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Our day eight on the Camino Primitivo was a grueling and hot day, but charmed by an ancient neolithic and pilgrimage 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
Here is the interactive Google map from the GPS tracks of our day eight. We had now caught up from the prior days, to join the standard stages.
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 on this day 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 have placed the available services along the route, on the map, for your planning. As you can see, there are plenty of them if you wish to find something to eat and drink along the way. There are not many accommodations, except in the beginning steps.
As you can see in the elevation profile below, there are significant elevation changes on day eight! The big climb up to Montouto of about 200 meters (650 feet) feels strenuous, but it is not as drastic as the prior climbs thus far.
Then, another extremely steep descent into Paravella of about 300 meters (1000 feet) is once again rough on the shins and knees. This descent is followed by yet another climb towards A Fontaneira of approx 250 meters (820 feet) before the final descent for the day into O Cádavo.
I had managed to get a good nights sleep the night before, despite the packed, noisy and echoing albergue. The Cantábrico is a large and bright albergue, in A Fonsagrada, but the many pilgrims staying there made it loud and full of echoes. Fortunately, the space is divided into four 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 in just under 1/2 kilometer. 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 you into Padrón.
Just before the actual town of Padrón, 3/4 kilometer later, 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). Across from the church is the Casa da Lembranza, where you can get private rooms if you prefer the casa rural accommodation.
There used to be a municipal albergue in Padrón, along the highway, just after the turn, but it is now permanently closed.
After the tiny town of Padrón the Primitive Way soon leads to a nice path that parallels the LU-530.
In 880 meters the Way crosses the highway, only to follow it on the south side for another 660 meters, (1.54 total from Padrón) before coming upon a picnic area with tables. There is a fountain, called the Fonte do Pastizal, below, where it turns right.
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. It is impressive how the Camino avoids the roads on this day!
It is through this area that you may encounter a path to the left, to the brand-new complex called the "Complejo O Piñeiral," which gets rave reviews. It has a restaurant, hotel and albergue. The place looks quite nice if you click on the link to have a look. This accommodation's location creates an opportunity to lengthen the prior day by 3.4 kilometers from A Fonsagrada if desired.
It is about 1.5 kilometers from the fountain turn-off, after crossing the highway for the second time that you come upon a cluster of buildings that is the town of Vilardongo. This town may be easy to miss!
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 valley 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, which is 1.4 kilometers after Vilardongo and then onward to Montouto, below, after 1.6 kilometers more. We were gaining more elevation as once again, we walked toward the windmills! I was fresh and rested enough 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, after one kilometer from town, where this wonderful little chapel awaits your prayers of gratitude. The mist had lifted, and I lingered here for some time.
It is a total of 8.7 kilometers from A Fonsagrada to the top of this climb. You will not be disappointed with what awaits you for your efforts.
Just beyond the Chapel is the actual Hospital, still in very good 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 if needed. 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 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 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. And steep it is! You will drop 344 meters (1128 feet) over the next 3.9 kilometers.
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 the edge of Paravadella, 3.3 kilometers later 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 12 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!
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 about 170 meters from the Casa Mesón and walks through 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 only about 300 meters on the LU-530, and after walking through Paravadella, the Camino Primitivo leaves the highway on another path to the right, while staying close to it on its west side.
After about 1.5 kilometers more, it crosses the highway to walk toward the next tiny hamlet of A Calzada in another 150 meters. Below is another example of traditional Galician structures adapted for modern use, as we walked past the town. I adored the slate roofs. You may miss the town, but this structure is right along the Way, as is the town church, farther below.
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 for the next 3.2 kilometers 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 is about another ½ kilometer on pavement into A Lastra. After joining the pavement you meet this fork in the road, below, and you see the sign for A Lastra to the right.
There is a cafe bar in Lastra, the Xestoso just after the turn above, 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.
In the center of town is the church, below. I tried to look inside, but unfortunately, it was closed. My prayers would have to be said outside.
At this church we were about 17.5 kilometers into the day.
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, then 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 the next town of A Fontaneira, we spotted our first waymark with the remaining kilometer reading, to Santiago de Compostela! Wow! Almost 2/3rds of the way completed.
After about a 1.5 kilometer walk and passing the second highest point shown on the map above, 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. It is about 2.3 kilometers from A Lastra to A Fontaneira. We were now 19.8 kilometers into the day.
We sat in the shade between the cafe and the church, sipping our Aquarius, 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 Cádavo, 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 pouring down his brow! Ah, the interesting differences in the various pilgrims!
The town of O Cádavo can be seen ahead, at the bottom of the hill.
There is a steep descent before O Cádavo. 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 bare-bones municipal Albergue de Peregrinos de Cádavo, 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 45 Euros 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!
There are now two other private albergues in O Cádavo called the Albergue San Mateo and Albergue Pension Porta Santa, and rooms at the Pensión Eligio Bar Restaurante and the Pensión A Marronda, all essentially right along the Camino and in the center of town.
Currently, the Hotel Moneda now opens at 7:00 p.m. for dinner, so you do not have to wait until 9:00 p.m. anymore! I suppose we pilgrims are indeed changing the culture, at least along the Camino route.
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 able 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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