Sunday, August 18, 2013

Primitivo Day 1: Asturias and Escamplero

The start in Oviedo

Today was our first day on the Camino Primitivo - not only was Leah coming off of two days rest, but it also made sense for us to start this new thing slowly and only go about 12km today. The goal was to end up in El Escamplero, the first albergue our book provided along the Primitivo. 

Taking advantage of the fact that we didn't get kicked out of an albergue at 7am, we slept until 10. Then we just went downstairs to our El Tayuelu tavern and got tortilla española (omlette with potatoes), complete with a side dose of our favorite wifi. Leah decided to finally throw out the bag of frozen peas she had been using to ice her leg so we won't have to carry it, and we decided to try to find groceries for our lunch. The problem was that we had yet again found ourselves in a major city on a Sunday. 

Sunday is a holy day in Catholic Spain, so everything is closed on Sundays. It took us a long while to find a place that would sell us some groceries, but we ended up buying bread, tuna, and beans for our lunch. We found a bakery to buy sweet pastries for our midday snack - no one can resist the delicious. It also magically happened that I dropped my Spanish cell phone, rendering it completely incapable of making calls. Since at this point Kayla still did not have a cell phone, we only had Leah's phone between us. We hoped this would be enough...

After all the morning adventure, we only managed to leave Oviedo at 1pm. Given that we had no idea where the Camino was through Oviedo, we were lucky to run into two women (who we would later meet as Susana and the Norwegian woman) who pointed us in the right direction. On the way out of town I saw an internet cafe and sat there for about half an hour while Leah and Kayla went ahead (we figured this would be ok, since I walked faster than they did anyway). 

Walking through Asturias

Asturias is different. For one, we are no longer walking by the sea. To give you an idea, here is a map:


The red is the Camino del Norte (the Northern Way), and the green is the Camino Primitivo (the Primitive Way). While the northern route we had been talking so far had been close to the coast, the primitive way was more inland. This means the climate was different (for one, there was less breeze, and it was hotter during the day), but it also meant that we were at higher elevation more in the mountains, and it was colder at night. It also meant the sounds of the ocean were too far to be heard. 

Sensory information was replaced: the low rumble of ocean waves was replaced by the clamor of cowbells. 


The salt small is replaced by a faint smell of cow dung, and the insects seem 1000 times louder. Of course, there are still blackberries lining the sides of the trail, but fewer than before. The mountains (I assume they are the Picos de Europa) are never far from your sight, looming behind you as you walk. It is true that there are fewer people, fewer villages. Finally, we have found the real hiking. 

The villages themselves are more quaint. Every house or complex seems to have a hórreo - a type of granary used to store and dry corn and other food. 


And of course, the views of the countryside are always stunning.



El Escamplero

We had been warned to  not expect as much direct hospitality at the albergues on the Primitivo, and the first albergue on the Primitivo was no different. There was no hospitaliero - you had to go to the one restaurant in the town of Escamplero to check in to the albergue (the first one has to get the key from there too). I got there at 4, so I had plenty of time to relax. When Leah and Kayla got to the albergue in the evening, we and all the other peregrinos staying at the albergue went out to eat dinner at the one restaurant in town. Complete of course with cider sangría - darn good if you ask me. 

We were quite the motley crew: our new Polish friend Susanna, a Polish man in his 30s, a Norwegian woman in her 30s who had done the Camino Francés the year before, a young German guy from Dortmund, a French man in his 30s, and us three silly Americans. We had a great dinner, for the first time with a large group of other peregrinos (aside from my adventure in Güemes). It seemed like the start of a family. 

Back at the albergue the Norwegian woman was trying to lighten her load, so Kayla acquired a set of plastic camping bowls and I acquired some more basic first aid supplies.

Looking ahead

The promise of a washing machine tomorrow sounded like a better promised land than anything we had ever had before - I was flat out of clean underwear for more than 3 days at this point, and my pants had not been washed the entire trip. I was ready to get back to walking a lot and washing out the salt stains from the knees of my pants. Today was 12km and I was hungry for more!