Day four on the Camino de San Salvador is essentially a climb out of San Miguel, up to a high shelf path or road that follows the valley created by the Río Pajares.
"All you need is the plan, the road map and the courage to press on to your destination." ~ Earl Nightingale
The quote above was so true for us on this portion of our journey. We were both stretched to our limits and it took quite a bit of courage to carry on. I was also struggling to manage an aching left knee, throughout most of this stage.
As stated in our day three, we did the entire route, shown in the map below, from Poladura de la Tercia to Campomanes in one day. For the first half of this stage, see our day three. It is a full 30.4 kilometers of intense mountain walking.
The description to follow is of the route from San Miguel del Río, just down the hill 1.65 kilometers from Pajares.
Our Google map below shows our path for the entire day, with services placed on it, for your planning. There are fountains along the way, in fact, one in every town, but we always carry food and water anyway. Our day was very hot and long, and I was grateful for the fountains, because I ran out of water in my reservoir by the end of the very long 30 km day.
Remember that we did not actually walk to/from Pajares, but the lighter blue line on the map to San Miguel to the west. The slighter darker blue line through Pajares, I added myself to Google Maps.
The first albergue after Pajares is in Bendueños, about 15.56 kilometers. There is no albergue in Campomanes, but there are accommodations that are quite inexpensive if you choose to stay there, as we did. Click here to see them.
Many staging systems suggest that you go on to Pola de Lena from Pajares for a 24 km day. If you do only five stages, the third from Pajares, the final day from Pola de Lena to Oviedo is a very long 31 kilometers.
I would recommend that you do the San Salvador in six stages, breaking the distance from Poladura de la Tercia to Pajares, then from Pajares to either Bendueños or Campomanes.
Here is our elevation profile for this day's description, beginning at Poladura, but remembering that San Miguel del Río is almost exactly halfway through this chart, below.
I have no elevation profile for the section from Pajares, but it is essentially a downhill drop of 260 meters (850 feet) over 1.65 kilometers. It would look almost exactly like the final half of the 3rd section of the elevation profile below.
There are two climbs, interspersed with steep downhills on the 16 kilometer last half of the profile (final three sections). While these climbs may not be significant after the prior stages climbs, you will feel it anyway, even more so if you are walking a longer distance before or after this one.
If you stayed the night in Pajares it is only 1.65 kilometers to San Miguel del Río, the place where our story begins.
From Google Earth and after consulting various blogs, I was able to trace the way on my map above and provide the following directions.
From the Albergue de Peregrinos de Pajares walk on the road until it joins the N-630 in 200 meters. Turn left onto the N-630.
From the Posada Real Pajares or the Pensión El Mirador (+34 636 93 30 69), walk to the far end of town, along the N-630.
About 100 meters after the Posada Real on the N-630, a path turns to the left, and drops sharply downhill. Take this path. The path is a wide tractor track and descends steeply the entire way to San Miguel.
After 780 meters or so, following this winding and bending track, the Camino takes a hard turn to the right. As you get closer to town, the road turns to concrete with grooves in it. Descend steeply into San Miguel, turning right at the church after 1.65 kilometers. It is at the church where you join the Camino that descends from the decision point in Puerto de Pajares, and from where our story of day four begins.
Starting off from the church in San Miguel del Río, after our long lunch break under the trees and by the river, we continued northward on the paved road. This quiet road follows the valley of the Pajares River.
In about 3/4 kilometer you come to the first intersection in the road, with a concrete waymark, shown in the photo below. This waymark instructs you to go straight on. Ignore this waymark!
According to the locals if you go straight here you will eventually join the N-630 and have to follow the highway all the way to Puente de los Fierros, more than eight kilometers down the road! This is also the longer way to go. No one does this, but instead, everyone takes the variation on paths described below.
Instead, look for the sign to Santa Marina on the left at the intersection. This is a photo of the very same intersection, below, showing the small sign to Santa Marina that you must be sure to find!
You will have no problem finding this if you pay attention as you walk out of San Miguel. 770 meters should take you about 10-12 minutes to walk if you are walking about 4 km/hour. Stay alert until you find this intersection. I can't imagine anything more horrible that walking for 8 km on the N-630!
After turning left at the intersection, climb steeply on the road, towards the ridge above, shown in the photo below. This road has grooves in the concrete and continues for about 1/2 kilometer.
After walking the 1/2 kilometer, you enter into a small cluster of buildings. This is the town of Santa Marina.
Walk by a fountain, shown below. It is potable water. Continue climbing toward the church.
In about 1.3 kilometers (2.95 from Pajares or 16.43 from Poladura), you reach this small church in Santa Marina, shown below. The pavement ends here. There is a picnic area by the church if you are in need of a break when you arrive here, shown to the left in the photo.
In the photo of the church above, you will notice a small blue garage to the right. Find the gate in front of the blue garage There is a yellow arrow painted on it. Go through this farmers gate and walk a few meters across the meadow to find the next gate, shown in the next photo. The trail descends steeply after Santa Marina for a short while.
From the church in Santa Marina, you will be on paths for 1.97 kilometers, all the way to the next town of Llanos de Somerón.
The path meanders up through forests, and along fence lines, delineating farmer's fields.
At times the path is quite overgrown, but essentially easy to find.
Just before Llanos de Somerón the path ascends more steeply and becomes more rocky.
As we climbed through this section, essentially quite tired from our long day, we kept looking over our right shoulders to see if the choice of walking the N-630 in the valley below appeared any easier. As far as we could tell, the road climbs as well.
At home later, in the comfort of my living room, when I look on the 3D Google Earth view, it appears that the route of the N-630 is almost identical to the path we were following, just on the other side of the Pajares River valley. They both run parallel along the river following the ridge of the mountains, just on different sides. The path that we were following off pavement, even if it does have slightly more climbing is clearly the better choice!
At 2.98 kilometers (4.63 from Pajares or 18.11 km from Poladura), come to this gate, where the path levels out at about at height of 1615 meters. This is the end of the first climb for day four on the Camino de San Salvador.
After the gate, come to a meadow, following the fence line below. The town of Llanos de Somerón soon comes into view ahead.
At 3.47 kilometers, (5.12 from Pajares or 18.6 km from Poladura) arrive at another gate, guarding the entrance to town. Go through it.
Follow the arrows through town, coming to the square and the Parroquia de Santiago de Llanos de Somerón, shown below. This is a nice shady place to stop and rest if you need it. Our day had become really, really hot, and I would have loved to have lingered here. But we could not.
Llanos de Somerón is barely bigger than Santa Marina, with no services, and after the church the Camino picks up the paved road, the LE-12 to go onward.
It is from Llanos de Somerón that the serious bone-jarring downhill begins, and to make it worse it is on the pavement of the LE-12, all the way to Puerto de los Fierros. You are on a secondary road, at least with no traffic, for a full 4.3 kilometers per my GPS.
It helps that the views of the mountains and valley all around are stunning. But not much for me, as my left knee started really screaming at me after a few kilometers of more downhill and pavement pounding!
At 6.57 kilometers (8.22 from Pajares or 21.7 kilometers from Poladura) come to La Muela, visible on your right.
At 7.77 kilometers (9.42 from Pajares or 22.9 kilometers from Poladura), we finally make it to the bottom of the long paved hill! Here is where the Camino goes left, just as you are entering the town of Puerto de los Fierros. You will turn off the LE-12 at the telephone pole, shown in the photo below. The pole is covered with yellow arrows!
If by some chance you miss this pole, you will know it when you join the N-630 after crossing a prominent blue bridge across the Pajares river. The bridge is only a few meters onward from the turn.
My left knee was really killing me by this time after 4.3 kilometers pounding downhill on day four of the Camino de San Salvador. I didn't know what to do, so I kept walking.
I did find that if I picked up my left knee, as in a march, instead of extending it, it would hurt much less. So I kept on with this half-march approach. I looked a bit ridiculous, but did I care? Absolutely not!
After the turn above, is where you begin the second climb of the day, up from the roadway, on the trail, towards the next town of Fresneo.
Continue climbing through the meadow shown below. When we walked here we walked by haystacks!
The trail is not well-established through here and was full of blackberry brambles that pick at your legs. These blackberries were no longer welcome to us in our state of fatigue! I had to use my poles to push them out of the way so I could pass through. Needless to say, we didn't stop to pick and eat any!
My knee started to feel better through here, as it actually hurt less to walk uphill. It was all about painful extension, which I did not need to do to climb. But it was still stiff and sore.
I was even having feelings of not recommending the San Salvador at all, because of the poor maintenance of the trails, the difficulty of the stages and of course, my knee and mental state at the moment.
At 8.49 kilometers (10.14 from Pajares or 23.62 kilometers from Poladura), climb up to this funky old house with a terrace and pause and enjoy the view. This terrace is only about 3/4 kilometers from the turnoff lower down.
In the valley below, you can see the national highway, the railroad tracks and the town of Puente de Los Fierros from this terrace.
After crossing the terrace, join the pavement to walk through the small town of Fresneo. Following the arrows through town, come to this intersection, and stay uphill and to the left.
Come to a fountain in town.
Soon after fountain, the Way becomes a path again. After Fresneo, this path you will follow is a full 5.5 kilometers until the pavement in the next town of Herías. Thank God for that!
Can you tell that Rich was rather disgusted with me in the photo below? He was tired and didn't want to stop and pose for another picture.
Once again, the path through this section gets more narrow and rugged.
The narrow path continues climbing up and out of the forest and to beautiful open views again on day four of the Camino de San Salvador.
I hope you take the time to relish these views and not rush through as we had to. They are fantastic.
This clearing also affords a view of the path ahead. You can see, throughout this day four, how the Camino de San Salvador hugs the hills as it undulates along the ridge lines.
At 10.27 kilometers (11.92 from Pajares or 25.4 kilometers from Poladura), come to the second high point of the day and start the final descent towards Campomanes. My knee definitely felt better on the walk through Fresneo, and up the hill. All that was left from here, was about six more kilometers downhill!
At 11.23 kilometers (12.88 from Pajares or 26.36 kilometers from Poladura) come to another old abandoned house in the woods.
Through this section, the trail runs by a wood fence and farther on, a brick wall. The Camino starts to descend really steeply through these huge, old trees.
At 12.21 kilometers (13.86 from Pajares or 27.35 kilometers from Poladura), come to a cluster of buildings of La Barraca, now a ghost town.
A few meters later, come to this open field with a concrete waymark showing the way forward. It was one of the first Asturian waymarks we'd seen in a long while on the trail.
Be sure to look behind you in this field or you may miss the sweet little Ermita de San Miguel. This is a fabulous little historic chapel in the mountains. Despite my extreme fatigue, I said a prayer of gratitude here, that I had made it thus far. I wondered how the pilgrims of yore must have felt, at this place, when they knew that they had made it over the treacherous mountain passes.
The path after La Barraca is very upsy downsy and terribly overgrown. It also had some very muddy sections when we walked through. We were the only pilgrims on the Way and I continued my silly half-march on any downhills.
Plus, it started to feel like it was going to rain! Wouldn't that just be the coup d'etat at the end of a grueling day!
Through this section, the forests clear and you can feel the next town is near.
And then, you see Herías on the hillside ahead. It was a lovely sight!
The town center is reached very quickly, at about 13.91 kilometers (15.56 from Pajares, 28.81 from Poladura). The large public fountain in the square is to the right of this photo below, but it was the large square Asturian hórreos that caught my eye.
While we were resting here by the fountain, two of our Spanish compadres came along. They proceeded to call the albergue in Bendueños (+34 674 67 17 06) to come to pick them up! I was so jealous and wished we had made the decision to stay here. But I had made a reservation in Campomanes, and wanted to honor that.
I heard nothing but fabulous reports the next day, of the stay in Bendueños. Oh well ~ next time I guess!
We still had 1.59 kilometers to go! Here is the road that climbs up and out of Herías from the square. I dragged my poor tired body up this hill as we said goodbye to our friends.
When you come to this concrete waymark, about 600 meters after the square, you are only one kilometer from the center of Campomanes.
My legs and especially my left knee screamed when I asked it to take this initial steep drop down the path.
While this section looks flat, the final kilometer on the path to Campomanes was brutally steep!
And then finally, the path passes by the first building that signaled that we were in Campomanes.
A left turn at the T-intersection, and we were headed to the center of town. Fortunately for my legs, it is a small town and we arrived in the center a mere 300 meters later.
I was so exhausted as we arrived in town at 5:30 in the afternoon, that I totally forgot to take any photos of the center of town (until day five), nor the very friendly Hospedaje Senda del Huerna where we stayed, steps off the Camino. The place is a bit shabby but clean, and for only 38 Euros. The owner Roberto is very, very friendly and helpful. He let us do our laundry in his washer and dryer for no additional cost.
There are more places to stay in Campomanes, but no albergues. To see all four choices, click here.
After showering and doing our laundry, we attempted to seek out a place for dinner. Alas, the nearest place for food was in a restaurant farther down the river by about another kilometer at the Hotel Renundu (Hotel de Tres Estrellas)! We declined this recommendation by Roberto. There was no way I was adding 2 more kilometers to my day!
We set out per Roberto's second recommendation and with instructions to the Sidreria Mercadiellu, a bar and cider house only 200 meters away. Alas, when we arrived they had no food but bocadillos! We asked if he could put tomato, lettuce and mayonnaise on them and at least he could do that! So we had deliciously moist bocadillos and red wine for supper! We were so tired and hungry that most likely cow hide would have tasted good!
This is most certainly a Spanish mountain town!
As stated frequently through this day's journey, and yesterdays on day three, to do this entire section from Poladura de la Tercia to Campomanes is a Herculean effort, one I would never recommend. It tainted my entire Camino de San Salvador, going forward, as you will see if you read on.
My mind, I think, kept saying, "This is only 30 km and you have done it many times before!" However, my body told the true story! My knee was to haunt me for the rest of this Camino.
Trust me, this is not "just 30 kilometers." It was the hardest 30 kilometers I have ever done and hope to never, ever do again!
Despite the incredible day, I didn't complain all that much. My voice journals were cursory, full of information, but not a lot of exasperation.
But I did keep on walking. Even when I need to use the half-march to keep my left knee from hurting. I certainly did have a road map, and the courage to press on, because I arrived at the intended destination. Not to the best interests of my body, though, I am afraid.
From what I now understand, after reading information from other pilgrims on various forums, is that I was probably habitually over-striding, especially up the hills. Most likely this is what damaged my knee.
There is something called "Chi walking" which corrects a too-lengthy stride, which I am now attempting to learn. I am also feeling like using poles leaves me with the tendency to swing my arms too far forward, also causing me to take too long a stride. I may also try walking without poles. We shall see if this will make a difference in future long-distance walks.
May your own day four on the Camino de San Salvador be accomplished with your map and the courage to press on to your destination! May you avoid any injuries along the way as you listen to your own body! Ultreia!
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