Last Wednesday, I found Jesus!
On Monte Naranco, anyway. Known as “El Cristo,” the giant statue of Jesus Christ watches over the city from the summit.
I will be the first to admit that I am not at all atlética. My idea of exercise in the great outdoors is pasear por el parque on a sunny day. However, since this was also a site of interest in Oviedo, I decided to join the excursión de la universidad.
We started off, hale and hearty, walking from the train station to the base of the montaña.
It was cloudy outside, but that’s normal for Oviedo, thanks to the montañas. I felt pretty cheerful about the whole thing. It was nice-ish outside, and even though I am physically lazy, I do enjoy a brisk walk everyday. And El Cristo didn’t look that far.
We even saw a traditional horreo (an Asturian granary on stilts to keep out floods and ratónes) at the base.
We soon made it up pretty high, I thought, and I was still feeling pretty fresh and energetic. I mean, look at this vista.
We even stopped by Santa María del Naranco, a pre-romanesco church and UNESCO World Heritage Site built as a summer palace by Ramiro I de Asturias in 848. It became a church in the thirteenth century.
We finally made it to the official hiking path of the mountain. By then, I was a little winded, but hey, it wouldn’t take too long, right?
Then, I started to climb the hill.
At this point, my noob-y heart was pounding.
But the beautiful scenery and freshness of the mountain air helped soothe my aches and breathlessness.
Then, la ruta started getting narrower and rougher.
And my out-of-shape body started to protest very strongly.
Surely, I thought, we were getting closer and closer. Even after a person elected to stop and wait for everyone to come down, I thought, Ha! I will stay fuerte, baby!
At some point, the treeline stopped and gave us this vista.
And look, El Cristo was within reach.
Maybe El Cristo in the distance was punishing me for my hubris because boy, was I dumb.
No matter how far Vicki and I — for we were somewhat behind the main group — walked, El Cristo stayed just out of our reach.
Cue slowing down.
Cue ever-increasing breaks.
On one of our breaks, out of a barely-visible alternate path came a viejo, who seemed far more relaxed than panting, red-faced, decades-younger Vicki and I.
“¡Buenas noches!” he said, or something polite like that.
“¡Buenas noches!” we said in reply.
After that, he poured out a stream of español. Any other time, Vicki and I could have managed, but my pounding head scrambled all attempts at internal translation.
“¿Pañuelo?” he asked at some point, offering us a tissue.
“No gracias,” we said.
“Agua?” he said, offering his water bottle.
“No gracias,” we said. I, at least, was mindful of stranger danger. Also, what kind of twenty-year-old takes a water bottle from an old man? I mean, we should be helping him up the freakin’ mountain!
However, since he seemed to know where he was going, we followed him to. . .a paved road?
Suddenly, it clicked: ¿Carretera? ¿Más facil?
The whole time, the nice old señor had been telling us that two rutas were easier going up the mountain: the path he had taken and the goshdarn road.
Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. But then, El Cristo!
I was afraid it would be another trick of perception, but no, once we bolted down the path, we were assured that we had made the summit, complete with bracing, wonderful wind and the most breathtaking vista yet.
But, of course, we were there for El Cristo. I was lost, but now I’m found! (In so many words — let’s crib from “Amazing Grace”).
Despite my weird Catholic-school-bred religious sense of humor, my arm-throwing wasn’t entirely satirical. I was genuinely delighted that I had managed such a hard hike to reach Him, and it seemed fairly — appropriate — to express myself.
The going down was, of course, much, much easier. Yay, gravity! We even met a nice couple of ladies with un perro who told us, again, the route the old señor had taken was much easier although we elected to follow the main group down our previous path. We also hiked down past some children going up the ridiculously narrow and rocky dirt paths with mountain bikes. (Yeah. . .)
Was it worth it? Completely. Even though my post consists of kvetching, it was a very empowering experience to be able to reach such a monument on such a difficult path. I, physically lazy me, managed a three-hour hike up and down a mountain with rough, muddy, narrow trails to reach an imposing and spiritually important statue.
If I were more philosophical, I would wonder if that difficult route was intentional, as a way for a pilgrim to contemplate the difficult path to Christ. Faith is lived in real life, with all its rocks and mud and pain, with a Jesus that often seems unreachable. But, if you stick to the path and keep going, someday, you may make it to Him. . .
Of course, that doesn’t account for the road that leads straight up to the statue and I can’t find clear info on the statue on the Internet for some reason to confirm its history or purpose. But, that doesn’t change the fact that I am extremely proud of myself and my group for not giving up.