Fog City Boy on the Camino Primitivo
Oviedo, Asturias, Spain – September 3, 2016
[Note: This blog entry is published on a greatly delayed basis due to limitations of my WordPress platform and the non-availability of internet facilities along The Way. This entry is actually published in the small town of A Fonsagrada on September 14th. It now appears unlikely that additional internet facilites will be available until I return home from the Camino. That said, I intend to continue the blog, albeit on a delayed basis. Thank you for your patience!]
The transit from San Francisco to my starting point of Villaviciosa was good. That is to say, it was wholly uneventful. Eventful travels usually are not good.
United Airlines got me to London Heathrow where I cleared immigration, reclaimed my mochilla and caught an express bus for Stansted – one of the other three London airports. After a compfortable night at a hotel at the airport, I arrived at STN with adequate time to board an easJet flight to OVD – the Asturias Airport that serves Oviedo. [Should you ever fly out of STN, be prepared for immersion in a huge shopping mall as you wend your way through innumerable duty free stores and luxury goods shops. There must be at least 100 of them. Allow an extra half hour to push your way past!] This all happens after you clear secuity!
At the Asturias Airport, clearing immigration was swift, the mocihlla was waiting for me, and I was off in minutes aboard a series of comfortable busses that ultimately brought me to Villaviciosa.
I wandered through the town quite lost. En route, I found a busy grocery store – locally styled supermercado – where I bought my two tins of sardines that I carry as standby nourishment in the event that a better alternative eludes me on The Way.
Eventually I espied a yellow waymark! There is nothing more reassuring to a peregrino than a yellow arrow, which affirms that you are not really lost again.
I had to reverse engineer my travel through town because I had connected with the Primitivo a bit past town central where I had planned to spend the night. I back tracked and found the 13th Century Church of Santa Maria de la Oliva. The Way – any of the official Ways – almost always passes by the church in the towns through which the pilgrim will travel.
From there, finding Hotel Carlo I (the First) was easy. It is a pilgrim friendly hotel and accommodated my need to be up and out earlier than their usual breakfast hour. They gave me my first sello [stamp] in my credencial [pilgrim passport – which attests to the peregrenacion and qualifies the pilgrim for a compostela upon arrival in Santiago].
At the recommendation of the hotel owners, I had a nice menu del dia for lunch at Restaurante Casa Milagros just down the street two blocks. Shrimp soup followed by codfish and garbanbzo stew, bread and wine. Desert was available but I delined. All ths for €11. Sitting at the table by the front door, I noticed a laundromat across the street. A special blessing. I washed all my travel clothes for €5 and they dried overnight back at Hotel Carlo I.
I toured the town which has both historic buildings and newer ones supporting the arts.
I was up early the next morning, did my daily stretches, enjoyed the breakfast hotel staff had set out for me the night before, threw on my pack, grabbed my sticks, and headed out on the Camino Primitivo.
The commercial part of town swiftly gives way to residential communities and then to rural contryside. Thirty minutes after leaving the hotel, I heard the stinctive “clack-clang” of cowbells. And then there were cows. That clack-clang would follow me all through Asturias, just as the cuckoo followed me along the Camino Frances last year. Hmmmmm. Not exactly the same.
Asturias has two principal agricultural foci: Dairy farming, and apples. I have seen lots of cows and lots of apple orchards in my first two days on the Primitivo. The Principality of Asturias is located on the Bay of Biscay, and fishing is a priminant industry as well. Seafood is ubiquitous in local restaurants. Along with sidra – a fermented apple cider found in all bars and restaurants I have encounterd so far. It is served in such a fashion as to aeriate the beverage, enhancing the flavor.
I contined on the way and was quite taken by the beautiful countryside through which I passed.
Shortly later I came to the point at which the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo divide. [Note that in Asturias, the hinge of the concha (scollop shell) points the way. In Galicia, the reverse is true: the rays of the shell point the way.]
It is accompanied by a small chappel and a waymark attesting to the divide.
At this point, I met a plesant Belgian peregrina who was walking her third Camino, as am I. Her native language is French and she understands a few words of English. She is able to make herself understood in Spanish, fortunately, which benefitted me as we walked together for a few hours.
I encountered four cats on my first day on the Original Way: Two black cats and two Siamese. One of them was guarding a municipal garbage can that sported the highly sought after yellow arrow:
We encountered a very strenuous climb, which took us to the crest of a major pass. Another pilgrim arrived at that point and we had to decide which of two routes to persue. He went the “upper” route (shorter but steeper) while we took the “lower” route. Both routes eventually reconverge. Along the way we encountered two memorable Camino expedriences.
Two Asturian gentlemen asked about our travels. I didn´t understand a word of what they said, but Anne Marie was able to converse with them. They invited both of us into the neighborhood hangout they maintained and offered us sidra. How could we refuse? Why would we refuse?
First they offered a commercially brewed and bottled sidra. It was good! Alcohol content per the label was 4.8 percent. Then they offered their own preparation. I liked it better, and said so. Alcohol content per the gentlemen was 6 percent! We enjoyed our intruction to the serving of sidra, as you will observe in two videos that I hope to publish in the final “wrap up” of this chronicle once I return home to San Francisco. [Technical limitations have subverted my ability to upload moderately large files, including some videos.]
Not wanting to get too relaxed, we thanked them for their gracious hospitality, and pressed on.
Shortly, we cam to the Oratory of San Salvador which dates from 893. We stopped for a tour and to get our credentiales stamped. The Oratory shares the compound with a Cistercian Monestary and an albergue de peregrinos.
Eventually we pressed on. The day was gettting hotter and the climbs were getting steeper. But we got through it, as did four young guys from Ireland who had caught up with us along the way. They are young, strong, and enthusiastic, and hope to complete the hike in 11 days. I plan to do it in 20 days!
Eventually we reached the small town of La Vega de Sariego where there is a small albergue. My Belgian colleague decided to call it a day, though the alberque wouldn’t open for another two hours. Pola de Siero had been my target destination for the day. It was another 10.6 km away. I considered the options. I felt, frankly, awful. But I decided to press on. We shook hands, wished each other buen camino! And I walked on ahead.
It is hard and a bit dangerous to seek a state of “no-mind” when on the Camino. The Camino sometimes traverses swiftly moving highway traffic, and the peregrino needs all his wits about him. Jim was with me on that first day of the Camino Primitivo. Exhorting me and reminding me that Pmax is about second efforts, third efforts, fourth efforts, and fifth efforts. Jim is with me everyday on The Way.
The Primitivo winds through a pleasant woods,
past a small country church,
and eventually emerges at Pola de Siero, a good size city with a substantial church in the center of the city.
I had hoped to stay there, but all the hotels were sold out. A friendly desk clerk pointed me to a nearby town with a hotel that accommodated me nicely. (The cab ride was swift, as was the one the next day that returned me to Pola.) Although I am not unwilling to stay in alberques, I am resigned to acknowledging that I am an “en suite” peregrino. I like my creature comforts.
I was NOT up early the next morning. I was fatigued when I went to bed and my circadians even as I pen this e-missive have not fully adjusted. I had slept about 11 hours when I arose just in time for a light breakfast. The clerk called a cab, and I set out on a relatively short (16.5 km) but hot day. I had had the foresight to book ahead in Oviedo. Finding the hotel with the benefit of my Maps App was not difficult.
The cathedral in Oviedo is quite grand and the artwork impressive, as are the relics in the Holy Room which include a cloth that covered Jesus face after the cruxifician. The cloth was smuggled from Jeruselum by Christians who did not want it destroyed by the Romans, eventually reaching Oviedo by way of North Africa. In front of the cathedral is a statue of Alfonso II who initiated construction of the cathedral.
Oviedo is a sizeable city and the capital of the Principality of Asturias. In addition to local folks, visitors flock to the old town to enjoy the restaurants and siderias. It was Friday night and a good time was being had by all. I enjoyed savoring a glass of vino tinto and watching the show.
Today has been a recovery day for me. I feel better and optimistic about tomorrowś trek. I hope to be up and out early to beat the heat as best I can.
With that, I’m off.
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