Already I am excited even though I don’t start walking my second Camino until April 19, 2019. Like the first time, I will walk the Camino Francés from St. Jean Pied de Port but, after walking about 500 km to reach León, a decision has to be made: Continue to Santiago de Compostela via the Camino Francés or take a two-hour bus ride north to Oviedo and walk the Camino Primitivo instead. Both routes are approximately the same length and would take 16 days.
What will influence this decision might be: (1) energy level since the terrain on the Primitivo is more physically demanding; (2) people I meet to whom I don’t want to say ‘good-bye;’ (3) whether I would miss revisiting places between León and Santiago which I loved the first time, such as Cruz de Ferro and O’Cebreiro; (4) feeling regret about not visiting Samos with its enormous 6th century monastery – a place we missed seeing on our first journey.
On the other hand, after walking 500 km on the busy Camino Francés, I might hear the Camino Primitivo calling to me! It was the first major pilgrimage route to Santiago and it originated in Oviedo. Even after the Camino Francés emerged, many pilgrims viewed Oviedo to be a mandatory detour. Today the Primitivo feels largely untouched, enjoying long stretches of rugged coutryside dotted with occasional small villages and towns. It is one of the most scenic, mountainous routes, with plenty of elevation challenges.
Fewer pilgrims walk the Camino Primitivo compared with the Camino Francés. According to 2017 statistics, 180,726 (60%) pilgrims who received their compostela (certificate) in Santiago had walked the Camino Francés while only 12,000 (5%) pilgrims had walked the Camino Primitivo.
Dave and I walked the Camino Francés in 2015 and had originally planned to walk the Camino del Norte together in the spring of 2019 until a health issue arose last summer/fall which put this journey into question for Dave. He is fine now, but is still doubtful about doing it. Thinking there was a good possibility that I might end up walking alone, I researched the Camino del Norte on the Camino Forum.
One deterrent for taking that route might be the weather, although good weather really is the luck of the draw. One pilgrim wrote that the mud was so thick on the trail last May that it could almost suck the boots off her feet; however, that part of Spain experienced an extraordinary amount of rain at that time. Some said the del Norte route was more of a hike than a pilgrimage. Others said people who ran businesses in the little beach towns preferred to cater to tourists rather than pilgrims and seemed less friendly. It is a little more expensive, too.
After mulling over all of this helpful information, I decided on walking the Camino Francés again instead of the del Norte. I am familiar with it and, because a much greater number of pilgrims walk that route, there would be little chance of loneliness. Even though it is the same route Dave and I walked in 2015, it will be different: spring instead of fall; alone vs. with my husband; I would stay exclusively in albergues (dormitory-style hostels) as opposed to mostly private rooms and B&Bs that Dave preferred. The cameraderie that evolves from staying at those albergues where they often serve communal meals is a bonus!
Then, of course, there is the option after arriving in León of walking the Camino Primitivo instead of the rest of the Camino Francés. The more I think about it, the more I like that idea: 24 days walking the more populated Camino Francés followed by 16 days of walking the quieter Camino Primitivo – the best of both worlds!
On our first Camino, Dave and I didn’t go to Finisterre because it was bucketing down rain. They do say, however, there is no such thing as “bad weather,” just “inappropriate clothing.” So no matter what the weather conditions are this time, I would like to go to Finisterre and Muxia. Whether on foot or by bus, I do want to get to the end of the earth!
You are welcome to follow this new adventure here starting on April 19th!
Our 2015 Camino Frances Journey
Dave (my husband) and I first walked the Camino Frances together in autumn of 2015. We left St. Jean Pied de Port in southern France on my 70th birthday, September 10th. What a way to celebrate a new decade! We arrived in Santiago de Compostela fifty days later on October 29th, walking approximately 16 km per day with the shortest day being about 8 km and the longest, 32 km. No blisters, just lots of good memories and pictures. To read about our experience, visit our “Through Our Looking Glass” blog.