After yesterday’s breath-taking walk, today’s walk was a bit more mediocre with mainly road-walking around the Salime hyrdo Station.
Since I have started this walk, I have stayed in the municipal Albergues for €5 / night. Tonight the Albergue is €6 / night.
These Albergues are great value containing all the facilities that you might need, such as warm showers, full kitchen facilities. There is also a choice if private Albergues which cost between €10 and €12 which offer more such as free WiFi and so forth.
As an extreme outdoor person, I have hiked in the wildernesses for weeks without a shower, so having a shower every day is beginning to feel decant, but still nice.
My pilgrims credencia is filling up with a history of where I’ve been with many blank spaces for where I will be going. Life is a blank book with each new chapter waiting to be written.
One beer, became two, which became cider which became wine.
Well it is Sunday so it’s probably proper to treat it as a day of relaxation and feasting.
Despite being around lots of people, I’m beginning to feel somewhat lonely now. I just have this feeling of melancholy and sadness about goals that have fallen by the wayside and people who are no longer part of my life.
Long-distance walking can be brutal in forcing you to think about things you would rather forget. It’s a time you come face to face with your own vulnerability and mortality. It’s a time to consider what it’s like to be truly alone in the world.
Long-distance walking can be like this, where without the daily diet of distraction, you have the time to experience these waves of emotions from euphoria to sadness.
Well tomorrow is another day. By all accounts, the harder variant though hospitales tomorrow is the best section of the whole Camino Primitivo. We shall see…
This is undoubtedly the best Camino that I have walked.
I make this comparison with the two Caminos which I have already done — the Camino Frances in 2013 and the Camino Norte in 2017. It is certainly more strenuous, but well worth the effort.
The whole lush green alpine vista is breathing-taking. If it’s possible to fall in love with a place, then this has to be the place.
Most of today has been spent walking in the shadow of the majestic Picos de Europa – the main mountain range in the north western part of Spain. I am very tempted to return here alone with a tent and spend a few weeks traversing and camping in these fine mountains with only the sound of nature.
On walks like this, there is a real letting go of what is wrong with the world today and just doing something so simple that dates back to our distant ancestors.
Tonight, I’m staying in another Municipal Albergue for €5 / night.
On this caminio, I have met ten Spanish, four French, three Americans, two Canadian, one Swede, one German and one Israeli. The Camino has a very cosmopolitan feel to it.
My pilgrim’s credencia is expanding with good memories.
Live is too short for one not to appreciate the wonder in it all. We spend too many hours running around taking ourselves much too seriously, when we should just be letting go and living the one life that we’ve got.
“Buen Camino” means “Good Journey” which can also be taken metaphorically.
The walk today is truly stunning with more Alpine-like features.
My pilgrims credencia is beginning to fill out nicely with a good memento of where I’ve been, but not necessarily where I’m going.
The Camino is not just about the walk, it’s about the people that you meet along the way and the time you take to think about what is important.
Today, I met David from Canada and Ravit from just outside Tel Avive, Israel.
Apparently, Ravit is Hebrew for “I quenched you’re thirst” or something like that.
Speaking of thirst, the water infrastructure on this route is superb with water fountains every few kilometers. Today, I am staying in Salas, which is an exceptionally beautiful village with Alpine-like vistas.
After a long day of walking, I have availed of the Menu del Peligrino, which consisted of six courses. Yes, you’ve read right. Six courses including a complementary bottle of wine for the princely sum of €9.50. The Albergue tonight will cost €5.
Starting the Primitivo from the Cathedral in Oviedo.
This is a beautiful Camino which I would describe as quite country roads and beautiful alpine-like scenery.
It reminds me a bit of Austria but with much cheaper prices and a very friendly people.
Along the way, I meet another countryman, Cathal from Donegal and Corey from Minneapolis in Minnesota, USA. After 13 km my fellow Countryman bailed for the day and so I continued on to Grado with Corey.
At the end of the walk, I stay in a Municipal Albergue, which works on a donation basis of €5 per night including breakfast.
Checking into the Albergue, I’m greeted by two very friendly hosteleros, Herman and Sita, both from Holland, in Nijmegen and Friesland respectively. Herman tells me I should do the greatest walk in the world, which happens to start from his hometown, Nijmegen, and is called the Walk of the World – Four Day March.
Later, I had a “Platos Combinados” consisting of a salad, potatoes and chicken, followed by a desert for €8.
I’m sleeping in a mixed dormitory with 15 other walkers. When staying in an Albergue, the general protocol is a curfew from 10:00 PM and the Albergue must be vacated by 8:00 AM.
A necessary prerequisite for this type of accommodation is a good set of earplugs, as the cost of such a low price is having to endure someone snoring. A Camino such as this is like a mental reset, just like a fast is a dietary reset. The stamps on the credencia represent not only a physical journey but also a journey of freedom. Walking the Camino, while carrying everything on your back, helps you separate the necessary from the unnecessary, both physically and metaphorically, to truly realise how little you really need. Just basic food, basic shelter and good friends.
The Camino Primitivo starts in the Spanish city of Ovie
Before starting any walk it’s necessary to get to the start of it which for me involved a flight and three busses.
I’ll be travelling light on this one as I’ll be able to stay cheaply in Albergues (Hostels for Pilgrims) and Monasteries for about €5 / night. However, as a backup, I’ll be packing my trusty bivy bag along with a sleeping bag.
Weight Loss and Menu Del Dia
A walk of this distant would take a typical hiker about six hours per day, causing one to lose about three kilograms of body weight over the entire route. However, it’s worth mentioning that a typical Spanish Menu del Dia, costs about €10, which comprises a three course meal with a complimentary bottle of wine, so finding those extra calories shouldn’t be a problem. Speaking of money, if you’re spending more than €26 per day on total costs including food and accommodation then you’re either doing something wrong or living high on the hog. Walking the Camino should be less than the cost of doing a standard thru-hike through Europe.
Pilgrims Office in Dublin
Before embarking on my journey, I paid a visit to the Pilgrims office in James Street, Dublin. This office is staffed by volunteers who have already walked different routes of the Camino.
People walk different routes of the Camino for many different reasons. Even though it’s a religious route, less than 30% of those who walk it, do it for religious reasons. I, myself, as an agnostic, would like to think that I’m walking this Camino for spiritual reasons or at least an immersion in nature and culture. Perhaps simply being immersed in nature qualifies as being spiritual and then maybe the reasons are do not really that important after all.
The volunteer that I spoke to had some good tales from the Camino. In my enthusiasm, I splashed out on a “celtic” Camino passport for the princely sum of €10.
A Camino passport is necessary to stay in the cheaper Albergues and Monasteries and also as evidence that you have walked the way if you want a Compostela – a certificate stating that you have completed the Camino.
I am not particularly interested in the Compostela, but the passport is a nice memento of the walk. The passport can be had in Spain for between €2 and €5.
How much does it cost to walk long distances in Europe.
Well it depends a lot on where you walk. Doing a thru-hike through Scandinavia will cost a lot more than a similar one through Romania. However, it is useful to have some kind of a yardstick when deciding where to hike and for how long.
Comparing Apples to Apples
To make a good comparison between different trails and to be able to adjust for the duration of the walk it is necessary to compare the on-trail costs while excluding once-off costs, such gear and the costs of travelling to the trail.
Once you have invested in hiking equipment it will serve its purpose on multiple trips so this cost can be excluded.
The next consideration is the cost of getting to and from the trailhead. This depends a lot on where you are coming from and what deals you can find.
Once-off trail costs such as these will cost the same whether you walk for two days or two months and so it doesn’t make sense to factor these costs into the daily on-trail costs for comparison purposes.
This leaves us with the magic figure which is the on-trail costs.
The On-Trail cost
I begin counting my On-Trail costs from the first morning of the walk, usually starting with breakfast, and continue counting up until I finish the hike on the last day. I include the meal of the last day but not accommodation.
The costs of getting to and from the trailhead with possible accommodation at the start and end are not included in the On-Trail costs, but are included in the transport costs.
The On-Trail costs includes all trail costs while walking the trail such as accommodation, food, drink, medical supplies, tours, etc. A good ballpark figure for a fit and reasonably frugal individual thru-hiking in Southern or Eastern Europe would be around € 26 per day. Assuming an average distance of 30 km per day, this works out at €0.87 per km.
According to the PCTA, the average PCT thru-hiker will take between 4.5 and 5.5 months to walk the 2,659 mile PCT, while spending between $4000-$8000+. Applying these stats to the average fit and thrifty hiker, the PCT could be a be walked in 4.5 months for a cost of $4000. So on a daily basis, this thru-hiker would walk an average of 19 miles per day while spending $29 per day.
Spain and the Frugal Dutch Man
Based on my long-distance hikes in Spain, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, I think this cost could be much improved on. I have hiked a month-long section of the GR7 in Valencia, Spain, at a cost of €19.67 / day.
While walking the Camino Norte, in 2015, I met a Dutch man who had been walking for three months, from his home in Utrecht, Holland to Santander, Spain for about €17 / day. The Dutch have a reputation for being very wise with their money. But this man’s frugality was quite impressive considering that he had spent two months walking through France, which is much more expensive than Spain.
The Camino Primitivo is considered to be the original way to Santiago, when King Alfonso II of Asturias was the first pilgrim to walked there in the year 814CE from his capital, Oviedo, to the present location of Santiago de Compostela. This was a time when most of Spain was under moorish control.
The Primitivo is the fourth most popular Camino behind the Francés, Portugués Central, and Norte, with about 12000 pilgrims walking it every year, which is about 5% of all the walkers on all the Caminos. As the toughest of all the Caminos, the Primitivo would appeal to more seasoned hikers. Starting at the cathedral in Oviedo, the Primitivo crosses the mountains of the Picos de Europa, while passing through the Spanish provinces of Asturias and Galicia, finishing 320 km later at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. The Primitivo joins the more popular Camino Frances in Melida which is about 50 km from Santiago. The Primitivo section, before it joins the Camino Frances at Melida, is 270 km. The suggested time for walking the Primitivo is 11 days averaging about 25 km a day with 800 metres of ascent.
The Blackstairs Challenge consists of a distance of 31 km with 1700 metres of ascent along the Carlow-Wexford border.
It’s one of those walking events where you can choose how much of a challenge you want it to be by simply varying your speed. A slower pace makes for a very enjoyable leisurely walk. Pushing the pace on this walk turns it into a very hard challenge to rival any serious competitive event.
Is this a walk and or is it a competitive challenge? It’s hard to say, but allow me to indulge in some subjective reasoning here. I would say that completing this event in a time under six and half hours makes this a seriously hard challenge, whereas in a time over seven hours, I would classify it as challenging walk.
Johnny’s subjective classification:
Serious Challenge: < 6.5 hours
Respectable Walk: > 7 hours
Leisure day out: > 9 hours
Note that this classification is only my own humble opinion.
The walk itself doesn’t have the climbing toughness of the Maamturks Challenge or the bog drudgery of the Lug Walk, but nevertheless it’s a beautiful walk and one that can be taken at a leisurely pace or turned into a very serious challenge by doing it at speed. The walk is organised by the Wayfarers Association who do an excellent job every year in organising what is probably the most enjoyable challenge hike in the province of Leinster.
The walk takes an average time of nine hours to complete. Though the last time that I did this hike, two years ago, I clocked in at four hours and fifty four minutes, a record for my club, bringing me in as the fastest hiker or fourth place overall after three runners.
But it’s not all about speed or who’s first, it’s a beautiful walk for its own sake. Apart from being a challenge event, this is a wonderful solitary walk that can be done at anytime when you need time alone for contemplation. Contemplative walking is a whole different ball game where focus switches from objective measurements, like distances and finish times, to subjective qualities and experiences. Which is better? In my view both have a place, like two sides of the one coin, the yin and yang if you like. It’s like the weather, you can’t appreciate the sunny calm days without experiencing the wet and stormy ones.
For 2019, the ending of the challenge has changed. I have had the great pleasure of reccing the new route with the Wayfarers Association and have included the GPS route below.
To give you an idea of the terrain, I have included my route from 2017. Please note that this includes the 2017 ending, which differs from the 2019 ending.
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