Camino Primitivo Day 7-Berducedo to Grandas de Salime
Today was going to be a shorter day at only 21.5km, but included a short, but steep ascent, followed by a really, really steep 7 kilometer descent. A total loss of elevation of 760 meters (2500 foot descent over 4 mi.). This was a long and very steep descent down a switchback forest that would take us to the Salime Dam.
The village we stayed in last night, Berducedo, is small with a population estimate around 166 people. It sits at an elevation of almost 3000ft. The walk out of Berducedo was pretty level and easy going for the first 4.5km. We left a little later than usual since we had a shorter walk this day. We soon came upon the parish church which dates back to the 14th century.
The views looking back to the village as the sun rose was beautiful. I was enjoying this relatively easy walk knowing that we had a tough day ahead of us.
After about 7 km we arrived at Buspol. Literally the only thing here is the remains of this little ancient chapel from the 14th century that once housed one of the oldest bells in Asturias. There is still a little altar inside with a devotion to St. Marina.
Just on the other side of the chapel, as you continue walking, is this lovely fence line of stone.
Several times along the Camino Primitivo we had to open gates to continue walking. These gates keep the cattle from straying away from their property. As you can see, the Primitivo crosses a great deal of rather remote and rural countryside where the animals are allowed to roam freely.
A couple of weeks before we arrived in Spain, the Asturian countryside was ablaze with dozens of wildfires. One of the hardest hit areas was the hillside near Grandas de Salime. Our steep descent down to the dam gave us a front row seat to the devastation this blaze caused. Just 2 weeks ago, pilgrims had been getting stopped at this point due the fire. You can see in these photos that the fire crossed the path we were walking on. Luckily there was no loss of life or home for the nearby residents.
About 5 hours and 19km later, we arrived at the Dam. The downhill hike from the viewpoint above was very steep and long! This would be a knee killer for anyone with prior knee problems. Luckily for us, we had none. But my plantar fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis was definitely slowing me down on this part. Not to mention the heat and humidity, as it was now noon. We stopped at the lookout to take these lovely pictures of this dam and the structures on the hill where the builders used to live during construction.
After crossing the dam we walked 1km up a steep hill to the only bar in the area. We had gone 19km with no services and this little restaurant/hotel was a welcome sight. We had a chicken bocadillo and some mineral water here while I rested my aching feet. We also met up with all the other pilgrims including the group from Utah. I thought it was funny how everyone else was throwing back the beers. All we wanted was COLD mineral water. The temps were about 80F degrees and we just wanted more water. I’ll never understand these people who drink alcohol during strenuous hikes in the heat. The last thing I wanted was to get dehydrated. We still had another 1.5 km to go and it was all uphill. We had gone through 2.5 liters of water so we topped off before heading out.
We continued up the steep hill on a road. The last 1.5Km were all on paved road and it was very hard on my aching feet. But I was distracted by a lovely group of Spaniards who were hiking along with us. This was a large group of about 12 people. They looked to range in age from their 20s to well into their 60s. All were from Oviedo and go out on weekends to complete the different stages of the Primitivo. Since they can’t do the entire route all in one shot they just walk for 1 day with nothing but a light pack with water. They were intrigued by our Alaska Camino Chapter patch and struck up a conversation with me.
Turns out that they have connections to Cuba. Their family members emigrated (like mine) there and some came back. They told me stories of their families and I told them mine were from the Caldas suburb in Oviedo. It was a wonderful conversation and they kept telling me that I my accent was Canarian (from the Canary Islands). This was the result of all the Canary Islanders that emigrated to Cuba and ended up strongly influencing our dialect. Which explains why our Cuban accent is so different from Mainland Spain. Kind of like what happened with the American accent after the British emigrated to the Colonies. The accent evolved into what we know as American English.
Lovely people whose parting words to me were “welcome to your homeland”. How touching. Then they proceeded to leave us in the dust and walk at the speed of a 20 year old. I wish I’d taken a picture with them but walking along the side of a road with no shoulder wasn’t a good place to stop.
We finally arrived in Grandas de Salime, which was the largest town we’d come across since Salas. Population around 1100. After walking and sleeping in tiny villages, a town of 1100 people really did seem very metropolitan 🙂 I’d decided as we came into town that we were going to try and see if Hotel La Barra (Tiny hotel with limited amount of rooms) happened to have any rooms available. We were really enjoying the albergues but between Billy’s snoring our desire to start very early, it just seemed kinder to the other pilgrims if we slept away from them. We got lucky and were able to get the only available room they had. It was nice have an en suite bathroom for a change. Something about being able to step out of the shower naked and get dressed outside of the bathroom that I missed at this point 🙂 Our room had a little balcony that overlooked the street and we could see the drunk pilgrims we recognized singing their way back to the albergue down the street. I’m really glad we opted for a private quiet room.
We ventured out for food and a trip to the pharmacy. This is where I was able to get a prescription strength anti-inflammatory from the pharmacist and some Voltaren gel. Albeit a low percentage but it was better than nothing. Over the counter Advil just wasn’t doing anything for my pain. Not even at prescription dosages. I needed a different kind of anti-inflammatory and opted for a COX-2 Inhibitor. It would turn out to be a Camino saver. Then we headed to the local bar for something to eat. Pilgrim meals and Menu del dia are very basic, home cooked food. Some chicken, veal, or fish with french fries. A salad or soup, and a drink. Almost always for 10 or 12 Euros. The place we chose was pretty cool. The bar looked like it was a hundred or more years old. Absolutely beautiful old wood. This is where I saw my first Cider machine. Asturias is known for their cider and they have these cool aerating machines that pour your cider at your table as you drink it. So very cool.
Our planned itinerary has us stopping tomorrow in Padron but we’ve decided to stop in Fonsagrada. It’s just a 1.8km difference and it’s where the majority of our fellow pilgrim friends are planning to stop. There are also more options for food and lodging. It’s going to be a 26km day and I’m honestly not sure how my feet are going to hold up. I don’t have any blisters, but the pain is an excruciating burning that starts at about the 20km mark.