Written contribution from Deborah R.
After breakfast overlooking a calm blue sea we followed a stylish promenade to the outskirts of Ribadesella. Soon we were in lush green countryside with happy colourful wild flowers along the roadsides. Past apple orchards of pretty pink and white bloom we wound through pretty villages. One village, Vega, caught our attention with its ancient horreos and striking trompe l’oeil painted onto an abandoned house. Windy and wet weather near the coast made walking a bit tougher today, with several muddy paths, but we soldiered on much further than planned. Some enjoyed a cliff top picnic until a cold front made us retreat to a warm café bar beside the beach. The stunning coastal views and meandering village paths were a great contrast. The sight of our quirky ancient hotel in the small town Colunga was most welcome after a long but rewarding walk.
Next day as we headed inland the scenery changed to more rural farmland, with yet more hedgerows of wild roses and other pretty perennials and flowering weeds. Interspersed with views of ancient churches we witnessed farmers tending their apple orchards and vegetable patches. We saw the pre-Romanesque Church of San Salvador consecrated in 921 and though it was locked up a friendly local showed us photos of the original frescoes inside. Some were entertained by a few loud, defensive geese, but mostly we simply drank in the stunning countryside views and forest pathways, until we arrived in the medieval town of Villaviciosa and enjoyed hot baths in a 400-year old building recently converted to a super comfortable hotel. After 20km luckily we didn’t need to venture far to find a delicious meal.
Despite a few tired walkers among us we took to the path next morning with determination, with warm weather predicted and a promise of a country house at the end of the day. The split in our pathway between the Camino del Norte and the Camino Primitivo was cause for one of several great conversations with locals. Senora Patty not only told us the history of the shrine but donated a poem about it as well as inspiring words written on cloth and packets of sweets and nuts to help us on our Way! Another meeting, this time with a fellow responsible for maintaining the yellow arrows, and his Cuban cigar-smoking friend, was most entertaining. Some witnessed a cow in labour but the highlight was a successful ascent of a very long and steep mountain up to the village of La Campa, with stunning views from the top. Lunch opposite the Church of San Salvador Valededios built in 893 A.D. and staying in a lovely rural house alongside the Camino were additional highlights. Our host Belen cooked a fabulous tasty meal with local produce, to top off a very full day.
Soon after setting off from our ‘casa rural’ next day we walked over yet another Roman bridge. The grounds of the 15th C. Palacio Meres provided a luxurious location for a picnic lunch. Our rich and diverse conversations continued despite the final stretch through relatively built up areas. Arriving in Oviedo we headed towards the Cathedral spire where we photographed its ‘crooked arch’ pointing The Way to Santiago. We stopped nearby at the statue of King Alfonso II who initiated the Camino in the 9th C. then placed our feet on a plaque that marks the start of the orignal Camino path, the Primitive Way.
And so the days passed by. Far too quickly we reached Santiago with its ornate 11th C. cathedral. Time to enjoy its special ambience and mingle with pilgrims from many different lands. Like us they had navigated diverse terrain and challenging climatic conditions over many miles. A celebratory group dinner hosted by our friends from the Camino Travel Center (who have managed all our tour logistics so well) was a culinary delight!
Then followed two memorable days of walking through the Finisterre peninsula. Particular highlights were the charming village of Maceiro with its historic Roman bridge; the tiny fishing port of Muxia with its dramatically sited Santuario de la Virgen de la Barca; and finally reaching the light house in Finisterre, known for centuries as the end of the earth. Our collective Camino at an end we returned to Santiago to reconnect with our individual life journeys. But the close bonds formed during the past two weeks suggest that it won’t be long until we meet again to share memories of our experiences along The Way.