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Etapa 6-7: Ruta Hospitales v. Pola de Allande

Sieta22

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Primitivo 2018
#1
A few days ago my fiancé and I chose the Ruta de los Hospitales in order to bypass Pola de Allande and catch some beautiful views. We read several guides and posts as well as talked to locals in order to prepare for the day. I’m an experienced backpacker with 5+ years guiding at Outward Bound, with proper equipment and navigation skills. Signs entering Hospitales warned of loose animals, and locals had mentioned cows grazing on the loose—however we ran face-to-face into fully grown Bulls. There were at least 15-20 bulls grazing alongside the cows at various points during the Hospitales route. I grew up in farmland and know the danger of loose bulls—my great uncle was gored by one and spent weeks in a hospital. I would not recommend walking the Ruta de los Hospitales due to these bulls; it is very remote, and in case of a run-in with a bull you will not have access to medical care easily or quickly. This is something to be careful of and a real danger: for those that choose the Ruta de los Hospitales, please take extreme caution. There is no clear route around the bulls when they graze in the path (this was 4 times for us, every 2-3 km). We gave the bulls an extremely wide space as we hiked around and took caution to be quiet, non-threatening and did not make direct eye contact. Ruta de los Hospitales is physically very challenging and requires strong outdoors skills—however, even with those skills I do not recommend this route.

Enjoy your Camino, the Camino Primitivo is incredible and gorgeous! Just stay away from the loose bulls.
 

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ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
#2
WOW! Anyone else have an experience like this??? And perhaps is it a seasonal thing? Experienced walkers...please??

And thank you Sieta22 for the heads up.
 
#3
I am no cattle expert, but I have been told many times that not all male cattle are bulls, and not all bulls are “toros bravos”. There are MANY places on many different caminos where pilgrims have to walk through cattle pastures. Most recently I had to walk by them on the Mozárabe on at least four different days. It always gets my heart racing and I am also very very careful. On the way into Carcaboso I just stood over on the side while a herd of about 200 walked slowly up the hill past me — when the guy on the motorscooter came up behind them, he told me what they always tell me — No hacen nada. I know that, but I am still very cautious.

I cannot imagine that there is any danger to pilgrims walking on Hospitales. Everyone knows that the camino is very crowded and lots of city dwellers with no cattle experience will be walking by. The liability for an owner whose cattle attacks a person on land where the person has a right to be walking would, I have been told, be enormous. Does anyone know of any time a pilgrim has been injured by cattle? I’m not saying it can’t happen, but I think it may not be as much of a real danger as it is a psychologically terrifying experience.

Here are some other threads that should help put people at ease:
https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/close-encounter-with-the-bulls.49755/

https://www.caminodesantiago.me/community/threads/crossing-bull-enclosures.28418/
 
Camino(s) past & future
2006 C. Frances, from 2008 Norte, Ingles, Primitivo, Aragones, Vasco, Sansalvador.
#4
As I usually walk alone and I am also a bit afraid of any cattle, but I don't think that I have ever seen many bulls. You can see mostly cows (which also might make you feel uneasy). There are lots of them on the San Salvador and Norte. We should not forget that this is THEIR land and we are intruders.
 
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ksam

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portuguese '08, Frances '11, del Norte '14, Invierno '16, Ingles '17, Primitivo October 2018
#5
I guess the other thing to remember too is that frequently in Spain (and many other countries) cows are not polled...de horned. So perhaps these were simply cows with their horns...not necessarily bulls? Just a happy thought. And so I'll continue to allow the Primitivo to unfold in the fall and the route to decide for itself by the weather. If it's clear...Hospitales...crummy...Pola de Allande. What will be will be.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
2001 CF, 04-6 LP, 07 Port, 08-10 Arles, 11 Mozá,12-13 Gen-LP. 00-10 PCT, 15 Norte, 16 Primi
#7
We did the Polo route, and I would recommend it just for its own beauty, especially the climb out of the valley. However, on the Vezelay route and other routes we have walked, we've seen quite a few bulls, almost always fenced off. I'm thinking you were rightly cautious and gave the cattle a wide berth. The bulls are unmistakable when near, with their massive shoulders compared to the cows, along with their equally massive testicles. The normal thing is to see one with a number of cows, or several by themselves. Twenty in a herd would be alarming to the farmer as well as the hiker. Each one represents a lot of money, and bulls fighting each other would be costly. Interesting article says that 91% of uk hiker deaths from cattle are from cows with calves. http://theconversation.com/when-cow...e-and-how-can-you-stay-safe-around-them-79524
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#8
I walked the high route in May 2016 and don't recall seeing any cows, let alone bulls on the loose. I do remember seeing some beautiful horses roaming free, however.
 

Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#9
On the VdlP I walked through a paddock of steers, and I think they are quite common.
 
Camino(s) past & future
So far...
2012 ~ 2018
#10
When I walked the Hospitales there were quite a few cows and horses. All very placid and uninterested in us as we walked through. Of course we were still cautious and kept distance but there was absolutely no problem and I never felt threatened by them. I think the most important thing to remember about walking this route is to make sure you have enough water and some food with you. It is a long stretch with no opportunity to fill water bottles. It is a stunningly beautiful walk and seeing the wild horses was truly special.

Hospitales Cows 2.jpg Hospitales Cows.jpg Hospitales Horses.jpg
 
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Via2010

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
06/07 & 12 Camino Francés, 08-10 Via de la Plata, 13/14 & 17 Camino Portugués, 18 Camino Primitivo
#11
Hi,

I walked the hospitales on June 17th. Very lonely with wonderful views. Yes, there are free cows on the camino and yes, there are sometimes bulls among them. But unless you step between a cow and her calf or approach a bull directly, there should be no danger. The cows are used to pilgrims passing through their Meadows.

BC
Alexandra
 
Camino(s) past & future
2015 Cycled from Clonmacnoise in Ireland, France, Camino Frances, Camino Finisterre.
#12
I grew up building electricity networks in the west of Ireland (aha, happy years!). We spend our lives going in and out of fields full of cattle.
The accumulated wisdom was:
  • Dairy cows, who were handled twice a day, were totally unfazed by humans. Sometimes they would come over for a chat and a scratch but in general they ignored you totally.
  • Beef cattle were much less used to be handled. They were much more timid and would generally run to the other side of the field when they saw you.
  • Bulls have a bad reputation but, in general, were harmless. I suppose that they could be dangerous if you got between them and a cow in an interesting condition but I've never heard of this happening to anyone I knew.
  • Cows with suckling calves were positively dangerous. It was relatively easy to get between a cow and her calf and, when she noticed, she would take the shortest route to the calf's defense. This could be right through you if she thought it necessary!
  • Dogs and cattle did not mix well. The cattle would take exception to having a strange dog in their field and would start to threaten the dog. The dog would run to shelter behind the human who could get seriously injured in this situation.
 
Camino(s) past & future
2012 - 2015 CF
2015 SdC-Fisterra-Muxia
2016 Porto-SdC
2017 Salvador&Primitivo
2017 Mozarabe
#13
I walked the wonderful Hospitales route last September and don't remember encountering any bulls? The only caution I would give for this fabulous walk is the weather. If the locals and the weather say "no", don't do it, but if you get the weather and the chance, do it! I believe it was one of my most wonderful day's Camino walking ever!
Also in my opinion I don't think you need to be superfit to do this route. I am fairly fit for my advancing age and found it a bit of a stretch but certainly not that tough and because the views are so stunning it was soooo worth it. I have walked more difficult days than Hospitales.
I thoroughly recommend this route and I believe the alternative (Pola de Allande) is equally beautiful.
 

jennysa

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 Camino Aragones 2012, 2017, Via Francigena 2016 & 17,
#14
When I walked the Hospitales there were quite a few cows and horses. All very placid and uninterested in us as we walked through. Of course we were still cautious and kept distance but there was absolutely no problem and I never felt threatened by them. I think the most important thing to remember about walking this route is to make sure you have enough water and some food with you. It is a long stretch with no opportunity to fill water bottles. It is a stunningly beautiful walk and seeing the wild horses was truly special.

View attachment 44272 View attachment 44273 View attachment 44274
What stunning pictures. I could go back and walk the Hospitales route all over again. It was magnificent.
 

Dinah Shaw

Volcano Climber
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Norte and Frances Sept 6 - Oct 11, 2016
#16
A few days ago my fiancé and I chose the Ruta de los Hospitales in order to bypass Pola de Allande and catch some beautiful views. We read several guides and posts as well as talked to locals in order to prepare for the day. I’m an experienced backpacker with 5+ years guiding at Outward Bound, with proper equipment and navigation skills. Signs entering Hospitales warned of loose animals, and locals had mentioned cows grazing on the loose—however we ran face-to-face into fully grown Bulls. There were at least 15-20 bulls grazing alongside the cows at various points during the Hospitales route. I grew up in farmland and know the danger of loose bulls—my great uncle was gored by one and spent weeks in a hospital. I would not recommend walking the Ruta de los Hospitales due to these bulls; it is very remote, and in case of a run-in with a bull you will not have access to medical care easily or quickly. This is something to be careful of and a real danger: for those that choose the Ruta de los Hospitales, please take extreme caution. There is no clear route around the bulls when they graze in the path (this was 4 times for us, every 2-3 km). We gave the bulls an extremely wide space as we hiked around and took caution to be quiet, non-threatening and did not make direct eye contact. Ruta de los Hospitales is physically very challenging and requires strong outdoors skills—however, even with those skills I do not recommend this route.

Enjoy your Camino, the Camino Primitivo is incredible and gorgeous! Just stay away from the loose bulls.
Thanks for the tip. I will be doing the Primitivo this Sept and just might have taken the Ruta de los Hospitales.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Portugués, Francés, Le Puy, Rota Vicentina, De Soulac, Norte, Madrid-Salv-Primitivo
#18
and just might have taken the Ruta de los Hospitales
The Hospitales route was the highlight of the Primitivo for me earlier this year.

Saw lots of cattle, but none were interested in me.

I was more worried about reports of 2 dogs further up the trail, but I wasn’t attacked by any dogs either.
:)
Jill
 
Camino(s) past & future
Norte/Primitivo (April/May) 2009: Norte/Primitivo (parts) (April/May) 2010: Inglés (May) 2011: Primitivo (April/May) 2012: Norte / Camino de La Reina (April/May) 2013: Camino del Mar / Inglés (May/June) 2015
#19
Thanks for the tip. I will be doing the Primitivo this Sept and just might have taken the Ruta de los Hospitales.
There is no need to avoid Hospitales just because there may be "bulls"!! You may even meet cattle on the walk up from Pola to Puerto de Palo. We saw the usual gorgeous Asturian horned beef cattle in a number of places and the only reaction we got from them was a sideways glance, then they carried on grazing or chewing their cud. Remember, that just because it has horns, does not mean that it is a bull! There is only one "bull" in the herd. More than that would lead to a fight over the females. The only time you may get a reaction from the herd leader is if you get between him and his lady love!!!
Just one thing DO NOT take a dog.
Whichever route you take the views from the pass can be splendid - but . . . it does depend on the weather.
DSCF1667.JPG DSCF1663.JPG

Horses and cattle at Puerto de Palo

Blessings on your Camino
Tio Tel
 
Camino(s) past & future
2012 - 2015 CF
2015 SdC-Fisterra-Muxia
2016 Porto-SdC
2017 Salvador&Primitivo
2017 Mozarabe
#20
TerryB I agree with you. To avoid the Hospitales for anything other than the weather (and of course general good health) would be a shame.
 

Aurigny

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés, 2016; Português Central, 2017; Português Interior, 2017; Primitivo, 2018.
#21
I walked that leg about six weeks ago. A fair number of Asturian cows with their calves, sprawled across the path on the way up and giving me the familiar bovine "you'd-better-walk-around-me-because-I'm-not-moving" look. Didn't see any bulls. I was, however, heavily leaned on by a playful donkey for a couple of dozen metres. When I finally put my hands on his shoulder and shoved him even more heavily back, he got the message and mooched away downhill.

Cow temperaments vary according to breed. The light-coloured, muscular Charolais, so common in France, is a nasty piece of work. Friesians (Holsteins, to Americans) -- the familiar black-and-white variety -- are easy to get along with, as are Herefords (roan and white). A Jersey cow is a sweetheart: fine-boned and friendly. I wouldn't turn my back on a Jersey bull. Black Angus cows are very docile.

I don't know the name of the brown Asturian breed, but I've shared fields and paths with plenty of them and they strike me as thoroughly placid and easygoing. Pilgrims behaving sensibly around them should have no grounds whatever for trepidation.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#24
I don't know the name of the brown Asturian breed, but I've shared fields and paths with plenty of them and they strike me as thoroughly placid and easygoing. Pilgrims behaving sensibly around them should have no grounds whatever for trepidation.
There are two types of Asturian breed : Asturiana de los Valles (Valleys) and Asturiana de la Montaña (Mountain).
As @Terri B said there is only one bull in a herd, apart from fights because a bull has no economic interest (only oxen have).
In Spain there are only bulls in herds free in the mountains, where the owner can´t easily check the zeal of the cows to take them to vets for artificial insemination.
 

pola

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
CF 2017
CP 2018
#25
I would have walked about a week before you… didn't see any bulls myself.

Now, the Hospitales route is challenging, but does it require "strong outdoors skills"? I should hardly think so.
 
#26
I would have walked about a week before you… didn't see any bulls myself.

Now, the Hospitales route is challenging, but does it require "strong outdoors skills"? I should hardly think so.
Actually the ascent to Hospitales is easier that the ascent from Pola de Allande, so I agree with you. It’s very gradual and the terrain is gentle. The one skill you might need is common sense to know when visibility is so bad that you shouldn’t go. But the marking is so good that even in terrible visibility, if you’re with a group it is very do-able.
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
09 CFrancés, CFisterra 10 VPodiensis 11 CNorte 12 VPlata 13 VPlata, CSanabrés 14 CLevante, CSanabrés 15 CSureste, CInvierno, CMuxia 16 CMadrid, CSalvador, CPrimitivo (17 RLana, CInterior)
#27
I don't mind cows or bulls... But today I saw quite a lot of jabalís - wild boars - on the Mozárabe (I left very early). It is the only animal that makes me nervous - someone told me they can be aggressive, especially if they have little ones with them. I don't know anything about their reproduction cycle, if they have babies now in July I mean, but I saw groups of more than two, so I hoped I wasn't walking right into a family reunion...

Also, the Camino sometimes narrows, with fences on both sides, so what happened today was that I got closer and closer to them as we shared the same space...! I could hear them desperately trying to get through the fence as we inevitably got closer to each other, so I guess they were as afraid of me as I was of them... That said,
wild boars give me the creeps... Correct me if I am wrong...

BP
 

Tincatinker

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Lots ;0)
#28
They will have young in the 'sounder' (group /family) but they are usually weaned by May so by this time of year the sow will be more interested in putting on weight ready for her next oestrus than protecting piglets. Who are supposed to be doing their own foraging by now. Usual group size is 10-20 with 3or 4 sows plus piglets and a Boar who thinks he's in luck.

As you heard and surmised they were more interested in getting away from you than chewing your leg. Despite their omnivorous inclinations humans don't really form a significant part of the wild boar diet. We've been hunting & eating them for millennia which has prompted a strong urge to avoid us at all cost. If you have another encounter try just standing still for a few minutes. It will allow their fear / flight reflex to subside a little and let them think their way out of the situation.

When I'm mushrooming in the autumn in Hampshire, Kent or Herefordshire I encounter Boar regularly but the only aggression comes from me when I realise they've eaten all the Ceps.
 

Sieta22

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Primitivo 2018
#29
Hi All,

To be clear, I am certain these were not cows. I did not identify by horns (which dairy cows have) but by genitalia. Please correct me if dairy cows have balls the size of grapefruits.

Hospitales was also a highlight of the Primitivo for me, beautiful hike and I’m glad I did it—however I think anyone who chooses to do so should know all the variables in advance. I hiked the entire Primitivo and of course are gentle cows grazing freely many times. This is not a concern! Just the bulls. I spoke to others who hiked the Hospitales route and many did not encounter bulls in the path. One consideration may be time of day, the bulls seemed to be present in the late afternoon.

As for boars... when I lived in the Amazon they were considered extremely dangerous, but talking to locals in Asturias and Galicia, everyone I’ve spoken to has said they are afraid of humans and will run the other direction. Glad to hear your interaction ended ok!
 


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