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Día a día on the Primitivo

Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances August 2016
Day 1 Today was supposed to be a gentle introduction to the Primitivo. It wasn't. My lack of training, the sweltering sun and a late start, ensured I was a tired and weary pilgrim when I sought refuge in the Albergue De Peregrinos Villa de Grado. Kristine, a volunteer from Australia, was on hand to offer a typically kind hospitalera welcome. I needed it.

Day 2 Salas is a lovely little town. As I arrived, the Plaza del Ayuntamineto was bustling with market life. The conveniently located Albergue El Ret Casto offers everything you would want as a pilgrim. Spotless bathroom facilities, charging ports, a lovely roof top terrace and stocked beer in the fridge. It is only missing one thing, people. From the time I left Grado until my arrival here, i didn't see a single walker. Even for someone like myself who likes to take the path less taken in life, today's solitude was unnerving.

I'm thankful at least for the entrepreneurial decision to resupply vending machines along the route. Just when you worry you might be about to run low on water, you turn a corner and see one. Snickers never tasted so good as it does in the middle of nowhere in the spanish countryside. Memo to self, bring more water.

Day 3 I walked 32km to Campiello today and was miserable most of the time. The Primitivo feels harder than the Frances. I am tired all the time. My shoulders ache. My bag feels heavier. Or maybe i just remember the latter stages of the Frances, when I had already built up my fitness and camino legs. Maybe the Frances was easier because my version of it contained memorable encounters with great people. The Primitivo might be the camino to be endured rather than to be enjoyed?

I miss the roadside cafes you saw every 5-7km on the Frances. Those social hubs where you sit outside, swap stories, share impressions. After finishing one long stretch today, I looked back yearning to see someone, anyone, if only to validate what we are both doing. Yet shouldn't any camino, by definition a pilgrimage, involved some degree of introspection and challenge. Why am I here exactly?

Day 4 The 27km stage from Campiello to Berducedo is long regarded as one of the most difficult stages of any camino. In my hopeless optimism, I choose the more difficult Hospitales route. It actually wasn't that hard. The uphills were taxing, but manageable. The falling misty rain and fog made walking easier. The downside was visibility was restricted to a couple of hundred metres. Given my physical struggles under a searing sun earlier in the week, it was an acceptable trade off.

I had only cows for company. Whilst walking alone yesterday induced mild paranoia, today I savoured the solitude. I felt stronger, relishing the challenge. The downhill section at Puerto del Palo was more of a struggle than the climbs. As the fog lifted, the mountain scenery after Montefurado was exhilarating. Someone should really set up an albergue in Montefurado. I might never leave. Berducedo was an acceptable substitute. A great day.

Day 5 This morning, I walked over clouds. A small climb after La Mesa took me above the valley below, which was shrouded in white mist. The rest of the walk into Grandes de Salime was a mix of a gradual descent through the woods until you reach the dam and then a roadside climb thereafter. The weather was nice and clear and there were a few more pilgrims about, although not at Casa Sanchez which I had all to myself. Another good day.

Day 6 The worst bit about today was the very last climb into O'Fonsagrada, a nasty surprise at the end of what otherwise was another great walk. I saw my first Primitivo sunrise and it was a beauty. I'm recognizing familiar faces and forming a 'Camino bubble'. Given the absence of any bed rush, I conscious of the potential to slow down and have longer rest stops. I met Alfonso from Pamplona again, who I first met in Campiello. I asked him when he was going to arrive in Lugo. 'No se', he answered. 'Día a día'. A good attitude to have. Day be day.

No matter your pace, a stop at the charming Bar Casa O Acebo should be compulsory. Not least when 'Elvis' 1968 Comeback Special' is on rotation over the loudspeakers. I felt as if I had been teleported back to one of the better cafes on the Frances. Everyone was taking their time to recharge and be social.

Day 7 The Primitivo continues to cut a path through some delightful mountain countryside as we continue to O Cadavo. The last four stages have been memorable, a perfect balance between rigorous walking and the ability to savour your surroundings. The Primitivo makes you work for your views, but the pay off is so worth it.

Day 8 Arriving back into another big city in Lugo is a jolt to the system. It seems a nice city, as well dressed people go about their daily business and socialise into the late evening. The side streets are alive at night with families and young couples. The Hostel Cross is an interesting capsule bed offering, a world removed from a traditional albergue but ideally located close to the centre.

Day 9 Not every day can be fun. Today's walk from Lugo to As Seixas was 33km of predominantly walking alongside the side of a road in the rain. A week ago, I would have felt miserable. Today, I pushed on and felt comfortable at the end. The Albergue in As Seixas is clean and modern, but food options in the tiny village on the side of a mountain, consisted of packaged sandwiches and ready meals from the vending machine. I went to sleep dreaming of chicken wings and fries in Arzua tomorrow.

Day 10 The Primitivo joins the Frances in Melide. I had been in Melide previously so kind of knew what to expect. After days of walking alone, I was now caught in a log-jam behind groups of young Spanish students, families, Frances veterans and new arrivals from Sarria. I enjoyed the buzz, the shared camaraderie as you are pulled along by the sway of humanity, all with a common goal of reaching the same objective. Whereas the Primitivo tends to attract a certain type (independent, quiet, physically adept, etc) the Frances attracts all types, which adds to its inclusiveness.

I did catch the eye of one elderly woman in her early 70s, who was walking alone and struggling somewhat up a small hill. I could tell she was at peace with herself and her surroundings. I wished her a 'buen camino', which she returned with a smile. It was the first time I felt emotional since I left Oviedo. That is the magic of the Camino Frances, its people.

Day 11 I've lost contact with my Primitivo bubble. Now in O Pedrouzo, this camino feels like it is nearly over now. O Pedrouzo is as bitter-sweet a stage stop as the last time I stayed here on the Frances. You become acutely aware of your proximity to Santiago, which is a source of relief for some, less so for others.

Day 12 I am not sure how I expected to feel today, arriving back into Santiago alone after a 12 day walk rather than a 31 day version. Well, the satisfaction was every bit as euphoric the second time around. If the shared sense of camaraderie wasn't there compared to the Frances, it was replaced instead by the proud satisfaction of walking over a more rugged terrain, of overcoming loneliness, self doubt, inclement weather and more physical discomfort.

In the summer sun, the Cathedral looks so much more magnificent and visually impressive now without the scaffolding that was present in 2016. If only you could bottle the emotions you experience in those initial 10-15 minutes after you finish a camino and arrive into Praza Obradoiro. I knew in an instant, I would be back here again one day in the future.

Later I befriended a young Slovenian girl in the queue at the Pilgrims Office. She finished the Camino Norte recently before travelling down to Porto to walk the Camino Portuguesa. She couldn't find a bed in Santiago that night, and was walking back to stay at the albergue in Monte De Ozo. "It is only another 5km" she said as she walked back towards the Cathedral. "And I love to walk". Don't we all.



Veteran Member
Thank you for your description. I am starting the salvador on friday moving on to the primitivp, but am having greater and greater doubts thinking maybe I will be all alone, which is not what I am looking for. How many people did you actually meet please?
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese (2014,2016),Primitivo (2015), San Salvador (2017), Norte (2018), Ingles (2018)
The Salvador may be quiet. I met about 6 pilgrims on it in June last year. But that does make for a strong bond. Primitivo will be busier so you may start a bit lonely but it won't last long. Salvador is wonderful. Enjoy.
Camino(s) past & future
Hi Evie. Thanks, I enjoyed reading your experience It sounded a peaceful pilgrimage and gives me hope for a forth coming winter Camino along the Primitivo. I’m thinking my walk will be a bit slower but probably as quite and introspective Your descriptions were reassuring and the story enthralling but I m not certain I’m as quiet or physically adept as you say a body needs to be to take this Way. But independence will carry me. Thanks that was great to read


I too enjoyed—muchos—my primitivo experience was more busy and there was an edge to getting a bed! So yes, I see your situation as a blessing—dia a dia—you may not have had the reflection time (and writing time) with more people on the trail...who knows...makes me want to return.,..to walk, yes, it is a calling and love...but something else too....ineffable
Camino(s) past & future
Frances (2014); Madrid, Salvador and Norte or Primitivo (2018)
Later I befriended a young Slovenian girl in the queue at the Pilgrims Office. She finished the Camino Norte recently before travelling down to Porto to walk the Camino Portuguesa. She couldn't find a bed in Santiago that night, and was walking back to stay at the albergue in Monte De Ozo. "It is only another 5km" she said as she walked back towards the Cathedral. "And I love to walk". Don't we all.[/QUOTE]

Could that possibly have been Sara, who I met on the Salvador? Sounds very much like her.

Thank you for sharing your experience. It was a wonderful read.
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances August 2016
Hi there. Yes, the Primitivo was quiet for the most part, at least it was for my experience.

In the places I stayed (albergues), in terms of pilgrim numbers, there were 13, 5, 3, 2, 0, 5, 2 between Oviedo and Lugo. Of course there are other albergues which may been busier? And there were other towns just before and after where i stayed, where people may have stayed? I met people on day four and walked with them on and off until Lugo. They took a rest day there so I didn't see them again.

I don't think the Primitivo lends itself to forming 'camino families' as the Frances does. For a number of reasons...

...the sheer difference in pilgrim numbers,
...the shortened duration of the Primitivo,
...the lack of rest/food options,
...there is a greater percentage of Spanish pilgrims on the Primitivo than the Frances which feels more international, if you speak Spanish this is not a big deal,
...because it is much shorter, folk may splash out and stay in pensions/private rooms rather than dormitories.

Only my experience mind. Yours could be completely different. A friend of mine just finished the Primitivo and said she met plenty of people.

If you are already contemplating the Salvador, then you are probably expecting a certain amount of walking alone. The Primitivo should be busier. How busy will depend on finding people with similar schedules, walking pace, your choice of lodgings, luck, etc.

Stick to your plan. Take to the road with an open mind and heart. The Primitivo is an amazing walking experience.
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo Oct 2018
Thank you so much for writing about your experience. It helps give me a better picture of what to expect along the route as a first timer. I will be starting the Primitivo from Oviedo on Oct 9th. Not sure what to expect in the number of other pilgrims walking around the same time. Guess I'll need to start out and just see who else is on the same route at the same time.
Thank you Evie for the added detail. I will stick to the plan I think but if I get too lonely may adjust. I have decided to be open minded for another experience that than what I thhink I may need and see how it goes. Maybe it will al turn out perfectly

I did manage back in 2011 to make a family on the portuguese we were very few people walking it back then, but the 8 of us still "see" each other on facebook. On the first 2 days I only met 1 pilgrim till i reached the albergue the second night. Sometimes one does not need many just the right ones :)


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