Kindness of Strangers: 3 Camino Angels on Camino Primitivo

Asturian countryside near Lugo, Spain

Walking the Camino Primitivo

While walking along cow pastures and woody stands, I had not seen a soul for the past three hours. But I was accompanied by huge thunderclouds, hanging heavy with the rain that seemed destined to come. The low clouds refused to release, and I silently prayed for the showers that would dampen the oppressing heat and humidity building all afternoon.

What is the Camino Primitivo?

I was walking the Camino Primitivo, an ancient pilgrimage path that connects Oviedo in Asturias to Santiago de Compostela via Melide in northern Spain. While trekking, I was also editing and updating a Camino guidebook for the route for a London publisher.

Camino Primitivo Guidebook

I was not surprised how much the lists of restaurants and accommodations had changed since the last edition of the Confraternity of St James Camino Primitivo guidebook in 2013.

Cover of Camino Primitivo Guide BookWith the growth of interest in walking the various Caminos that spider web through Europe, there were sure to be many changes and additions. However, I was surprised by the amount of construction in the backwoods of northern Spain that was changing the actual route.

Ancient Camino Primitivo course changes with modern construction.

construction sign touting 541,531.69 Euros in expenditures of Camino Primitivo pathways

Course changes meant I needed to document those route deviations in the Camino Primitivo guidebook. I needed to stop, make notes and maybe retrace my steps to ensure accuracy. The frustrating search for San Salvador de Soutomerille, a small 9th C church, had me back-tracking through hot farm fields. I finally decided that the ancient chapel must be on the alternative route that, although I was sure I had taken, I must not have followed. My 23-pound pack seemed twice as heavy as it did that morning when I left O Cadavo. I spent two extra hours and retraced three miles combing the remote countryside.

Ancient tree next to old dirt road near Camino Primitivo

Slugging along under sweaty heat

That was the reason that by 4 pm, I was walking alone. My pilgrim friends would have checked into Albergue Casa da Chanca, where we’d agreed to rest for the night hours ago. I still slugged along under the sweaty heat of the pregnant clouds.

Tired Unstoppable Stacey in front of graffitiI was climbing towards Lugo, which lies on a hill surrounded by three rivers. As I ascended, I got nearer and nearer to the clouds turning black. My prayers were about to be answered.

I was getting hammered with sheets of rain.

Setting my pack down under the sheltering arms of an oak tree, I opened the top, and as I reached to put on my raincoat, the skies opened. Hunching over, I fit my rainfly around my backpack as the rain pelted down. I was getting hammered, and as I stood up to survey my situation in the thunderstorm, I knew I’d have to stay under the tree on this lonely farm road for a while. I could see a barn at the intersection ahead of me, but it looked deserted and locked. I thought of my friends sheltering in the albergue. I was looking forward to reconnecting with them for dinner; this indeed put a kibosh on that.
Path and road in Spanish countryside

A couple appeared in the storm.

For some reason, I looked back up the tree-lined road where I’d just come. Maybe I heard something that caused me to look. But there, up the lane, were two Spanish people walking their dog. The country couple huddled under a big umbrella, which maybe seemed so large because they were so short of stature. The man held the umbrella in one hand and his wife’s shoulder in the other. As the rain pelted sideways from the wind, he pointed the umbrella towards the gusts and steered his wife to another oak on my side of the road. Their Golden Retriever crouched at their ankles.

They seemed like angels to me.

After an afternoon without seeing anyone, they seemed like angels to me. They appeared out of nowhere, and I thought, “They’re old folks walking their dog. Their home MUST be close by.” I waved a hand of welcome, and the woman waved back. We stood under our prospective trees for what seemed like 20 minutes. I had no idea how far I was from Lugo, but it was already after 5 pm, and I was giving up hope on meeting my fellow pilgrims for dinner. I felt sad that after such a frustrating day, I would miss the compassionate companionship of fellow walkers.

Camino Primitivo THAT way

When the storm finally let up, the villagers began walking. I waited, and we trod through the light rain together. We only smiled and laughed since none of us had a handle on the other’s verbal language. After about a mile and the third country intersection, the wife pointed to the right and said, “Camino.”
I said, “No, yo voy a su casa. You quiero un taxi.” No, I go to your house. I want a taxi.” They both smiled and motioned onward. And we kept walking and walking. So much for my theory that older people take short dog walks. For another twenty minutes, I could see a line of row houses through the twilight drizzle. We must be reaching the outskirts of Lugo. “Esta es la casa de mi amigo,” she smiled. “Llamará un taxi para ti.” This is my friend’s house; she’ll call a taxi for you.
Muchas gracias,” I cried. The door opened, and the wife explained in rapid Spanish as I slid, dripping, into the entryway. I was happy to have the introduction because the friend spoke no English, and I couldn’t understand her Spanish. She left me standing on the linoleum at the door to go upstairs to get her millennial son to call a cab.

Feeling bad about the water dripping off me, my raincoat and backpack

She returned to ask me a question which I couldn’t understand. After repeating it three times, she went back upstairs to retrieve a huge, thick cotton towel. Toalla! Towel! That’s the word I didn’t recognize. Then she asked me if I needed a shirt – I could understand the word camisa. No, the towel would do, I somehow explained. I felt terrible about all the water on the floor dripping off me, my raincoat and my pack. But I helped her mop it up. The kindly mother made her son come down to explain that the taxi would arrive soon. His English was about as good as my Spanish.

Taxi ride on Camino Primitivo

inside car looking through rainy windshield

The taxi arrived and whisked me to Albergue Casa da Chanca. The ride was only five minutes long, and I realized how close I was to town when the thunderstorm had broken loose. Rodrigo and Ximena, my pilgrim family from Mexico, welcomed me warmly. They laughed at my stories of misfortune and Camino angels, and I had fifteen minutes to unpack and dry off before we went back out into the rain for a late dinner.

Dinner in a wine barrel in Lugo, Spain

Pilgrims sit at table with food and wineThere, over octopus and white wine, I repeated my story of the kindness of strangers to Lazlo and Peter, our Hungarian friends.

UNSTOPPABLE Stacey, an Arizona travel writer based near Flagstaff, has written four books about the Camino de Santiago, including the Confraternity of St James Camino Primitivo guidebook.
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Read about azabache meaning and symbolism as “the stone” of the Camino.

4 thoughts on “Kindness of Strangers: 3 Camino Angels on Camino Primitivo”

  1. What a great story, Stacey! Kevin & I have been talking about wanting to walk the Camino so we were excited to read this story and want to check out the other Camino guide you mentioned. Angels are everywhere and I’m so happy they helped you that rainy evening!!

    • So glad you enjoyed the article, Meg! Please use me as a source for your Camino planning. After 14 Caminos, I have good tips and suggestions!


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