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Personal report: my most challenging day on the Salvador

Umwandert

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Ingles+F/M 1/2020
Salvador+Norte+F/M 5-6/2022
I could have been warned. But I felt prepared. I had trained by frequently running in my city and hiking a whole week around Berlin on the Mauerweg (160 km). I had lost weight and felt quite fit for 53. Much fitter than on my first camino (Ingles + Muxia/Fisterra) two years before. I had read Ender’s informative camino guide for the Salvador as well as the wonderful blogs of forum members Magwood and Elle Bieling. And just a few weeks before I started my second camino a thread named “Not overdoing it on the Salvador” was published on the forum like a big warning sign.

But I wanted to have a short day into Oviedo, so I designed my 5-day-camino with that in mind. I started Mid-May in Leon and had a very pleasant first day (27km to La Robla) and an equally nice second day (24 km to Poladura da Tercia). The weather was wonderful for May (sunny, few clouds, 27 degrees). I loved that especially as my first camino had took place in cool and rainy January.

I was aware about the accommodation restrictions and had called Pension Mundo and the posada in Poladura a week in advance. And I had booked an inexpensive hospedaje in Campomanes. I consider myself a walker of medium velocity (4,5 km an hour) and a typical late starter. After breakfast I was among the last peregrinos to tackle the next stage at 8:15. Around 15 people (all Spanish, all looking experienced, no one under 45) had been in the Poladura posada and albergue.

I like ascents, especially if they are long and grueling. I am not good on long flat monotonous stretches and I had no idea how I would cope on really hard descents, which I hadn’t experienced before. Well, soon I would know. I was overtaken at the Salvador cross on Coito hill by a father-and-son-team, which was nice, because we took pictures of each other on top of the mountain. Walking alone usually means that you never see your whole body in a selfie. I had my first break next to the cross and the second one, when I finished the descent right before another long ascent. It was funny to see the other peregrinos like a chain of ants heading upwards on that ascent.

IMG_5739.jpeg IMG_5756.jpeg IMG_5773.jpeg IMG_5807.jpeg

I reached the picturesque church in Arbas (Colegiata Santa Maria) around 11:15, having overtaken some of the other hikers, which were walking in a group. I got a nice stamp, had a little chat with some official from the church (my Spanish is far from fluent, but a better than basic). When I reached the old parador at the Leonese-Asturian border I was in good mood, but very thirsty. I was craving for a Spezi, a lemonade very common in my native but totally unknown in Spain. So I just mixed it myself. I ordered por favor una coca-cola, un kas limon y un vaso grande para mezclar las dos (a sentence I would say a lot during my camino), mixed my lemonade and enjoyed a long break at the terrace enjoying the scenic view.

The path so far had been demanding, but I felt good at that moment, because I thought the most exhausting part was over. I was so wrong. The next two hours was only descent, at times incredibly steep, on a path full of little rocks. I struggled a lot and tried different techniques (going slow, going in lines from left to right, going backwards, even running, nothing seemed to work). I had noticed by this time that I was one of very few pilgrims on the Salvador without hiking poles. (I had tried them during training but didn’t like them due to two reasons. I felt poles were slowing me down substantially and because I always take a lot of pictures I wanted my hands free). When I reached San Miguel finally around 14:00 I was totally exhausted and my legs were burning like hell. I collapsed in the centre of this small village in the shadow under a tree next to a river. Then I suddenly could hear my body talking to me, when I struggled to eat my lunch.

Body: Bread and cheese? Are you serious?
Brain: What’s wrong, its healthy and we need some calories now.
Body: It’s from yesterday from the supermarket in Pola de Lena. Its dry. I hate it. After what you have done to me I deserve cake and chocolate. Now!
Brain: We need something substantial. Eat the cheese.
Body: No way! I know we have cake and chocolate in the bagpack.
Brain: But that’s our emergency reserve.
Body: I declare this an emergengy. I demand cake and chocolate. And I want coca-cola too. Otherwise I go on strike.


Well, you have to listen to your body, especially on a camino. While I ate my emergency supplies I became witness of a drama. A group of really exhausted looking peregrinos in their 60ies appeared. I had overtaken them an hour ago. One of the ladies took out a folder and was looking around. She is searching for an albergue I thought. She asked a local and that man pointed to a place somewhere uphill in the clouds: Pajares. Her face fell. They must have made a wrong turn and I had a good idea where it had happened. 45 minutes ago I had come across a crossing with 3 options and a big sign with a little map. In my stressed state I stared 5 minutes on that map to decide which option (the middle one) I needed to take in order to getting to San Miguel. The path to the right led to Pajares. But from San Miguel it’s a cruel ascent back to Pajares. When I left I saw the group calling someone (probably the albergue).

IMG_5923.jpeg IMG_5924.jpeg

When I started again my body was still aching, but my knees felt surprisingly ok. But when I left San Miguel I suddenly started freezing and shivering. I layered up and for 15 minutes I hiked almost like in winter. Then my body had heated up and I felt normal again. Strange I thought, maybe it was the long break in the shadow? Or maybe the effects of cake and chocolate as lunch?

The next hours were uneventful, I enjoyed the path to Llanos de Someron. I approached the albergue around 15:30. Some of the pilgrims from Poladura were there, sitting in the garden. I enjoyed another spezi and some energy bars. Except from one couple in their 50ies everyone stopped there. But although the day had been far from an easy walk I still felt ok at that moment. The weather was still fine and I had my reservation in Campomanes, which was 12 km further. So I went on. Quickly I reached a sign explaining the Munisteriu variant.

IMG_5970.jpeg

I like to go off-track and experience more scenic routes instead of walking on tarmac. So I chose the Munisturiu. At 4 pm! The couple, which left only minutes before me, must have opted for the road as I would not see any more pilgrims that day. At the beginning it was wonderful, nice little path, lots of vegetation, scenic views around the valley, ruins of old monastery buildings, which nature had reclaimed long ago and of course some ascents. But after a while it got really demanding, the path narrowed and got really rocky and uneven. If requested a lot of concentration. At one point I had to use a rope to climb a rock! I let out a hysteric laughter and asked myself, what I am doing here? The latter half was even more demanding, and my concentration was decreasing with each minute. I hit my head at a low hanging branch, I almost slipped several times and my legs (I wore a short hiking pant) accumulated a lot of scratches, one of them bloody.

IMG_6012.jpeg IMG_6030.jpeg IMG_6036.jpeg

Approximately 4 km into that alternative trail (according to the sign in Llanos it is 5,7 km long) I didn’t know where to go, one path was leading further upwards, another one slightly down, no arrow in sight. It stressed me tremendously, because it was now after 5 o’clock and I knew I couldn’t afford any mistake. I took the way to the right and after 100 meters I saw an arrow. Soon after I reached the end of the Munisteriu in Fresneo and immediately had another break.

Now I felt really done for the day, but Campomanes was still 7 km away. I should have tried the road or maybe the train (from above I had seen a station), but instead I went further on the camino. These 7 km were less strenuous and not as narrow as the Munisteriu, but also not flat, winding more up than down through a wooden area. I forced my body to walk on as my mind slowly was collapsing. I had blurred visions of a cable car waiting for me as I was sure that at the end there would be a long grueling descent. Then I thought of a long slide. Then I was fantasizing about a bubble bath.

I didn’t dare to have another break and I walked faster, because I wanted to finish before I couldn’t walk anymore. I stopped taking pictures and have hardly any recollection of that section. I reached Herias on pure willpower at 19:15. There I lay down next to an old washing place and thought, that’s it, I can’t go on, I stay here and will not rise again. I thought about calling the very recommended albergue in Bendueños for a lift, but then I realized my hotel in Campomanes was less than 2 km away.

I don’t know how I made it. I have no recollection about this last stretch, my memory sets in again, when I was walking zombie-like at 19:45 into Campomanes. My mobile device showed 34 km that day, the longest stretch I ever did on a camino. The hotel owner was very friendly, laundry and tumbling were free for guests. I asked for a supermarket and he explained that there is a small groceries store down the street. But it was closing at 8 pm, in two minutes! I had already eaten all my supplies and was aware that I would not have been able to get up again after my shower for eating out in a restaurant. So in my state of agony I staggered along the street. The shop was still open and I bought water, juice, coke, canned tuna, bread, tomatoes, cookies and much more. Supplies for 3 days.

I went very slowly back to the hotel. After showering I had a lavish picnic on my hotel bed. As soon as I lay down I hardly could move. I developed serious and painful cramps in both legs and in my hands. That was scary. I drank a lot of juice and took some Calcium-Magnesium-powder. I slept like a stone and the next morning I felt I had only 50 % of my usual energy left. And I removed two ticks which must have fallen on me on the Munisteriu as there was lots of high grass which touched my legs while walking.

Thankfully the stage to Mieres was flat, easy and short (and I loved the medieval church on the way). I made it to Oviedo in 5 days as planned but I felt the effects of the third day all along. I then decided to have a full rest day in Oviedo. I skipped the stage to Aviles (I wished to continue on the Norte), took the train and had another rest day in Aviles. The weather was bad anyway (thunderstorms).

After two rest days I felt ok again and commenced on the Norte, which I liked a lot and later on to Fisterra, Muxia and back to Santiago. Nothing after my first week on the Salvador was as demanding as that third day, but I took much better decisions in planning after my first week, trying always to stop around 29 km maximum. On the other hand I felt really proud having survived the Salvador including the Munisteriu alternative.

Would my experience have been different if I would have used poles? Or decided against the Munisteriu and took the road? I don’t know. What I know: long pants would have probably spared me from the ticks. Looking back of course I now second the opinion in the “Overdoing it on the Salvador” thread: Stop in Llanos de Someron if you are not superfit. I guess I was fit but not superfit and my wrong decision could have led to serious troubles. Fortunately it didn’t. The Munisteriu is really beautiful, but not after 4pm when you have started the day in Poladura. (And I guess neither in rainy or snowy conditions). But on a beautiful morning, when starting from Llanos (or maybe from Pajares) it could be a really interesting alternative.

Thanks for reading. It’s my first posting on this forum and probably one of the longest maiden posts ever ( I like to tell stories).
 
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Dan Amin

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
CF (Leon - SdC; 2013)
CF (SJPdP - SdC; 2018)
I let out a hysteric laughter and asked myself, what I am doing here?
Love this !

It sounds like an epic day, and this was in indeed an epic maiden post ! Hope you managed to get the ticks out safely. You certainly have a story to tell, which is what the Camino is about sometimes...
 
Time of past OR future Camino
Sept. 2022 El Salvador, Oct. 2022 Tui Portugués
Umwandert, Wow! I am totally freaked out by your account. Planning the Salvador in late September and living in Miami (almost below sea level) this is pretty scary.
After reading Ender’s and Elie’s guide I am still unclear at several points that you also experienced.
@peregrina2000 & @jungleboy are you able to shed some light?
1) Once you pass Puerto Pajares and descend to the road which is an easier Camino, going to Pajares or to San Miguel del Rio? Is it an easier descent if you go to Pajares and then go down to San Miguel? Or do you recommend skipping Pajares altogether?
2) The Munisterio alternative seems made for Peregrin@ explorers. Which is the less taxing, kinder on the knees option?
PS: More km on each of these is ok as long as it’s an easier descent or ascent (no ropes involved, reminiscent of Huayna Picchu😱).
Thanks for the great report & feedback.
Aymarah
 

amancio

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte, Primit, Salvador, Portug, Arag, Ingles, VdlP, Leban-Vadin, Fisterra, Invierno, LePuy
That was some day, man! It sounds you were really forcing yourself. I would have never done Poladura-Campumanes in one single stage, there is not one single flat part in it and, besides, Pajares is a beautifull small village with stunning views.
And to top it off, good old ticks!
 
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Peaceable Projects Inc.
Peaceable Projects Inc. is a U.S.-based non-profit group that brings the vast resources of the wide world together with the ongoing needs of the people who live, work, and travel on the Camino de Santiago pilgrim trail network in Spain.
Time of past OR future Camino
CF Sep/Oct 2015
C Primitivo Sep / Oct 2016
Portugese Sep/Oct 2017
VdlP, Muxia 2018
I could have been warned. But I felt prepared. I had trained by frequently running in my city and hiking a whole week around Berlin on the Mauerweg (160 km). I had lost weight and felt quite fit for 53. Much fitter than on my first camino (Ingles + Muxia/Fisterra) two years before. I had read Ender’s informative camino guide for the Salvador as well as the wonderful blogs of forum members Magwood and Elle Bieling. And just a few weeks before I started my second camino a thread named “Not overdoing it on the Salvador” was published on the forum like a big warning sign.

But I wanted to have a short day into Oviedo, so I designed my 5-day-camino with that in mind. I started Mid-May in Leon and had a very pleasant first day (27km to La Robla) and an equally nice second day (24 km to Poladura da Tercia). The weather was wonderful for May (sunny, few clouds, 27 degrees). I loved that especially as my first camino had took place in cool and rainy January.

I was aware about the accommodation restrictions and had called Pension Mundo and the posada in Poladura a week in advance. And I had booked an inexpensive hospedaje in Campomanes. I consider myself a walker of medium velocity (4,5 km an hour) and a typical late starter. After breakfast I was among the last peregrinos to tackle the next stage at 8:15. Around 15 people (all Spanish, all looking experienced, no one under 45) had been in the Poladura posada and albergue.

I like ascents, especially if they are long and grueling. I am not good on long flat monotonous stretches and I had no idea how I would cope on really hard descents, which I hadn’t experienced before. Well, soon I would know. I was overtaken at the Salvador cross on Coito hill by a father-and-son-team, which was nice, because we took pictures of each other on top of the mountain. Walking alone usually means that you never see your whole body in a selfie. I had my first break next to the cross and the second one, when I finished the descent right before another long ascent. It was funny to see the other peregrinos like a chain of ants heading upwards on that ascent.

View attachment 130889 View attachment 130891 View attachment 130893 View attachment 130895

I reached the picturesque church in Arbas (Colegiata Santa Maria) around 11:15, having overtaken some of the other hikers, which were walking in a group. I got a nice stamp, had a little chat with some official from the church (my Spanish is far from fluent, but a better than basic). When I reached the old parador at the Leonese-Asturian border I was in good mood, but very thirsty. I was craving for a Spezi, a lemonade very common in my native but totally unknown in Spain. So I just mixed it myself. I ordered por favor una coca-cola, un kas limon y un vaso grande para mezclar las dos (a sentence I would say a lot during my camino), mixed my lemonade and enjoyed a long break at the terrace enjoying the scenic view.

The path so far had been demanding, but I felt good at that moment, because I thought the most exhausting part was over. I was so wrong. The next two hours was only descent, at times incredibly steep, on a path full of little rocks. I struggled a lot and tried different techniques (going slow, going in lines from left to right, going backwards, even running, nothing seemed to work). I had noticed by this time that I was one of very few pilgrims on the Salvador without hiking poles. (I had tried them during training but didn’t like them due to two reasons. I felt poles were slowing me down substantially and because I always take a lot of pictures I wanted my hands free). When I reached San Miguel finally around 14:00 I was totally exhausted and my legs were burning like hell. I collapsed in the centre of this small village in the shadow under a tree next to a river. Then I suddenly could hear my body talking to me, when I struggled to eat my lunch.

Body: Bread and cheese? Are you serious?
Brain: What’s wrong, its healthy and we need some calories now.
Body: It’s from yesterday from the supermarket in Pola de Lena. Its dry. I hate it. After what you have done to me I deserve cake and chocolate. Now!
Brain: We need something substantial. Eat the cheese.
Body: No way! I know we have cake and chocolate in the bagpack.
Brain: But that’s our emergency reserve.
Body: I declare this an emergengy. I demand cake and chocolate. And I want coca-cola too. Otherwise I go on strike.


Well, you have to listen to your body, especially on a camino. While I ate my emergency supplies I became witness of a drama. A group of really exhausted looking peregrinos in their 60ies appeared. I had overtaken them an hour ago. One of the ladies took out a folder and was looking around. She is searching for an albergue I thought. She asked a local and that man pointed to a place somewhere uphill in the clouds: Pajares. Her face fell. They must have made a wrong turn and I had a good idea where it had happened. 45 minutes ago I had come across a crossing with 3 options and a big sign with a little map. In my stressed state I stared 5 minutes on that map to decide which option (the middle one) I needed to take in order to getting to San Miguel. The path to the right led to Pajares. But from San Miguel it’s a cruel ascent back to Pajares. When I left I saw the group calling someone (probably the albergue).

View attachment 130901 View attachment 130902

When I started again my body was still aching, but my knees felt surprisingly ok. But when I left San Miguel I suddenly started freezing and shivering. I layered up and for 15 minutes I hiked almost like in winter. Then my body had heated up and I felt normal again. Strange I thought, maybe it was the long break in the shadow? Or maybe the effects of cake and chocolate as lunch?

The next hours were uneventful, I enjoyed the path to Llanos de Someron. I approached the albergue around 15:30. Some of the pilgrims from Poladura were there, sitting in the garden. I enjoyed another spezi and some energy bars. Except from one couple in their 50ies everyone stopped there. But although the day had been far from an easy walk I still felt ok at that moment. The weather was still fine and I had my reservation in Campomanes, which was 12 km further. So I went on. Quickly I reached a sign explaining the Munisteriu variant.

View attachment 130916

I like to go off-track and experience more scenic routes instead of walking on tarmac. So I chose the Munisturiu. At 4 pm! The couple, which left only minutes before me, must have opted for the road as I would not see any more pilgrims that day. At the beginning it was wonderful, nice little path, lots of vegetation, scenic views around the valley, ruins of old monastery buildings, which nature had reclaimed long ago and of course some ascents. But after a while it got really demanding, the path narrowed and got really rocky and uneven. If requested a lot of concentration. At one point I had to use a rope to climb a rock! I let out a hysteric laughter and asked myself, what I am doing here? The latter half was even more demanding, and my concentration was decreasing with each minute. I hit my head at a low hanging branch, I almost slipped several times and my legs (I wore a short hiking pant) accumulated a lot of scratches, one of them bloody.

View attachment 130907 View attachment 130908 View attachment 130917

Approximately 4 km into that alternative trail (according to the sign in Llanos it is 5,7 km long) I didn’t know where to go, one path was leading further upwards, another one slightly down, no arrow in sight. It stressed me tremendously, because it was now after 5 o’clock and I knew I couldn’t afford any mistake. I took the way to the right and after 100 meters I saw an arrow. Soon after I reached the end of the Munisteriu in Fresneo and immediately had another break.

Now I felt really done for the day, but Campomanes was still 7 km away. I should have tried the road or maybe the train (from above I had seen a station), but instead I went further on the camino. These 7 km were less strenuous and not as narrow as the Munisteriu, but also not flat, winding more up than down through a wooden area. I forced my body to walk on as my mind slowly was collapsing. I had blurred visions of a cable car waiting for me as I was sure that at the end there would be a long grueling descent. Then I thought of a long slide. Then I was fantasizing about a bubble bath.

I didn’t dare to have another break and I walked faster, because I wanted to finish before I couldn’t walk anymore. I stopped taking pictures and have hardly any recollection of that section. I reached Herias on pure willpower at 19:15. There I lay down next to an old washing place and thought, that’s it, I can’t go on, I stay here and will not rise again. I thought about calling the very recommended albergue in Bendueños for a lift, but then I realized my hotel in Campomanes was less than 2 km away.

I don’t know how I made it. I have no recollection about this last stretch, my memory sets in again, when I was walking zombie-like at 19:45 into Campomanes. My mobile device showed 34 km that day, the longest stretch I ever did on a camino. The hotel owner was very friendly, laundry and tumbling were free for guests. I asked for a supermarket and he explained that there is a small groceries store down the street. But it was closing at 8 pm, in two minutes! I had already eaten all my supplies and was aware that I would not have been able to get up again after my shower for eating out in a restaurant. So in my state of agony I staggered along the street. The shop was still open and I bought water, juice, coke, canned tuna, bread, tomatoes, cookies and much more. Supplies for 3 days.

I went very slowly back to the hotel. After showering I had a lavish picnic on my hotel bed. As soon as I lay down I hardly could move. I developed serious and painful cramps in both legs and in my hands. That was scary. I drank a lot of juice and took some Calcium-Magnesium-powder. I slept like a stone and the next morning I felt I had only 50 % of my usual energy left. And I removed two ticks which must have fallen on me on the Munisteriu as there was lots of high grass which touched my legs while walking.

Thankfully the stage to Mieres was flat, easy and short (and I loved the medieval church on the way). I made it to Oviedo in 5 days as planned but I felt the effects of the third day all along. I then decided to have a full rest day in Oviedo. I skipped the stage to Aviles (I wished to continue on the Norte), took the train and had another rest day in Aviles. The weather was bad anyway (thunderstorms).

After two rest days I felt ok again and commenced on the Norte, which I liked a lot and later on to Fisterra, Muxia and back to Santiago. Nothing after my first week on the Salvador was as demanding as that third day, but I took much better decisions in planning after my first week, trying always to stop around 29 km maximum. On the other hand I felt really proud having survived the Salvador including the Munisteriu alternative.

Would my experience have been different if I would have used poles? Or decided against the Munisteriu and took the road? I don’t know. What I know: long pants would have probably spared me from the ticks. Looking back of course I now second the opinion in the “Overdoing it on the Salvador” thread: Stop in Llanos de Someron if you are not superfit. I guess I was fit but not superfit and my wrong decision could have led to serious troubles. Fortunately it didn’t. The Munisteriu is really beautiful, but not after 4pm when you have started the day in Poladura. (And I guess neither in rainy or snowy conditions). But on a beautiful morning, when starting from Llanos (or maybe from Pajares) it could be a really interesting alternative.

Thanks for reading. It’s my first posting on this forum and probably one of the longest maiden posts ever ( I like to tell stories).
Thank you. It is a truly great post, detailed with facts and emotions. And a great lesson for us all.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
Time of past OR future Camino
100 characters or fewer : see signature details
I've had days like that, but typically only on sundry DIY stretches on a Camino from home.

Couple of pieces of advice - - don't lock your options in by reservations ; and when your body screams stop : Listen !!

Also, don't do that kind of stuff in this kind of heat.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
As has already been said, epic post and day! And another reason for future Salvadoran@s to split up this stage into two. That's what I did and even then the two short days (Poladura-Pajares-Bendueños) took us so long that they felt like long days! Between the mountainous walking, rest stops and photo stops, we were only going about 2km/hour (although others we met were quicker).

@peregrina2000 & @jungleboy are you able to shed some light?
1) Once you pass Puerto Pajares and descend to the road which is an easier Camino, going to Pajares or to San Miguel del Rio? Is it an easier descent if you go to Pajares and then go down to San Miguel? Or do you recommend skipping Pajares altogether?
2) The Munisterio alternative seems made for Peregrin@ explorers. Which is the less taxing, kinder on the knees option?
I can't really help here as I've only done this once and therefore can't compare these options (I did Pajares and Munisteriu). As I've said before, I didn't think the rope section was difficult myself. You can see from the OP's photo that it's not especially steep or on the side of a cliff or anything and the rope is just an aide.
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
Wow! Thank you for sharing this. Literally I just spent the whole afternoon planning stages for Salvador/Primitivo but was mainly s****ing myself about the Primitivo stages as they seem longer!

Currently planning to break it up to Poladura-Pajares-Campomanes so, similar to @jungleboy.

It sounds to me like the Munisteriu alternative is only to be approached on dry days, and the rope is an aid for wet slippery muddy days?

Let’s hope sunny dry days in September for us @El Cascayal !!!
 
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mspath

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, autumn/winter; 2004, 2005-2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015
So glad you safely made it through such a difficult stage. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and photos here on the forum. All of us learn one way or another how important it is to listen to our bodies.
Stay safe and Carpe diem!
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many to count!
OMG, I got hives reading your report! While I have not done the Munisteriu alternative, almost everything else sounds exactly like what I experienced! The downhill pounding on my knees, even with poles, was more than my body was prepared for! And unfortunately, like @JabbaPapa warns about, it was the reservation in Camponanes that kept us going too! That final 2k from Herias to Campomanes felt like an eternity. We couldn't find any open restaurants close by the hotel, so we went to a bar that had only bocadillos! But we made it work! I think we would have eaten shoe leather if needed be! It was truly, for me, like you, perhaps the single most difficult day on the Camino ever! Now, the albergue in Llanos de Someron is truly a blessing, making for so much of an easier choice.

And I doubt highly that the longer route through Pajares to San Miguel would be any easier. It is all brutally downhill!!

Thank you for your story! It was entertaining, though, it did give me the shudders!
 
Last edited:

Barbara

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
So, the take away from this is?
Don't plan quite so much?
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
So, the take away from this is?
Don't plan quite so much?
Don’t walk a 30km day in the mountains unless you’re super fit and/or have done something similar before. We saw people do it on our Salvador and it wrecked them. One was going to continue on the Primitivo but went home instead because he couldn’t face more mountain walking.
 

Barbara

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances, Norte (twice)and Primitivo, Sureste, In France From home Tours and Vézelay, also Le Puy.
Don’t walk a 30km day in the mountains unless you’re super fit and/or have done something similar before. We saw people do it on our Salvador and it wrecked them. One was going to continue on the Primitivo but went home instead because he couldn’t face more mountain walking.
Well, that was rather my point. If you don't book ahead then you can stop earlier than you intended if you are tired.
 
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StuartM

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2012)
The Salvador is a surprisingly tough route, especially at this time of year when it is so hot. It really took its toll on me. I was reasonably fit going into it, used to Scottish hillwalking, I thought it would be OK. I was hurting so much that there was no joy in reaching Oviedo, I just wanted it to be over. I definitely over-estimated it. For the first couple of days I struggled finding anywhere open for food at the time I was passing, ended up in deficit after that and just got worse from there.

Don’t walk a 30km day in the mountains unless you’re super fit and/or have done something similar before. We saw people do it on our Salvador and it wrecked them. One was going to continue on the Primitivo but went home instead because he couldn’t face more mountain walking.
Yep. That was me.

I'd even allowed myself a few extra days detour to climb Peña Ubiña (2400m) which was about 15km off to the west of the route after Puerto de Pajares. When I got to where I needed to turn off I walked past it and didn't even give it a second thought. I couldn't face the walk to the start, never mind the climb.
 

Herndon

Self Proclaimed Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
France 2016
Portuguese 2017(Porto to Santiago)
Ingles 2017
Portuguese 2019(Lisbon to Porto)
I did the San Salvador in May/June this year. My hiking partner initially suggested five days...he lives in Europe and was staying in the same time zone...with me flying a red eye from the states and starting the hike the day after arrival, I talked him into six days instead of five...I'm not in bad shape but I am not getting younger, and with this being much hillier than the Frances, Inglis, or the Portuguese, I didn't feel too much shame in adding the extra day....Boy, am I glad I did! I had seen some videos and read some discussions of splitting up the third day....here is how our days went and the places we stayed....

1San SalvadorLeonLa Robla
29​
29.0​
Pension Mundo
2San SalvadorLa RoblaPoladur de Tercia
24​
53.0​
Rural Hotel Posada El Embrujo
3San SalvadorPoladur de TerciaPajares
14.5​
67.5​
El Mirador
4San SalvadorPajaresPola de Lena
26​
93.5​
Ruta De La Plata
5San SalvadorPola de LenaMieros del Camino
14​
107.5​
University
6San SalvadorMieros del CaminoOviedo
21​
128.5​
AC Hotel Oviedo Forum

Beautiful hike, challenging, but we didn't kill ourselves....and to the point it was a good idea to book lodging and in some cases, meals ahead of time....of course, only if you wanted to eat....

This is the fourth hike my friend and I have done together...we met on the Frances in 2016 and have hiked in 2017, and 2019 as well...now he is 60 and I'm 58...each of the previous hikes he would laugh at me and my "old man" poles...(of course I make fun of him for wearing a fanny pack)....this time he bought poles and was glad he did....I don't see how you can hike this one without them...after finishing in Oviedo we started the Primitivo the next day and finished 13 days later in Santiago....Great trip, beautiful weather when we hiked...out of the 19 days maybe one day on the San Salvador with two hours of rain, and the Primitivo one day with light rain....and finished in Santiago as the heat wave in June made its way east...very lucky....

Great story and good lessons from the original poster....hats off!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
Well, that was rather my point. If you don't book ahead then you can stop earlier than you intended if you are tired.
That's not practical advice on the Salvador. Because of the lack of shops and restaurants in the middle stages and fairly infrequent accommodation, this route requires more planning than most and that includes calling ahead to accommodation providers for meals in several places (e.g. Poladura, Pajares, Bendueños).
 
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Time of past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
The Salvador is a surprisingly tough route, especially at this time of year when it is so hot. It really took its toll on me. I was reasonably fit going into it, used to Scottish hillwalking, I thought it would be OK. I was hurting so much that there was no joy in reaching Oviedo, I just wanted it to be over. I definitely over-estimated it. For the first couple of days I struggled finding anywhere open for food at the time I was passing, ended up in deficit after that and just got worse from there.


Yep. That was me.

I'd even allowed myself a few extra days detour to climb Peña Ubiña (2400m) which was about 15km off to the west of the route after Puerto de Pajares. When I got to where I needed to turn off I walked past it and didn't even give it a second thought. I couldn't face the walk to the start, never mind the climb.
I walked this in 2017when I was almost 70, with bad knees and deplorable sense of what any of these indications mean regarding heights and descents. I just know when I see them how much groaning will come out from the depths of me!. (To compensate, the following year I chose to walk the flat Barrow Way in Ireland down to St Mullins. I learned very recently, or in fact was reminded, that the little chapel in St Mullins is dedicated to St James...)
I had to skip day three from Poladura de la Tercia, I was just not able for it because of my own assessment of my capabilities, and a tummy upset to boot. My reward was a wonderful welcome from the hospitalera in Pajares and a view I can still see in my mind's eye. I do not regret doing the Salvador, but it takes grit. It was no walk in the park. Some skip along it, and fair play! It boils down to knowing your own limits, and opting for a way forward - I took a taxi that day. There is no way back on any camino...
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
That's not practical advice on the Salvador. Because of the lack of shops and restaurants in the middle stages and fairly infrequent accommodation, this route requires more planning than most and that includes calling ahead to accommodation providers for meals in several places (e.g. Poladura, Pajares, Bendueños).
Nick, in the few places where you could buy food, eg Pola de Gordon, how many days of food did you have to prepare for? (Assuming one would get food in Poladura, unlike what happened in your Camino) and also, did you have to prepare sandwiches for lunch?

I think once we hit Pola de Lena and Mieres, we’ll be back in civilisation right? They look like pretty decent sized towns…
 
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Brenda16

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances fall 2022
I could have been warned. But I felt prepared. I had trained by frequently running in my city and hiking a whole week around Berlin on the Mauerweg (160 km). I had lost weight and felt quite fit for 53. Much fitter than on my first camino (Ingles + Muxia/Fisterra) two years before. I had read Ender’s informative camino guide for the Salvador as well as the wonderful blogs of forum members Magwood and Elle Bieling. And just a few weeks before I started my second camino a thread named “Not overdoing it on the Salvador” was published on the forum like a big warning sign.

But I wanted to have a short day into Oviedo, so I designed my 5-day-camino with that in mind. I started Mid-May in Leon and had a very pleasant first day (27km to La Robla) and an equally nice second day (24 km to Poladura da Tercia). The weather was wonderful for May (sunny, few clouds, 27 degrees). I loved that especially as my first camino had took place in cool and rainy January.

I was aware about the accommodation restrictions and had called Pension Mundo and the posada in Poladura a week in advance. And I had booked an inexpensive hospedaje in Campomanes. I consider myself a walker of medium velocity (4,5 km an hour) and a typical late starter. After breakfast I was among the last peregrinos to tackle the next stage at 8:15. Around 15 people (all Spanish, all looking experienced, no one under 45) had been in the Poladura posada and albergue.

I like ascents, especially if they are long and grueling. I am not good on long flat monotonous stretches and I had no idea how I would cope on really hard descents, which I hadn’t experienced before. Well, soon I would know. I was overtaken at the Salvador cross on Coito hill by a father-and-son-team, which was nice, because we took pictures of each other on top of the mountain. Walking alone usually means that you never see your whole body in a selfie. I had my first break next to the cross and the second one, when I finished the descent right before another long ascent. It was funny to see the other peregrinos like a chain of ants heading upwards on that ascent.

View attachment 130889 View attachment 130891 View attachment 130893 View attachment 130895

I reached the picturesque church in Arbas (Colegiata Santa Maria) around 11:15, having overtaken some of the other hikers, which were walking in a group. I got a nice stamp, had a little chat with some official from the church (my Spanish is far from fluent, but a better than basic). When I reached the old parador at the Leonese-Asturian border I was in good mood, but very thirsty. I was craving for a Spezi, a lemonade very common in my native but totally unknown in Spain. So I just mixed it myself. I ordered por favor una coca-cola, un kas limon y un vaso grande para mezclar las dos (a sentence I would say a lot during my camino), mixed my lemonade and enjoyed a long break at the terrace enjoying the scenic view.

The path so far had been demanding, but I felt good at that moment, because I thought the most exhausting part was over. I was so wrong. The next two hours was only descent, at times incredibly steep, on a path full of little rocks. I struggled a lot and tried different techniques (going slow, going in lines from left to right, going backwards, even running, nothing seemed to work). I had noticed by this time that I was one of very few pilgrims on the Salvador without hiking poles. (I had tried them during training but didn’t like them due to two reasons. I felt poles were slowing me down substantially and because I always take a lot of pictures I wanted my hands free). When I reached San Miguel finally around 14:00 I was totally exhausted and my legs were burning like hell. I collapsed in the centre of this small village in the shadow under a tree next to a river. Then I suddenly could hear my body talking to me, when I struggled to eat my lunch.

Body: Bread and cheese? Are you serious?
Brain: What’s wrong, its healthy and we need some calories now.
Body: It’s from yesterday from the supermarket in Pola de Lena. Its dry. I hate it. After what you have done to me I deserve cake and chocolate. Now!
Brain: We need something substantial. Eat the cheese.
Body: No way! I know we have cake and chocolate in the bagpack.
Brain: But that’s our emergency reserve.
Body: I declare this an emergengy. I demand cake and chocolate. And I want coca-cola too. Otherwise I go on strike.


Well, you have to listen to your body, especially on a camino. While I ate my emergency supplies I became witness of a drama. A group of really exhausted looking peregrinos in their 60ies appeared. I had overtaken them an hour ago. One of the ladies took out a folder and was looking around. She is searching for an albergue I thought. She asked a local and that man pointed to a place somewhere uphill in the clouds: Pajares. Her face fell. They must have made a wrong turn and I had a good idea where it had happened. 45 minutes ago I had come across a crossing with 3 options and a big sign with a little map. In my stressed state I stared 5 minutes on that map to decide which option (the middle one) I needed to take in order to getting to San Miguel. The path to the right led to Pajares. But from San Miguel it’s a cruel ascent back to Pajares. When I left I saw the group calling someone (probably the albergue).

View attachment 130901 View attachment 130902

When I started again my body was still aching, but my knees felt surprisingly ok. But when I left San Miguel I suddenly started freezing and shivering. I layered up and for 15 minutes I hiked almost like in winter. Then my body had heated up and I felt normal again. Strange I thought, maybe it was the long break in the shadow? Or maybe the effects of cake and chocolate as lunch?

The next hours were uneventful, I enjoyed the path to Llanos de Someron. I approached the albergue around 15:30. Some of the pilgrims from Poladura were there, sitting in the garden. I enjoyed another spezi and some energy bars. Except from one couple in their 50ies everyone stopped there. But although the day had been far from an easy walk I still felt ok at that moment. The weather was still fine and I had my reservation in Campomanes, which was 12 km further. So I went on. Quickly I reached a sign explaining the Munisteriu variant.

View attachment 130916

I like to go off-track and experience more scenic routes instead of walking on tarmac. So I chose the Munisturiu. At 4 pm! The couple, which left only minutes before me, must have opted for the road as I would not see any more pilgrims that day. At the beginning it was wonderful, nice little path, lots of vegetation, scenic views around the valley, ruins of old monastery buildings, which nature had reclaimed long ago and of course some ascents. But after a while it got really demanding, the path narrowed and got really rocky and uneven. If requested a lot of concentration. At one point I had to use a rope to climb a rock! I let out a hysteric laughter and asked myself, what I am doing here? The latter half was even more demanding, and my concentration was decreasing with each minute. I hit my head at a low hanging branch, I almost slipped several times and my legs (I wore a short hiking pant) accumulated a lot of scratches, one of them bloody.

View attachment 130907 View attachment 130908 View attachment 130917

Approximately 4 km into that alternative trail (according to the sign in Llanos it is 5,7 km long) I didn’t know where to go, one path was leading further upwards, another one slightly down, no arrow in sight. It stressed me tremendously, because it was now after 5 o’clock and I knew I couldn’t afford any mistake. I took the way to the right and after 100 meters I saw an arrow. Soon after I reached the end of the Munisteriu in Fresneo and immediately had another break.

Now I felt really done for the day, but Campomanes was still 7 km away. I should have tried the road or maybe the train (from above I had seen a station), but instead I went further on the camino. These 7 km were less strenuous and not as narrow as the Munisteriu, but also not flat, winding more up than down through a wooden area. I forced my body to walk on as my mind slowly was collapsing. I had blurred visions of a cable car waiting for me as I was sure that at the end there would be a long grueling descent. Then I thought of a long slide. Then I was fantasizing about a bubble bath.

I didn’t dare to have another break and I walked faster, because I wanted to finish before I couldn’t walk anymore. I stopped taking pictures and have hardly any recollection of that section. I reached Herias on pure willpower at 19:15. There I lay down next to an old washing place and thought, that’s it, I can’t go on, I stay here and will not rise again. I thought about calling the very recommended albergue in Bendueños for a lift, but then I realized my hotel in Campomanes was less than 2 km away.

I don’t know how I made it. I have no recollection about this last stretch, my memory sets in again, when I was walking zombie-like at 19:45 into Campomanes. My mobile device showed 34 km that day, the longest stretch I ever did on a camino. The hotel owner was very friendly, laundry and tumbling were free for guests. I asked for a supermarket and he explained that there is a small groceries store down the street. But it was closing at 8 pm, in two minutes! I had already eaten all my supplies and was aware that I would not have been able to get up again after my shower for eating out in a restaurant. So in my state of agony I staggered along the street. The shop was still open and I bought water, juice, coke, canned tuna, bread, tomatoes, cookies and much more. Supplies for 3 days.

I went very slowly back to the hotel. After showering I had a lavish picnic on my hotel bed. As soon as I lay down I hardly could move. I developed serious and painful cramps in both legs and in my hands. That was scary. I drank a lot of juice and took some Calcium-Magnesium-powder. I slept like a stone and the next morning I felt I had only 50 % of my usual energy left. And I removed two ticks which must have fallen on me on the Munisteriu as there was lots of high grass which touched my legs while walking.

Thankfully the stage to Mieres was flat, easy and short (and I loved the medieval church on the way). I made it to Oviedo in 5 days as planned but I felt the effects of the third day all along. I then decided to have a full rest day in Oviedo. I skipped the stage to Aviles (I wished to continue on the Norte), took the train and had another rest day in Aviles. The weather was bad anyway (thunderstorms).

After two rest days I felt ok again and commenced on the Norte, which I liked a lot and later on to Fisterra, Muxia and back to Santiago. Nothing after my first week on the Salvador was as demanding as that third day, but I took much better decisions in planning after my first week, trying always to stop around 29 km maximum. On the other hand I felt really proud having survived the Salvador including the Munisteriu alternative.

Would my experience have been different if I would have used poles? Or decided against the Munisteriu and took the road? I don’t know. What I know: long pants would have probably spared me from the ticks. Looking back of course I now second the opinion in the “Overdoing it on the Salvador” thread: Stop in Llanos de Someron if you are not superfit. I guess I was fit but not superfit and my wrong decision could have led to serious troubles. Fortunately it didn’t. The Munisteriu is really beautiful, but not after 4pm when you have started the day in Poladura. (And I guess neither in rainy or snowy conditions). But on a beautiful morning, when starting from Llanos (or maybe from Pajares) it could be a really interesting alternative.

Thanks for reading. It’s my first posting on this forum and probably one of the longest maiden posts ever ( I like to tell stories).
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
Nick, in the few places where you could buy food, eg Pola de Gordon, how many days of food did you have to prepare for? (Assuming one would get food in Poladura, unlike what happened in your Camino) and also, did you have to prepare sandwiches for lunch?
I usually do sandwiches for lunch on camino anyway. There are no shops between Pola de Gordon and Campomanes IIRC, and because we split the mountain stages in two and stayed at Bendueños before Campomanes, that meant three days between shops, so we bought quite a lot of food. You can eat dinner at Poladura and Pajares if you call ahead (and lunch in Pajares too if you like, although the food there is not great), so how much food you need depends on your exact stage plan.
 

StuartM

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2012)
I think once we hit Pola de Lena and Mieres, we’ll be back in civilisation right? They look like pretty decent sized towns…
There's definitely no shortage of supermarkets and cafes/restaurants from Pola de Lena onwards. On the earlier stages I'd say eat when and where you can, don't pass up the opportunity for a good meal. The best place to carry food is in your belly :)

If I was doing it again I'd stock up in Leon before I left, maybe a couple of days worth of food. Especially if you are leaving on a Sunday (which I did, nothing was open). If I remember right there weren't many shops on the route out of Leon. But at the time I did it (2013) it was quite a dismal stretch as most of this suburb seemed to be in the middle of construction so weren't many businesses established yet. Make your own provision for lunch, I don't think I found anywhere that was open until the little bar at the Puerto de Pajares just before the parador. There's a meson in Arbas that was supposed to be really good but it was closed for summer holidays when I was there (late Aug).

Don't underestimate the toll that lack of food takes. Leaving Leon, a guy saw me walking and stopped his car and gave me a loaf of bread and that was a lifesaver. That bread and a packet of instant pasta I found in an albergue cupboard was all I managed to eat from Leon to Pajares. I never felt I recovered from that until the end of the walk, I was just constantly exhausted.
 
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StuartM

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2012)
I walked this in 2017when I was almost 70, with bad knees and deplorable sense of what any of these indications mean regarding heights and descents. I just know when I see them how much groaning will come out from the depths of me!. (To compensate, the following year I chose to walk the flat Barrow Way in Ireland down to St Mullins. I learned very recently, or in fact was reminded, that the little chapel in St Mullins is dedicated to St James...)
I had to skip day three from Poladura de la Tercia, I was just not able for it because of my own assessment of my capabilities, and a tummy upset to boot. My reward was a wonderful welcome from the hospitalera in Pajares and a view I can still see in my mind's eye. I do not regret doing the Salvador, but it takes grit. It was no walk in the park. Some skip along it, and fair play! It boils down to knowing your own limits, and opting for a way forward - I took a taxi that day. There is no way back on any camino...
Pajares came with a real sense of achievement. The view is unforgettable. There was a point in the later stages where I thought about taking the train. I can't remember the name of the place, it's where there's mile after mile of cycle track along a river and lots of stations for the regional train to Oviedo. It was the flattest section and it started playing mind games with me, it was maybe the hardest slog of the whole walk for me.

You are so right about how different people react to it. What seemed like the entire village of Carbajal set out the day after me. Men, women, children, grannies, you name it. In a group of about 40-50, all carrying huge banners. I watched them arrive in Oviedo and they looked like they'd just had a stroll round the park. Maybe it was the wine and cider they all had with them :D
 
Time of past OR future Camino
06,CF;13,CP;17,SSal;19,Ingles
There's definitely no shortage of supermarkets and cafes/restaurants from Pola de Lena onwards. On the earlier stages I'd say eat when and where you can, don't pass up the opportunity for a good meal. The best place to carry food is in your belly :)

If I was doing it again I'd stock up in Leon before I left, maybe a couple of days worth of food. Especially if you are leaving on a Sunday (which I did, nothing was open). If I remember right there weren't many shops on the route out of Leon. But at the time I did it (2013) it was quite a dismal stretch as most of this suburb seemed to be in the middle of construction so weren't many businesses established yet. Make your own provision for lunch, I don't think I found anywhere that was open until the little bar at the Puerto de Pajares just before the parador. There's a meson in Arbas that was supposed to be really good but it was closed for summer holidays when I was there (late Aug).

Don't underestimate the toll that lack of food takes. Leaving Leon, a guy saw me walking and stopped his car and gave me a loaf of bread and that was a lifesaver. That bread and a packet of instant pasta I found in an albergue cupboard was all I managed to eat from Leon to Pajares. I never felt I recovered from that until the end of the walk, I was just constantly exhausted.
As the Spaniards might say: Jesus! You are still alive to tell the tale. We took some food with us on the first day, and begged(paid for) bread at the stop about 5km out on the path. We struck lucky in La Robla - we found a restaurant where they cooked us a fine, fresh but simple meal. Totally agree - you need to eat and drink water properly. We ate in Pajares, a bit of a mystery there, local politics, I fear. After that, I don't remember. except - with water, some fruit, some cheese, and a tomato or two, you will be fine!
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Loved this post, having finally had the time to read it!

And I so very much agree with others about breaking up the stage from Poladura to Campomanes. Even for those who routinely walk 35 km days, the descents and ascents add so much more difficulty.

Luckily, there are three great options for breaking up that stretch — Pajares, Llanos, Bendueños. I haven’t stayed in Llanos, but have met the owner and spent some time in that albergue and can say that the hardest part will be trying to decide which of the three to stay in! Pajares and Bendueños are both just over the top.

1) Once you pass Puerto Pajares and descend to the road which is an easier Camino, going to Pajares or to San Miguel del Rio? Is it an easier descent if you go to Pajares and then go down to San Miguel? Or do you recommend skipping Pajares altogether?

If you are going to stay in Pajares, obviously you will go that way. But if you are not going to stay there, it makes more sense (and is shorter) to bypass it altogether and take the arrows to San Miguel. There are actually two places along the Camino after the pass at Pajares where you can take the alternative to San Miguel. In Ender’s Spanish version guide, this may be a bit complicated to understand. I tried to make the English version more straightforward, so you should let me know if it is still confusing.

You can eat dinner at Poladura and Pajares if you call ahead (and lunch in Pajares too if you like, although the food there is not great), so how much food you need depends on your exact stage plan.

Like Nick I always carry something to eat while walking, but I never had a problem finding a main meal. If you stay in Buiza’s albergue, you will definitely need food. If you stay in Poladura, Pajares, Bendueños, or Llanos, meals are available.

Nick, when you say the food is not great for lunch in Pajares, which place are you referring to? The Mesón in the town of Pajares? Or one of the two places to eat in the Puerto de Pajares? I’ve eaten my main meal in the mesón in the town of Pajares. It was fine, I thought. I have never eaten a meal at the pass/puerto, but have been with some who ate there and they thought the food was quite good — this was in the Venta Casimiro (on the right side of the road). Last year, I went to the old parador on the left side of the road, because the views were calling me more than the thought of good food. Definitely not yummy, but I had a pincho of tortilla that got me through fine to Pajares.

I walked the Munistiriu alternative last year (but my day was Pajares to Pola de Lena, so a more moderate day than @Umwandert’s). I found it very challenging — but I think they have re-routed it a bit since I walked last September. There was no rope alternative, just a maze of jagged rocks that I had to pick my way through. All in all, I would recommend it if you are not doing a massive stage. But it isn’t a walk in the park.

Actually, there are now three options from Llanos de Somerón to Fresneo — the Munistiriu is the first, then the turn-off before Puente Fierros up to Fresneo (which has some slipping and sliding on the side of a steep hill), and the third takes you down further on the road, which of course means you have to go up further to get to Fresneo. I have not done the third, but I believe @jpflavin1 unintentionally did it a couple of years ago and said it was very steep.

I know there are several forum members planning on walking the Salvador soon — if you don’t walk any massive stages between Pola de Gordón and Campomanes, you will LOVE the route.
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
Thank you everyone for all the insights! I think I will have to make mental note of water fountains and supermarket locations. And also! I’ll prob bring Korean instant noodle pot (the Shin Ramyun) for emergency ration, on top of the usual protein bars. Of course I’ll have my trusted electric coil with me so coffee and pot noodle 👍🏻 Hopefully will get me over the tricky bits and safely back into civilisation!
 

MaryLynn

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
2022
I could have been warned. But I felt prepared. I had trained by frequently running in my city and hiking a whole week around Berlin on the Mauerweg (160 km). I had lost weight and felt quite fit for 53. Much fitter than on my first camino (Ingles + Muxia/Fisterra) two years before. I had read Ender’s informative camino guide for the Salvador as well as the wonderful blogs of forum members Magwood and Elle Bieling. And just a few weeks before I started my second camino a thread named “Not overdoing it on the Salvador” was published on the forum like a big warning sign.

But I wanted to have a short day into Oviedo, so I designed my 5-day-camino with that in mind. I started Mid-May in Leon and had a very pleasant first day (27km to La Robla) and an equally nice second day (24 km to Poladura da Tercia). The weather was wonderful for May (sunny, few clouds, 27 degrees). I loved that especially as my first camino had took place in cool and rainy January.

I was aware about the accommodation restrictions and had called Pension Mundo and the posada in Poladura a week in advance. And I had booked an inexpensive hospedaje in Campomanes. I consider myself a walker of medium velocity (4,5 km an hour) and a typical late starter. After breakfast I was among the last peregrinos to tackle the next stage at 8:15. Around 15 people (all Spanish, all looking experienced, no one under 45) had been in the Poladura posada and albergue.

I like ascents, especially if they are long and grueling. I am not good on long flat monotonous stretches and I had no idea how I would cope on really hard descents, which I hadn’t experienced before. Well, soon I would know. I was overtaken at the Salvador cross on Coito hill by a father-and-son-team, which was nice, because we took pictures of each other on top of the mountain. Walking alone usually means that you never see your whole body in a selfie. I had my first break next to the cross and the second one, when I finished the descent right before another long ascent. It was funny to see the other peregrinos like a chain of ants heading upwards on that ascent.

View attachment 130889 View attachment 130891 View attachment 130893 View attachment 130895

I reached the picturesque church in Arbas (Colegiata Santa Maria) around 11:15, having overtaken some of the other hikers, which were walking in a group. I got a nice stamp, had a little chat with some official from the church (my Spanish is far from fluent, but a better than basic). When I reached the old parador at the Leonese-Asturian border I was in good mood, but very thirsty. I was craving for a Spezi, a lemonade very common in my native but totally unknown in Spain. So I just mixed it myself. I ordered por favor una coca-cola, un kas limon y un vaso grande para mezclar las dos (a sentence I would say a lot during my camino), mixed my lemonade and enjoyed a long break at the terrace enjoying the scenic view.

The path so far had been demanding, but I felt good at that moment, because I thought the most exhausting part was over. I was so wrong. The next two hours was only descent, at times incredibly steep, on a path full of little rocks. I struggled a lot and tried different techniques (going slow, going in lines from left to right, going backwards, even running, nothing seemed to work). I had noticed by this time that I was one of very few pilgrims on the Salvador without hiking poles. (I had tried them during training but didn’t like them due to two reasons. I felt poles were slowing me down substantially and because I always take a lot of pictures I wanted my hands free). When I reached San Miguel finally around 14:00 I was totally exhausted and my legs were burning like hell. I collapsed in the centre of this small village in the shadow under a tree next to a river. Then I suddenly could hear my body talking to me, when I struggled to eat my lunch.

Body: Bread and cheese? Are you serious?
Brain: What’s wrong, its healthy and we need some calories now.
Body: It’s from yesterday from the supermarket in Pola de Lena. Its dry. I hate it. After what you have done to me I deserve cake and chocolate. Now!
Brain: We need something substantial. Eat the cheese.
Body: No way! I know we have cake and chocolate in the bagpack.
Brain: But that’s our emergency reserve.
Body: I declare this an emergengy. I demand cake and chocolate. And I want coca-cola too. Otherwise I go on strike.


Well, you have to listen to your body, especially on a camino. While I ate my emergency supplies I became witness of a drama. A group of really exhausted looking peregrinos in their 60ies appeared. I had overtaken them an hour ago. One of the ladies took out a folder and was looking around. She is searching for an albergue I thought. She asked a local and that man pointed to a place somewhere uphill in the clouds: Pajares. Her face fell. They must have made a wrong turn and I had a good idea where it had happened. 45 minutes ago I had come across a crossing with 3 options and a big sign with a little map. In my stressed state I stared 5 minutes on that map to decide which option (the middle one) I needed to take in order to getting to San Miguel. The path to the right led to Pajares. But from San Miguel it’s a cruel ascent back to Pajares. When I left I saw the group calling someone (probably the albergue).

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When I started again my body was still aching, but my knees felt surprisingly ok. But when I left San Miguel I suddenly started freezing and shivering. I layered up and for 15 minutes I hiked almost like in winter. Then my body had heated up and I felt normal again. Strange I thought, maybe it was the long break in the shadow? Or maybe the effects of cake and chocolate as lunch?

The next hours were uneventful, I enjoyed the path to Llanos de Someron. I approached the albergue around 15:30. Some of the pilgrims from Poladura were there, sitting in the garden. I enjoyed another spezi and some energy bars. Except from one couple in their 50ies everyone stopped there. But although the day had been far from an easy walk I still felt ok at that moment. The weather was still fine and I had my reservation in Campomanes, which was 12 km further. So I went on. Quickly I reached a sign explaining the Munisteriu variant.

View attachment 130916

I like to go off-track and experience more scenic routes instead of walking on tarmac. So I chose the Munisturiu. At 4 pm! The couple, which left only minutes before me, must have opted for the road as I would not see any more pilgrims that day. At the beginning it was wonderful, nice little path, lots of vegetation, scenic views around the valley, ruins of old monastery buildings, which nature had reclaimed long ago and of course some ascents. But after a while it got really demanding, the path narrowed and got really rocky and uneven. If requested a lot of concentration. At one point I had to use a rope to climb a rock! I let out a hysteric laughter and asked myself, what I am doing here? The latter half was even more demanding, and my concentration was decreasing with each minute. I hit my head at a low hanging branch, I almost slipped several times and my legs (I wore a short hiking pant) accumulated a lot of scratches, one of them bloody.

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Approximately 4 km into that alternative trail (according to the sign in Llanos it is 5,7 km long) I didn’t know where to go, one path was leading further upwards, another one slightly down, no arrow in sight. It stressed me tremendously, because it was now after 5 o’clock and I knew I couldn’t afford any mistake. I took the way to the right and after 100 meters I saw an arrow. Soon after I reached the end of the Munisteriu in Fresneo and immediately had another break.

Now I felt really done for the day, but Campomanes was still 7 km away. I should have tried the road or maybe the train (from above I had seen a station), but instead I went further on the camino. These 7 km were less strenuous and not as narrow as the Munisteriu, but also not flat, winding more up than down through a wooden area. I forced my body to walk on as my mind slowly was collapsing. I had blurred visions of a cable car waiting for me as I was sure that at the end there would be a long grueling descent. Then I thought of a long slide. Then I was fantasizing about a bubble bath.

I didn’t dare to have another break and I walked faster, because I wanted to finish before I couldn’t walk anymore. I stopped taking pictures and have hardly any recollection of that section. I reached Herias on pure willpower at 19:15. There I lay down next to an old washing place and thought, that’s it, I can’t go on, I stay here and will not rise again. I thought about calling the very recommended albergue in Bendueños for a lift, but then I realized my hotel in Campomanes was less than 2 km away.

I don’t know how I made it. I have no recollection about this last stretch, my memory sets in again, when I was walking zombie-like at 19:45 into Campomanes. My mobile device showed 34 km that day, the longest stretch I ever did on a camino. The hotel owner was very friendly, laundry and tumbling were free for guests. I asked for a supermarket and he explained that there is a small groceries store down the street. But it was closing at 8 pm, in two minutes! I had already eaten all my supplies and was aware that I would not have been able to get up again after my shower for eating out in a restaurant. So in my state of agony I staggered along the street. The shop was still open and I bought water, juice, coke, canned tuna, bread, tomatoes, cookies and much more. Supplies for 3 days.

I went very slowly back to the hotel. After showering I had a lavish picnic on my hotel bed. As soon as I lay down I hardly could move. I developed serious and painful cramps in both legs and in my hands. That was scary. I drank a lot of juice and took some Calcium-Magnesium-powder. I slept like a stone and the next morning I felt I had only 50 % of my usual energy left. And I removed two ticks which must have fallen on me on the Munisteriu as there was lots of high grass which touched my legs while walking.

Thankfully the stage to Mieres was flat, easy and short (and I loved the medieval church on the way). I made it to Oviedo in 5 days as planned but I felt the effects of the third day all along. I then decided to have a full rest day in Oviedo. I skipped the stage to Aviles (I wished to continue on the Norte), took the train and had another rest day in Aviles. The weather was bad anyway (thunderstorms).

After two rest days I felt ok again and commenced on the Norte, which I liked a lot and later on to Fisterra, Muxia and back to Santiago. Nothing after my first week on the Salvador was as demanding as that third day, but I took much better decisions in planning after my first week, trying always to stop around 29 km maximum. On the other hand I felt really proud having survived the Salvador including the Munisteriu alternative.

Would my experience have been different if I would have used poles? Or decided against the Munisteriu and took the road? I don’t know. What I know: long pants would have probably spared me from the ticks. Looking back of course I now second the opinion in the “Overdoing it on the Salvador” thread: Stop in Llanos de Someron if you are not superfit. I guess I was fit but not superfit and my wrong decision could have led to serious troubles. Fortunately it didn’t. The Munisteriu is really beautiful, but not after 4pm when you have started the day in Poladura. (And I guess neither in rainy or snowy conditions). But on a beautiful morning, when starting from Llanos (or maybe from Pajares) it could be a really interesting alternative.

Thanks for reading. It’s my first posting on this forum and probably one of the longest maiden posts ever ( I like to tell stories).
Great report! This route makes the Frances look like a walk in the park, which is really is, sometimes!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
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Nick, when you say the food is not great for lunch in Pajares, which place are you referring to? The Mesón in the town of Pajares? Or one of the two places to eat in the Puerto de Pajares? I’ve eaten my main meal in the mesón in the town of Pajares. It was fine, I thought.
I meant the Pensión Mirador in the town of Pajares. I'm grateful for any meal I can get and am not the best judge of an entire menu for obvious reasons. In saying that, my meal there was nothing special and my friend Darin said his was the worst meal he had on the Salvador, and he was positively blown away by his meal the previous night in Poladura.
 
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I meant the Pensión Mirador in the town of Pajares. I'm grateful for any meal I can get and am not the best judge of an entire menu for obvious reasons. In saying that, my meal there was nothing special and my friend Darin said his was the worst meal he had on the Salvador, and he was positively blown away by his meal the previous night in Poladura.
My take on the meal options, in the town of Pajares, is more or less in line with yours. I understood that the hotel/pension had suppressed the kitchen in the albergue. I may not have got the nuances, but it did look like a very local dispute about a source of income for the pension or whatever it is called. The food was food, (not good, no misspelling) but nothing more could be said about it on the occasion we went and ate there. Things may have changed, that was 2017.
 
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That's not practical advice on the Salvador. Because of the lack of shops and restaurants in the middle stages and fairly infrequent accommodation, this route requires more planning than most and that includes calling ahead to accommodation providers for meals in several places (e.g. Poladura, Pajares, Bendueños).

Hello!
I have been reading around the forum for a few weeks as I prepare for my coming Salvador and Primitivo combination (Mid Sept to early Mid Oct). This is my first post, and I'm asking you Jungleboy because I've seen knowledgeable (local?) information from you around the forum.

Do you think that one can leave the calling ahead for a day or 2 out? Or should I be booking *now*? At this point I have only my starting point in Leon, my end point in Oviedo, and the Casa Suena on the Primitivo booked. With several of the more "typical" camino behind me, I've never pre-booked before, but these are less travelled routes, and it's a holy year. I guess I am most concerned about La Robla (where it seems the municipal is closed) and Pajares (where there is no food?).

I am planning 5 days for the Salvador and 13 on the Primitivo. Meeting a friend in Oviedo for the walk to Santiago.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
Hello!
I have been reading around the forum for a few weeks as I prepare for my coming Salvador and Primitivo combination (Mid Sept to early Mid Oct).
Buen camino! That will be a great combination.

Do you think that one can leave the calling ahead for a day or 2 out? Or should I be booking *now*?
I think a day or two out should be fine, although @peregrina2000 is more in tune with when the Salvador is most popular with Spaniards. And if you're staying in municipal albergues (e.g. Poladura and Pajares), you can't book ahead anyway.

I guess I am most concerned about La Robla (where it seems the municipal is closed) and Pajares (where there is no food?).
There are two budget pensions in La Robla (Mundo and one other), so you have options there. As that will be your first night out of León, you can probably pretty safely book one of those in advance. In Pajares there is a municipal albergue (nicer than the one in Poladura) and the Pensión El Mirador, which has rooms and food (the quality of which we are discussing in this thread!).

I am planning 5 days for the Salvador and 13 on the Primitivo. Meeting a friend in Oviedo for the walk to Santiago.
Usually a five-day Salvador wouldn't include staying in Pajares, as it's the break-up point of the big mountain day, and if splitting this in two, that usually means a six-day Salvador. Unless you are thinking of La Robla - Pajares in one day? What are your proposed stages?
 
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To clarify my question:
Does anyone know: the grade of descent from
1) Pajares town to San Miguel?
2) The bifurcation/decision point at runaway truck landing after Puerto Pajares towards San Miguel?
Wondering about grade of descent of each of these, the distance is pretty well marked.
 
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peregrina2000

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Do you think that one can leave the calling ahead for a day or 2 out? Or should I be booking *now*?
I was on the Salvador last September and there were very few pilgrims. But what I found were workers staying in the pensiones in both La Robla and Pola de Gordón. One of the pensiones in La Robla ”saves” a room for pilgrims (which you will have to share if another pilgrim shows up, I believe). If you are going to stay in La Robla on the first night, I would call ahead, especially if you will be there during the week. If the pensiones are housing train or construction workers, the workers will all go home on weekends. Neither place in La Robla has whatsapp unfortunately. If you are forging ahed to Pola de Gordón on the first night, both 15 de Mayo and the rooms over the mesón have whatsapp, and that is the easiest way to contact them.
 
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Buen camino! That will be a great combination.


I think a day or two out should be fine, although @peregrina2000 is more in tune with when the Salvador is most popular with Spaniards. And if you're staying in municipal albergues (e.g. Poladura and Pajares), you can't book ahead anyway.


There are two budget pensions in La Robla (Mundo and one other), so you have options there. As that will be your first night out of León, you can probably pretty safely book one of those in advance. In Pajares there is a municipal albergue (nicer than the one in Poladura) and the Pensión El Mirador, which has rooms and food (the quality of which we are discussing in this thread!).


Usually a five-day Salvador wouldn't include staying in Pajares, as it's the break-up point of the big mountain day, and if splitting this in two, that usually means a six-day Salvador. Unless you are thinking of La Robla - Pajares in one day? What are your proposed stages?

Thank you!
My planned stops are La Robla, Poladura, Llanos, Mieres, Oviedo... but I can see using transit/taxi if my knees go bad, and that might insert Pajares into the mix without adding a day (I am bound to joining with my friend in Oviedo on a given date.
In other words, I might cut a day short to avoid injury, and cut the next day short in the morning to remain at Mieres on the day before Oviedo. I'd still walk every day, but protect my ability to walk the Primitivo...
 
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I was on the Salvador last September and there were very few pilgrims. But what I found were workers staying in the pensiones in both La Robla and Pola de Gordón. One of the pensiones in La Robla ”saves” a room for pilgrims (which you will have to share if another pilgrim shows up, I believe). If you are going to stay in La Robla on the first night, I would call ahead, especially if you will be there during the week. If the pensiones are housing train or construction workers, the workers will all go home on weekends. Neither place in La Robla has whatsapp unfortunately. If you are forging ahed to Pola de Gordón on the first night, both 15 de Mayo and the rooms over the mesón have whatsapp, and that is the easiest way to contact them.
So good to know... my 5 days miss Monday and land me in Oviedo on Saturday (allowing for a re-up on consumables before we leave there on Sunday for the Primitivo.
Can you tell me, Peregrina200, as it sounds like you might know... the 12th C church (San Nicolas?) 2 K from Oviedo, is it on the trail? or a detour? That's a pretty long walking day for us, and we are quite concerned about a 4K addition to the day if it's a detour.
 

peregrina2000

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2) The bifurcation/decision point at runaway truck landing after Puerto Pajares towards San Miguel?
Wondering about grade of descent of each of these, the distance is pretty well marked.
These are two different spots.

The runaway truck lane is on the national highway, very near the spot where you cross the highway coming down from the high tension power lines (shown on p. 39-40 of Ender’s guide, English version). At that point, there is no bifurcation, you just go straight down. The bifurcation for Pajares vs. San Miguel comes later, not sure how far along, but it is after you have left the highway and struggled down a steep rocky path.

I can’t give you grade of descent, but if you want a better idea, here’s what I would do. Take a stage on some camino you know where you thought thte descent was bad. Open a wikiloc track. Then compare it to some Salvador wikiloc tracks. One good set is here. All wikiloc tracks have an elevation profile under the GPS route and you can get a good idea of the steep parts.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Can you tell me, Peregrina200, as it sounds like you might know... the 12th C church (San Nicolas?) 2 K from Oviedo, is it on the trail? or a detour?
I think maybe you are referring to the pre-romanesque church and palace/church at Naranco? They are Santa María and San Miguel.

They are spectacular and I can’t imagine going through Oviedo without seeing them (but I am a crazed person when it comes to romanesque, many others have missed the visit with no ill effects).

This is not on the camino, but there are ways to walk there and cut back onto the camino without returning to Oviedo. The site doesn’t open till 9:30, though, so it would make for a very long day if you’re planning to go to Grado. If you can’t take a rest day in Oviedo and want to visit the site, I would consider stopping the first day in Escamplero.
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Time of past OR future Camino
A few in the past; more in the future!
My planned stops are La Robla, Poladura, Llanos, Mieres, Oviedo... but I can see using transit/taxi if my knees go bad, and that might insert Pajares into the mix without adding a day (I am bound to joining with my friend in Oviedo on a given date.
In other words, I might cut a day short to avoid injury, and cut the next day short in the morning to remain at Mieres on the day before Oviedo. I'd still walk every day, but protect my ability to walk the Primitivo...
Just throwing out an idea here, but if you're considering transiting ahead anyway, my suggestion would be to do that from Mieres to Oviedo. That's the least interesting stage so you won't miss anything, and the advantages are that you can take the mountain stages more slowly AND stay at Bendueños - and I think those are both huge plusses. So you could do: La Robla - Poladura - Pajares - Bendueños - Mieres -> Oviedo.
 

JabbaPapa

"True Pilgrim"
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Pot noodles seem like not such a bad idea - - can't eat the stuff personally, any more than rarely and occasionally anyway, but great to get by in a pinch for most.
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
Neither place in La Robla has whatsapp unfortunately.
I have WhatsApped Hostal Ordoñez De Celis +34 652 92 16 30. They will accept reservations and would ask for a deposit (50%).
Pot noodles seem like not such a bad idea - - can't eat the stuff personally, any more than rarely and occasionally anyway, but great to get by in a pinch for most.
The Korean pot noodle is really good, my fave flavour is the spicy vegetable one (very spicy). Don’t touch any of British pot noodle brand ones, they should be banned!!!

I have to check again now re food. We are staying in Posada Real de Pajares for 2 nights, at weekends they rent 2 apartments as whole but during the week they rent out the individual rooms. Hopefully I can still use the kitchen, if the food in Pension El Mirador is that bad!
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many to count!
To clarify my question:
Does anyone know: the grade of descent from
1) Pajares town to San Miguel?
2) The bifurcation/decision point at runaway truck landing after Puerto Pajares towards San Miguel?
Wondering about grade of descent of each of these, the distance is pretty well marked.
1) @El Cascayal I don't know how this translates into grade, but it is essentially a downhill drop of 260 meters (850 feet) over 1.65 kilometers from Pajares to San Miguel. Pretty steep.

2) I have documented with pictures on my website, how to find this very important decision point! It is on my Day Three on the Salvador. Essentially, by my GPS it is almost exactly 0.3 kilometers from the time you cross the N-630 (the national highway), (after the steep drop off the Puerto Pajares) that you come across the small wooden signs directing you left to "San Miguel" OR straight to the "Albergue Pajares." Please click on the link if you want to see clear photos and more information on how to find this place. It is gorgeous here, and the mountains are distracting! Plus there is a concrete waymark showing the way to San Miguel a bit farther down the path that is easier to see than the sign!

Good luck and happy planning!
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
To clarify my question:
Does anyone know: the grade of descent from
1) Pajares town to San Miguel?
2) The bifurcation/decision point at runaway truck landing after Puerto Pajares towards San Miguel?
Wondering about grade of descent of each of these, the distance is pretty well marked.
From @Elle Bieling ’s Salvador guide: “it is essentially a downhill drop of 260 meters (850 feet) over 1.65 kilometers.” “The path is a wide tractor track and descends steeply the entire way to San Miguel.”

I’ll try to find online some actual footage/pics/videos of this section. Grade of ascent/descent is only 1/2 of the determining factor for how difficult a section is. I’m inclined to find out what the surface is like. Wide tractor track doesn’t sound too bad. On google map/earth it does look like dirt track. On the other hand, I have climbed a gentle slope but the surface was all big boulder rocks, uneven, sharp edges, some wobbly rocks, really really horrible and progress was super slow! Edit: I then had to come back the same way I had climbed up! Can’t decide which way was worse, not a fan of either!
 
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LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)
1) @El Cascayal I don't know how this translates into grade, but it is essentially a downhill drop of 260 meters (850 feet) over 1.65 kilometers from Pajares to San Miguel. Pretty steep.

2) I have documented with pictures on my website, how to find this very important decision point! It is on my Day Three on the Salvador. Essentially, by my GPS it is almost exactly 0.3 kilometers from the time you cross the N-630 (the national highway), (after the steep drop off the Puerto Pajares) that you come across the small wooden signs directing you left to "San Miguel" OR straight to the "Albergue Pajares." Please click on the link if you want to see clear photos and more information on how to find this place. It is gorgeous here, and the mountains are distracting! Plus there is a concrete waymark showing the way to San Miguel a bit farther down the path that is easier to see than the sign!

Good luck and happy planning!
LOL we were writing this at the same time 😂
 

LavanyaLea

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Frances (May/June 2022)

Nice video account of their Salvador/Primitivo. On this one I linked above, they walked from Poladura to Llanos via Pajares… 🤔

2:16 at the decision point
3:02 passed a pilgrim at water fountain with 3 dogs(!!!) - is this the town of Pajares then?
3:07 looks like this is the turn off from N-630 to the dirt track going down to San Miguel… as the road sign looks similar to this screen grab from google maps…
F0420FBE-74B9-48B2-8DE3-9E0D022D58AF.jpg
 

Elle Bieling

Elle Bieling, PilgrimageTraveler
Time of past OR future Camino
Too many to count!

Nice video account of their Salvador/Primitivo. On this one I linked above, they walked from Poladura to Llanos via Pajares… 🤔

2:16 at the decision point
3:02 passed a pilgrim at water fountain with 3 dogs(!!!) - is this the town of Pajares then?
3:07 looks like this is the turn off from N-630 to the dirt track going down to San Miguel… as the road sign looks similar to this screen grab from google maps…
Yes, Yes and Yes!
 
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dbier

Active Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Last 114km Camino Frances, Jul 21
2023 - Camino P
Not that I've walked the Salvador...but I heartily agree with OP and those who have suffered steep and uneven descents. You *must* expect to go slower and do less. Grade isn't everything; surface gets several votes.

Case in point. I normally walk / jog a half marathon (22.1km, if I remember correctly) in 3:30 or less. Then there was Cedar Breaks, last weekend. 6 miles (~10km) of rugged up and down single-track, between 10,000 and 11,300 feet. Lots of loose rock, on both that and the "dirt road" that was miles 7-12, descending with more teaser hills below 10,000ft. And 12-13 , although smooth, was back uphill. I did not have poles.

6 hours. And I very nearly quit by mile 5...but the only way out was through to mile 9.

I beg of you all, respect the terrain, particularly if your balance has atrophied with age. The Camino, from what I've read, also tends to provide stinging rebukes to hubris. ;/
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
In case it is of interest, here's my account of our first trip on the Salvador in June 2014 with four very fit children (8-14 years old). The blog posts were written primarily for family (especially four older siblings who were left at home) and friends and people who were contributing towards us raising money for charity: water and tell stories rather than give useful-to-pilgrims info, but I have been told the accounts have helped prospective pilgrims in the past all the same.
Note: the youngest daughter was at the time struggling with not grumbling so we incentivised her by offering an aniseed lolly at the end of each day in which she did not grizzle when walking. It worked wonders and when Daddy left us in Leon (to go back to work) he implored her to make him proud by earning lots of aniseed lollies. Now you'll understand some of the comments!
Leon to La Robla
La Robla to Poladura
Poladura to Pajares (worth noting some other walkers had been planning on going farther, but stopped at Pajares because they were exhausted!)
Pajares to Pola de Lena
Pola de Lena to Oviedo

Then in October 2018 we walked again, this time with Daddy (and minus the eldest of the boys who walked the first time and was now at university - and still minus the four older kids too) It was very different. This time I had just completed my first ever solo camino (the Madrid route) and then they all met me in Leon.
Leon to La Robla
La Robla to Poladura
Poladura to Pajares (the weather makes such a difference!)
Pajares to Benduenos (for those wondering about gradient, there is a comment and photo on the section down to San Miguel in this post)
Benduenos to Mieres
Mieres to Oviedo

I'd do it again in a heartbeat....
 

Umwandert

New Member
Time of past OR future Camino
Ingles+F/M 1/2020
Salvador+Norte+F/M 5-6/2022
Thank you everyone for your kind replies. I am impressed by the huge number of qualified comments. It seems that every question has been answered already by fellow forum members. Just a few additional remarks by the OP, which hopes to quote in the right way:

It sounds like an epic day, and this was in indeed an epic maiden post ! Hope you managed to get the ticks out safely. You certainly have a story to tell, which is what the Camino is about sometimes...

The ticks were really small and it took me some time to get them out completely. The day after in Mieres I found a third one which must have been hiding the evening before. I was worried a bit and called my sister, who works as a vet assistant. She confirmed, that unlike in Central Europe there is no tick-borne encephalitis in Spain, but of course there could be other problems. I watched the bites for one week but there was no red ring developing and they slowly disappeared. A week later in the albergue of Soto de Luiña I met a Spanish pilgrim, who went to the Centro de salud after a tick bite. In the end it was harmless.
If I remember this right, according to his Salvador live thread @jungleboy survived the Munistiriu with 6 ticks, so 3 of them seemed to be quite a good outcome ;-)

Welcome to the forum! We look forward to more of your stories.

Thanks a lot, I was thinking about sharing some entertaining "mishaps and memorable moments" from my Norte experience shortly. Besides all the important technical and guiding stuff on this forum I enjoy personal stories a lot (especially when the pilgrim is confronted with a problem and finds creative ways to solve it). Probably other forum readers enjoy them too.

OMG, I got hives reading your report! While I have not done the Munisteriu alternative, almost everything else sounds exactly like what I experienced! The downhill pounding on my knees, even with poles, was more than my body was prepared for! And unfortunately, like @JabbaPapa warns about, it was the reservation in Camponanes that kept us going too! That final 2k from Herias to Campomanes felt like an eternity. We couldn't find any open restaurants close by the hotel, so we went to a bar that had only bocadillos! But we made it work! I think we would have eaten shoe leather if needed be! It was truly, for me, like you, perhaps the single most difficult day on the Camino ever! Now, the albergue in Llanos de Someron is truly a blessing, making for so much of an easier choice.

And I doubt highly that the longer route through Pajares to San Miguel would be any easier. It is all brutally downhill!!

Thank you for your story! It was entertaining, though, it did give me the shudders!

Oh Elle, I was aware of your report, that's why I felt quite embarrassed. I really should have listened better to your advice. But I felt momentarily good at my break in Llanos and so my story went further.... But with only 2 caminos under my belt I feel still like a rookie and am still learning. If I would do the Salvador again (possibly in May again, as I loved the weather) I would definitely stop in Llanos de Someron and enjoy the Munistiriu in the morning the day after.

Don’t walk a 30km day in the mountains unless you’re super fit and/or have done something similar before. We saw people do it on our Salvador and it wrecked them. One was going to continue on the Primitivo but went home instead because he couldn’t face more mountain walking.

I would only add to jungleboy's morals in a nutshell: Be aware of the elevation profile, especially in the latter half of your chosen stage and if possible obtain information about the surface too.

I usually do sandwiches for lunch on camino anyway. There are no shops between Pola de Gordon and Campomanes IIRC, and because we split the mountain stages in two and stayed at Bendueños before Campomanes, that meant three days between shops, so we bought quite a lot of food. You can eat dinner at Poladura and Pajares if you call ahead (and lunch in Pajares too if you like, although the food there is not great), so how much food you need depends on your exact stage plan.

I knew about the 50 km distance between the supermarkets in Pola de Gordon and Campomanes, so I bought a lot in Pola (in my post I mixed Pola de Gordon with Pola de Lena, of course bread and cheese came from the little supermarket in Pola de Gordon). I was lucky to arrive just before siesta time. If closed I would have tried to ask in a bar for sandwiches or other food to carry. I think magwood did this if I remember her blog right.

And to conclude this post: In Pola de Lena on day number 4 I was recognized by a fellow forum member. I had posted nothing yet and had only given my start date on the Salvador. He had seen this and asked me whether I am from Hamburg. I think he was from Denmark (sadly I don't know his name), we had a nice little chat and he gave me a precious information I was not aware of: On sundays the cathedral in Oviedo is closed, so of course there is no Salvadoriana issued. As I reached Oviedo on a Sunday I had to wait one more day but I needed rest days anyway.
 

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