Sunday, September 16, 2012

Camino Primitivo: Oviedo to Lugo

I stayed in my nice hostal in Oviedo as long as possible and with a well meaning cleaning woman this meant 1 pm. I just wanted to do some last shopping and then hike a short day. But when I arrived st the supermarket it was closed. Guess why? There was a fiesta, of course! I could not believe this happening to me 4 times in a row. Every time I am in town shops are closed on a normal day because of some obscure fiesta. Luckily I still had some food and at least bakeries were open which meant I would not starve while the rest of Spain was indulging in a fiesta.

Motorway construction
Rather grumpily I left otherwise nice Oviedo and hoped for better trail. I had now changed from the Camino del Norte onto the Camino Primitivo, the oldest pilgrimage trail in Spain. In my German guidebook it was described as the most demanding, but also most spectacular trail. Unfortunately, the first couple of days were nothing spectacular at all, just the danger old road walks. Only the costal motorway was now replaced with motorway A 63 which was one huge construction site and an even bigger eye sore. I was really getting fed up with all these Caminos!

But then, after a couple of days things improved tremendously. Firstly, A63 was left behind and the percentage of road walks plummeted tremendously. I was now mostly on dirt roads and even single file trail was seen. Secondly, the landscape improved. This was hilly country and the trail rose up to 1,200 m. Though not the most breathtaking scenery it was a quite pleasant landscape. But most importantly, this was eventually a real rural area. No more big settlements, only small and tiny villages. Some fields, lots of pastures and eventually plenty of forest. Not even Eucalyptus, but pine trees. I felt like I was eventually hiking again instead of pounding pavement.

With these changes the camping situation also improved. I did not have to plan the while day ahead but was able to find possible campsites very frequently. But unfortunately another problem reappeared: Ticks! Ticks had not been a problem since I had left Germany but here they were out again in vengeance. Every night I spent a long time searching for them and usually found 20 (!) per night. I felt very uneasy about not being able to check my back but it could not be helped. Being a hypochondriac I now of course think that every little ache is a sign of Lyme Disease.

Fog on Puerta de Alto
I feel very tired right now and although I am enjoying my hike I am glad it will be over soon. I have therefore decided to finish it in Santiago de Compostella instead of walking 90 km further to Cabo Finisterre. I want to have a relaxed finish and some time for sightseeing instead of rushing till the very last day. I am taking it relatively easy now and hiking 30 km per day is not a problem in this easy terrain. My guidebook author however does not think it is easy here. He warns pilgrims of the stage up to the pass at Puerta de Alto: "Only attempt it when you feel mentally and physically prepared for it. Take enough food and water as the next bar is 22 km away!" As I had expected the stage was dead easy despite these warnings and an incredibly thick fog. I could hardly see 50 metres, but the route is incredibly well marked and you can't really get lost.

I soon changed from the province of Asturias into Galicia and to confuse the pilgrims a bit the way of waymarking changes here. The trail is marked with yellow arrows and the shell symbol. But whereas in Asturias the small side of the shell is pointing into walking direction, in Galicia out of the broad side. I am also curious to find out what fiestas they have here....

Lugo cathedral
I am currently having a Nero day in Lugo, my last town stop before the end of my hike. Lugo is famous for its completely intact Roman town wall and beautiful cathedral. I took a look at it on a Saturday night when weddings were taking place there like on a conveyor belt. Seems to be a very popular place to tie the knot. This being a weekend I was a bit worried about finding accommodation. I don't want to stay in the pilgrims' hostels and have to find alternative accommodation. The first hostal I walked in offered me a single room for a mere 12 EUR. I could hardly believe that such a bargain is still possible in a touristy place in Western Europe. The place is sort of a dive, but is clean and there is even a TV in the room. Writing about this place here the only light bulb in the room has just gone out...

But economy is bad here. Unemployment rate in Spain in Spain is 20% and probably much higher here on rural Galicia. When I treated myself to a cheap menu del dia yesterday the friendly waitress explained all the food options in perfect English to me. When I enquired where she had learned it she said she had a university degree in English but could not find any other work than as a waitress in a cheap restaurant. I am now waiting in my rather dark room for the cleaning lady to arrive and throw me out of my hostal to hike the last 4 days to Santiago. Still it seems like yesterday to me that I started this hike in snow at the German/Czech border...

1 comment:

tio tel said...

At least your comments on the Camino Primitivo are less scathing than those on the Norte! A few comments may help those thinking about pilgrim routes in Spain.
Firstly, they are NOT and were never intended to be "Long Distance Trails" If someone 'sold' them to you on that basis, they were wrong! They are Pilgrimage Routes, leading to Santiago de Compostela, rather something to do and be 'ticked off' on your world-wide itinary.
Secondly, those of us who know and love Spain would avoid the north coast resorts in high summer, along with Easter and the May Day w/e.
Thirdly, "stealth camping" (wild camping) is illegal in most areas in Spain! The lighting of fires is strictly prohibited because of the risk to forestry. Do not forget that there are bears and wolves in the mountains - also feral wolf / dog hybrids which are far more dangerous!
I can only think that you missed some of the trails and diverted down the roads! The Norte may be 30% pavement but there are beautiful stretches of walking - before and after Ribadesella comes to mind, especially between La Vega (the coastal one) and La Isla.

Enjoy your hiking!
Tio Tel