The second stage of our holiday was to cycle the pilgrim (or peregrino) route from Oviedo to Santiago de Compostela. The history of these pilgrimages is described on the Confraternity of St James site. If you just want background information on our journey, go straight to the Primitivo route, one of several which converge on Santiago from all directions.
The early drizzle had cleared when we left the hotel to try again for a cathedral stamp. The priests were behind railings in a private chapel engaged in priestly chanting so we returned to the hotel to check out. They were also equipped with a stamp to confirm our starting point.
It took a long time to pick our way out of the city following the official route, with frequent stops to check the map. We were offered plenty of assistance from locals, anxious to assist peregrinos, a much respected mission in this very Catholic country. Sometimes we just wanted them to leave us alone to study the map but there was scant chance of that happening. The city ended abruptly, high-rise blocks giving way to quiet hilly byways and misty views of green hills. We made slow progress along the steeply undulating lanes until we joined the N634, which was quiet as far as Grado, a new motorway taking the majority of the traffic. Grado is a small scruffy town, centre of the local horticultural industry and by the look of it, the place people go to get their cars and other machinery fixed.
The N634 grew busier after Grado and rose relentlessly. At the summit we paused for a drink at a bar then descended rapidly to sea level. We weren’t too pleased about this, knowing that we had to climb back up to 660m at La Espina, and it was a long slow slog into the mist, arriving just before seven. The remaining 12km to Tineo were easy, but the road was still busy with agricultural vehicles such as milk tankers thundering past us.
We found the refugio but had to go to a bar to collect the key. We didn’t realise that most of them are free to pilgrims, all you have to do is present your pilgrims passport to show membership of the Confraternity of St James. However, there was no hot water. A retired French couple were also staying, having started at Bayonne on 24th April to walk the camino.
We walked into the small town in search of food but restaurants were absent, just uninviting smoky bars. We finished up at a very basic pizza place, where we were served a bottle of beer, a bottle of water and pizza without plates, cutlery or glasses! It seems this was normal as the locals appeared to be comfortable with this arrangement.