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Camino Primitivo

In June 2015, I hiked the Camino Primitivo, the original pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. The first pilgrim was king Alfonso II of Asturia who walked to the newly discovered burial place of St. James  1 100 years ago. The site was located about 200 miles southwest of his capital Oviedo. The Camino Primitivo follows the footsteps of Alfonso II, leading through remote mountainous areas of extraordinary beauty.

From Santiago, I went to Finisterre and Muxia, located on the Atlantic coast. Most of the time I stayed overnight in the typical albergues, which are very inexpensive places for pilgrims. Everybody who has a pilgrim’s pass (if there is still a bed available) can stay there. The whole pilgrimage took me 3 weeks.

del Norte route_1

Camino del Norte

 

camino primitivo

Camino Primitivo

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 2,

Oviedo – Escamplero

 

Being careful of not repeating my past mistake of walking too many miles the first couple of days, I only walked to the village of Escamplero (8 miles). However, I took a detour to the Pre-Romanesque church of Santa Maria del Naranco and San Miguel de Lillo, both located on a hill above Oviedo.  When I arrived, the morning sun lifted the last remnants of the mist covering the area, creating a nearly mystical atmosphere.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 3,

 ESCAMPLERO – VILLAPAÑADA

 

Until late into the morning, thick mist was covering the countryside. An incredible silence was laying over meadows and fields, only interrupted by the ringing of cowbells and occasional squawks of crows.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 4

 VILLAPAÑADA – SALAS

 

 

It was great to find coolness in the deep, shady ravines under canopies of sweet chestnut and oak trees.

Sometimes, it felt like walking through a cathedral of nature.

In the villages, Mediterranean plants were growing  – camellias, lemon trees, and passionflowers.

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Camino Primitivo, Day 5

Bodenaya – Tineo

 

Walking constantly and slowly uphill, little waterfalls, stonewalls overgrown with moss and flowers and ancient chapels made the path a pure treat.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 6

Tineo – Borres

 

Walking out of Tineo in the direction of Borres, I followed a former Roman road. The wheels of the many wagons driving on the road left grooves in the rock. It was neat to follow these ancient tracks. On this day, I only walked 10 miles.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 7

Borres – Berducedo

 

The hike from Borris to Berducedo is considered the highlight of the Camino Primitivo. The path leads up to nearly 4000 feet and stays up in this height for about 18 miles. It is not recommended to walk it when the weather is bad – but I was lucky. The whole day was cloudless and clear with spectacular views.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 8

Berducedo – Grandas de Salime

 

The first two hours of the morning hike where still up at an altitude of 3000 feet. The silence, beauty and remoteness of the path was stunning. Windmills on the top of the mountain added a curious, deep sound in the distance.

 

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 9

GRANDAS DE SALIME – FONSAGRADA

 

On day nine, I left Asturia and entered Galicia, a place known for the abundance of rain. But only the morning dew and the mist covering the meadows were signs of the wetness of this area and they soon dissolved.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 10

FONSAGRADA – OCÁDAVO-BALEIRA

 

It was already the 4th day that the path was above the clouds, alternating in a constant up and down between 3000 and 4000 feet. Deep green ravines, healthy forests and meadows, hamlets and ruins of former hospices made this over 1000-year-old path into a magical experience.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 11

 OCÁDAVO-BALEIRA – LUGO

 

The heavy mist which covered the town during the night quickly lifted up and the day became cloudless and clear again. Often, the path followed a tiny asphalt road, luckily with no traffic on it. The first rest I took was at the Capilla del Carmen, a little chapel in the middle of a gorgeous oak forest with many picnic tables underneath. I was the only person there.

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Camino Primitivo, Day 12

 LUGO – SAN ROMÁN DA RETORTA

 

Leaving the town through the Puerta de Santiago, the way leads to a Roman bridge over the river Miño and follows most of the time the Roman road. Unfortunately, it is an asphalt street now.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 13

SAN ROMÁN DE RETORTA – MELIDE

 

The beauty and solitude of the Camino Primitivo was embracing me this day with every step. In the morning, the path followed the original Roman road up a hill. Here, the mist touched the silvery leaves of young Eucalyptus trees and a distinct smell of minty pine filled the air. Although I walked alone, I felt connected with the millions of people of the past walking on this road. A magical silence surrounded me.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 14

 MELIDE – RAS

 

Already in early morning, masses of pilgrims where pushing forward toward Santiago. I had to let go of the solitude of the past two weeks. But a different energy replaced the silence and peacefulness – it was the energy of many joyful, openhearted, happy people. The pilgrims came from all over the world. I was very surprised to see so many Asian people, especially Koreans. Five years ago, I met only one Asian, a Japanese pilgrim.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 15

 RAS – MONTE DEL GOZO

 

Although my knee wanted a rest, I did not want to stay in one of the many albergue for a whole day. There was a pull forward, a stream, in which I was swimming like all the other pilgrims. Also, the place I stayed overnight was unpleasant and I was happy that I could leave it in the morning.

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Camino Primitivo, Day 16 /17

 MONTE DO GOZO – SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

 

The history of Santiago de Compostela is closely connected with the “discovery” of the burial ground of St. James in 825. However, this place had high cultic relevance already 3000 years ago and was used as a cultic place by Celtic and Roman people. Besides Jerusalem and Rome, Santiago is one of the most important Christian pilgrimage sites. Nowadays, most of the pilgrims walk for different reasons.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 18

 SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA – FISTERRE

 

In Celtic times and even before, Cape Finisterre was considered the “end of the world” and a major cultic place. Often the medieval pilgrims continued their pilgrimage to Cape Finisterre. At the coast, they collected the scallop as evidence that they had walked the entire Camino to the end of the world. Five years ago, I walked that extra 54 miles with my daughter. This time I only hiked the last eight miles to Fisterre.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 19

FISTERRE –LIRES

 

It was hard to leave the albergue this morning. I was very tempted to stay one more night – but then, I would have been pressed for time and I still had to deal with my knee problem. I left late. The temperature was climbing up to nearly 104 Fahrenheit, with often no shade. It was a mistake. But the route was spectacular. It was recommended by the author of my guidebook, Raimung Joos, whom I met just by coincidence in Santiago. I followed his recommendation and did not regret it.

 

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Camino Primitivo, Day 20

 LIRES – MUXIA

 

Until the evening, heavy mist covered the coastline to Muxia. I was so thankful for that. Often the path went through Eucalyptus forests, the most common tree along the coast and through lush, green vegetation.

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