Our day eight on the Camino Primitivo was a grueling and hot day, but charmed by an ancient neolithic and pilgrim site at the top of a splendid mountain pass, where I felt the most stirrings of "home."
"While some physical places and landscapes feel more like home to us, ultimately it is in service to us discovering the primal home within each one of us.What would it be like to move through the world and, no matter where you found yourself, to recognize yourself as fully at home?" ~ Christine Valters Paintner, The Soul of a Pilgrim: Eight Practices for the Journey Within
For the eighth day of our Primitive Way, we followed the Eroski Consumer stage almost exactly, except for the first few kilometers. We had finally caught up from the prior days, to join the standard etapas.
Day eight on the Camino Primitivo was another difficult day full of climbing, and while most of the day was spent off the pavement, the brutal heat made up for any comfort there!
The route essentially follows the LU-530, as you can see on the map below, with nice shortcuts through the countryside.
I had managed to get a good nights sleep the night before, despite the packed, noisy and echoing albergue. The Cantábrico is a large, bright and brand new albergue, in A Fonsagrada, but the many pilgrims staying there made it loud and full of echoes. Fortunately, the space is divided into about 4 smaller rooms that sleep about 10 each.
Here we are in the morning, the family, gathering for breakfast. We are having leftover Tarta de Fonsagrada, and cafe con leche, in addition to our toast and yogurt.
Igor, on the left, in the photo above, our Spanish ambassador, had bought this lovely cake the night before, to share with his Camino friends. It is a most delicious tarta, made with almonds, ground in the cake, and for decoration. It is a specialty of the region, and unavailable anywhere else, so we were told. It was absolutely delicious, both times we had it!
Do try the Tarta de Fonsagrada when you arrive there. It is a must-do!
Walking from the center of town, in A Fonsagrada, on the Rúa Mayor, one walks downhill to the LU-530 where it joins it. Just before leaving town there is a gas station with a convenience store, open early (when we went through at 7:30) where we loaded up with Halls for my throat and snacks for the day. I was better this morning, but my laryngitis and cold persisted. I was very grateful to find the convenience store open so early! Thank-you Spain!
The day started out fresh and cool, with a covering of mist. I still chose to wear shorts, as I knew the day ahead was to be warm on this late August day.
Immediately after the station, the Way turns right on a side road, the Rúa das Rodas, as it parallels the LU-530 highway for a short while before joining it again and walks into Padrón.
Just before the actual town of Padrón the pilgrimage road turns right onto a side road, to walk through town and by the massive church (not pictured, but it is ahead in the photo below).
After the tiny town of Padrón the Primitive Way soon leads to a nice path that parallels the LU-530.
Only a short while and the Way rejoins the highway before coming upon a picnic area where it turns right at the Fonte do Pastizal, below and picnic tables.
On day eight of the Camino Primitivo, the pilgrimage traveler walks through this forest on a lovely path, then crosses over the LU-530 again, to cut off a loop of highway, then crosses again to the other side.
The pilgrimage route goes into and out of forests, and through pasturelands as it climbs ever higher on this morning of day eight on our Camino Primitivo.
Once again into the forest, to the north of Vilardongo, the pilgrimage traveler takes this double track. I found this area, with the glowing morning light to be very inviting.
The double track leads to this lovely, overlooking picnic area, that gazes to the town of Vilardongo below.
The morning of day eight on our Camino Primitivo was very, very quiet as Rich and I chose not to talk much, but enjoy the stillness. We were early enough that very few pilgrims were on the road. It was a much-needed reprieve for me. I had a singing and grateful heart.
The Camino Primitivo continues to follows a path near the highway to the north, walking through Pedrafitelas, and then onward to Montouto, below, gaining more elevation as once again, we walk toward the windmills! I was fresh and rested enough on this morning, that I was not afraid of the windmills (like on day seven).
The pilgrimage traveler then climbs a hill to the top of the ridge to Hospital de Montouto, where this wonderful little chapel awaits your prayers of gratitude. The mist had lifted, and I lingered here for some time.
Just beyond the Chapel is the actual Hospital, still in very great condition. The Montouto pilgrim's hospital was founded in 1360 by Pedro I, the Cruel, then moved to another site and rebuilt in 1698, on this spot, which was used up until the mid-20th century! This is why it is still so well-preserved.
You can see wells, water/sewer canals and well-preserved walls and buildings here on the top of the ridge. This is where food and fire was given to the starving and freezing pilgrims, in addition to nursing care. The complex included stables, kitchens with ovens, cellars, water tanks and two chapels.
Just behind the Hospital is a small grouping of standing stones, called the Pedras Dereitas attributed to neolithic times. This most ancient formation was an indication to me that this site has been held sacred for many thousands of years!
Apparently, another dolmen, the Menhir de Pedra Labrada is nearby, as well as other neolithic tombs, indicating when I did the research, that indeed, this was a sacred place for many, many years.
Because of the proximity of these ancient sites with the Camino de Santiago and its Original Way (meaning the first of the Caminos), some have associated the modern, sacred Camino with a pre-Christian pilgrimage path. Interesting, isn't it? I was fascinated by this site!
Even now, every July 25th, the locals celebrate San Tiago, the Apostle St. James, here, just as they do in Santiago de Compostela. It would be wonderful to be part of this celebration, of which no one really knows about. Yet another ceremony, among the many that must have been held here over the centuries! (If anyone knows of this fiesta in Montouto, please let us all know by commenting below!)
For me, this very magical place, where centuries of pilgrims had come for connection to the sacred, was not easily forgotten. I was reluctant to move on. But alas, isn't that what a pilgrim does?
Later, at dinner, on the evening of day eight on the Camino Primitivo, I asked my fellow pilgrimage travelers how they liked the Hospital de Montouto. Very few of them knew of its significance, they had barely stopped, and didn't even see the Neolithic Stones behind the ruins. I was amazed. It was the highlight of my day. This, dear reader, will not happen to you will it??
I forced myself to travel on from here, but I could have stayed in this spot, all day, meditating and contemplating this sacred place. All I can say about this sacred place is that it made me feel alive. Centuries of human spiritual connection happened here.
There is no more reason to have a plan for your day, than to understand what sites you will pass, and their significance. Never was this more apparent to me than on this day eight on the Camino Primitivo. (I would also add day five, on the Hospitales Route as equally if not more significant.)
For me, this sacred site portrayed the very humanness and realness of the pilgrimage. When you get to the hospitals, you know this is where the original way actually went, in comparison to walking on modern roads and altered paths of the Camino de Santiago elsewhere. Centuries of pilgrims actually trod here! On this very earth!
To walk on the Earth that was actually trod by centuries of pilgrims who were doing the Camino for healing, for personal spiritual reasons, for absolution or for freedom from the imprisonment for crimes ~ for all these things, seemed so significant to me.
Yet so many modern pilgrims seem to be missing so much of the Camino - yes, I get that walking is spiritual in and of itself, but couldn't it be so much more?
Next on the pilgrimage road was the steep descent, ahead, to Paradavella.
The Way drops quickly, into the forest as it makes quick work of the downhill journey to Paravadella. The descent here is on a lovely path, so the jarring is less severe.
When the pilgrimage trail reaches Paravadella, it comes out at the perfectly located Casa Mesón. It was only 10:30, but on the Camino Primitivo, you eat food when you can get it! Besides, coffee and toast only lasts so long, and we had already logged in 11 kilometers, or so.
Here we had giant, unbelievably delicious sandwiches made by the owner, below! I had tuna and olive, with fresh, beautiful sliced tomatoes and mayonnaise! A far cry from the usual dry sandwich of ham and cheese, of which I had grown very tired!
How could I not include a photo of a man who made me so very happy in that moment! (Unfortunately, I did not get his name - if you know it, please comment below!)
Of course, we also had café con leche to add to our revival. In fact, the bocadillos were so large, an entire baguette, that I gave half of mine to Glyvia, the "Camino Mother" and Rich saved half of his to take away for later.
I was humored as I watched Igor, our Spanish ambassador, order a tomato with his bocadillo, when we all seemed so excited about it. Instead of putting the tomato inside his sandwich, he rubbed it on the bread, moistening the bread and discarding the tomato! Ah, the difference in cultures!
The Camino Primitivo rejoins the LU-530 after the Casa Mesón and walks through the town of Paradavella and to these very interesting round houses, called pallozas.
To read more about these interesting structures, I found this link on the palloza round house. They were built to house cattle and withstand strong storms. Another interesting feature in the Galician landscape.
After walking through Paravadella, the Camino Primitivo stays close to the LU-530, weaving back and forth on footpaths and through quaint small towns.
Here is another example of traditional Galician structures adapted for modern use, as we walked through A Degolada. I adored the slate roofs.
As the day grew hotter, it was very nice to be entering a forest again.
In the next several photos, they will speak for themselves, as we walked through the quaint countryside on the way to A Lastra, on very quiet roads that paralleled the highway on day eight of the Camino Primitivo.
When the quiet roads meet the highway again, it climbs a long hill on winding pavement and into A Lastra - this is not a very beautiful stretch, but it must be done. Pray for a cool day. Ours was hot and not so comfortable without any shade in sight.
At the top of hill and at a fork in the road, below, one finally sees the sign for A Lastra to the right.
There is a cafe bar in Lastra, but we wanted to go a bit farther before stopping again. It was less than two hours back on the road, from our 10:30 stop in Paravadella.
I tried to look inside the church, but unfortunately, it was closed. My prayers would have to be said outside.
After walking through A Lastra on the LU-530 on day eight, the Camino Primitivo takes a side road off to the left, and through more very quaint buildings.
Yes, we head back towards the forest! Still not much shade here, is there? It was getting quite hot now, as the afternoon was upon us. The heat added to the drudgery of the afternoon.
Just before Fontaneira, we spotted our first waymark with the remaining kilometer reading, to Santiago de Compostela! Wow! Almost 2/3rds of the way completed from here.
After about a 2 kilometer walk, the Camino Primitivo joins the LU-530 to walk into Fontaneira. We did stop here at a café across from church for a cold drink and snack.
We sat in the shade between the cafe and the church, sipping our Aquarias, a lightly lemon flavored, lightly carbonated and lightly sweetened beverage. We had to have a reprieve from the sun, and drank sugary beverages to try to rejuvenate. It was only 1:30 and we still had five kilometers to go!
This church in town was also closed. I didn't even stop for prayers. After our brief re-hydration break, we were back on the road again, walking through the rest of A Fontaneira, below.
The sun was near-brutal by now. I put my head down, and marched on. The Way diverted for a short time, off the highway, but without much reprieve from the scorching sun.
Back on the highway, on day eight, the Camino Primitivo walks on LU-530 for about 2 km, climbing up yet another hill (Monte de Matanza). The two photos below show the path that sometimes is available to the side of the road. It felt like a long, hot climb.
When we finally left the highway again on a side road to the right, the path taken was long, straight, dry and hot. This is the final stretch into O Cadavo, below.
Thank God these last kilometers were not hill climbing on day eight of the Camino Primitivo! It was so hot and dry, and this long stretch seemed to go on forever! I like to suck on sugar-free mints to help keep my mouth moist, and I think I went through half a bag on this stretch!
On this home stretch, a young man from Poland blew by us like we were standing still! Then we passed someone else with sweat just pouring down his brow! Ah, the interesting differences in the various pilgrims!
The town of O Cadavo can be seen ahead, at the bottom of the hill.
There is a steep descent before O Cadavo. Here below, is the town coming more into view, though at the time I didn't know it and didn't dare hope it to be true. But it was true, and we were almost there.
As we walked toward town, we took one look at the municipal albergue, almost the first place to greet you as you come into town, and decided that we would leave the Camino experience behind and stay in a hotel! I really needed a good night's sleep, without the fear of waking others with my coughing.
After arriving at the Hotel Moneda, towards the south end of town, Rich and I sat outside in their café for a beer to relax and rejuvenate. I was so hot, tired, exhausted and yes, even sunburned, that I totally forgot to snap a photo of this comfortable, inexpensive (only 40 Euro for 2, with your own bath) and adequate hotel.
Soon we were joined by another couple from Austria, who also decided on the hotel and who were quickly becoming our friends. We had a nice relaxing chat among compadres.
We retired for a quick trip to the tienda to refresh our supplies, a wash of our clothes and a nap. Our plan was to have a hearty bite to eat in the room from our supplies, have a bowl of soup later and retire early. My cold demanded this of me, and besides, I really am not a night-life type of person.
However, despite our best laid plans, we quickly learned that our hotel was the only game in town. When we returned to the hotel bar at about 7:00 p.m., slowly, one by one, pilgrim after pilgrim, joined us. As we were enjoying the camaraderie, with drinks around a very large table, we learned that the hotel kitchen would not open for dinner until nine p.m.! OMG! How do they do it? So much for my early night!
As I watched every other pilgrim order full dinners at 9:00 p.m. while I could hardly hold my head up, Rich and I ordered only the Caldo Gallego soup. I made my way through my soup, left money for our friends to pay for us, and then indeed, used my illness as an excuse to retire around 10:00 p.m. I was most certainly running on empty!
On day eight of the Camino Primitivo, traveling through the deeply rural countryside, one is able to truly experience the Spanish culture! Like it or not!
If it weren't for the splendor of the neolithic stones and the Hospital de Montouto, I think I would have spent the day trying to figure out what the BLEEP I thought I was doing here on the Original Way!
If it hadn't been for the sacred ridge at Hospital Montouto, I would have absolutely hated this day! But I connected there, in this sacred place, and found a home among the other spirits that continue to linger there.
The day was disgustingly hot, the Primitive Way was difficult and mostly, I just put my head down and grunted onward. Each and every afternoon had become nothing but a grunt, where I was repeatedly overly tired and hungry with aching shins and feet! My illness still wasn't gone! It was relentless ups and downs, toward endless ridges of windmills!
The one great thing for this day, we were told that it was the final day in which we would have a climb up greater than 1000 meters. Maybe this day eight on the Camino Primitivo, was truly an over-the-hump day!
While I hadn't complained about my cold and laryngitis, when I listened to my voice journal on this day eight of my Camino Primitivo, I did actually decide to "take the day off" from other pilgrims. Rich and I decided to walk together, but alone and in silence. I just had to rest my voice. I just couldn't socialize with anyone, in fact, I was growing tired of everyone!
However, despite my best efforts, the Camino followed me everywhere I went on day eight!
I was also becoming quite disillusioned on this day eight of my Camino Primitivo. I had just learned that two fellow pilgrims had hooked up and were having sex in another albergue the night before. I was also disappointed that all my interactions had been merely social chats. It felt like no one was on a spiritual journey, no contemplation, just chit chat.
I was disappointed in others, for sure. However, if I reflected deeply on myself, I was also disappointed in myself, that yes, most often our humanness shines through. I was no exception.
I started to think that my illness was a convenient excuse to go to bed early at night, an excuse not to talk to anyone, and an excuse to stay out of the gossip and hubbub. I hated the noise and echo in the large, open albergue the night before. I truly wanted comfort and my own space. However, I was not to find it, really, on this day eight of my Camino Primitivo.
And this also, I shall include. And so will you, dear pilgrim, as this is all part of the Camino experience!
Coming to this understanding, I smiled and made peace with myself. This was indeed, the journey. Could I truly be "home?"
May you also dare to journey inward to find your own spiritual home, however that looks for you. May you find the Grace that allows for the highs as well as the lows, and all the emotions of the human experience, as I indeed found on my day eight on the Camino Primitivo! Buen Camino!
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