The Camino is calling…and I must go. Again. :)

It’s that time again. It was supposed to be that time again sooner, but Covid happened. Ever since dealing with the Covid depression that many of us dealt with, I’ve felt like walking another Camino would be a great way to get a body and mind reset. “The Camino provides,” as they say. I know walking won’t fix all the broken of the past few years, but pushing myself to go after things I’ve dreamed about doing helps me take back control of my life. In talking with friends and family over the pandemic, the loss of control was a reoccurring theme. So here we go!

In early May I will return to Spain to walk my fourth Camino. This time the route will be a new one for me – the Camino Primitivo. It’s a 13ish day walk from the northern city of Oviedo through the mountains down to Santiago. It’s 200 miles long and thought of as one of the more difficult routes. It’s also said to be one of the most picturesque. Depending on timing I may start one to two days outside of Oviedo in either Villaviciosa or Pola de Siero.

I’ve started my training, which will consist of adding on more to my already five miles a day of walking and getting out hiking regularly to get my body ready for elevation gain and loss. I’ve also started digging my Camino gear out of closets to assess what I can use again and what new gear I may want or need.

As with my past walks, I’ll be using this blog to chronicle my journey. I’ll check in a bit over the next couple months with my training and packing list, then will plan to post daily on the walk. Happy to have anyone follow along!

Day 10 Part 2: Valga to Santiago de Compostela

Now that I’ve had a night’s rest and have a little downtime I can finally do a full post about the last day of walking. It was actually supposed to be the second to last day of walking. I planned this Camino as an 11 day walk because I felt like 10 days last year was pushing it. Well, so much for taking it easy this time! 😂

Sergio, Lena and I started walking under the stars again. Stefano kept his original plans of staying Padrón and in the outskirts of Santiago for the last two nights, so we had said a temporary goodbye to him when we stayed in Valga. The day was supposed to be only 20 kilometers and we had found a nice albergue to try to stay in at Teo. As we got to one of our breaks, we threw around the idea of going all the way to Santiago. It would be crazy. But we said we’d think on it and decide at our stop in Teo.

As we walked we considered the possibilities around walking 35km to Santiago. This would be the longest day I’ve walked on any Camino if we did it. But I felt good. Even though Lena had been having lots of pain in her legs, her gut told her we should do it. Sergio, went with the usual “I’ll walk 5km and see how I feel.” We just kept laughing about the crazy thought and we kept walking.

We made a stop in Padrón to see the famous stone in the church of Santiago there. The stone is known for being the one that the boat carrying St. James’ body was moored up to.

We walked on and kept toying with the idea of a 35km day. Today’s walk went through small village streets that look almost identical to those we’ve been walking through all along. Each of these villages has the token old lady or old man and at least one cat. Many of the houses feature dog warning signs, even if the “mean” dog in question is too old to get up. These villages and the scenery are what I love about walking the Camino. Seeing the world by foot is the best way to go in my opinion.

At our second stop we were getting more and more serious about arriving in Santiago a day early. So we started thinking about the logistics of changing hotels, etc. Still, we waited until Teo to make our final decision. After we past that point we would only have 15km left to walk. When the numbers start getting that small, it can be hard to want to stop.

Of course we made the crazy decision and kept walking. That’s when it started to get hot and we had lots of big hills to climb. Probably each of us considered stopping short at one point, but we kept going. Finally at our last major stop we all changed our reservations. It was happening.

While the last 2km were probably the hardest, we were excited to finally make it the cathedral. I kind of figured that with the more Camino walks I do, the less emotional it would be to arrive in Santiago. But it’s not. It’s hard to hold back some tears and feel so much pride in what you’ve just accomplished. The friendships, the laughs, the challenges and the pain all come together to create an amazing experience.

Today I’m just taking everything in and getting together with my Camino family and other pilgrims I’ve met along the way. Santiago is such a special place and it feels great to be back here, even if my legs hurt!

Day 9: Barros to Valga

13.3 miles

6:30am to 1:00pm walking time

Today hasn’t been a bad day by any means but it’s just felt like the part of a vacation that’s just “travel day.” The only goal is to get from point A to point B. I suppose that’s every day on the Camino. But often it feels like there’s something unique to see or a fun city to explore. But today our only stops were the normal Camino bars/cafes and then running errands (bank, grocery store) in the one city we walked through.

Today I’ve also been tired – I think all of us have been. With the village party next to our albergue last night, the loud music and fireworks went until 1am, it was hard to get decent sleep. We stopped by the party before it was really getting going at around 9:45pm. It kinda looked like much ado about nothing with a huge stage, a bar and two snack stands. All for about 25 people, most over the age of 70. Since it’s Spain, I’m guessing the party picked up later and things got more exciting a while after we left.

Sergio, Lena and I started off in the dark again. I probably shouldn’t mention that we somehow missed an arrow and started down the wrong road for a bit. I realized it when I opened my geocaching app to see that the power trail of caches I followed on the Camino last year was on the next road over. Luckily we were still headed in the right direction so barely any time lost.

For the most part it was a very easy walk today. Flat trail or road and mostly through farm country. I remember on this same section of the way last year that my cousin Justine and I got caught in a rain storm and waited out a downpour under grape vines in a vineyard. With only two days away from Santiago, I might actually get a rain free walk (minus a little foggy mist).

Being back in Spain, I’m excited about the fact that I can get bocadillos at almost every bar or cafe again. On the Camino Frances, I loved them until I got so bored with eating them. But distance makes the heart grow fonder, so my love for them is back again. Two days ago I got one for my lunch and just like I remember, they’re WAY too big for one meal. Even when you’re a hungry pilgrim. That bocadillo lasted me for two days of lunches. The new one I picked up this morning will do the same. I like getting the jamon and queso bocadillo and then buying a package of chorizo to add to it. Sooo good! The beer and soda are there for scale…

It was supposed to hit 31 degrees today (88 F), so it was nice to finish walking before the hottest part of the day. I think we got lucky and mostly walked in the woods or had a nice breeze to keep the temperature down.

So there’s not much to the “town” of Valga. I already took the full tour and found that it consists of the albergue, a restaurant that’s closed. A building supply store and two bars. One of those bars also acts as a little market. So those two bars our the options for dinner. Hopefully that means something other than a bocadillo. 🙂

The plan for tomorrow right now is a short day of only 20 kilometers and then we just have 15 kilometers left until Santiago on Wednesday. I’m sad that it’s coming to an end soon as I’ve made some great friendships and I love walking even when it hurts. But I know the Camino will be here waiting for me when I come again.

Day 8: Arcade to Barros

15.5 miles

6:15 am to 1:00 pm walk time

Back to a more average length Camino day today. Three of us started before dark. As soon as we left the albergue, I saw a shooting star. It appeared to be headed toward Santiago, so it was like it was leading the way. We needed our lights shortly after leaving the village as we had a climb through the woods on an old Roman road.

Luckily it was the hardest climb of the day. We slowly descended into the city of Pontevedra. I got to log a virtual cache near the Peregrino Cathedral by taking a group photo there.

After leaving the city it was a beautiful walk, luckily mostly flat with the occasional rolling hills. Since there’s a small geocache power trail going into and out of the city, I got to log a few finds along the way. I figure it might take me a few more caminos on this path to get them all. Reason to come back!

After taking a short break about 1km from our albergue we got word that 7 of 16 beds were taken up at the albergue we wanted to stay at in Barros. So we hurried our way there. Turns out, Stefano was able to secure our beds. The owner of the albergue had gone to get food for the communal dinner and told other pilgrims to let people know to put their stuff on a bed to claim it. One aspect of the Camino that isn’t the most fun is worrying about getting a bed. Most of the time it’s fine and there are plenty of places to stay. But in the case of today, it would have been a 6km walk to the next albergue. Not something any of us were excited about doing.

The albergue we are staying in is pretty funky. I walked in to the Beatles playing which was a good sign to me. One of the owners and I already bonded over a love for the Beastie Boys. There’s also a big party at the local church tonight that’s supposed to go until 1am. So we’ll see if we get much sleep. We saw people dressed in what looked like traditional Galician wear and they were already letting off fireworks.

Before heading this way I wrote a blog about the signs of the Camino. So today I thought I’d share some of the many signs that guide you along The Way.

Less than 60km to go to Santiago now. We should be able to break that up nicely over the next three days.

Day 7: Mos to Arcade

12 miles walked

7:45 am to 1:30 pm walking time

Today was the shortest day yet and it was much needed for all of us. I’ve felt good walking the past couple of days but having a lighter day now means I’ll be more likely to enjoy the rest of the walk. The original plan was to head 15 kilometers to a private albergue about 4 kilometers past Redondela. Which is almost what we did.

This morning started off foggy and a little misty. Perfect conditions for heading up a big hill to start the day. Sergio and I walked together most of the morning, occasionally chatting with pilgrims we knew or were just meeting for the first time including a friendly group from Korea.

After a break in Redondela for snacks, stocking up on cash from ATMs and a stop at a Farmacia, all four of headed off toward a recommended albergue a little before Arcade.

All day today I was worried about finding a geocache. I needed one to finish off “Streak Week” and earn my digital souvenir. I kept striking out though. There were very few caches along the way and most had logs indicating they were missing. I checked anyway and sure enough it seemed like they were really gone. Finally I realized that I’d have no choice but to walk extra just to get one. Much easier to do without a backpack though. So I planned that I’d take a walk for a cache after we got settled into our albergue.

We arrived at the recommended albergue at 1pm and the sign on the door said it wouldn’t open for another hour. There was no shade nearby and no cafes or bars either. After a couple minutes I suggested we consider going all the way to Arcade to find an albergue there. At least there we’d have a place to wait out of the sun until an albergue opened. After discussing the distance to there we decided to head on down the Camino. After another kilometer we were checking into a fairly nice albergue.

I failed to mention one of the errands we did in Redondela was picking up a couple bottles of wine for our dinner tonight. Just what you need – an extra bottle of wine worth of weight in your bag. 😳 But at least it is Peregrino wine! Oh, and a bag of Ruffles! I don’t eat Ruffles at home very often but I crave them on the Camino.

After my shower and laundry, I headed out for a two mile walk to find my geocache. Essentially I followed tomorrow’s Camino route to the cache. At least it’s a pretty section of the way so I’m ok with seeing it several times.

Not sure where we will head tomorrow. But we only have to average about 20km a day to reach Santiago. For the rest of today we are enjoying Arcade and Stefano and Sergio will make us all a pasta dinner. Can’t wait for a home cooked meal. However, a nice couple from Slovenia just shared their pork ribs with me and they were pretty tasty! You definitely eat well on the Camino!

Day 6: Tui to Mos

15.5 miles

6:00am to 1pm walking time

We hit under the 100km mark today!

It’s weird to already have less than a 100km to walk. The time always goes by faster than you realize even if your body hurts from the walking. Today I felt some knee pain at one point and later foot pain. But the last 6km from O Porrino to Mos, I was feeling good. Even so, I was so happy to see Mos when we arrived.

We started at 6am, which was actually 5am Portugal time. So it felt early and the sky matched how early it felt. It was us and the stars as we left Tui.

It was very peaceful walking so early even if you couldn’t see much for views along the way. Even better it was a comfortable temperature to walk in. Being late in summer, it’s been getting almost unbearably warm for walking around noon or 1pm.

At one point of the walk a busker was getting ready to start their day next to a stream. We sat there while he warmed up and took in a few songs before we headed on our way.

Sometimes it’s these little moments on the Camino that make you realize that you’re in the place you should be. These moments are what make the Camino so special.

Other than some neat old Roman paths and bridges I’d say today wasn’t one of the better scenery days, but even the meh days on the Camino still have their beauty.

Now that we are in Spain, things are more expensive. Though compared to the United States, still extremely affordable. But often beverages come with snack food (same in Portugal). At our last stop today, for every beverage we ordered, we got a slice of Spanish tortilla. It’s a traditional Spanish dish of egg, potatoes and onions. By the time we done ordering our beverages we had about two slices of tortilla per person. It’s an easy way to not go hungry on the Camino!

Our albergue tonight is really nice and our room even has its own balcony looking over the “city.” Downtown Mos seems to consist of about 10-15 buildings so there’s not much to do here and that’s kinda nice. We got to wash our clothes in a real washer. Much better than hand washing any day! Sometimes it’s the little things.

Tomorrow there’s talk of a pretty short day. I think we are all ready for that. As for now, we’re sitting on a patio with our Estrella Galicia beer and chatting. Loving it!

Day 5: Labruja to Tui

19 miles

6:25 am to 5:00pm walking time

Originally I thought I wouldn’t make it to Spain today. I thought I’d have one more night in the north of Portugal. But then my legs felt good and Stefano from Italy had a strong desire to stay in Tui. Since we all had a great time together at the albergue last night, I don’t think any of us really wanted to part ways. So we walked the extra 3.4 kilometers to Tui.

Today ended up being an easier day that I imagined and it started out perfectly. We left the albergue while it was still dark out. We made it up to highest point of the walk just before sunrise. I remember the climb being brutal last year since it was later in the day and hot out. Today it was easy and much quicker than I remembered.

It’s actually one of the most peaceful trails of the Camino. And even more so being that we were the only pilgrims we saw until we got to the top. Even then, only two other pilgrims showed up before we left.

After reaching the summit it was literally almost all downhill from there for the rest of the day, until the end when you have to climb the hills to the town center of Tui.

Before reaching Tui we took a few rest stops including lunch in Valença, Portugal. The last stop before the border. Along the way we started to see more and more pilgrims than we have before. That’s generally the case the closer you get to Santiago, as you only have to walk 100km to earn your compostela. I also met the first Americans today on the trail, all of which were part of a Camino tour group.

It’s good to be back in Tui, but since we arrived at 5pm Spain time, we ended up with the last four beds at the albergue – all four top bunks. This is one of my bigger fears of the Camino since I have a fear of falling. The albergue also has another thing I’ve hated the idea of my whole life – shared showers. The kind with no walls. 😳 But the Camino is supposed to test you, right? Consider me tested.

Hopefully tomorrow we will be able to reach an albergue before it fills up. Or I just might have to search out another “suite” again. 🙂 All in all, it was a great day on the Camino. My body is starting to feel in the Camino groove, which makes it almost feel easy to walk 19 miles in a day!

Day 4: Vilhadiz to Labruja

16 miles

7:45 am to 2:45 pm walk time

This is my current view at my albergue…

I guess that view will have to do for the night. Yesterday Lena gave me a tip for a new albergue that was past Ponte de Lima but before the “big mountain.” Right now I’m pretty happy that I followed that tip. I actually splurged the extra 7 euros to book the “suite” in the albergue. Luxury pilgrim. 🙂

Today’s start was later than I generally leave, as Casa Fernanda doesn’t start breakfast until 7:30. Though I didn’t want breakfast, I did need my stamp in my credential and I needed to pay for my stay. So I got up with everyone else and then went on my way. Though I didn’t leave before saying goodbye to some of the cats at Casa Fernanda.

It was overcast and a bit foggy for much of the morning – perfect walking weather. Other than two pilgrims, I didn’t see much of anyone but locals for the 8 mile walk into Ponte De Lima.

Even though it was still early on in my Camino day, my legs felt tired. All the hard rocks and cobblestones really take a toll on your legs and feet, especially after three days of already wearing your body out on the Camino. But you continue on.

Upon arriving in Ponte de Lima I was happy to finally see more pilgrims. Laurent and Ralph from Luxembourg waved me down, so I joined them at a cafe for a few minutes before they took off again. They still had 20km and the “big mountain” to walk today. As I was about to leave the cafe, Lena along with Stefano from Italy and Sergio from Sweden arrived. I took off to find a geocache because it’s streak week for geocaching and I need to try to find one every day for the rest of August. After finding it, I headed off for Labruja.

Again, walking alone and not seeing any pilgrims, I started to think how I was never alone or far from other pilgrims on my past two Caminos. I like the quiet time to think and enjoy nature, but I like being social and meeting people from around the world. It’s probably my favorite aspect of the Camino to be honest. Any loneliness that might have started to set in was quickly avoided for today after making my next stop at a cafe where there were familiar faces.

With only about six kilometers left to walk, we were hitting the prettiest scenery of the day.

So far no other pilgrims other than Lena, Stefano and Sergio are here at the albergue. There’s another albergue next door where we know some other pilgrims. There’s pretty much nothing to do here except sit and enjoy the view and the company. Ah the Camino!

Day 3: Barcelos to Vilhadiz

13 miles

8:25am to 1:50pm walk time

The “easiest” days on the Camino tend to be the hardest. I don’t know if it’s your mindset thinking it’s going to be so easy, but the reality of walking the distance of a half marathon up and down hills while the day gets hotter and hotter makes the short days feel just as brutal as the long days. Every time you check your guidebook, there happens to still be 5km left. And today was only 17-18km (11 miles) according to the guidebook. Though the gps in my Fitbit says it was just over 13. But eventually you get there. And it’s so great when you finally do.

Especially today when several doggies and kitties came out to greet my arrival at Casa Fernanda. This albergue is legendary on the Camino Portugués. Everyone who has stayed there raves about it online. Even my friend Bruno said Fernanda was wonderful and he didn’t even get to stay there. I’m told there are seven Germans, someone from Spain, someone from the UK and me staying there today. It’s one big room with 10 beds (no bunk beds!) and two bathrooms in the back yard of Fernanda’s house. I look forward to the communal dinner later this evening.

Today started off fairly bland as it takes a while to leave the city and outskirts of Barcelos. There were lots of pilgrims out as I was leaving town. At one point I got stopped by a local farmer who jumped out of his tractor to tell me in Portugués and hand signs that I should stop at the next cafe that was about 100 meters ahead and that the next cafe was 5km away. After that I think he said if I didn’t stop I would have my arm sliced off and I’d have to pray to get into heaven. At least that’s what I think he said to me. And then it looked like he was saying the same to the next pilgrim.

So I stopped at the cafe. Turns out Lena from Germany who I met in Vila do Conde was there. She said she had also booked Casa Fernanda, so we spent the day walking to the albergue together.

Today offered pretty views but a lot more hills than my legs really wanted to handle. I think walking 64+ km in the past two days is catching up with me. I knew today would include lots of vineyards and farm country and I remember enjoying the scenery from last year. I do think the arrows make you automatically go for the more scenic but more strenuous hillside route that takes longer, which is why it was over 21 km when the walk was completed.

Anyway, tomorrow may end up for real being a short day. Fernanda serves breakfast at 7:30. Ponte de Lima should only be about 8 miles away and I think I’ll plan to stay there. Having an easier day may help me regain some energy in my legs to help with the biggest climb of this Camino the day after.