We have decided to take the Camino Primitivo through Lugo to Santiago, rather than head back up to Alivés and continuing on the Norte. I guess that I have always been leaning that direction but when it came time to decide yesterday, we chose the slightly shorter but more mountainous route. Maybe some day we will come back and finish the Norte. Who knows? If we do, we’ll likely do it in conjunction with a walk to the Monastery of Santo Toribio to see that.
The walk today was very different in several respects from or recent days. We have met several pilgrims who are new to us. We briefly saw lots of other pilgrims too. We walked in the fog. We are definitely back in the foothills of the mountains. Finally, we are now strong enough that we walked past some of the people who just started in Oviedo doing the Primitivo.
We had a little over 3km walk out of Oviedo, through residential areas, rather than commercial or industrial. They weren’t the nicest areas of town, for sure, but it was okay. The only excitement was when a drunk man can out of his house, walked up to us and started shouting something. He appeared to be wearing a sweater that came down to about the top of his thighs. He also had one earring and both shoes on. He was close enough, and I was ready, that if he lifted his arms in the air – or just pulled up the sweater a bit, he was going to get a good whack with both walking sticks and I would have been aiming for the parts that neither Melanie nor I wanted to see.
After a short bit on rural roads, we were back on gravel tracks again. That is where we met Francisco, a cook from Madrid but living in Valencia. That is where the best paella comes from, he told us. Actually, he mentioned the exact location in Valencia that has the best paella – his kitchen. He was very nice and patient with our Spanish and questions but as soon as another older Spanish pilgrim came along, those two went off walking together. Francisco walked the Camino San Salvador from Leon to Oviedo so for him, this is his sixth day of walking.
Somewhere in the next 2km of dirt tracks, we met Jens from Belgium. Really, I mean from Belgium. I mean that he has WALKED fro Belgium. I think he said that he has been walking 79 days and 2,150km so far. He had walked the first month alone which was awful, six days with his mother, three with his girlfriend and the past five weeks with a man walking from the Netherlands.
I also forgot to mention the pilgrim we met even before we left the hotel café. He was in a hurry to start walking but he needed a credencial or else he would not be allowed into the albergues. We sent him to the Cathedral which we thought was the best idea we could come up with but I’m sure that didn’t open for several hours. We never saw him again.
Actually, I’m going to stop describing the route today, other than to say it was very enjoyable, had about 40% of tracks rather than roads some of which were among the best trails that we have walked on, it was hilly and the first 3.5 hours was pretty much shrouded in fog. The fog was interesting and cool to walk in but it ruined the best views of the day. I am not sure what change in weather that the fog portends but I think we got a hint later in the day.
Our original plan was to walk to San Juan de Villapañada, an albergue 3.8km past Grado. We realised today that the Gronze site gave us wrong information though and that walk would have been 29.5km which is longer than we like. There are albergues in Grado but when we found out that there was a hotel here too, we decided to stop here. We are now ensconced in the Hotel Auto Bar, in the west of town. It’s cheap at 40€ for a double with breakfast but I have to apologise to the hotel that we stayed in last night. I said that that one was small but this place tonight is tinier by a long (short?) distance. If I want to stretch my legs out all the way on my bed, I have to leave the room door open all night. The bathroom is half the size of last night’s. Without exaggeration, when I stood in the shower, my left shoulder touched the wall at the same time my right shoulder touched the door. If I tried to turn the other way, I couldn’t without turning the hot water to cold with my arm. I settled on standing on an angle but even then, anything below my pants pockets height didn’t get washed. I banged my head trying to get near my mid-thighs. I also had to straddle the toilet to shave. That actually saved me some time but I won’t go into that.
Another thing of note today were the smells and sights. It’s impossible for me to walk anywhere near a honeysuckle bush without bringing back childhood memories. The smell of honeysuckle will be with me until the day I leave this world. We probably killed more than a few plants by over-harvesting them as a child but it always brings back memories of sitting next to a bush, plucking the blossoms, pinching off the green stem, pulling the stamen gently out and sucking the tiny drop of sweet nectar that it held. I should have been a bee.
Two sights from today will always remind me of Caminos. Walking through the forests, it looked like it was snowing. I am not sure what tree or plant it is that sends off the cottony floating puffs but I’ve only seen them in Spain while walking Caminos. We also saw our first wild poppies today, something else I have only seen on Caminos. Of course with living in Singapore with many Brits, Aussies and Kiwis, the poppy has added and more significant meaning too but I’ll likely always associate them with Caminos.
Finally, I have to mention the fantastic pilgrim meal we just had at the hotel. There were 16 Brazilians, two other Americans, four Italians and six Spanish with us at dinner. Our table had four pilgrims from Barcelona so we got a lot of practice with our Spanish. Only one of them spoke English at all and our Spanish was actually better than her English. Dinner was delayed a little because the Brazilians wanted to celebrate a mass but the food and company made the wait worthwhile. It also meant that dinner didn’t end until 10:00pm and I need sleep. Peace y’all.