Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela
First of all I want to express my gratitude to many of you for your kind words of support and love after my illness in Oviedo. I am really happy to announce that since Sunday afternoon I have had no head pain, and I am so grateful for your support as I walk the Camino pain-free. On the wings of love (and prayers)…
The joy-filled way from Oviedo to Grado
On Monday morning, I packed up my things, filled my Osprey Hydration system with water (it’s a 3 liter bladder that fits inside of my backpack) and said goodbye to the people at the hotel and headed out for the Cathedral San Salvador in Oviedo. I arrived there at about 8:45 am (I got a bit of a late start due to my continuing challenge with sleeping), touched the stone of the cathedral by the front door, took a quick photo and headed out to find the signs to the Camino.
So a bit of explanation on the signs of the Camino. The road to Santiago are marked throughout by scallop shells, symbols that represent the pilgrimage to Santiago. Here is what it looks like:
The symbol also tells you which way to go, as the side with many lines converging in the center symbolizes the many paths one can take to Santiago de Compostela, thus the base of the shell is representative of Santiago itself. In many places you will also have yellow arrows indicating the direction. I can tell you, in a busy city like Oviedo with the many cross-crossing streets, these signs were a Godsend in finding my way to the Camino. Here is an example of the Camino markings I found in the city:
I knew I had found the beginning of the Camino when I found this pilgrim statue on the edge of town:
“As a testimony to the first pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela by the King of Asturias Alphonse II El Casto.”
It was an absolutely perfect day for a walk and the Way did not disappoint… the walk from Oviedo to Grado was incredibly beautiful and peaceful, with wide views of the lush, green valley. I loved this walk very much, as I was happy, feeling healthy and strong and ready for whatever the day brought. Look at the beauty I spent the morning in:
After walking for a couple of hours by myself in this tranquil, verdant land, I came to the small chapel Carmen, and I met the first of the “Camino Angels.” The Camino Angels are people who live on or near the Camino and help Pilgrims. They are wonderful, beautiful souls, and truly genuine in wanting to help people on the Way. A gentleman stationed there welcomed me to view the chapel and asked if I would like to take a look at the chapel and also get a stamp for my credencial del peregrino (also known as the “pilgrim passport.”) I think I forgot to mention that when you walk the Camino, you obtain a passport from the government and along the way you receive stamps (sellas) in it from the various churches, cultural landmarks or pilgrim hostels (called an aubergue in Spain) that you visit. When you reach Santiago, you present your passport at the pilgrim office in Santiago to prove your journey and to receive your Compostela, a document of completion awarded to those who walked 100 km or more to Santiago. I had received three stamps in Oviedo, one from the Cathedral itself, one from the pilgrim office, and one from the Church of San Julian that I wrote about in my last post. Here is my credencial del pelgrino:
I told the gentleman that I would love to look *and* get a stamp in my credencial, but what I would really like is a picture with him. Although he spoke no English (and my Spanish is terrible), he understood, smiled and said “si.” Here he is with me at Chapel Carmen (I know he may not look like it, but he was happy to take a picture with me) 😉
And here is my stamped credencial:
After his brief stop, I returned to my walk, enjoying the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the flowers, the fruit-laden apple trees (there are thousands of apple trees here), and the life-giving rivers of Asturias:
By the time the ~16 miles had passed and the late afternoon arrived, I was ready to get to my destination and take a load off of my feet. As I begin the small ascent into the town of Grado, a couple of pilgrims from Italy joined in the last steps with me and the celebration of arriving at our first destination on the Camino Primitivo: Grado.
In Grado, I stayed in my first albergue, La Quintana. The proprietors were very nice, the room was cozy and warm, and the food was wonderful. Here are a few photos to give you a sense of the warmth and “homeyness” of the place:
As I close for the evening, I simply can’t express the feeling I had walking in this beautiful land on my first Camino. Most of the times I walked alone, sometimes I walked with other pilgrims, but what I can express is that the sense of peace and joy I felt while I was walking was overwhelming. I always loved the outdoors but this felt different. Here in the Asturian countryside, as I deeply breathe in the past and present of this place, I think I am learning in my soul that the simplest things in life are the best. While I dearly miss my family, I also feel that there is something to getting reconnected with yourself because when you do, you can be better for others.
Lesson #2 from the Camino.