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LIVE from the Camino Live from the Primitivo

Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#1
It's not often at this point in the year that I get any free time, and still less common for me to know in advance that it's coming. A few months ago, though, I received the welcome news that my window of opportunity to take some annual leave might come earlier than usual. Pilgrimage-possibilities immediately began suggesting themselves to me, and inasmuch as the number of days available is, as always, limited, the Primitivo stood high on the list of potential routes. I'm still dreaming of a really long trip – the Via Gebennensis, at around 2,000 km, would fit the bill nicely – but the logistical difficulties are so formidable that that one will remain a bucket-list item for the foreseeable future. Right now, ten days or so is as much as I can scrounge together, and for my fourth Camino, going back to where it all began in 814 A.D. had a definite charm. If one makes reservations long enough in advance, moreover, flights to Spain in the shoulder-season are almost absurdly cheap, at least if one isn't all that fussy about where in the country one actually lands. My family, with visions dancing through their heads of a couple of weeks of uninterrupted Netflix and house-and-garden magazines during my absence, gave the idea an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Only one obstacle stood in my way, but that was, and may remain, a serious one. A year ago, as readers of that sub-forum will recall, I ventured out in a fit of ignorance-induced enthusiasm along the little-travelled Camino Português Interior. It was in many respects a memorable journey, and probably came closer to recreating, in however attenuated a form, the daily experience of our mediaeval predecessors than anything else in this vein that I've attempted thus far. That is to say, I spent a considerable proportion of each day wandering off in entirely the wrong direction through unmarked and heavily overgrown Iberian wilderness, and a goodly proportion of the remainder dodging, or at least warily skirting, the uncontrolled wildfires that were responsible for so tragically high a number of deaths in Portugal last summer and seemed to be popping up around me like so many mushrooms. All in all it was one of those trips that one is, in equal measure, glad to have accomplished and determined never to repeat. According to the Pilgrim's Office at SdC, 81 of us completed the CPI last year, and the only thing that surprises me about that number is that there were in fact so many of us.

The lasting legacy of that trip, however, was serious and persistent foot problems. My first two days in the mountains, covering almost 100 km over terrain that was often rocky and covered in scree, left me with damage from which, for the remainder of the trip, I was unable to recover. While the visually impressive evidence was to be seen on the right foot—a blister two inches across that didn't rupture until after I returned home, and a heel that oozed blood slowly but continuously throughout the second week—the real trouble was building up beneath the surface in the left. By the end of the pilgrimage, I had landed myself with an exceedingly nasty case of plantar fasciiitis, an all-too-obvious diagnosis that was duly confirmed by the podiatrist to whom I hobbled shortly after picking up my compostelle at SdC.

Well, nobody's fault but my own, and I knew it. Over the next several months I diligently performed the regimen of dreary rehabilitative exercises with which those similarly afflicted are familiar—that curious toe-clenching business that resembles Kegels for the feet; rolling a tennis ball or a bottle of frozen water around on one's heel; hauling the front of one's foot upwards with the aid of an industrial-sized rubber band, etc. Improvement was painfully slow, in both senses of the adjective, but by mid-November things seemed to have improved to the point that I was ready to measure my progress. One chilly Saturday afternoon I embarked on an unambitious test run: a 16-km loop along flat, paved surfaces. Nearly four hours later, darkness long since having fallen, I hobbled at a snail's pace through my front door, practically unable to put my left foot to the ground. It was impressed upon me that I was in considerably greater difficulty than I had supposed.

Numerous X-rays, scans and assorted professional proddings and pokings followed, together with a new set of exercises. In the end, with time running out, I prevailed upon my medical advisers to try the penultimate resort of fasciitis-sufferers—a series of cortisone injections directly into the heel. These aren't tremendous fun, but are not unbearable either. Although I experienced an acute cortisone reaction that in the short term left me even less mobile than previously, matters did appreciably improve thereafter. My orthopaedic consultancy, which spends most of its time working with high-level athletes but generously agreed to take my very banal case on board, fixed me up with a new pair of insanely expensive hiking shoes complete with still more expensive inserts precision-moulded to the contours of my feet. About three weeks ago, having taken hardly a single unnecessary step for the better part of a year, I ventured out once more for a more realistic road-test: 30 km non-stop, with a couple of stiffish hills en route.

The results weren't disastrous. I was conscious of my left heel after a couple of kilometres, and remained so for the rest of the way. But it wasn't sufficiently uncomfortable to slow my pace, and at the end—other than being reminded by my aching leg-muscles how disgustingly unfit I currently am—I was as much a going concern as at the beginning. Rather than tempt fate, I shut operations down at that point, and from that day until this one have done nothing more than continue the cycle of rest and rehabilitation.

Thus it is that I find myself at the starting point in Oviedo, a few hundred metres from the Cathedral and a brand-new credencial in my backpack. If I were to assign a grade to my foot, I'd say that I'm operating at present at about 80% of normal. Should things stay that way, despite my lack of road-fitness I'll have few concerns about finishing the trip. But I have no idea whether by the end of tomorrow—or any of the days to follow—I won't find myself bounced right back to square one. ("Go to rehab. Go directly to rehab. Do not pass SdC. Do not collect another compostelle," as a Catholic version of the Parker Bros. board game might put it.) Only time will tell. One thing is sure: in my worst imaginings I would never have dreamed that I could have banged my feet up so comprehensively, and with such persistent consequences, merely by walking on them.

Otherwise my morale is high. I've heard nothing but good things about the Primitivo, and even though I'm now the owner of a lightweight magnetic compass that, if I'd possessed it last year, would have saved my bacon more than once on the CPI, I doubt I'll have occasion to use it. Word has it that the waymarking along this route is excellent. I don't expect to run into too many fellow pilgrims at this time of year, but that too suits my mildly solitary mood. Having heard Mass this evening at the Cathedral and with a night's albergue accommodation safely obtained, I have nothing to do but to hunt down my first dinner of the trip and get an early night in preparation for a pre-dawn departure tomorrow morning.
 

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Camino(s) past & future
May2018
#2
It's not often at this point in the year that I get any free time, and still less common for me to know in advance that it's coming. A few months ago, though, I received the welcome news that my window of opportunity to take some annual leave might come earlier than usual. Pilgrimage-possibilities immediately began suggesting themselves to me, and inasmuch as the number of days available is, as always, limited, the Primitivo stood high on the list of potential routes. I'm still dreaming of a really long trip – the Via Gebennensis, at around 2,000 km, would fit the bill nicely – but the logistical difficulties are so formidable that that one will remain a bucket-list item for the foreseeable future. Right now, ten days or so is as much as I can scrounge together, and for my fourth Camino, going back to where it all began in 814 A.D. had a definite charm. If one makes reservations long enough in advance, moreover, flights to Spain in the shoulder-season are almost absurdly cheap, at least if one isn't all that fussy about where in the country one actually lands. My family, with visions dancing through their heads of a couple of weeks of uninterrupted Netflix and house-and-garden magazines during my absence, gave the idea an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Only one obstacle stood in my way, but that was, and may remain, a serious one. A year ago, as readers of that sub-forum will recall, I ventured out in a fit of ignorance-induced enthusiasm along the little-travelled Camino Português Interior. It was in many respects a memorable journey, and probably came closer to recreating, in however attenuated a form, the daily experience of our mediaeval predecessors than anything else in this vein that I've attempted thus far. That is to say, I spent a considerable proportion of each day wandering off in entirely the wrong direction through unmarked and heavily overgrown Iberian wilderness, and a goodly proportion of the remainder dodging, or at least warily skirting, the uncontrolled wildfires that were responsible for so tragically high a number of deaths in Portugal last summer and seemed to be popping up around me like so many mushrooms. All in all it was one of those trips that one is, in equal measure, glad to have accomplished and determined never to repeat. According to the Pilgrim's Office at SdC, 81 of us completed the CPI last year, and the only thing that surprises me about that number is that there were in fact so many of us.

The lasting legacy of that trip, however, was serious and persistent foot problems. My first two days in the mountains, covering almost 100 km over terrain that was often rocky and covered in scree, left me with damage from which, for the remainder of the trip, I was unable to recover. While the visually impressive evidence was to be seen on the right foot—a blister two inches across that didn't rupture until after I returned home, and a heel that oozed blood slowly but continuously throughout the second week—the real trouble was building up beneath the surface in the left. By the end of the pilgrimage, I had landed myself with an exceedingly nasty case of plantar fasciiitis, an all-too-obvious diagnosis that was duly confirmed by the podiatrist to whom I hobbled shortly after picking up my compostelle at SdC.

Well, nobody's fault but my own, and I knew it. Over the next several months I diligently performed the regimen of dreary rehabilitative exercises with which those similarly afflicted are familiar—that curious toe-clenching business that resembles Kegels for the feet; rolling a tennis ball or a bottle of frozen water around on one's heel; hauling the front of one's foot upwards with the aid of an industrial-sized rubber band, etc. Improvement was painfully slow, in both senses of the adjective, but by mid-November things seemed to have improved to the point that I was ready to measure my progress. One chilly Saturday afternoon I embarked on an unambitious test run: a 16-km loop along flat, paved surfaces. Nearly four hours later, darkness long since having fallen, I hobbled at a snail's pace through my front door, practically unable to put my left foot to the ground. It was impressed upon me that I was in considerably greater difficulty than I had supposed.

Numerous X-rays, scans and assorted professional proddings and pokings followed, together with a new set of exercises. In the end, with time running out, I prevailed upon my medical advisers to try the penultimate resort of fasciitis-sufferers—a series of cortisone injections directly into the heel. These aren't tremendous fun, but are not unbearable either. Although I experienced an acute cortisone reaction that in the short term left me even less mobile than previously, matters did appreciably improve thereafter. My orthopaedic consultancy, which spends most of its time working with high-level athletes but generously agreed to take my very banal case on board, fixed me up with a new pair of insanely expensive hiking shoes complete with still more expensive inserts precision-moulded to the contours of my feet. About three weeks ago, having taken hardly a single unnecessary step for the better part of a year, I ventured out once more for a more realistic road-test: 30 km non-stop, with a couple of stiffish hills en route.

The results weren't disastrous. I was conscious of my left heel after a couple of kilometres, and remained so for the rest of the way. But it wasn't sufficiently uncomfortable to slow my pace, and at the end—other than being reminded by my aching leg-muscles how disgustingly unfit I currently am—I was as much a going concern as at the beginning. Rather than tempt fate, I shut operations down at that point, and from that day until this one have done nothing more than continue the cycle of rest and rehabilitation.

Thus it is that I find myself at the starting point in Oviedo, a few hundred metres from the Cathedral and a brand-new credencial in my backpack. If I were to assign a grade to my foot, I'd say that I'm operating at present at about 80% of normal. Should things stay that way, despite my lack of road-fitness I'll have few concerns about finishing the trip. But I have no idea whether by the end of tomorrow—or any of the days to follow—I won't find myself bounced right back to square one. ("Go to rehab. Go directly to rehab. Do not pass SdC. Do not collect another compostelle," as a Catholic version of the Parker Bros. board game might put it.) Only time will tell. One thing is sure: in my worst imaginings I would never have dreamed that I could have banged my feet up so comprehensively, and with such persistent consequences, merely by walking on them.

Otherwise my morale is high. I've heard nothing but good things about the Primitivo, and even though I'm now the owner of a lightweight magnetic compass that, if I'd possessed it last year, would have saved my bacon more than once on the CPI, I doubt I'll have occasion to use it. Word has it that the waymarking along this route is excellent. I don't expect to run into too many fellow pilgrims at this time of year, but that too suits my mildly solitary mood. Having heard Mass this evening at the Cathedral and with a night's albergue accommodation safely obtained, I have nothing to do but to hunt down my first dinner of the trip and get an early night in preparation for a pre-dawn departure tomorrow morning.
Good luck. I would like to know how you progress. Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - September '2018'
#3
This is easily one of the most well written and interesting posts I've seen on this forum. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. I hope your feet hold out! Buen Camino from Australia!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Planning Camino Del Norte to Oviedo and then Primitive in May / June 2018
#5
Yes I agree a well written piece. I will be very interested to hear how your foot holds up, we leave Australia today for Paris and then to Irun to commence our first Camino - del Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo. I have been training hard and was feeling well prepared and strong until 3 weeks ago when I suddenly developed plantar fasciitis. I’m doing all the exercises, had the cortisone injection which hasn’t worked so my good doctor, understanding my commitment to this pilgrimage, has loaded me up with strong painkillers and the appropriate letters of authorisation so I don’t get put behind bars while passing through several borders. Oh yes, and my pack weight has just increased with spare insoles and cushioning, balls for rolling the feet, bags for ice not to mention the copious quantities of painkillers.
Postponing the trip was not an option - now or never.
So like you Aurigny I will be waiting to see how I go (or not) with some trepidation but will be giving it my best shot. Good luck
 

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Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#7
When the evidence changes, so the saying goes, it's sensible to change one's mind. Peering out the window early today and seeing the rain-swept streets defying last night's over-sanguine weather forecast caused me rapidly to change mine While I normally like to make an early start to the day, especially in light of the fact that my planned night-stop, Grado, was the better part of 30 km away, the attractiveness of that idea seemed harder to perceive at six in the morning. Instead I cooled my heels and waited for better weather to materialise. By around nine, the rain had given way to a sullen cloud-base, and having made good use of the delay by loading up on café con leche and reading the local newspapers, I set off from the Cathedral in the general direction of another one, more than three hundred kilometres to the west.

Many veterans of the Primitivo report that getting out of Oviedo is something of a challenge. From my perspective, it was a great deal more straightforward than I had imagined. It's true that one has to know where to begin. Oviedo doesn't do yellow arrows – at least until the outskirts. Until then, one must rely on brass scallop-shell markers set into the footpaths, much as one does in León or Pamplona. That, in turn, is tricky until one finds the start of the sequence. Fortunately, it's very close to the Cathedral – just to the right, as one exits the main door. From there the trail of shells, spaced at about 50m intervals, leads up Calle Schultz and ultimately to the western edge of town.

To be sure, locating them is sometimes a bit of a challenge. Sensibly, the shells are set into the concrete at an angle so as to indicate when one is supposed to bear right or left or to cross the street. But the ovetense seem especially fond of parking their cars over the markers or covering them with chairs and tables outside cafés, requiring the pilgrim to engage in a degree of creative projection. They're also to be found only on one side of the street, and tend to oscillate between the middle of the pavement and the kerbstones in a way that requires one's head to be on a constant slow swivel. However, in general the waymarking is so good that if one has travelled, say, 300m without seeing some indication of where to go next, it's safe to assume that one is off track and should return to the last known position for another try. I'd go so far as to say that Oviedo has the best waymarking out of town of any similarly sized Spanish town I've ever seen, Ourense alone excepted.

Once clear of the city limits and established along the trail, the journey soon becomes very pleasant indeed. The early stages of the Primitivo involve lots of climbing and descending, but neither is all that difficult. It's a little steeper than what one would describe as "rolling countryside," but not so much as to tax the abilities even of someone like myself who had done practically no serious walking over the past year. The terrain looks a lot like northern Bosnia, albeit with rather fewer burnt-out villages along the way. Despite the fact that the winter and early spring, to judge from the state of the rivers, have been quite moist in these parts, the going underfoot is surprisingly good. Most of today's leg consisted of gravelled or rocky paths interspersed with the occasional stretch along the hard shoulder of the main road, but even in the forested sections, very little mud was to be encountered. I finished the day with my hiking shoes nearly as clean as when I began.

It's important to plan ahead, as the logistics of the Primitivo can be challenging. Fortunately I obtained all the road food and drink that I was likely to require before leaving Oviedo. Had I not, I imagine that I would have arrived at my destination in a lean and hungry condition. I had planned to have lunch at the only remaining restaurant in Escamplero, the half-way point of today's leg. Indeed, somewhat concerned about the risk of over-taxing my left heel, I had even considered the possibility of ending my day there – the restaurant owner is also the key-holder for the local albergue. Both decisions were taken out of my hands, though, by my discovery of a chalked board announcing that the establishment was closed on Wednesdays. A vending machine was available to enable me to wash down my sandwiches with cold drinks by way of compensation. The sensible pilgrim along this route does well, though, to assume that the pickings will be not just slim, but non-existent, between the daily departure and destination points.

So on to Grado it was, about another thirteen kilometres further west. After Escamplero the trail became narrower, more or less paralleling the River Nalón on the northern bank and with the main road above and to the right. It's quiet, and at this time of year at any rate, it would appear, a little lonely. I encountered only one other pilgrim along the trail, a middle-aged bicigrino – I believe German by nationality – who I came across optimistically but futilely trying each door of the Escamplero restaurant in the hope of finding a staff-member to let him into the albergue. Otherwise I had the trail to myself the entire day.

Some amenities are nonetheless available. A good fountain guards the entrance to the tiny hamlet of San Lázaro de Paniceres, perhaps 5 km west-northwest of Oviedo. Fill up your water bottle here, because it'll be a long time until you see another one. A self-service sello is also kept in a wooden box at the Chapel of the Carmen in Lampaxuga, another three kilometres further on. This being Iberia, the iron-bar-festooned doors of the chapel itself are chained up in such a manner as to deter the cast of Ocean's Eleven at its most inventive, so any praying you might wish to do will have to be accomplished from the steps of the vestibule outside. However, a dish is placed on the floor within the church to receive donations. If you have had a particular kind of misspent youth, you can revive your pitch-and-toss skills by heaving your coins through the bars in such a way as to land them inside the dish. My own youth having been misspent in an entirely different direction, my couple of euros missed the target by a country mile. But at least they rolled to rest in the main aisle, and will no doubt easily be found by whatever retiree from Fort Knox holds the keys to the establishment and comes by every so often to sweep up the metallic harvest.

It took me far longer than usual to reach Grado. I was proceeding at a very sedate pace, being firmly resolved that if I were to break down physically on this trip, it would at any rate not happen on the first day. In the event, my injured heel held up surprisingly well. It certainly made its presence felt, especially on the downhill stretches, but the difference between this outing and any of my days during the last week on the CPI a year ago is as between chalk and cheese. Today I was dealing with twinges and, as the day wore on, the occasional mild throb; a twelvemonth past, every step I took was a small down-payment on Purgatory. Tomorrow morning will be the acid test, but I was more pleasantly surprised by my physical condition than I ever expected to be.

After passing the village of Peñaflor, 3 km from my destination – and site of the first open bar I'd passed since leaving Oviedo, 23 km away – I found that an intimidatingly official diversion-board had closed the remainder of the trail. Pilgrims were being ejected back onto the main road, the N-634, for the rest of the way. Fortunately, though visually unappealing, this was undramatic. A good footpath keeps pedestrians from having to mix it with the considerable volume of vehicular traffic, and the road leads straight into the centre of town, the municipal albergue being clearly signposted off to the right.

Unfortunately, I was unable to roost there. The delightful and newly-appointed volunteer staff – from Cape Town and Boston, respectively – explained to me that anyone arriving after 15:30 will have definitively lost the bed-race for the day. The thirty-two-bunk establishment was filled to the gills. I can't quite imagine how, in light of how few people appeared to be on the trail, but no doubt my fellow pilgrims began their day much earlier than I did mine. Although the albergue staff generously offered to make arrangements on my behalf with an acquaintance of theirs, who was willing to put up any latecomers for EUR 10 a night, I decided instead to duck round the corner to a private establishment, the Auto-Bar on the main street, which offers four-bunk rooms with bathrooms attached at EUR 15. I'm occupying the upper berth of one of them as I write.

All in all, then, a successful and agreeably uneventful day. I haven't covered a tremendous amount of ground, and will need to pick up the pace within a day or two if I'm to reach SdC on time. That, though, is a problem for the future. Right now, I'm relieved that things have gone as well as they have.
 
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Suzanne S.

Active Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
(2015) May--Camino Frances, SJPdP to Santiago; (2017) May--Caminho Portuguese, Coimbra to Santiago
#8
Well done, @Aurigny , and again, well relayed. Glad you're in good shape!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances - September '2018'
#9
Thoroughly enjoyed the read again. I particularly enjoyed:

"My own youth having been misspent in an entirely different direction, my couple of euros missed the target by a country mile. But at least they rolled to rest in the main aisle, and will no doubt easily be found by whatever retiree from Fort Knox holds the keys to the establishment and comes by every so often to sweep up the metallic harvest."

I wonder if you've ever written a book? I can't wait for the coming updates!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#10
If I had wondered where all the other pilgrims were, I needed wonder no longer. When I came down early this morning for my café con leche at Grado, a dozen or more were at the bar ahead of me. During the course of the day, I must have passed or been passed by three times as many. And the small square at Salas, which seemed to be the consensus night-stop, was a reunion for us all. It may not be the Francés during high season, but even at this time of year the Primitivo appears to get a respectable amount of traffic.

This small sample may be unrepresentative, but from what I've seen and heard today, the Primitivo tends to attract a certain demographic cohort. Firstly, we're a little more…well, let's say "seasoned" than the average. The youngest pilgrim I saw today was in her early thirties; most are a couple of decades older than that. We skew somewhat masculine, by a ratio of around three to one. And all day I didn't meet a single person for whom this was his or her first pilgrimage; four or five seemed to be the norm. One Irish gentleman, a few years older than myself, had spent nearly twenty days on the Norte from Irun; became bored with it; and hopped on a 'bus to Oviedo; he was much happier with what he was seeing here. A French peregrina, travelling with her husband and another couple, was on her fifth trip to SdC and looking for a physical challenge. In terms of nationalities, Spanish, German and, surprisingly, Dutch predominate. One hears few native-speakers of English, although at the rest-stops everybody seems to use it as their preferred lingua franca.

Today's leg, though not long, was moderately challenging. The first seven kilometres out of Grado are a stiffish uphill haul as far as El Freisnu, after reaching which one embarks on an equally sharp descent. This is mountainous grazing country for farm animals: many brood mares, now heavily in foal; plenty of sheep; and a large number of dun-coloured Asturian cows who, even if they don't exhibit the rude good health of their Galician sisters, are if possible even more laid-back. Today that was literally true: it was warm without a breath of wind for most of the day, and most of the cattle, stuffed full of grass and wildflowers, were lying on their sides in blissful ease, all four legs splayed out and only a flick of a tail or a twitching ear to show that they had not succumbed to some ghastly bovine pandemic. Once again, though, snacking options for humans are limited. Nothing was open before the half-way point at Cornellana, though there are more than enough bars and restaurants in that town to supply anyone's needs.

Before one gets there, though, one has to navigate an extremely muddy stretch between Cabruñana and the tiny village of Doriga. It was apparent that I spoke too soon yesterday when I praised the conditions underfoot. On this particular part, the mud was deep, tenacious and in many spots covered by several inches of still water. Inasmuch as I'm wearing hiking shoes with no waterproofing whatever, picking one's way through this morass was an exceedingly taxing job. Twice the mud grasped me so firmly that I inadvertently took one foot clean out of my shoes; once it was so bad that I had to give it up as a bad job; retrace my steps; and try to find an alternative way round. This was not to be my only encounter with boggy conditions; during the second half of the day I was to have to negotiate many more. Contrary to what one might expect, it's not merely a feature of low-lying areas. In the upper elevations, run-off water from the slopes hits the trail and courses downhill, turning what would otherwise be steep but firm paths into a soggy and highly precipitous skid-pan along which one does exceedingly well to keep one's feet. These, moreover, are not places where one wants to fall. Apart from the obvious inconveniences, many large and sharp stones are dotted into the trail, and coming down on one's lower spine onto one of these could put a swift halt to one's gallop. On the worst of these stretches, it's necessary to think carefully about where to put one's feet every time one does so. Five minutes for a hundred metres may represent a very creditable rate of progress.

Close to Salas, I may have wandered off piste. My last couple of kilometres were spent along the shoulder of the N-634a, which was the only stretch the entire day that featured no way-markers at all. If I did choose a non-standard approach, though, it didn't add more than a kilometre to my journey. Salas itself is an attractive red-bricked and red-roofed town with nearly half a dozen private albergues in addition to the municipal; losing the bed-race is not to be apprehended here. There are also a couple of well-stocked supermarkets, which are worth patronising inasmuch as the network of amenities thins out still further over the next couple of days. I'm hoping to be able to traverse the Hospitales route by then, and it isn't too early to begin stocking up.
 
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Pam Scott

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino de Santiago compostella 2015
#11
What a marvellous insight into the Primitivo. Thank you. I will be started the Primitivo early June. Hope your heel holds up. Looking forward to your updates.
 

Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#12
On the Primitivo there is linguistic diversity for leche, you can hear
Café con leche/lleche/cheite/leite
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#13
On well-travelled sections of pilgrimage routes, the beginning of the journey each day can resemble the peloton at the Tour de France: everybody roaring off at the same moment in a massive gaggle. That was the scene at Salas at seven this morning. It had rained solidly overnight, and was still coming down, but none of us wanted to wait any longer. A mob of us had been enjoying morning coffee at the Luciana bar on the main drag. On our departure, we were stopped by the proprietress, who is, it appears, in the habit of presenting each departing pilgrim with a small banana and an even tinier dry-cured ham sandwich. It's extraordinarily kind of her, but if you're the beneficiary of this gracious gift, I recommend consuming these items quickly. They don't stand up very well to the rigours of the voyage.

And indeed it's reasonably rigorous, at least on the early stage to La Espina, about 10 km away. Most of the peloton were overnighting at Tineo, which is a decent-sized town and hence a logical stopping place. However, it's more than 13 km from Campiello, the jumping-off point for the assault on the highest leg of the Primitivo, over the Sierra de Hospitales mountains. These are respectably high by Iberian standards: more than 1,200m, or nearly 4,000 feet, which must be climbed from around the 500m mark. Having to take them on after a three-hour-long approach didn't appeal, so I decided to push on through and put up at Campiello tonight. At around 35 km in total that's a reasonably long leg for the Primitivo, so I was happy to let the peloton forge ahead while I followed at a more sedate pace in its wake.

In many respects, today's experience was a mirror of yesterday's. Thus far the Primitivo is revealing itself as a route not of disastrously stiff climbs, but very long ones. The uphill legs, mostly along country paths and forest tracks, go on quite literally for a couple of hours without interruption. Often one has to give back all the height gained in a kilometre or so, only to be required to begin climbing all over again. There used to be an exercise machine called the Stairmaster, a kind of miniature down-going escalator on a continuous loop that the hapless Sisyphean user had continuously to climb, getting nowhere. The Primitivo seems a lot like a massive open-air Stairmaster with scenery, cows, and occasional opportunites for coffee.

One presenting itself at Espina, I dutifully caffeinated myself and, the rain not having eased up appreciably, made a quick change of plan for the 11-km section to Tineo. The admirable set of briefing notes for the Primitivo complied by Liz Brandt, which is available gratis on this site, warns that this leg is exceptionally muddy and that pilgrims should consider walking along the road during wet weather. I had already seen evidence of this since leaving Salas, having not just to hop around massive puddles but on one or two occasions to abandon the trail altogether and hike through forest undergrowth so as to circumnavigate the junior swamps I was finding in my way. If it was like this before Espina, I didn't want to know how it was further on. So I took the expert's advice and followed the AS-214 into Tineo. Granted, that's not an ideal alternative either. The road is narrow; has just two lanes and no shoulder of any kind; and carries a very large number of heavy goods vehicles, displaced from the parallel motorway by the exorbitant Spanish tolls. Some of these pantechnicons, barrelling along considerably in excess of the posted speed limit, got a lot closer to me than I liked. But at all events the AS-214 is level, a rarity in this part of the world, and after just two hours I was able to stop in the centre of town for a quick and frugal lunch.

The final stretch of the day to Campiello is a twin of the first. Forest tracks, often boggy or even flooded; very brief spells on paved roads; long climbs and precipitous (and, in wet weather, hazardous) descents; and, other than the odd roadside fountain, no amenities at all. The normally first-rate waymarking was less evident than usual in the forest sections, but occasional clumps of white tissue (tsk!) at the side of the trail served almost as well as, if less salubriously than, yellow arrows. On a more positive note, I was amused to pass, toward the end of the day, a village named La Tienda, the smallest such settlement I've ever encountered. The signs telling you that you are successively entering and leaving town are no more than the distance of a football field apart; the only structure to be found in the entire place is a single modest farmhouse on the right-hand side. Whether this was also a shop at some point in the past is something the historians will have to determine.

Campiello is little larger. For all intents and purposes it consists of two rival private albergues, Casa Ricardo and Casa Herminia, situated adjacent to each other on opposite sides of the only street. Both, however, are highly patronised during the season, being the last places of accommodation – and, indeed, the last businesses of any kind – between here and Berducedo, on the other side of the Puerto de Palo mountain pass. They're much of a muchness; cost the same (EUR 10); so I decided to encourage local entrepreneurialism on a broad front by staying at Ricardo's and dining at Herminia's. I daresay that one's experience would be almost identical if one were to do it the other way round.

Tomorrow will, by all accounts, be an arduous day. As with the choice between the Route de Napoleon and the Valcarlos low-level alternative on the Francés, one may get to Berducero either directly over the mountains – the Hospitales route, so called for the three mediaeval pilgrim hospitals strung out along its track and now visible only as ruins and the longer but flatter Pola de Allande track, which also features a couple of coffee-stops along the way. One is enjoined most sternly by the locals never to attempt the Hospitales route unless weather conditions are excellent: fog sweeps in with breathtaking speed and lives are lost up there. Happily, the forecast for tomorrow is about as good as it can be, so I can see no reason not to proceed directly.
 
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Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#14
My son and I walked the Primitivo in mid May 2016 with mostly good weather and great temperatures, experiencing only a few days of partial drizzle or fog. I loved this route and although we walked alone quite a bit during the day, many albergues were quite busy by day's end. You will probably not be alone as often as you hope, @Aurigny.
Wishing you a very Buen Camino and healthy feet!
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Walked Camino Frances (2014- 2017)
Plan to walk Primitivo in June 2018
#15
This is a wonderful 'blog' of you journey, such an easy and informative read. I'll be starting from Oviedo on the 29th and this is a timely input to my planning. I hope your heel holds up.
Thanks for sharing. Buen Camino
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#17
Casa Ricardo is an interesting place – or such, at any rate, is its clientèle. There was plenty of room in the establishment when I went to bed last night: at lights-out, only half the bunks in our room were occupied. I was a little taken aback, therefore, when I slipped out quietly at 05:15, to find a young woman sleeping on a camp-bed in the communal kitchen. Still more surprising, when I stole past her to the courtyard to pick up my shoes, was my discovery of a gentleman, somewhat more mature in years, who had chosen to crash out in a sleeping bag laid on the stone flags, underneath the stars. Being blessed with unusually good reactions, I was able to pull myself up before measuring my length on top of his; and his soft snores confirmed that he had not heard the brief but pungent expression of my view of his choice of a doss-down spot that sprang unbidden to my lips. I've no idea whether he is afflicted with an uncontrollable case of claustrophobia or was simply trying to save the ten euro, but either way, he'll never know how close he came to sending both of us to the hospital.

All in all, I was grateful to be on the far side of the wooden door where no more unexpected encounters, other than possibly disturbing an unwary cat, could await me. Sitting at one of the unused metal tables outside Herminia's, I made a hasty breakfast of the items I had bought the previous day and headed off into the darkness. I had a fairly long and steep hike ahead of me, and wanted to break the back of it before the afternoon heat became a serious factor.

Had I to do it again, I would have left still earlier. The first part of today's leg started on paved road, but quickly switched to farmers' cart-tracks that once again were often covered in standing water, blocked by fallen trees, or both. My lightweight LED torch provided me with good illumination, but I was still having to do quite a lot of scrambling around these various obstacles. It was all taking time, and even at this stage I was keeping one wary eye on my watch. I had been warned that a real possibility exists of losing the bed-race at Berducedo, which is not much bigger than Campiello, and I didn't want to have to extend an already long day still further by having to hike on to the next albergue at A Mesa.

I started the serious climb up the sierra, leaving the village of La Mortera, shortly after sunrise, getting out of town less than two minutes before a chilly wind blew dense billows of low cloud up the valley. Within moments the village and everything beneath it had been obliterated by a solid layer of stratus. This was not of any concern to me – already I was a hundred feet above the cloud-bank, and would soon be a great deal higher than that – but it was a salutary reminder of just how quickly the weather in these parts can turn unfavourable. In recent times, I'm informed, the waymarking of the path along the mountains has been greatly improved, and as a result the danger of tumbling off the side is considerably reduced. But one still can't walk in seriously foggy conditions, and it would not be enjoyable to have to spend extended periods of time up there in the cold and damp waiting for the visibility to improve.

Today, though, the chief concern would be the sun, which was beating down with surprising intensity for this time of year. A fountain is to be found just above La Mortera, and filling one's water-bottle here is a necessity. Not another drop will be available until one reaches Berducedo, more than 20 km away. As I tanked up, I was joined by a trio of Spanish pilgrims, varying in age from the mid-twenties to the mid-forties. The eldest of the three concerned me. It didn't appear as though he had done a great deal of training, and already he was covered with sweat and so badly gassed that he was unable to respond to my ¡Buenos dias! until he had put his hands on his knees and his head close to the same place for a couple of minutes. If he had come from Campiello, as I'm sure he had, he'd covered by that point about six kilometres. The climb had barely begun, and I was wondering uneasily whether we'd have a heart attack on our hands before the morning was out.

But I also had my own ascent to which to attend. In terms of terrain and of degree of difficulty, the Hospitales route is like a more rugged and isolated version of the first day of the Francés from SJPP to Roncesvalles. The gradient is a bit steeper, the trail underfoot a bit rockier, and the views a bit more extensive, at least if the weather is co-operative. In fact all day I was powerfully reminded of the upper stretches of the Route de Napoleon: the same mountain ridges covered with short grass or scrub, with wooden poles about 50 cm high staked out at intervals to show the trail, and very few trees visible in any direction.

The only significant difference, other than the extra steepness, is the presence of various quadrupeds who clearly view the presence of humans as at best a source of diversion, and at worst an intrusion. On my way up I found half a dozen Asturian cows sprawled across the trail who looked at me with a cold eye and made it perfectly clear that I was expected to go around them, rather than the reverse. Fair enough, I thought. But I was less impressed by a donkey who stationed himself on one of the rocky trails far above me. As I approached I expected that he would either ignore me or move aside. Not a bit of it. Instead, as I came abreast him, he turned around; began walking beside me; and, when I continued on my way, found diversion in leaning heavily on me and trying to bustle me off the left-hand side of the trail. Being in just that state of sweat-soaked hyperventilation to be irritated rather than captivated by these antics, I leaned heavily back. We continued thus for twenty metres or so, I stumbling and he gently snorting in apparent amusement, until I stopped; put down my bag; and gave him a hefty shove on the shoulder with both hands. This caused him finally to amble off downhill, no doubt in search of the next rube on whom he could practice. There's a YouTube channel called "Animals Being Jerks." This character, I decided, was either a loyal viewer or was hoping soon himself to audition.

As previously mentioned, the ruins of three pilgrim hospitals are to be found along the route. Not much is left of any of them beyond the foundations and some of the walls. I was again startled as I passed the site of the second, the Hospital de Fanfarón, to find that some halfwit had pitched his one-man tent against one of the interior walls and, at about 09:30, was only now striking camp. To the best of my knowledge, free-camping is not permitted on public lands in Spain, but even if it were, it passes my comprehension how, with an entire mountain range to choose from, anyone could imagine that the ideal place in which to drive stakes into the ground is a fifteenth-century historical site. It's little wonder that pilgrims are often not as popular with the locals as they ought to be.

Somewhere around Fanfarón is also where the highest point of the route is to be found, although there's no marker to indicate the precise spot. Still, the Mk. 1 eyeball does the job quite well. I imagine that, after a cold front has passed through, the views from up here are truly spectacular. Today they were a bit less than that: there was too much humidity in the air. I'd say that I was able to see for 50 km in all directions, but on a really clear day, twice that should easily be possible. I did pause for a few moments to catch my breath, and was joined by a young Norwegian peregrina whose progress up the slopes – about twice the rate of my own – was a reminder of my abysmal lack of physical conditioning. After we'd exchanged some pleasantries about the scenery and the delightful weather she continued along the ridge and very quickly showed me a clean pair of heels, disappearing from view in less than ten minutes. I imagine that something like today's hike holds no terrors for her: at home, she probably takes on stiffer challenges as part of her daily commute.

At any rate, she was to be almost the last companion I was to see on the sierra. Crossing the Puerto del Palo, a pass marked by the junction of the low-level route and an ugly high-tension electricity cable that stretches for miles in a westerly direction, I started a very steep descent along a scree-covered path towards the microscopic settlement of Montefurado, in reality an old chapel and a couple of stone farmhouses. From there the trail switchbacks up and down – mostly, alas, up – before emerging at the small village of Lago. I gather that until recently a bar existed here, but I was unable to find any trace of it. Instead it was necessary to content myself in patience until I reached Berducedo, at the end of an agreeably shady forest path about three kilometres further along.

The municipal albergue in the village doesn't have a good reputation, and looking through the grimy windows as I passed, I had an idea why. Fortunately space was available at one of the private alternatives, Casa Marques on the main street, and this served me very nicely indeed. It has a sunny terrace with ample clotheslines and drying racks, and plenty of seating. The attached restaurant-bar offers a very acceptable menú del dia, especially if braised beef is on offer as it was tonight. All told, one might do a great deal worse.

I have heard that, in many people's eyes, the Hospitales route is the high point of the Primitivo in the figurative as well as the literal sense of that term. For me it was a good day's journey, but not so impressive that one should feel greatly disappointed for having missed it. Almost as striking views are available, for those who follow the Pola de Allende route, at the point at which it intersects the one along which I travelled. And the weather on the mountain track can be a little wearing even if fog or thunderstorms are not complicating things. There's no shelter of any kind up there, and very few places even to sit. On the windward side of the ridge-line a strong and chilly wind blows almost continously; on the lee side it's much stiller, but on a sunny day like today the temperature soars. The entire day, therefore, I alternately froze and baked, leading me to feel at the end as though I had worked much harder than I really did. I'm glad to have done it, but my guess is that in the final analysis, other parts of the Primitivo will seem every bit as, or still more, memorable to me when I look back upon my time here.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#18
It's hard to know what to do about the Sabbath when one is on pilgrimage. From one perspective it's the statutory day of rest, and hence one ought not to walk. From another, one is already engaged in a form of physical and spiritual recreation, and hence one ought. In my typical unsatisfactory way I split the difference. I would put in a day's journey, but make it a short one, a proverbial Sunday's walk of 20 km down the road to Grandas de Salime. In these parts this is a comparatively major metropolis of some 530 souls, featuring a municipal albergue and two private ones, a small supermarket (in truth a medium-sized grocery), and an ATM.

Part of the calculation involved in keeping today's run within limits is the condition of my left heel. It's not giving me serious difficulties as of yet, but at various points yesterday it was sending out definite distress signals. Scrambling over rough surfaces, of which there are a superabundance on the Hospitales route, seem to upset it more than paved or level ones, even though my hiking shoes seem to be absorbing as much of the impact as any footwear can be expected to do. Giving it an easy day and a chance to recover appears sensible. One thing that I've learned about the Primitivo is that it exigently demands patience of those who travel it, and will have that patience one way or the other – if not on the trail itself, then in a chair afterward with compression bandages and ice around one's elevated lower limb.

So Grandas it was. Inasmuch as it wouldn't take me more than five hours at the very outside, there seemed to be no reason to start at cock-crow. Accordingly, I was happy to allow the peloton to depart and follow them at a civilised hour. My only appointment of the day was 19:00 Mass at El Salvador church in the centre of town (which, I was frustrated to discover on arrival, is no longer celebrated on weekends). So I breakfasted like a gentleman; fired off a couple of e-mails home, and meandered downhill in the direction of Grandas, once the streets had been well aired.

As it turns out, "the direction of Grandas" is one of those relative affairs. As the crow flies, the town is only about six or seven kilometres to the east of Berducedo. But a couple of mountain ridges stand in the way, making one's progress toward the goal a series of undulations reminiscent of a drunk trying to find his way home after a boozy party. First one heads to the little village of A Mesa, which involves walking to the southern end of a long ridge featuring a dozen wind turbines along the top. The moment one reaches it, one reverses direction and hikes up the ridge to the north. And as soon as one reaches that, it's time to reverse course again and walk downhill south, only this time along the far side. As an exercise in geographical futility it can hardly be bettered.

Still, if one wants to trail around the Spanish countryside in ever-diminishing circles, today was the day to do it. Conditions could hardly have been more perfect for walking: not a cloud in the sky, the temperature agreeable, and a light but pleasant breeze to keep one's skin dry and comfortable. Forty-five minutes at a modest pace brought me to A Mesa, which features an impressive-looking and quite new albergue. The hospitalera doubles as a masseuse, bringing aching lower limbs back to life. A Dutch peregrina with whom I spoke, having just received the treatment, said it was worth every penny.

After climbing and descending the ridge, which looks more intimidating than it really is, the wayfarer is given a choice of routes on to Vistalegre. This whole area was incinerated in a forest fire in April 2017; to avoid forcing pilgrims to tramp through the scene of devastation, the local authorities opened up a diversionary trail as far as the Salime dam. It adds an extra couple of kilometres to the journey and is even more absurdly circuitous. In light of all the recent rain, I decided that the danger of taking the traditional route was minimal, and headed downhill after stopping for a brief prayer at the completely delightful and tiny chapel of Santa Marina at Buspol (a pilgrim's prayer in Spanish is tacked to the door). I was glad I took this option, because what I was seeing confirmed suspicions that I had formed when walking the CPI last year. My botanical ignorance is second to none – at best I'm able to distinguish daisies from not-daisies – but it nonetheless seemed to me that if you wanted to design something that would burn hotter, faster and better than almost anything else in the world, you would wind up with something very like an Iberian planned forest. Row upon row of conifers, replete with pine oil and shedding needles that shrivel up into a highly inflammable carpet, are planted like soldiers on parade in long straight lines and incomprehensibly close to each other. The odd eucalyptus tree is interspersed to promote initial combustion. Where the trees are not present, a gorse-like undergrowth that crisps up wonderfully in the dry weather is allowed to cover the hillsides. As if there are not enough things to burn, tall clumps of yellow rape festoon the lower slopes. Lastly, after the young trees have been partly incinerated in one summer's fire, their char-grilled corpses are left standing there to provide pre-dried kindling for the next summer's. To put it in a sentence, the entire area is primed to go up again like a Roman candle the moment somebody drops a match. As I say, I'm no expert, or even an educated amateur, but the Iberian method of forestry management completely eludes me.

The good news is that it's not necessary to run this gauntlet very long: three kilometres or so. Nor did I have to do so alone. Shortly after I descended into the burnt part of the slopes, I was joined by a stocky man in his early forties, covering the ground at an almost incredible rate. Seeing me, he asked me for directions to Grandas in Spanish that was quite as bad as my own. Trying to find a more convenient lingua franca, I discovered that he was Russian. Surprisingly, this worked out well, because he was able to understand enough of my pig-Polish to catch my drift. We quickly found that as long as we confined our vocabulary to just two parts of speech, nouns and verbs, we were able to get along splendidly. He had started his Camino in Moscow, his home town, and had been on the road and living out of his backpack for months. Somehow the conversation turned to the literatures of our respective countries: he was gratified to discover that I thought Pushkin superior to Tolstoii. Finding my sedate pace almost impossible for him to match, though, he wished me well and told me that we'd catch up at the albergue later in the day. And at the nearest thing to a dead run he was gone. Somehow, this encounter seemed to epitomise for me the talks I've had with my fellow pilgrims. They've hardly ever followed conventional expectations; they usually involve my butchering whatever language we happen to be using; and yet I don't believe I've ever met anyone out on the trail with whom communication has proved impossible.

After passing the Salime dam – the observation post on the western side is worth visiting – the road goes uphill again for nearly the six remaining kilometres into Grandas. Once more this looks scary, but if taken at a steady and moderate pace is quite manageable. It's necessary to walk on the shoulder most of the way, but not much traffic seems to use that route. The last couple of kilometres cut through the forest, providing pleasant shade and possibly being a little faster than the main road.

Grandas doesn't look as though it's doing well these days. Dining options are few, and the meal I ate, at any rate, distinguished itself neither by its attractiveness nor its affordability. Still, I rarely want to eat much on these pilgrimages and, if nothing else, a forgettable night-stop provides incentive for an early bed and a timely departure the following morning. That's what I will be doing, Fonsagrada across the border in Galicia being my destination for tomorrow.
 
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Camino Chris

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2015); Camino Norte/Primitivo (2016); Camino Frances (2017); Le Puy (June 2018)
#19
I opted to stop just past the dam at the nice hotel for a cafe con leche in the afternoon on their patio overlooking the beautiful lake. I ended up spending the night there, too. So nice to have a cute room with a view, hot bath, and good dinner. One of my favorite memories on the Primitivo.
 

peregrina2000

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Donating Member
#20
Forty-five minutes at a modest pace brought me to A Mesa, which features an impressive-looking and quite new albergue. The hospitalera doubles as a masseuse, bringing aching lower limbs back to life. A Dutch peregrina with whom I spoke, having just received the treatment, said it was worth every penny.
I am really enjoying your posts Aurigny. And the opening of a new albergue in La Mesa means that the Berducedo bottleneck will decrease even more. Great news, it looks very nice. https://www.gronze.com/asturias/mesa/albergue-miguelin
 

Sue L

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Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct 2015 Le Puy - to Conques, Tui - Santiago. May/June 2017 Conques to SJPP
#21
When the evidence changes, so the saying goes, it's sensible to change one's mind. Peering out the window early today and seeing the rain-swept streets defying last night's over-sanguine weather forecast caused me rapidly to change mine While I normally like to make an early start to the day, especially in light of the fact that my planned night-stop, Grado, was the better part of 30 km away, the attractiveness of that idea seemed harder to perceive at six in the morning. Instead I cooled my heels and waited for better weather to materialise. By around nine, the rain had given way to a sullen cloud-base, and having made good use of the delay by loading up on café con leche and reading the local newspapers, I set off from the Cathedral in the general direction of another one, more than three hundred kilometres to the west.

Many veterans of the Primitivo report that getting out of Oviedo is something of a challenge. From my perspective, it was a great deal more straightforward than I had imagined. It's true that one has to know where to begin. Oviedo doesn't do yellow arrows – at least until the outskirts. Until then, one must rely on brass scallop-shell markers set into the footpaths, much as one does in León or Pamplona. That, in turn, is tricky until one finds the start of the sequence. Fortunately, it's very close to the Cathedral – just to the right, as one exits the main door. From there the trail of shells, spaced at about 50m intervals, leads up Calle Schultz and ultimately to the western edge of town.

To be sure, locating them is sometimes a bit of a challenge. Sensibly, the shells are set into the concrete at an angle so as to indicate when one is supposed to bear right or left or to cross the street. But the ovetense seem especially fond of parking their cars over the markers or covering them with chairs and tables outside cafés, requiring the pilgrim to engage in a degree of creative projection. They're also to be found only on one side of the street, and tend to oscillate between the middle of the pavement and the kerbstones in a way that requires one's head to be on a constant slow swivel. However, in general the waymarking is so good that if one has travelled, say, 300m without seeing some indication of where to go next, it's safe to assume that one is off track and should return to the last known position for another try. I'd go so far as to say that Oviedo has the best waymarking out of town of any similarly sized Spanish town I've ever seen, Ourense alone excepted.

Once clear of the city limits and established along the trail, the journey soon becomes very pleasant indeed. The early stages of the Primitivo involve lots of climbing and descending, but neither is all that difficult. It's a little steeper than what one would describe as "rolling countryside," but not so much as to tax the abilities even of someone like myself who had done practically no serious walking over the past year. The terrain looks a lot like northern Bosnia, albeit with rather fewer burnt-out villages along the way. Despite the fact that the winter and early spring, to judge from the state of the rivers, have been quite moist in these parts, the going underfoot is surprisingly good. Most of today's leg consisted of gravelled or rocky paths interspersed with the occasional stretch along the hard shoulder of the main road, but even in the forested sections, very little mud was to be encountered. I finished the day with my hiking shoes nearly as clean as when I began.

It's important to plan ahead, as the logistics of the Primitivo can be challenging. Fortunately I obtained all the road food and drink that I was likely to require before leaving Oviedo. Had I not, I imagine that I would have arrived at my destination in a lean and hungry condition. I had planned to have lunch at the only remaining restaurant in Escamplero, the half-way point of today's leg. Indeed, somewhat concerned about the risk of over-taxing my left heel, I had even considered the possibility of ending my day there – the restaurant owner is also the key-holder for the local albergue. Both decisions were taken out of my hands, though, by my discovery of a chalked board announcing that the establishment was closed on Wednesdays. A vending machine was available to enable me to wash down my sandwiches with cold drinks by way of compensation. The sensible pilgrim along this route does well, though, to assume that the pickings will be not just slim, but non-existent, between the daily departure and destination points.

So on to Grado it was, about another thirteen kilometres further west. After Escamplero the trail became narrower, more or less paralleling the River Nalón on the northern bank and with the main road above and to the right. It's quiet, and at this time of year at any rate, it would appear, a little lonely. I encountered only one other pilgrim along the trail, a middle-aged bicigrino – I believe German by nationality – who I came across optimistically but futilely trying each door of the Escamplero restaurant in the hope of finding a staff-member to let him into the albergue. Otherwise I had the trail to myself the entire day.

Some amenities are nonetheless available. A good fountain guards the entrance to the tiny hamlet of San Lázaro de Paniceres, perhaps 5 km west-northwest of Oviedo. Fill up your water bottle here, because it'll be a long time until you see another one. A self-service sello is also kept in a wooden box at the Chapel of the Carmen in Lampaxuga, another three kilometres further on. This being Iberia, the iron-bar-festooned doors of the chapel itself are chained up in such a manner as to deter the cast of Ocean's Eleven at its most inventive, so any praying you might wish to do will have to be accomplished from the steps of the vestibule outside. However, a dish is placed on the floor within the church to receive donations. If you have had a particular kind of misspent youth, you can revive your pitch-and-toss skills by heaving your coins through the bars in such a way as to land them inside the dish. My own youth having been misspent in an entirely different direction, my couple of euros missed the target by a country mile. But at least they rolled to rest in the main aisle, and will no doubt easily be found by whatever retiree from Fort Knox holds the keys to the establishment and comes by every so often to sweep up the metallic harvest.

It took me far longer than usual to reach Grado. I was proceeding at a very sedate pace, being firmly resolved that if I were to break down physically on this trip, it would at any rate not happen on the first day. In the event, my injured heel held up surprisingly well. It certainly made its presence felt, especially on the downhill stretches, but the difference between this outing and any of my days during the last week on the CPI a year ago is as between chalk and cheese. Today I was dealing with twinges and, as the day wore on, the occasional mild throb; a twelvemonth past, every step I took was a small down-payment on Purgatory. Tomorrow morning will be the acid test, but I was more pleasantly surprised by my physical condition than I ever expected to be.

After passing the village of Peñaflor, 3 km from my destination – and site of the first open bar I'd passed since leaving Oviedo, 23 km away – I found that an intimidatingly official diversion-board had closed the remainder of the trail. Pilgrims were being ejected back onto the main road, the N-634, for the rest of the way. Fortunately, though visually unappealing, this was undramatic. A good footpath keeps pedestrians from having to mix it with the considerable volume of vehicular traffic, and the road leads straight into the centre of town, the municipal albergue being clearly signposted off to the right.

Unfortunately, I was unable to roost there. The delightful and newly-appointed volunteer staff – from Cape Town and Boston, respectively – explained to me that anyone arriving after 15:30 will have definitively lost the bed-race for the day. The thirty-two-bunk establishment was filled to the gills. I can't quite imagine how, in light of how few people appeared to be on the trail, but no doubt my fellow pilgrims began their day much earlier than I did mine. Although the albergue staff generously offered to make arrangements on my behalf with an acquaintance of theirs, who was willing to put up any latecomers for EUR 10 a night, I decided instead to duck round the corner to a private establishment, the Auto-Bar on the main street, which offers four-bunk rooms with bathrooms attached at EUR 15. I'm occupying the upper berth of one of them as I write.

All in all, then, a successful and agreeably uneventful day. I haven't covered a tremendous amount of ground, and will need to pick up the pace within a day or two if I'm to reach SdC on time. That, though, is a problem for the future. Right now, I'm relieved that things have gone as well as they have.
It's not often at this point in the year that I get any free time, and still less common for me to know in advance that it's coming. A few months ago, though, I received the welcome news that my window of opportunity to take some annual leave might come earlier than usual. Pilgrimage-possibilities immediately began suggesting themselves to me, and inasmuch as the number of days available is, as always, limited, the Primitivo stood high on the list of potential routes. I'm still dreaming of a really long trip – the Via Gebennensis, at around 2,000 km, would fit the bill nicely – but the logistical difficulties are so formidable that that one will remain a bucket-list item for the foreseeable future. Right now, ten days or so is as much as I can scrounge together, and for my fourth Camino, going back to where it all began in 814 A.D. had a definite charm. If one makes reservations long enough in advance, moreover, flights to Spain in the shoulder-season are almost absurdly cheap, at least if one isn't all that fussy about where in the country one actually lands. My family, with visions dancing through their heads of a couple of weeks of uninterrupted Netflix and house-and-garden magazines during my absence, gave the idea an enthusiastic thumbs-up.

Only one obstacle stood in my way, but that was, and may remain, a serious one. A year ago, as readers of that sub-forum will recall, I ventured out in a fit of ignorance-induced enthusiasm along the little-travelled Camino Português Interior. It was in many respects a memorable journey, and probably came closer to recreating, in however attenuated a form, the daily experience of our mediaeval predecessors than anything else in this vein that I've attempted thus far. That is to say, I spent a considerable proportion of each day wandering off in entirely the wrong direction through unmarked and heavily overgrown Iberian wilderness, and a goodly proportion of the remainder dodging, or at least warily skirting, the uncontrolled wildfires that were responsible for so tragically high a number of deaths in Portugal last summer and seemed to be popping up around me like so many mushrooms. All in all it was one of those trips that one is, in equal measure, glad to have accomplished and determined never to repeat. According to the Pilgrim's Office at SdC, 81 of us completed the CPI last year, and the only thing that surprises me about that number is that there were in fact so many of us.

The lasting legacy of that trip, however, was serious and persistent foot problems. My first two days in the mountains, covering almost 100 km over terrain that was often rocky and covered in scree, left me with damage from which, for the remainder of the trip, I was unable to recover. While the visually impressive evidence was to be seen on the right foot—a blister two inches across that didn't rupture until after I returned home, and a heel that oozed blood slowly but continuously throughout the second week—the real trouble was building up beneath the surface in the left. By the end of the pilgrimage, I had landed myself with an exceedingly nasty case of plantar fasciiitis, an all-too-obvious diagnosis that was duly confirmed by the podiatrist to whom I hobbled shortly after picking up my compostelle at SdC.

Well, nobody's fault but my own, and I knew it. Over the next several months I diligently performed the regimen of dreary rehabilitative exercises with which those similarly afflicted are familiar—that curious toe-clenching business that resembles Kegels for the feet; rolling a tennis ball or a bottle of frozen water around on one's heel; hauling the front of one's foot upwards with the aid of an industrial-sized rubber band, etc. Improvement was painfully slow, in both senses of the adjective, but by mid-November things seemed to have improved to the point that I was ready to measure my progress. One chilly Saturday afternoon I embarked on an unambitious test run: a 16-km loop along flat, paved surfaces. Nearly four hours later, darkness long since having fallen, I hobbled at a snail's pace through my front door, practically unable to put my left foot to the ground. It was impressed upon me that I was in considerably greater difficulty than I had supposed.

Numerous X-rays, scans and assorted professional proddings and pokings followed, together with a new set of exercises. In the end, with time running out, I prevailed upon my medical advisers to try the penultimate resort of fasciitis-sufferers—a series of cortisone injections directly into the heel. These aren't tremendous fun, but are not unbearable either. Although I experienced an acute cortisone reaction that in the short term left me even less mobile than previously, matters did appreciably improve thereafter. My orthopaedic consultancy, which spends most of its time working with high-level athletes but generously agreed to take my very banal case on board, fixed me up with a new pair of insanely expensive hiking shoes complete with still more expensive inserts precision-moulded to the contours of my feet. About three weeks ago, having taken hardly a single unnecessary step for the better part of a year, I ventured out once more for a more realistic road-test: 30 km non-stop, with a couple of stiffish hills en route.

The results weren't disastrous. I was conscious of my left heel after a couple of kilometres, and remained so for the rest of the way. But it wasn't sufficiently uncomfortable to slow my pace, and at the end—other than being reminded by my aching leg-muscles how disgustingly unfit I currently am—I was as much a going concern as at the beginning. Rather than tempt fate, I shut operations down at that point, and from that day until this one have done nothing more than continue the cycle of rest and rehabilitation.

Thus it is that I find myself at the starting point in Oviedo, a few hundred metres from the Cathedral and a brand-new credencial in my backpack. If I were to assign a grade to my foot, I'd say that I'm operating at present at about 80% of normal. Should things stay that way, despite my lack of road-fitness I'll have few concerns about finishing the trip. But I have no idea whether by the end of tomorrow—or any of the days to follow—I won't find myself bounced right back to square one. ("Go to rehab. Go directly to rehab. Do not pass SdC. Do not collect another compostelle," as a Catholic version of the Parker Bros. board game might put it.) Only time will tell. One thing is sure: in my worst imaginings I would never have dreamed that I could have banged my feet up so comprehensively, and with such persistent consequences, merely by walking on them.

Otherwise my morale is high. I've heard nothing but good things about the Primitivo, and even though I'm now the owner of a lightweight magnetic compass that, if I'd possessed it last year, would have saved my bacon more than once on the CPI, I doubt I'll have occasion to use it. Word has it that the waymarking along this route is excellent. I don't expect to run into too many fellow pilgrims at this time of year, but that too suits my mildly solitary mood. Having heard Mass this evening at the Cathedral and with a night's albergue accommodation safely obtained, I have nothing to do but to hunt down my first dinner of the trip and get an early night in preparation for a pre-dawn departure tomorrow morning.
Loving your posts and am taking copious notes for reference in September. Stay healthy and Buen Camino from Australia.
 

Sue L

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct 2015 Le Puy - to Conques, Tui - Santiago. May/June 2017 Conques to SJPP
#22
Yes I agree a well written piece. I will be very interested to hear how your foot holds up, we leave Australia today for Paris and then to Irun to commence our first Camino - del Norte to Oviedo and then Primitivo. I have been training hard and was feeling well prepared and strong until 3 weeks ago when I suddenly developed plantar fasciitis. I’m doing all the exercises, had the cortisone injection which hasn’t worked so my good doctor, understanding my commitment to this pilgrimage, has loaded me up with strong painkillers and the appropriate letters of authorisation so I don’t get put behind bars while passing through several borders. Oh yes, and my pack weight has just increased with spare insoles and cushioning, balls for rolling the feet, bags for ice not to mention the copious quantities of painkillers.
Postponing the trip was not an option - now or never.
So like you Aurigny I will be waiting to see how I go (or not) with some trepidation but will be giving it my best shot. Good luck
Best wishes for a great Camino from another Aussie Pilgrim planning to work Norte/Primitivo in August (knees/shins/feet willing). Let us know how you are travelling.
 

ksam

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Portuguese May "08" Camino Frances May/June "11" del Norte Sept/Oct "14"/Camino Invierno May 2016/ Camino Ingles Oct 2017
#23
My very tender and sore left heel sends it's best wishes to your left heel! I'm enjoying every bit of you posts. God will and the creek don't rise...I'll be following in your foot steps come October.
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#24
Not all legs of a pilgrimage can be filled with fascinating things. The Grandas-to-Fonsagrada stretch is a little – pun intended – pedestrian. But it also gave me the impression of marking a kind of cultural boundary, as well as a political one, along this route. To this point, the Primitivo has had its own and quite distinctive character. Now, as it passes out of the Principality of Asturias into Galicia, it is beginning to take on something more of a Francés-esque appearance and vibe. This is to be expected, the point of conjunction with the final stage of the Francés itself not being far away. But for most of today, it was easy for me to imagine myself on one of the more anonymous runs that one encounters before, say, pulling into somewhere like Molinaseca.

To be sure, the day certainly started in good Primitivo fashion, with an uphill hike out of town. To my left I could clearly see the ridge above A Mesa, with its dozen windmills, just six or seven kilometres away as the crow flies. The reflection that to get to that point I had walked sixteen was not conducive to the mood of spiritual forbearance in which this pilgrimage is supposed to be accomplished. For all that, the sojourn to the first significant point out of town, the little village of Castro, goes quickly enough. But then the serious climbing begins, firstly along a shady, and muddy, forest trail from which I was driven several times into the adjacent fields by the bogs in my path, and then on the shoulder of the main Grandas-to-Fonsagrada road as far as Peñafonte. After that one resumes one's upward progression on a more open, and increasingly narrow, track. The gradient is relentless but bearable except for a short section just beneath a small clutch of wind turbines near the Puerto del Acebo, the highest point of the day's trek at 1,050m if the roadside placard announcing the fact is to be believed. All told the climb takes about ninety minutes of solid hiking, through terrain that is fairly featureless. At the top one does get a splendid view of the countryside in all directions, confirming that the hills ahead are somewhat less challenging than those behind. From here, provided the visibility is half-decent, one can also easily see the rooftops of Fonsagrada about 12 km away, and especially its distinctive water-tower at the south end of town. By this point one has also crossed into Galicia, to which a small marker bears witness.

The rest of the day's run, passing abeam the villages of Fonfría and Barbeitos along a path that parallels the main road, is still more unmemorable. The restaurant at the latter was, to my disappointment, closed (it puts up the shutters at 16:00 on weekdays), so I had to tighten my belt until reaching Fonsagrada itself. My main concern when doing so was avoiding the pop-up late-afternoon thundershowers that had been forecasted. These duly manifested themselves, right on schedule, but fortunately for me confined their attentions to the southern side of the Acebo ridgeline. Indeed it was remarkable how significant that mountain seemed to be to the local micro-climate. Just a couple of kilometres to the south, the precipitation was coming down in buckets. Above the mountain itself and as far as the eye could see to the north, the sky was clear with the exception of some broken cumulus clouds. I can only assume, inasmuch as the wind was coming out of the east, that orographic lifting has something to do with setting off the storms when an unstable airmass is around.

The humidity, though, made itself felt at ground level as well as above it. I was quite sweaty enough on the approach to Fonsagrada, but the last 1.5 km or so, a gravelled track with about a one-in-eight uphill gradient, finished the job of causing me to soak through my shirt as though I had dipped it in a bucket. Again the parallel with the Francés suggested itself to me, with almost every Brierley-day, it seemed, ending with a wearisome climb to some hill town or other. I was also surprised though by this stage of the game I really ought not to be by the gentleman in the Citroen Berlingo van who honked me out of the way when I was two-thirds up. I'd hesitate to bring my motorbike up a path like that, far less a four-wheeled vehicle. The Iberian driver doesn't even think about it at least, doubtless, until his gearbox is deposited in one of the deeper ruts.

Still, I'm bound to say that the ascent was worth the effort. Fonsagrada is my notion of an ideal night stop. With a population of nearly four thousand, it's a glittering consumer paradise compared to almost anything else along the Primitivo. It features one of the best private albergues in Spain, the Cantabrico, which I commend to anyone who may find him- or herself in these parts. I can say the same for the restaurant at which I ate my evening meal, Manaia Sea Ela in the Avenida Galicia, about four minutes' walk away. It was nothing elaborate: the standard €9 menú del dia with which we're all familiar, but a very superior example of the type. Two choices were on offer for each course (I had the local version of Wienerschnitzel), but both well-presented and efficiently served. Can't say anything about their hooch, because I don't drink, but the people at neighbouring tables didn't seem to have any complaints. As I rolled downhill back to bed, stuffed to the gills with good food, I know I didn't.
 
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Pelegrin

Veteran Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Primitivo June 2013
SJPP - Logroño June 2014
Ingles July2016
#25
Iberian driver ? Galicia is not an Iberian region. That's why the Galicians are indifferent to bullfights.:)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#27
They're hanging in, S. I said in my first post on this thread that the left one, which is the problem child, was about 80% of normal. I'd say much the same today. It hurts, but not in the pattern typical of plantar fasciitis. As you probably know, with that ailment the pain is worst first thing in the morning, and then diminishes when things loosen up after a bit of usage.

These days my heel is OK in the mornings, and probably for the first 12-15 km of any hike. Then it starts throbbing, and from the 20-km point onwards I'm feeling every footstep. But it's not crippling pain, the kind where one looks around for the nearest tree branch with which to fashion an impromptu crutch. It just hurts.

But that's how it is with every pilgrimage. By the end of each day, most things hurt. Often it's not easy to differentiate the normal pain from the abnormal.

If things stay the way they are now, though, I'll definitely make SdC, probably by Saturday.
 
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Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#28
I was sorry to say goodbye to Fonsagrada, and sorrier still to give up the several hundred metres of elevation my efforts the previous day had earned me, but duty called. As I've said, the waymarking along this entire route has been superlative, so I was somewhat taken aback to find that here, the more typical pattern for getting out of Spanish towns – no useful guidance whatever – was reasserting itself. From the Cantabrico albergue, a single shell-marker attached to the exterior of the Xunta's local pilgrimage-administration office points uphill and to the left. But nothing follows it. After circumnavigating the block twice, I gave it up as a bad job and resumed my own navigation, heading westbound with the sun to my back. Very soon indeed this procedure put me back in yellow-arrow land, and I recommend it to other visitors. Or simply ask any local where is the road to Lugo, because that's where the trail actually goes.

The weather today could hardly have been more perfect. On the whole I've been extraordinarily lucky this trip: with the exception of a couple of squishy mornings at the outset, conditions have been either good or ridiculously good. This was one of the latter days. The thunderstorms yesterday afternoon had cleared the atmosphere out and meant that, for the first time this trip, I was getting the unrestricted views I'd been promised. Unfortunately a solid blanket of low stratus cloud filled the valleys, and though the sun was certain to burn it off before long, I wouldn't be in the neighbourhood by then. Still, with delightful conditions around me and the memory of last night's dinner still sustaining me, I was in good humour for my 26-km hike to O Cádavo, last stop before Lugo.

Nearly always I'm on my own for most of the day on the Primitivo, but today I kept running into various people I'd previously met – a young couple who were doing the entire journey with their five-month-old baby, carried in a sling; a mother and daughter from the western United States, on pilgrimage for the first time; an athletic young Spanish man who left me in the dust for pace but who I kept catching up because of his habit of taking frequent catnaps en route, and so on. At times the narrow trail was quite congested as we squeezed past each other, everybody's natural walking speed being different. But most of us came together again at the top of the first long climb, the Hospital de Montouto with its well-preserved ruins, its standing stones and, now, its enormous wind turbine towering above the scene. (If you're a connoisseur of wind turbines, the Primitivo will hold considerable charm for you. During each of the past three days, the trail has passed only a few metres away from one or another of them.)

Attractive though the Hospital is, this is not the place to rest. Two and a half kilometres below, at the end of a long, descending forest trail (the Eroski guide, followed by the Brandt briefing notes, says 900m, but this is clearly wrong), the Casa Mesón bar and sandwich-shop in Parvadella awaits. For €2.30, I was given a toasted ham-and-cheese sandwich, complete with accompanying tomato, as big as a baby's head, and sufficient to sustain me for the rest of the day. Thus fortified, I embarked on the second half of the day's journey.

This proved to be surprisingly hard work. It's a mixture of road work and forest trails, but the latter become progressively steeper, on some stretches rivalling the final haul into Fonsagrada. My policy for going up hills is to take them as slowly as I like, but never actually to stop until I reach the summit, in the certain knowledge that re-starting will be more painful than just keeping going. For me, anyway, it's a policy justified by its results. My progress upward may have been measurable with a sundial, but even so, nobody was passing me on those slopes.

The trail abruptly descends on the approach to Cádavo, which you won't actually see until you're on top of it. It lies at the bottom of a bowl of hills on all sides, and to be honest doesn't have a huge amount to recommend it other than location. The Xunta albergue is the first thing one sees, and while most of them are good, this one is not, perhaps, the showcase of the network. (Although speaking of networks, it does have free, albeit slow, wireless internet.) Otherwise there's a private competitor, the San Marco, on the main drag, about which I'm afraid I can say nothing other that it's well signposted and easy to find. A decent restaurant attached to the Hotel Moneda, a fountain, and a petrol station more or less complete the list of amenities. I'm starting to have second thoughts about staying here – I'd flirted with the idea of pressing on to Castroverde, 5 km or so down the trail – but inasmuch as it's only for one night, I'll stick with the original plan and make an early departure in the morning.
 
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Sue L

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct 2015 Le Puy - to Conques, Tui - Santiago. May/June 2017 Conques to SJPP
#29
They're hanging in, S. I said in my first post on this thread that the left one, which is the problem child, was about 80% of normal. I'd say much the same today. It hurts, but not in the pattern typical of plantar fasciitis. As you probably know, with that ailment the pain is worst first thing in the morning, and then diminishes when things loosen up after a bit of usage.

These days my heel is OK in the mornings, and probably for the first 12-15 km of any hike. Then it starts throbbing, and from the 20-km point onwards I'm feeling every footstep. But it's not crippling pain, the kind where one looks around for the nearest tree branch with which to fashion an impromptu crutch. It just hurts.

But that's how it is with every pilgrimage. By the end of each day, most things hurt. Often it's not easy to differentiate the normal pain from the abnormal.

If things stay the way they are now, though, I'll definitely make SdC, probably by Saturday.
Well done you. Pain I guess we can all deal with but knowing when the injury has got to the point of being a Camino-ending injury is my fear.
 

Sue L

Member
Donating Member
Camino(s) past & future
Sept/Oct 2015 Le Puy - to Conques, Tui - Santiago. May/June 2017 Conques to SJPP
#30
They're hanging in, S. I said in my first post on this thread that the left one, which is the problem child, was about 80% of normal. I'd say much the same today. It hurts, but not in the pattern typical of plantar fasciitis. As you probably know, with that ailment the pain is worst first thing in the morning, and then diminishes when things loosen up after a bit of usage.

These days my heel is OK in the mornings, and probably for the first 12-15 km of any hike. Then it starts throbbing, and from the 20-km point onwards I'm feeling every footstep. But it's not crippling pain, the kind where one looks around for the nearest tree branch with which to fashion an impromptu crutch. It just hurts.

But that's how it is with every pilgrimage. By the end of each day, most things hurt. Often it's not easy to differentiate the normal pain from the abnormal.

If things stay the way they are now, though, I'll definitely make SdC, probably by Saturday.
Love your attitude and your determination. One foot after the other..... Bravo!
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#31
The Hotel Moneda does quite a nice dinner, even though I was the only one in the dining room eating it. (Parenthetically, I'm going to have to stop ordering escalope de ternera in Spain. No matter how much I insist I want it muy bien hecho, in fact casi incinerado, they find it impossible to believe me. The meat itself is of excellent quality, but in this country "very well done" means "mooing at a slightly lower volume.") However, Cádavo not being the kind of place to encourage layabeds, I was up and out as soon as the sun was theoretically over the horizon. I had to guess that, because early-morning hill fog reduced visibility to a few hundred metres. The fountain on the way out of town, appearances to the contrary, does indeed work – one has to lean very heavily indeed on the buttons – and produces very nice water Having filled my water-bottle, I was ready for the day's run to Lugo, about 31 km away.

The first, and practically the only, conurbation one encounters en route is the small town of Castroverde. It looks closer to Cádavo on the map than it is in reality – my walking-pace in the countryside is a fairly steady 5 kph, and it was nearly two hours before I reached it – but knowing what I do now, this is definitely where I ought to have overnighted. It too has a Xunta albergue, at the standard €6-a-night tariff, but this example looked a lot nicer than the one I patronised last night. Castroverde also has many more dining and snacking options, for all that the prices seem quite elevated for these parts. Most importantly for my purposes today, it has two small but well-stocked supermarkets: a Dia down a side-street somewhere, and a Froiz on the main thoroughfare at which I acquired enough road food, including a splendid loaf of bread straight out of the oven, to make me self-sufficient for the remainder of the day.

Uniquely in my experience of the Primitivo thus far, the Cádavo-Lugo sector features no significant climbs. In fact I had almost forgotten what it was like to bowl along on the flat, not having to work very hard. The Galician kilometre-markers were there in their usual unnecessary superabundance – all, miraculously, unvandalised. (I'd like to say that this is because one gets a higher class of peregrino/a than on the more travelled routes, but to judge by the clumps of white tissue beside various bushes, which seem every bit as common as on the Francés in proportion to the respective trails' traffic-volume, I'm not sure that that is so.) I was able, therefore, to watch the distance to run click down at what seemed a phenomenal rate. Just three hours after starting, my pit-stop in Castroverde included, I was at the half-way point, marked by a vending machine in the microscopic village of Vilar (though no sign identifies it as such). Manfully I resisted temptation, but nonetheless fell with a soggy thud a couple of kilometres further on in Santa Maria de Gondar, population 68. On the left-hand side, when one has practically left town, one finds a veritable oasis of self-service goodies – no fewer than three vending machines offering everything from sandwiches to microwaveable rice and pasta concoctions; two ovens (one conventional, one microwave) with which to heat them; a sink with tap-water; and even some electrical outlets with which to charge infernal devices like the one on which this message is being composed. It was more than flesh and blood could stand, so I demolished my road food here, washed down with copious draughts of cold Kas limón of which the machines supplied far too much.

After that I wobbled, rather than walked, back onto the trail – almost immediately passing a large, new and, it appeared, expensive fountain for travellers that, unfortunately, the vending-machine rest area has probably already rendered obsolete. The remainder of the day's trek was pleasant but not especially noteworthy: forest, fields, cows and kittens more or less sums it up. Seven kilometres outside Lugo I chanced across a couple of workers who were busily improving the track with the aid of a microscopic bulldozer, part of a six-month, half-a-million euro project for which, according to the numerous signs advertising the works, the EU is putting up 80% of the cost. Supposedly this also includes improvements to the waymarking, but I find it almost impossible to imagine what remains to be done in this regard. It sometimes appears as though the Xunta of Galicia once acquired a colossal number of marker-posts in a discount sale and, having no idea what to do with them all, plonked them down at various points regardless of whether they were required or not. I'm one of those people who like to know how far they have to go, but I have not yet reached the Alzheimeresque need for constant reminders that a solicitous Xunta has provided for me. Along today's leg I found four of the things within a 250m stretch, only one of which was even arguably necessary to steer pilgrims in the right direction. The two closest were 26m apart.

A stiff but short climb at the end of the day brings the wayfarer into the centre of Lugo, the only city along the route since departing Oviedo. The old town is quite attractive; the ring-road of suburban apartment-blocks surrounding it less so. But it features a fine Xunta albergue, tucked just inside the Puerta San Pedro, and presided over by a gracious hospitalera. Restaurants and fruit-shops abound. Whatever hardships a pilgrim may have encountered along the way to this point, ample compensation is available here.
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Donating Member
#33
But it features a fine Xunta albergue, tucked just inside the Puerto San Pedro, and presided over by a gracious hospitalera.
Hi, Aurigny, I know the beauty of your posts is in your captivating prose, but here is yet another gem of news buried in your description. I take it, based on your use of the feminine noun hospitalera and the adjective "gracious", that there is now a new person in charge of the Lugo albergue. Even if the "a" is a typo, there is no way you would have used "gracious" to describe the hospitalero many of us have encountered. Or maybe it is his day off. ;)
 
Camino(s) past & future
Francés (SJPP-SdC), 2016; Portugués Central (Porto-SdC), 2017; Portugués Interior (Viseu-SdC), 2017.
#34
Many thanks for the kind words, L. Very definitely the use of the feminine was intended. A most kind and courteous individual -- early forties or thereabouts, I'd say. Unfortunately I didn't get her name, but she couldn't have been more helpful to me.
 
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