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- To Santiago & Beyond with my Guitar
- MY CAMINO GUITAR - History
- Finally: Building the Camino Guitar
- Gary Moore - Final Resting Place
- Camino Primitivo - in 10 Days
- The Vegetarian's Dilemma - A tale of caterpillars, goldfish, and my Collard Greens
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Camino Primitivo - in 10 Days
It’s been months since my last ‘pilgrimage’, and, thus far, no word of it here.
It was a shorter distance, commencing from Oviedo in Asturias, and not scaling quite the same heights as the Camino Frances. The scenery was as pleasantly rural as we had come to expect of northern Spain, although it lacked the variety of landscape or architecture of the previous walks. Indeed, despite the Primitivo’s claim to being the original ‘way of St James’’, I would be hard pressed to describe much of architectural and historical merit between Oviedo and Lugo. (Doubtless, I will be taken to task on this by some more erudite soul). The apparent absence of these things makes the Primitivo a far less trodden, and consequently, less accommodating path for the pilgrim to choose. Some might relish the peace and quiet; others could feel very alone. In June, we expected the walk to be far more popular than it was. Yet we were to meet only a dozen or so pilgrims on its entire length.
In the meantime, we wondered where everyone else was – or indeed, where anyone else was. By ‘everyone’ we meant a charmingly eccentric Spanish woman we had shared our refugio with the previous night, and the morose Cantabrian fellow in Lycra and Gortex who had dogged our footsteps for the last two days. The woman hadn’t wanted to do either route alone, and had grave misgivings about continuing. The latter took himself very seriously, had all the kit with all the right labels. Somehow though, we had passed him consistently and with ease, and me looking like a hippy with a guitar, a T-shirt, and a blonde, treating it like a stroll in the park. I couldn’t help that. His dislike of me was very evident. I was not pleased to see him either, when he finally caught up with us at that grim refugio. He had voiced his intention to go over the mountain anyway, no matter what. But as things turned out, only the Spanish lady left promptly that morning – to take a taxi, or the road, we imagined – and the surly Cantabrian kept peeking nervously at the weather, frying up a generous breakfast, and otherwise stalling for time. We left before him, which was very unusual.
The cold came biting through. I was losing body heat rapidly through my wet clothes, and knew the danger. I nearly cursed bringing that ridiculous guitar then; I nearly loosened my grip and let the wind carry it away. After all, there had been no suitable places to play, no glorious acoustics within monasteries or fine buildings, and no audiences I would have cared to perform for. It had just been an encumbrance, the absence of which would have allowed me to carry something dry, warming - even life-saving? But then I had more pressing concerns.
I waited, shaking with cold, rocking from one foot to the other, trying to keep mobile. Which caused me to detect another attribute of my ‘waterproof’ walking gear. The ‘waterproof’ boots didn’t so much stop the water getting in, as impede its exit. Now they were full, and it sloshed and squirted out of the tops. But I was past caring.
Carol caught me up. There was something very telling and a little frightened in her expression. “We’ve made a mistake this time, haven’t we?” She suggested quietly. Her hands were balled into little cold fists, and she probably couldn’t open them.
“Yes,.. I think that’s quite likely, I admitted, “…but at least it’s an adventure!”
The roof was too low for me to stand up in, the mud floor was deeply furrowed, probably by wild boar, but hunkering down out of the wind and rain felt luxurious. The priority was to massage life and warmth back into Carol’s hands, but we were also both low on calories. There was a bar of chocolate in her rucksack. I had to find it, break it into chunks, and feed us both. Without gloves, plastic shopping bags sufficed, which I promptly wrapped around her hands. Although Carol had an effective waterproof jacket, her boots had fared no better then mine, and her rucksack had suffered rather more. The integrated rain cover had no drain holes, so trapped a pool in the bottom. This soaked through the fabric of the bag to where her (once) dry clothes were stored. In summary: we had no proper food; Carol had no dry clothes; and I had nothing remotely waterproof. And unless viewed as a potential source of firewood, my guitar was the most useless item any man could drag up a mountain.
Our options were clear. Wait for rescue or a break in the weather. Alternatively, knowing we were at, or near, the top, attempt a rapid descent.