Note: You can click on any picture to enlarge it.

We made it to Oviedo Spain the afternoon of Wednesday, Sept 13. It was a long trip to get there. We spent the next two days decompressing, sleeping and adapting to the time change. We left on the Camino Primitivo on Saturday Sept 16, the start of a 180 mile journey. Since then, internet access has been spotty. It is a little better here in Pola de Allande, so I will try to introduce this little cast of characters and explain what we are up to.

The People:

Left: Barbi (Maria Ciara); Cindy (Consuelo); Mike (Padre Pacito)

Barbi, Cindy, and Mike have known each other for 40 years.

Barbi is an OB/Gyn and Integrative physician in Mountain View, California.

Cindy and Mike have been married for more than 40 years and live in Portland Oregon. Cindy has spent her career in the food service industry, and is currently CEO of her own consulting company, Higher Standards.

Mike retired from the US Forest Service after a varied career in California, Alaska, and Oregon. He has also worked as a professional guide, leading hiking tours all around the world.

In 2015 we 3 met up in Barcelona and from there went to Sarria, to start our first pilgrimage to Santiago on the Frances trail. It was so amazing we decided to do it again but on one of the other pathways. (See “The Way” (2010) starring Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez, and “6 Ways to Santiago” (an independent film), to learn more about the spirit of pilgrimage.)

The name tags

Mike started researching the first pilgrimage to Santiago (logistics, trails, lodging, etc.) and began mapping out a plan. We e-mailed back and forth about ideas. He began to sign his notes “Padre Pacito.” Cindy soon became Consuelo, and I became Maria Ciara. It only seemed appropriate to have Latin names for the venture.

The Padre has a very dry sense of humor. He is serious about his planning efforts and leaves little to chance. The details can sometimes be down to the minute, the mile, or even the coffee shop. He takes nothing for granted. He often offers advise or makes observations that come across as proverbs. We refer to these words to live by as ‘Pacito-isms.’ I will include one, if appropriate, at the end of each blog.



The Pilgrimage:
There are multiple pilgrimages in Spain that converge on Santiago Compostela. History says that when the remains of St. James (Santiago) were located in Compostela in the 800’s, King Alphonso II made the trek from his capital of Oviedo to Compostela to honor the saint. Thus, Alphonso became the first official pilgrim. Over the centuries many have made the pilgrimage to the city that now bears the name Santiago de Compostela. There is a long and colorful history about pilgrimages that is beyond the scope of this blog.

The Purpose:
Reasons for pilgrimage are always personal. Whether it is for spiritual growth, atonement, or emotional fulfillment. The three of us have our own reasons but we have not discussed them openly.

The Plan:

Barbi with the name tags on her backpack

While weather, health and injuries can all interfere with how best made plans fall by the wayside, the strategy is to follow the plan as closely as possible keeping safety and health in mind, and, while we are all committed to the success of our journey, we agreed to be flexible.

The defined plan is to start out from Oviedo on Saturday September 16th and end up in Santiago on Friday September 29th. I will fill in the mileage, towns and significant events along the way.

The Primitivo trail to Santiago is know as “the mother of all trails to Santiago” (Author unknown.) The Padre’s experience has allowed him to develop a scale to compare levels of difficulty. He considers The Frances Trail to rate 1.8 on the Pacito scale, and the Primitivo is rated at 3.8 out of 5.

The 3 of us knew we had to be in good shape to tackle the trail. You also have to carry your pack with whatever you need for 2 weeks. Training for me started in April. I was up to walking/hiking/running 4 times weekly and attending Pilates classes twice per week. It was worth all the effort.

Planning what to include in a pack is another serious exercise. The object of the game is to keep it as light as possible and bring only essentials. 20 pounds or less is reasonable. However, you also have to be prepared for all types of weather conditions . . . hot, cold, wind, and rain have all been a part of our first 4 days. Snacks and water also need to be included.

Pacito-ism #1: There is no bad weather, there is only bad rain gear.

The Primitivo:
“The Mother of all Camino’s” is proving to be a worthwhile challenge. While the trail is marked, some of the markers are not obvious. If you miss a turn, extra kilometers can be added to your day.

Pacito-ism # 2: If you come to a fork in the road, don’t take it. Wait for a guide or guidance.

A portion of The Primitivo

The roadway and its texture changes constantly from hard packed earth to loose rocks, to asphalt. Wet leaves and mud add a special test of balance for the day.

The Spanish have not wasted resources on switchbacks . . . most roads go pretty much straight up hills. Our highest clime to date was 940 feet . . . up, up, up. It took close to 2 hours and once at the top, we were greeted by a chilly wind.

There is much more to come!


Pacito-ism #3: The Primitivo is NOT for sissies.

The Packs:
Less is better. The lighter the better. Give me more of less. A heavy pack never made things easier when navigating a trail.

It helps.

Initial conclusions:

Pilgrims along the way

This is a phenomenal, life-changing adventure. We are going to places and seeing things we would never see from a car ride. Many never have this opportunity. Gratitude comes to mind.

As pilgrims pass on the trails they great each other by saying “Buen Camino.” It is more than a salutation. It is a blessing.

Buen Camino!

~ barbi (Maria Ciara)