Oviedo –> Grado –> Salas –> Tineo –> Sumblismo –> Berducedo –> Castro –> A Fonsagrada –> O Cadavo –> Lugo –> Ferreira –> Castaneda –> Amenal –> Santiago de Compostela
Good morning dear friends,
After the wonderful evening spent eating, talking, laughing and singing with my Camino “famly” in albergue Sumblismo, it was time to decide whether or not to take the Hospitales route up over the mountains or to take the more protected route through the valley to Pola de Allande. This decision was mostly made the day before when we decided to stop at Sumblismo, but if the weather was bad we would forego the exposed Hospitales route and go through Pola de Allende. We were fortunate to wake up to a weather forecast of no rain or snow, rather an expectation of blue skies and some relatively high winds. We decided to take the Hospitales route.
Map on the trail showing the choice we had to make regarding routes to Berducedo.
Why all the fuss over the route we were going to take? Well, the long and the short of it is that the original pilgrims to Santiago went the Hospitales route as it is the more direct route over the mountains on the way to Galicia (the next region over). The route gets its name from the remains of three pilgrim hospitals that date back to the 15th century, and this was a compelling reason for me (and many other people) to take this route. In fact, the reason I named this post “carpe diem” or “seize the day,” was because of all of the stories I heard from different people from all over the world who wanted to “conquer” this route. The stories ranged from fear of heights, to battling brain lesions, to a man hiking after the death of his wife last month, to simply wanting to prove they could it. Every person I spoke to was determined to do go this route, to seize this moment and hike this mountain, to wrestle with and overcome their life challenges. Carpe diem, seize the day, making the most of the day in front of us, to make it count. That is what I saw on this mountain for my friends and for me. And as has been the case for me since Day 1, the lesson of the Camino can be directly applied to our daily lives.
The hike started out on a dirt road and was a gradual climb out of Sumblismo:
Seemed easy enough. But as my friends and I marched upward, the trail narrowed and became steeper and steeper, and the smiles were replaced with more determined and laboring faces. Here’s a funny one from Jerome, my friend and fellow pilgrim from Portland:
As we continued on, the views expanded and were absolutely breathtaking:
As we continued our journey up the mountain, we came upon the first of the ruins of the three pilgrim hospitals from the 13th to the 15th century:
Ruinas del Hospital de Paradiella, 15th century
I was amazed at how there were actually pilgrim hospitals in such a remote area, and it made me reflect on the thousands of ilgrims tat had walked this way before me. I wonder what they were thinking at the timeof their pilgrimage? What were their lives like? What was their motivation to take what arguably was a more difficult journey (lack of modern medicine, equipment, etc.)? Although we won’t know the answers to these questions, my belief was they were seizing the day, and paying their respects to Santiago (Saint James) was worht the risk. I respect that.
The jourey continued on, and although the weather turned a little dicey — very cold and extremely windy — we were able to carry on to the other sites on the trail. I love this photo because it shows the rays of sunlight shining through the clouds…a nice metaphor for life, especially when it seems the cloudiest.
As we kept climbing up the mountain we came upon the remains of the second pilgrim hospital:
Ruinas del Hospital de Fonfaraon, 13th-15th century
This one had stood the test of time a bit better and had a it more structure to it. But can you imagine tending the tired and weary pilgrims in such a remote place? That is what you call a “calling.”
A little ways up the trail we came upon a marker that has started to turn into a small shrine, the poor person’s version of the Cruz de Ferro of the Camino Frances. While the practical reason for the Cruz de Ferro was to mark the way for pilgrims making the trek in the winter months (a snow marker), the legend part of it is that pilgrims bring a rock to place at the base of the “iron cross,” leading their fears and worries behind. On the Camino Primitivo we don’t pass the Cruz de Ferro, but I had heard of this little monument on the Hospitales route and left my rock at the monument. My rock says “Love” on one side “conquers all” on the other.
As we continued the relentless march up to the top of the mountain, we found the very few remains of the third pilgrim hospital:
Ruinas del Hospital de Valparaiso, 13th-15th century
We were all starting to feel good that we were nearing the top, and despite the wind the team I was hiking with near the top even posed for a picture:
I took this short video to give you a sense of the wind near the top, supposedly close to 80 km/hour. People had told me that they close the trail if the winds get above 100 km/hour so we had some buffer! 😉
At this point, people were being blown around a bit, so we doubled the pace to get to the top of the mountain…and we made it! The feeling of accomplishment was real, and while the long walk down the other side was still in front of us, we paused and reflected on the day so far.
Marcus from Switzerland
Brian from California 🙂
The next hour or so was pretty grueling as it was very steep downhill and the path was covered with loose rock and shale. Arduous to say the least. After descending about 1500 feet we started to climb again (only a little bit) and then we fond a place for a rest in a place called Montefurado:
This rest came at the perfect time, as everyone was beat and needed to refuel and take off our shoes and just relax in the Spanish sun. Everyone shared snacks and stories. Bueno. Muy bueno.
The rest of the walk to Berducedo was a bit anti-climactic but also very nice…here are some pictures of the scenery along the way:
As we walked into Berducedo, we were very tired but also very happy, and when I saw my room for the night I just smiled…it was a lovely shade of pink with plenty of open air ventilation (so I could dry my clothes) and a very (firm) comfortable bed.
After freshening up we all met at the one restaurant in town and shared a meal.
We seized the day, and you can too — wherever you are and whatever you are doing.
Carpe diem. Lesson #5 from the Camino.