience that makes Caminos so pleasant.
We all made it to Grandas de Salime rain-soaked and feeing very cold, but in good spirits. We all later met up at the one open bar in town for some dinner. And, since it was our last night in Asturias, David and I *finally* had some of Asturias’s famous Sidra. Cheers!