Saturday, April 30, 2016

Practical Advice for the Camino Primitivo

The first time I drafted this post it was on my phone in Word. Which doesn't appear to have an automatic Save function. Worse, you seem to be able to exit without being told you haven't saved your draft. Which, I have to admit, I'd discovered previously. So, from memory . .

If you're reading this because you're contemplating doing the Primitivo camino, please first read my post of April 26, in which I suggest this should only be done in rather narrow circumstances. Now on to the advice:
  • Bear in mind that, when everyone says that this is the both the most beautiful and the toughest camino, this classifies as British understatement. At least as regards the second aspect.
  • Unless you're supremely fit and young - or a Marine or an Olympic athlete - train for this challenge. Practice walking up steep slopes with at least 10 kilos on your back. Perhaps one of your children.
  • Don't attempt to do this camino without poles or with only one. Take two. You'll certainly need them.
  • Go on the internet and view the short but very useful videos on pole technique.
  • Don't do this camino in winter unless you're what's used to be called an Eskimo.
  • If you're planning to do the walk in spring or autumn, do your hill practice while pouring water on yourself and changing into your wet-weather gear at the same time. And, if you can find some mud, spend an hour or two a day, tramping through this at the same time. Preferably uphill but also downhill. Add rocks, if these are to hand.
  • When you read the advice that leggings are advisable, don't laugh and ignore it. The only alternative is to roll your trousers up to your knees and get your shins and calves wet and/or muddy. If you don't do either of these, 'wicking' will ensure you eventually have wet thighs and groin even when the rest of you is dry under your wet-weather gear. As for the latter, some believe that waterproof jacket and trousers are superior to the ubiquitous cape. If you do opt for the former, make sure you have a waterproof cover for your backpack.
  • Walk intelligently 1: If there is grass in the middle of the path or even at the side, walk on it. It's like treading on a luxuriously thick carpet. Most pilgrims are like sheep; they stick (literally sometimes) to the mud and rock filled ruts. Actually, not like sheep as these would eat the grass first.
  • Walk intelligently 2: Where there is water running down one of the ruts, walk in it. It's always shallow and on rock, so easier and faster to negotiate – and less energy sapping - than mud. The same applies to muddy pools, though it's best to check the depth of these with a pole before you tread in them. This assumes your footwear is waterproof. If it isn't, get rid of it pdq.
  • Walk intelligently 3: When negotiating mud or rocks – or the dreaded combination of both – take a tip from rock climbers and be sure you know where you're going to put your foot before you raise it from the ground. This might slow you down a bit – and prevent rubber-necking - but it reduces the risk of falling and breaking a leg. Or at least twisting an ankle.
  • If you're walking alone, make sure you have a phone number to call in the case of problems. There aren't many pilgrims on this camino – at least in April – and you might have to wait quite a while for one to come along and help you. Assuming you survive. Also make sure your friend keeps his or her phone on. Easier now that roaming charges have ended – today as it happens – in the EU.
  • Try to stay in either the albergue or hotel owned by Herminia in the hamlet of Campiello, after Tineo. Or at least stop there for a drink or a meal. She and her lovely Dutch assistant – Jaimelee/Emilia/Emily – are angels. And the food is great. Particularly the delicous, energy restoring potage.
  • Take time out to visit the Ethnographic Museum in Grandas del Salime. Most of you will find it fascinating. The rest of you can run through it and go on your way.
  • If you give up - for whatever reason - in said Grandas de Salime, there's an Alsa bus at 6.30am to Oviedo. Though you might have to change - and wait 20-30 minutes - in Tineo. This is likely to be the most tortous and occasionally terrifying bus ride you'll ever have. Rather like crossing the Alborz mountains between Tehran and the Caspian Sea in Iran. Though without all the wrecked cars lying at the bottom of the numerous ravines.
Finally . . . Enjoy it. There are spectacular views at every height, ranging from (steep!) green meadows to snowy peaks. Starting early can give you lovely cloud views. To be distinguished from fog.
    I do hope this advice helps you achieve the goal of enjoyment. Not to mention achievement.

    My companion for much of my walk . . .

    Not actually a snake but a legless lizard. Also called a slow worm. You can tell by the eye-lids.

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