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(Please note that as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the businesses along the Camino may not be operating as expected, despite reopening as of June 21st. It would be wise to check with the locals regarding the opening and operations of specific restaurants, bars, albergues and other accommodations recommended in this guide.
If you are going on a Camino during the pandemic, please check the local news frequently, for new areas of outbreak and any new restrictions in travel. Any portion of the Camino may close down at any time to contain a new outbreak!
Also please note the current travel restrictions for travelers from the USA entering Spain, from the US Embassy. If you are coming from Europe to Spain, the European Schengen countries are now allowed to enter Spain. Those of us from outside this area, I am afraid, must be patient!
For detailed information regarding entry restrictions of any country in the world, including entry into Spain, click on this link to the IATA ((International Air Transport Association)). When the page opens, click on the country of your choice in the interactive map to see their requirements for entry. Good luck and be safe out there!)
On day two of our camino primitivo the challenge was about the juxtaposition of beauty and pain.
"The experience of communitas sustains pilgrims as they traverse through the physical discomfort as well as the psychological and spiritual pain so often a part of liminal experiences." ~ Pilgrimage - The Sacred Art: Journey to the Center of the Heart, Dr. Sheryl A. Kujawa-Holbrook
Despite our perception of fitness, coming from the mountains of Colorado, nothing prepared us for day two on the camino primitivo and what the pavement pounding would do to our bodies.
While I was worried about our aging knees, it seemed that our wearing of elastic knee supports did nothing for the foot pain and shin splints that we both felt immediately upon embarking on our second days journey! This pain was to plague us all day.
The Primitive Way on day two was beautiful and our original goal was to get to the albergue in Cornellana. But as Caminos go, we were redirected and stayed in La Doriga instead.
Here are the GPS tracks for the distance that we completed on day two. We did not make it to San Juan de Villapañada on Day One, because we also walked to the Naranco World Heritage churches that first day.
This turned out to be fortuitous for two reasons: because of our developing physical pain on day two of the Camino Primitivo and because as you can see below, the climb to San Juan de Villapañada is quite strenuous, especially if you are doing it at the end of a very long first day!
Google Map of Day Two, Escamplero to La Doriga
Here is our elevation profile for the day. There is significant elevation change initially of about 200 meters (650 feet), first down, then climbing back up, with a 60 meter (200 feet) bump in the middle to Premoño, just after Escamplero.
We completed the day in La Doriga, about 4.2 kilometers onward from the turnoff to the albergue in San Juan Villapañada, 2.0 kilometers before Fresno. This section included a 320 meter (1050 feet) climb from Grado to Alto del Fresno, before descending 230 meters (750 feet) into La Doriga, 2.7 km before Cornellana.
We could have easily descended 2.7 more kilometers to Cornellana on this day, but we do not regret our choice of the wonderful little albergue, the Cá Pacita in La Doriga. See father below for photos and description of it.
As we left the municipal albergue in Escamplero, we timed our departure perfectly, for viewing the sunrise. The air was fresh this August mountain morning, and the sky was aglow with the dawn-light (around 7:30 a.m).
After the magnificent sunrise and moment-capturing through the lens of our camera, we began the long descent toward Premoño. We soon discovered that the long downhills, while easy on the lungs, killed our lower legs.
While we knew this from hiking many, many mountains in Colorado, doing it on pavement, was indeed another story! Our bodies were just not prepared for the pounding on the pavement.
Thank God the scenery was beautiful, the morning fresh with mist but no rain and the sunrise fantastic! I breathed deeply and focused my intention on gratefulness that I could feel this pain! It could be much worse - I could be handicapped and unable to have this experience!
I felt alive and well!
As we descended downhill on the pavement, I focused on using my poles as much as I could to take my weight off my lower legs. I noticed that the balls of my feet, just below my toe pads really started to hurt on this stretch as well. My right foot hurt worse than my left. Somehow I must have been striking harder on the pavement with my right foot. I tried to intentionally lighten my right foot strike.
The morning freshness and the mist that hung low in the valleys was enchanting. This stone wall, below, that bore a waymark caught my eye, as the misty mountains framed the background.
Shortly into this day two of our Camino Primitivo, about one kilometer after the albergue in Escamplero, along the AS-234, we came upon a small pilgrim chapel, the Capilla de Fátima, pictured below. We stopped for a short while to look at the chapel. Unfortunately, it was locked.
I had set an intention, that every little chapel that I would come across on my Camino, that I would stop, and at a minimum, say a little prayer of gratitude, for my journey and all that was available to me.
Shortly after the chapel we turned to the left, off the AS-234 and the Primitive Way becomes a paved lane...
Through freshly pruned vineyards...
And then, a sweet turn took us onto a semi-paved lane and sweet relief for my aching feet and shins!
The glorious blackberries were everywhere, lining the path, also a welcome relief to our aching stomachs that had not yet had any breakfast.
Deeper into the countryside we went.
Here Rich is harvesting our berry breakfast.
Our country lane soon re-joined a paved road, as it climbed into Premoño. The uphill portion gave our sore shins, a needed break from the downhill pounding. The uphill was most definitely easier on the shin pounding!
After 4.5 kilometers into the day, in the heart of the hamlet of Premoño, the Capilla of Santa Ana de Premoño greeted us. Once again, we stopped and filled our hearts with gratitude.
A beautiful, raised horreo, or granary greeted us in Premoño.
About 400 meters after the chapel in Premoño, the Primitive Way, again turns into a path for a very short section, just before Valduno. It leads you into an entanglement of wild blackberries, which we continued to receive as our gift on the Camino!
It was a full 5.8 km before we found the first open café bar for breakfast, about an hour-and-a-half's journey! As we walked down the hill into Valduno, the Bar-Tienda Casa Dylsia warmly greeted us. Our information said the bar opened at 8:30 am, but it was going on 9:00 a.m. when we arrived and it was still not open!
A word to the wise ~ never count on anything being open when it says it will be! However, today we were lucky.
We managed to see some movement inside and within 10 minutes the bar opened as more pilgrims gathered outside, waiting to get in!
In the town of Valduna, and just a kilometer or so off the Camino Primitivo is the Termas Romanas, or Roman baths. We took the side trip, but it wasn't really worth it, as a church had been built over the ruins of the bath and all that is left is the foundation walls.
We soon were back on the Primitive Way and walking toward the next town of Paladín, on this shortcut, shown below.
It was on day two on the Camino Primitivo that I really began to notice a sore throat that I thought was merely a passing nuisance from insufficient hydration during our long-flight the day prior. Until now, I hadn't paid much attention to the thickness and dryness that was developing in my throat.
I kept walking, and soon we were in Paladín. There is a brand new private albergue here, the Villa Palatina, mere steps off Camino in town, that looks fantastic. See the google map above for its location. We were now 7.11 kilometers into the day’s journey.
Just beyond Paladín the Primitive Way continues for about 800 meters along the secondary paved road, then follows a dirt lane for another 150 meters. The lane briefly turns into another sweet path, following along the River Nalón for another 800 meters, below.
Asturias has invested in some Camino infrastructure, as you can see in this lovely foot bridge and all the signs placed along the way.
The path joins the AS-234, again, continuing along the river to walk into Peñaflor, not quite one kilometer later. Just after the Bar Casa Aurina on your left, the Camino leaves the AS-234 to turn left and cross the River Nalón on the historic medieval bridge, the Puente Medieval de Peñaflor. Rich posed on the historic Romanesque bridge over the river, below.
This photo shows me looking back on the bridge we had just crossed. It is a dramatic place with the rock wall and the river gorge.
After crossing the bridge at Puente de Peñaflor, we turned right onto the busy N-634 and in 280 meters, this lovely little stone country church greets you, below left. Leave the N-634 by the church and head into town on a side road.
The town proper, of Peñaflor, is a lovely little town, so historic and quaint as are many Asturian towns. You meander through town on narrow streets, following the yellow arrows, until you reach its west side.
On the west side of Peñaflor, turn right and walk under a railroad bridge to a long, flat, paved path that leads the pilgrim onward to the next town of Grado. It is Grado that you see in the distance in the photo below. This scenic open path is paved, then turns to dirt and lasts for about 1.5 kilometers until it meets town. It is a track frequented by the locals, out having a morning walk.
On the way to Grado, we passed a field of sunflowers. How delightful they were as they greeted us with their sunny faces!
The Primitive Way joins the main road again, the N-634, at the bridge, shown below right, after about 2.2 kilometers from Peñaflor and goes through the town of Grado. It is a lot of uphill pavement walking through town, which is not the most pleasant.
In about 500 meters from crossing the river Cubia at the bridge, and after passing a city park on your right, you will see the turnoff to the right, for the Albergue de Peregrinos de Grado. It is another 150 meters up the hill to the 2-story, stone building that houses the albergue (not shown).
In another 300 meters, pass by a brand-new private albergue on your right, the Albergue La Quintana, in a restored mansion. They have both an albergue and private rooms for the night. There is also the Hotel Areces in this area, just one block south of the N-634.
We thought we would take advantage of the route through town and stop for another café con leche and a bite to eat. We found a place called the Auto Bar on the far side of town,after another 350 meters. It is also a family run hotel, so if you wish to conclude your day here, this hotel is right along the Camino at the far western side of town.
In the bar, we met a pilgrim in flowing black robes, doing the Primitive Way backwards towards Oviedo. After a long and interesting conversation with him and lots of advice, we determined that the best option for the night was in a friendly place he recommended in La Doriga.
Apparently the convent in Cornellana was under construction at that time, and he preferred the small boutique cabin that the albergue offered in La Doriga (see farther below), which is where we actually stayed.
Back on the road, just past the Auto Bar is the Supermercado Covirán, where you may wish to stock up on supplies, especially if you are planning to stay at the Albergue de San Juan, ahead in about 3.5 kilometers. We should have also stopped here for our albergue in La Doriga, as you will see from reading on!
After the supermercado, the Way turns off the main road to the left on a small alleyway, then goes right to join a paved lane called the Calle la Podada de Arriba, as it starts to climb immediately up and out of town. Since the Spanish word “arriba” means “up,” this is no joke! Get ready for the climb! Shortly after leaving Grado, the now-dirt lanes were lined with monster hydrangeas.
This lovely high lane, shown above, walks the pilgrimage traveler through the Asturian countryside for less than a kilometer. After the country lane the long uphill climb joins a paved road, crossing over an entrance to the A-63, and continuing upwards toward the turnoff for the Albergue de Peregrinos de San Juan de Villapañada after 2.7 kilometers from Grado.
While somewhat strenuous, the views all around are to die for, below.
This would be a long climb at the end of your day if you chose to come all the way from Oviedo to here.
While the Primitive Way follows the A-63 highway, on its north side after crossing it, one only catches a glimpse of it here and there. The highway becomes apparent at the crest of the long hill, shortly after the turnoff to San Juan de Villapañada on day two of the Camino Primitivo.
You carry straight-on at the intersection with the turn-off and do even more climbing toward the crest of this hill, below.
Then it is 1.3 kilometers more of steep climbing to the Alto del Fresno, the final top of the climb. You will know you have arrived when you see a town sign of "El Freisnu," you are under a lot of power lines and a small Ermita can be seen on the hill just farther on to your right. You can take the use-path to the Ermita if you so desire, another 100 meters to the tippy top of the hill.
From the top of the climb, instead of the path to the church on the hill, take a left onto a long gravel road, shown below.
However, if you wish to go to the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos de Cabruñana, at the top of the hill you can take the road to the right, or north, called the Calle Real, toward the church, in the direction of Cabruñana and walk 1.45 kilometers until it joins the N-634, then another 250 meters to find the albergue. The keys are in the Bar Restaurante Ana, next door, just before the albergue. This is a full 1.7 kilometers off -Camino.
The next day you can return to the Primitivo via El Freisnu, or continue onward on the N-634 until it joins the Camino de Santiago in Cornellana. This would entail a long walk of 4.75 kilometers on the N-634, however it would be a full 2.0 kilometers shorter than returning to El Freisnu.
The gravel road to the left follows an ugly power line as it drops dramatically into the town of San Marcelo in 1.3 kilometers, just after crossing the highway.
Near the bottom of the hill when the road makes a bend, we came upon this fountain (fuente) at the Puente de la Meredal. We did not drink from here, as our hydration packs were still sufficiently full.
The town of San Marcelo is a charming one and a delightful gentleman greeted us with a hand-full of lemons from his tree, to share.
After San Marcelo, the way veers onto this lovely path with rock and hedge-lined walls for the final 1.5 kilometers of day two on the Camino Primitivo
The path comes out of the woods, and into a small hamlet where the Santa Eulalia church, built in the XII century greets you on your way into town.
The Camino goes right around this church, to the front and into the town. You have arrived in the hamlet of La Doriga.
The stone pillar to the right of the church, in the photo, above, identifies the church.
Right across from the Santa Eulalia church is the Cá Pacita, the restaurant and albergue, our final stop on day two of our Camino Primitivo.
The little cabin guest house behind the restaurant that sleeps six was very quaint and cozy. It was a good call from the robed pilgrim. We ended up enjoying the place all by ourselves that night! Apparently all the other pilgrims we met the night before had gone on to Cornellana.
Tired and famished, we arrived in time to partake in the Sunday "lunch" hour. The restaurant was packed with Spaniards in their best dress, celebrating some occasion, of which I was not sure.
Our meal consisted of a starter of Crema de Calabasín (Cream of Squash Soup), followed by a delicious dish of spicy, fried pork pieces called picadillos.
That night while lying in my bed, I stretched the heck out of the entire front of my legs and hips. I did the Eye of the Needle and the Half Saddle poses, to open and relieve my shin splints. Ouch, they hurt!
Since there were no other pilgrims to talk to at our albergue, it was my husband, also suffering from shin splints, with whom I commiserated! He was a good co-commiserator. I popped Ibuprofen for both my shin splints and my sore throat, which didn't seem to abate all that much as the day progressed.
All-in-all, I would say the joy of the journey superseded the pain I felt on this day two of my Camino Primitivo. Thus far, my predominant emotion was one of euphoria and gratitude. However, the journey was young...
May you find the spirit of community on your own day two on the Camino Primitivo! May the experience take you to the in-between places, where normal and surreal collide!
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