Blog: Day by Day on the Camino Primitivo

Blog: Day by Day on the Camino PrimitivoIn Episode 92 of the podcast, Nick and Wendy talked about walking the Camino Primitivo – the Original Way – of the Camino de Santiago. To complement1 the episode, Nick wrote a day-by-day description of the walk for our blog.

If you haven’t listened to the episode yet, you can do so below:

Day 1: Oviedo to Escampleros (via Naranco) – ~17km

Looking at the mist through the arches of the ninth-century church Santa Maria del Naranco.

We had braced2 ourselves for rain, and rain we got. It was not an auspicious3 beginning but we put on our ponchos4 and set out from Oviedo anyway.

The two Naranco churches (and Santa Maria de Naranco in particular) were fabulous and well worth the detour despite the weather. Looking out from the inside, the mist seemed a lot more atmospheric than when we were walking in it!

After Naranco, thankfully, the rain more or less stopped for the rest of the day. We were glad to reach Lampaxuga and join the main trail, which made us finally feel that we were on the Primitivo.

After a short day to ease ourselves back into the Camino, we’re now in the albergue at Escamplero with a lovely American family of seven, an interesting and talkative Swedish man and a quiet German woman.

Day 2: Escamplero to Villapañada – ~17km

A colt enjoys the grass after the morning rain.

We walked in heavy rain from Escamplero all the way to Grado, which took a bit longer than three hours, including a detour to the Roman Baths after Premoño. We’re both former Roman tour guides so we’ll stop for anything Roman, and while these baths weren’t particularly noteworthy, it was nice to have something like that to break up the squelchy5 slog that was our morning.

We also walked for a time with the American family of seven who we met yesterday, and they seemed in good spirits despite the rain.

We arrived in Grado at about 11am, had some tea to warm up, and stocked up on two meals’ worth of groceries for the albergue at San Juan de Villapañada.

For the last hour or so to Villapañada, it stopped raining and the mist cleared, giving us much better views of the nearby rolling hills and the distant mountains. This was probably the most enjoyable part of the trail so far.

The rural albergue in Villapañada is extremely peaceful, with beautiful views, and it’s definitely worth continuing here from Grado. For a while we were the only ones here but there are about 10 pilgrims here now.

Day 3: San Juan de Villapañada to Bodenaya – ~28km

The little rivers and greenery of Asturias.

After yesterday’s rain, we braced ourselves for more but the camino was kind to us today and it didn’t rain at all. We set out at 7:20am and walked about 28km, a big step up from the first two days. Thankfully, Wendy, who has plantar fasciitis in both feet, has finally found insoles6 that work and she is largely pain-free.

It was a beautiful walk today with a lot of the trail going through forests and alongside little rivers. Like Galicia, the greenery in Asturias is really something.

We didn’t see much of historical interest today but we were happy to just enjoy the nature and not walk in the rain.

Day 4: Bodenaya to Campiello – ~24km

Snails on the trail!

No real rain again today, although there was a lot of mud on the way to Tineo which we had to slog7 through. We walked through a lot of fog and mist in the morning but that has just become a normal part of the Primitivo for me now. It’s already hard for me to imagine this Camino ever having blue skies and full visibility. 

That said, around midday, I briefly saw something for the first time on the Primitivo: my own shadow. Yes, we had about 15 minutes of sunshine which warmed the soul and the feet.

We’ve been walking on and off for the last two days with a great group of pilgrims who are, for now, doing the same stages. The combination of this group and the incredibly welcoming nature of the Bodenaya albergue last night has meant that the spirit of the Camino is alive and well, and shining as brightly as it ever has for us.

Day 5: Campiello to Berducedo (via Hospitales) – ~ 29km

Montefurado has a population of one, an old man named José.

Six of us set off together at about 7am this morning with five others about 15 minutes ahead. There hadn’t been rain the previous two days and none was forecast today, so we all decided to go for the Hospitales route.

It was foggy, as it has been for the entire Primitivo, but before we really started climbing the visibility was still pretty good. As always, the beautiful greenery of Asturias was on display. 

As we climbed it got foggier, but never so much that it caused way-finding difficulties. We stopped for some snacks at the second of the ruined pilgrim complexes with 5-6 others who we have been walking with for several days now, and had a nice moment reflecting on the history of the Camino.

After we passed the third ruin, most of the fog lifted and we had decent views of the surrounding mountains as we started the decent. The tiny village of Montefurado (population: 1) was a highlight, although we were pretty tired by then with nearly 8kms still to go. 

We made it to the albergue Casa Marquez at Berducedo at about 4:15pm and tonight we’re having a pasta party in the albergue with 10+ pilgrims, so that should be fun!

Day 6: Berducedo to Castro – ~26km

Spring wild flowers among burnt out trees made for a fascinating scene.

Another great day on the Primitivo in similar conditions to the last four days: fog, mist, thick cloud cover, but no real rain.

Just before Buspol, a sign alerted us to a fire that took place in April 2017. There is a detour that is encouraged, but since it is nearly 2km longer, a group of us decided to take the regular route anyway. And we’re very glad we did, because the burnt out forest with spring wildflowers growing in it was a hauntingly8 beautiful sight. 

We reached Grandas in time for lunch and decided to press on to Castro so we could see the ruins there. We called ahead and got the last two beds in the albergue in Castro, and made it in time to rest up a bit and then go on the 5:30pm guided tour of the ruins.

We were the only two people on the tour, and it was well worth it. The main site dates from the 6th century BC as a fortified Iron Age settlement, with Roman modifications in the first two centuries AD before it was mysteriously abandoned.

Day 7: Castro to Fonsagrada – ~20km

Crossing into Galicia!

Because we did the extra 5km yesterday from Grandas to Castro, that meant today was our shortest day for a while. Since it’s our wedding anniversary, that’s fine by us!

I didn’t find the trail especially interesting today but passing into Galicia is always a special moment, which a few of us celebrated with photos at the border. Later, the distance to Santiago passed below 155.5km, which I think means we’re now more than halfway through the Primitivo.

Fonsagrada is really the only option for a place to stay in these parts. We’re at the Albergue Cantábrica in a private room, and we got upgraded to a very nice one (by our standards) because of our anniversary. The Camino provides, again!

Day 8: Fonsagrada to O Cádavo Baleira – ~25km

We started late today (about 8am) and for the first 2.5 hours this morning, we walked in the rain – the first real rain for six days. I arrived at the Casa Méson in Paradavella to find a few pilgrim friends sitting down for a rest, and in good spirits. Barcelona pilgrim Carles bought some wine with him so we had a glass at 10:30am! Along with tea and some breakfast (the Galician attempt at pan con tomate), it made for a great stop with great people, and it kept me in high spirits for the rest of the day. 

The day passed quickly, it didn’t rain again, and I felt good physically after feeling a bit lethargic9 yesterday.

Day 9: Cádavo Baleira to Lugo – ~30km

The Roman walls of Lugo with its cathedral towers in the background.

Our longest day on the Primitivo, and our first day of walking in extended sunshine. We left at about 8am and arrived in Lugo just before 4pm.

It was lovely to walk in the sun for a change and to change headwear from buff10 to hat. There were some nice little stretches of forest along the way and the walk was mostly flat and pretty easy, though there was a bit of asphalt walking. 

We’ve wanted to visit Lugo since we first heard about it around 10 years ago, because of the walls. And we finally made it!

Day 10: Lugo (Rest Day)

The main square of Lugo.

We enjoyed our rest days in Burgos and León on the Camino Francés last year so we always planned to take one in Lugo this time around.

It was a pretty lazy day, although we did walk the full circuit of the Roman walls and visit the interpretation centre for the walls, which contained three interesting short films. A lot of the other sites were closed on Sunday afternoon but we didn’t mind as it allowed us to rest up for the last four days of walking. Unfortunately I’m coming down with a cold but hopefully I did enough today (soups, teas and cough drops) to limit the damage. I’ll find out tomorrow…

Day 11: Lugo to Ferreira – ~26km and Day 12: Ferreira to Boente – ~26km

There isn’t much to say about the last two days, really. Today we walked in the rain all day, and yesterday we did a fair bit too. I’ve had a head cold and some sort of Achilles problem (swelling, soreness), so it hasn’t been a great way to wind down11 the Primitivo. There’s also been a lot of road walking, but mostly it’s the rain that is getting to me. We actually had a pretty good run avoiding heavy rain for most of the Primitivo in Asturias, but Galicia has been less kind to us.

Day 13: Boente to Santa Irene – ~23km

The greenery of the Camino in Galicia.

After yesterday’s tough day, today was much better. We woke up refreshed after having a dormitory to ourselves last night at Os Albergues in Boente, a side benefit of our strategy to desynchronise from the main stages of the Francés.

There was some light rain today, but not much. Walking with dry feet/shoes after yesterday was much appreciated. There didn’t seem to be many people on the trail compared with our expectations, but that may have been due to our desynchronisation and/or a lower number of Spanish pilgrims than usual on the last 100km due to the long-term weather forecast.

In any case, it was an easy and pleasant day with some nice forest scenery.  

On to Santiago tomorrow! Rain is in the forecast but perhaps that will be an appropriate way to end this camino…

Day 14: Santa Irene to Santiago – ~23km

We made it to Santiago!

We left shortly after 7am so we could reach Santiago at a reasonable hour for lunch.

By the time we reached O Pedrouzo after 3km, we well and truly12 hit the Francés crowds that we’d mostly managed to avoid the previous two days. All our Primitivo friends were ahead of us (though not by as much as we thought) owing to our rest day in Lugo, so we just walked steadily, not stopping or talking much. There was some light rain but nothing we couldn’t handle after our pretty wet Camino.

The view of Santiago from Monte de Gozo was mostly obscured by fog – somewhat appropriate given the foggy nature of the first half of the Primitivo.

We arrived to find quite a bit less scaffolding13 on the cathedral than last year, which was nice. When we arrived, midday mass was just finishing up and we saw some of our companions from the Primitivo, which was great. We had already arranged to meet several more in the evening and in the end there were more than 20 of us from nine different countries.  

We had a great evening reminiscing about our Caminos and pondering14 our next ones. 

And that’s it from the Camino Primitivo! After two nights in Santiago we took the bus back to Lisbon and real life.

  1. complement: go with, accompany
  2. braced: prepared for something bad
  3. auspicious: promising, fortunate
  4. ponchos: rain covers
  5. squelchy: muddy, wet
  6. insoles: extra padding to put into your shoes
  7. slog: walk heavily or with difficulty
  8. hauntingly: remaining in one’s memory
  9. lethargic: lacking in energy
  10. buff: multi-functional headwear that can be used as a headband
  11. wind down: finish slowly
  12. well and truly: definitely, absolutely
  13. scaffolding: temporary structures fixed to a building to help workers with construction, cleaning or restoration
  14. pondering: thinking about

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