Ok, so where do I start? How do I give you a feel of what to expect should you decide to walk the Camino Primitivo? Well, pictures might help so I’ll include those of which I took that might best help you to see what you are walking into, (no pun intended 😜).
Some sort of written narrative might help you to understand the highs and lows I experienced, both mentally and geographically. I’ll use the notes I made as a I walked and each evening after showering, laundering and eating.
In addition, I’ll separate each days’ walking so you can if you want to refer to each day to offer help with your own planning.
Before setting out I had researched the route as thoroughly as I could, and it is at this point I would like to thank those forum members who had previously given up not only their time but also their personal knowledge and experience of the Primitivo route to help others, by posting their information on the forum.
I took the Cicerone Northern Routes guide into which I had added notes from the excellent guide provided by forum member ‘ebrandt’. In hindsight, the Cicerone guide was dead weight and ebrants’ guide would have been more than adequate on it’s own. You can find that guide in the forum section ‘The Camino Primitivo’, here is the link.
On the same page you will find the different stages ‘perigrina2000’ walked. I found that information very helpful in my planning.
Here are the stages I walked, some photographs and notes I made. Hope they are of help or interest.
I started walking at 0800hrs and as is my practice stopped every two hours or so for a 20 minute boots and socks off toe-wiggle😊. After a tiring day of going up and down some testing hills I reached the Albergue at 1730hrs. This first day gave a small hint of the stunning scenery I was soon to be walking through. At most I briefly saw about 10 other pilgrims all day.
Considering I had seen so few people during the day I was a little surprised to find I got the second last bed of 22 in the Albergue, which is a Donativo.
Inside the Albergue, as you can see is colourful, welcoming and friendly. The same can be said for David the Hostelario. His reputation is well-deserved, “mi Casa su Casa”. He made us all feel welcome and as the evening progressed with a communal dinner as a bonus made us feel like brothers and sisters.
Before dinner he gave us an overview of our options ahead and had an agreed time of 0630hrs in the morning before folks started their morning routines. Happily almost everyone stuck to the agreement with 4 or 5 “bed-racers” up and about at 0530hrs. At 0630 the gentle sounds of ‘Ave Maria’ welcomed us to a breakfast of coffee, tea, bread, snacks and orange juice. I think this was the first time I witnessed the majority of Pilgrims leave 10 euros and more at a Donativo Albergue in addition to ‘purchasing’ their drinks from the fridge. Well done David, my thanks to you for my bed, food and your help in making my Camino a beautiful experience were heart-felt.
Stage 3. Bodenaya to Campiello
The walking today proved to be a little easier than the first two days. I left the Albergue after 0700hrs and set off into a misty morning. The mist was hiding what later turned out to be stunning scenery studded with tranquil moments.
It might be helpful to add a reminder at this point. Although there many small villages along this route it is necessary to make detours to visit them. Those detours are not too long but it does make the distance between ‘cafes, bars and shops’ longer than you may have experienced elsewhere on a Camino. Carrying snacks and water is a ‘must do’ as far as I am concerned on this route. Pay heed to the information on the forum and elsewhere folks, you’ll be glad you did. I certainly was.😄
23 euros was just about enough for me to spend to eat and sleep in comfort. 😳 I resisted the temptation to join others in the bar and chose instead to buy the biggest cafe con leche on the Camino for 2 euros and sat on the terrace, literally watching my laundry dry.
I feel asleep tonight praying for good weather tomorrow so I might go to Berducedo via the Hospitales Route.😁
Stage 4. Campiello to Berducedo via the Hospitales Route.
Rustling and general early-riser movement woke me to dawns’ milky sunshine filtering into the rooom. It wasn’t raining, the sky was relatively clear despite the early morning mists. The Hospitales Route was all systems go😄. I was so happy that as I finally readied myself for the day around 0730hrs I was whistling the tune ‘Don’t worry, be happy’😃, until that is I realised I was being tut-tutted at by a less-happy-than-me Pilgrim from a country which stereo-typically lacks humour. I’ll let you guess the nationality of that person.
The walking was not easy by any means but the history and scenery I walked through was more than worth the effort. I was in my glory. Solitary and both mentally and physically testing, fantastic hill-climbing with a pack on my back, following in the countless footsteps of centuries of Pilgrims, keeping the path clear for those who will follow me.
It was hot, tiring and exhilarating walking. I was stopping more frequently than usual to take my boots and socks off and was so pleased I had carried extra water. I expect others will find this route easier than I did, and if the truth be known I was pretty pleased when I reached the final hill top and started the relative drop into Breducedo where I would find my bed for the night in the Municipal Albergue for 5 euros. Basic in it’s provision of comfort, the Albergue Hostelario was very welcoming and for this just about done-in Pilgrim, a sight not only for sore eyes but also very tired legs.
I rested by the side of my bunk bed for a few minutes and reflected on the days’ walk. Yes, it was long. Yes, it was a pretty hard day. Yes, I would do it again……….. In a heartbeat😄
As I sorted myself out I decided to have a shorter day tomorrow. I was aware there was a long steep descent into Embalse de Salime before continuing, so my walk tomorrow would be around the 20 kilometre (about 12 miles) to Grandas de Salime.
I slept soundly that night and before falling asleep, I remember very clearly thinking about how blessed I was to have the health, opportunity and support to be doing what I was doing.
Stage 5. Berducedo to Grandas Salime
Early-rising bag rustlers, whisperers and head-torch users once again woke me earlier than I would have liked, but I wasn’t concerned, I was pleased for them to have the same joy as me from this Camino. I just wish they could learn to accept that the Camino doesn’t go anywhere during the night and will always be there for them whether they leave at 6 in the morning or not.
The last four days had reminded me not to get too relaxed about finally having a descent during the day. So far, every descent had been followed by an ascent. I was very aware there was a steep descent today into Embalse de Salime. What I didn’t anticipate was the ascent from Embalse de Salime up and over to Grandas de Salime.
I am not sure if it is my imagination but the first part of today seemed to have more road-walking than previously? It was still beautiful walking though, the sort of lonely early morning walking views you wish you could bottle, along with all-around-you birdsong that lifts your spirits.
The drop into Embalse de Salime was as long and as steep as I had anticipated. After cresting the highest point and starting to descend much of the walking was through beautiful woodland. After about an hour I got my first views of Embalse de Salime and the dam.
The Albergue was having problems processing people in and I saw some folks I recognised from the past four days in the queue. I thought about that for a few seconds and came to the conclusion we had all stopped here because of the scarcity of stopping places en-route.
I had seen on the way to the Albergue that the Galician Folk museum in town was open. After getting the usual ‘look after yourself and clothes’ chores done I headed back into town to visit the museum. These next photographs might convince you it is well worth a visit. The museum is the Museo Etnográfico de Grandas de Salime and although traditions are similar, what you see there are ancient customs and lifestyle of western Asturias and not of Galicia.
After a Pilgrim meal and a couple of drinks in town it was time to head back to the Albergue, rescue my laundry and go nite-nites. On the way back (uphill😂) to the Albergue I had an experience that often happens to when I am alone. Please endulge me whilst I explain. No matter where I go in the world I always encounter goats at the most unexpected times. Believe me, some of those times have been surreal. This time, when I thought I was all alone I made a call home. As I was engaged in conversation I heard an all too familiar bell-sound. Above my head, emerging from long grass was a family of goats. They, as always happens to me, simply stopped what they were doing and just stood there staring at me.
Bed-time tonight brought skies that promised lees-than-fair weather tomorrow morning.
Stage 6. Grandas de Salime to Padron
The early risers were even earlier this morning. Almost everyone, including myself were up and ready to go by 0700hrs😱.
It had rained last night. The morning was misty and drizzling. The best part of the day was rain with very little chance if any of a clear photo opportunity until I neared Fonsagrada.
After a communal dinner in the grounds of the Albergue where Pilgrims kept throwing the little dog scraps to eat, we saw a car arrive at the front of the Albergue. From the car emerged a gruff-looking man who had a quick chat with the Hospitelario. The man from the car opened the boot of the car, beckoned the dog and put it into the boot of the car before driving off. The Hospitalerio explained that the little dog apparently did the same thing every day and the man has to come and collect him every evening. I loved that!!😃😃
Stage 7. Padron to Castroverde
I set out this morning with no clear end point for today in mind. It turned out that I would eventually end the day in Castroverde after about 34 kilometres. There were a few more steep climbs and descents today but the effort was more than compensated for by some more beautiful views.
The temperature had risen markedly, perhaps because I was leaving the highest parts of this route behind me. It was good to spend the first part of the day walking through cool, hilly, forested areas.
I’m not too sure how long I walked for today, probably in the region of 8-10 hours including toe-wiggle rests. I do remember however feeling a little pleased to eventually find a sign that said the Albergue in Castroverde was only 1 more kilometre ahead.
I actually don’t remember too much about that evening (no, I didn’t have too much to drink😛). My notes tell me I found myself in the only cafe/bar that was open with others from the Albergue where we had a meal.
My notes also tell me I was toying with the idea of heading to Lugo tomorrow, about 21 kilometres, then striking out further north to try and avoid the busier Camino Frances for as long as I could.
Stage 8. Castroverde to Lugo.
It was after half past eight when I started walking today. I had eventually made the decision to walk to Lugo and see how I felt when I got there. The terrain was nowhere near as challenging as it had been so far.
It wasn’t too long before I was climbing the last hill past the viaduct that signals the entry into Lugo. As I passed through one of the old gateways of the medieval walls I was reminded of one of the entries into old town Burgos. Five minutes after passing through the gateway I was outside the Albergue where I would find a bed for 6 euros.
It was very easy to see the number of Pilgrims both in the Albergue and generally milling around in the streets had suddenly increased five or six fold, perhaps even more. After speaking with some of them I came to realise that with a little ‘tweak’ the Lugo area was the equivalent of walking the last 100 kilometers from Sarria on the Camino Frances.
I was still musing over my thoughts about heading north tomorrow so took a little walk to the Estation de Autobuses to test out my options. I found I had a couple of options to consider.
My notes show that as I was sitting in the cathedral, following an earlier conversation with others, I had still not made the final decision whether to head north tomorrow or go onto Ponte Ferreira. I think I told myself I could make that decision in the morning.
Stage 9. Lugo to Ponte Ferreira
As I prepared to leave this morning I was still undecided about where I was going today. I had half an idea to follow the waymarks until I saw a roadsign that would take me towards Baamonde or Miraz.
Lugo was still mostly asleep as I set about following the brass plaques in the road and pavements from the cathedral. Some of the people I was leaving behind I would see several times on the way to and in Santiago de Compostela.
I think it was a little over 2 hours later when I reached a road junction with a sign towards Baamonde. I followed that road for about 5 kilometers, changed my mind and headed back to where I had left the Primitivo. I was to regret that decision later because it added a further 10 kms to my walk today.
The path wasn’t too difficult. It was more gentle and undulating than it was steep hills but I felt tired, hot and achy. I wondered if I had been drinking enough water before it dawned on me. I had made that detour of around 10 kilometers and getting into the latter half the original 30 kilometers or so to Ponte Ferreira meant I would actually walk 40!😥.
I slept very soundly this night.
I awoke the following morning to a dawn chorus of chattering, coughing, rustling, door-banging, blister-treating, eager to be on their way pilgrims. Bless them, I hope their Camino was as brilliant as mine had been so far.
My peaceful Camino Primitivo has been brought to an end. I had anticipated it, but wasn’t fully ready for it and accepted this was how it had to be.
Stages 11 & 12 & 13 Melide to Arzua, Arzua to Pedrouzo, Pedrouzo to Santiago de Compostella.
No notes made during these days. If you care to you can get a feel for this stretch of the Camino Frances in my Camino Frances blog from 2014.
I hope you find some useful information, help and encouragement in this blog if you are planning to walk the Camino Primitivo. If you have walked the Primitivo I would like to think this has brought back good memories for you.
I hope to write another blog for another Camino in the not too distant future.
Until that time……….. Buen Camino😄