“What the Primitivo is for?”

By Judi with Beate

To paraphrase a younger Nina, 5 years old last Friday. Why have we chosen this particular Camino, there are 18 or so altogether. For Paul and I, with an interest in walking “the Camino” at some stage, it is the invitation we received from Derek and Beate about this time last year. For them, experienced bush walkers, the idea of walking for days under the open sky held much excitement and freedom.

Also having never walked a pilgrimage before — an intentional walk with a deep spiritual and prayerful purpose- the Camino was a wonderful discovery for them. Initially, Derek had thought there were much more stunning walks in the Himalayas or New Zealand. Until he was in India a few years ago and inspired by a meditator at the BodhiZedo Ashram who had just walked the Primitivo, our direction was set.

We have met a number of pilgrims who have walked both the French and the primitivo Caminos and talk about the different landscape and experience of it all. This experience we are currently immersed in is our only one. We are walking the last few days along the Camino Frances and like the idea of joining the masses and the collective experience with (we hear) up to 200,000 people arriving at Santiago every year, lots of people walking with a hopeful heart, sore legs and feet, and with trust in the Way.

Something we love and often find challenging about the Primitivo is that the Way is through the ups and downs of the beautiful Cantabrian Mountains. Amazing landscapes, exposed ridges, deep and dark forests and endless going UP and UP. We tried not to be nervous as excruciating looks and much thigh slapping and hand gestures of difficulty came each time we told a local what we were doing. Our legs have become stronger even though at night sometimes they are restless.

Beate says “ I have been thinking that life is very much about the Ups and Downs. Sometimes, life seems so light that I can run and dance down the hill and then suddenly around the corner is the unexpected steep hill that throws me immediately into a very different space. No one in our group has ever complained about the hills, but we all hope silently that they will end soon. Such a wonderful metaphor of life, the ups and downs, the winding way and the many unexpected changes of landscapes. ‘Bring it on’ we have been saying with a smile on our face and hope we will survive.”

From the first days we were aware of the ancient trails we were walking. This is the original Camino route to Santiago de Compostela, followed by King Alfonso II the Chaste in the 9th century, from the city of Oviedo, when most of Spain was under Moorish control. The route gives outstanding views of the Picos de Europa and passes thru both Asturias and Galicia.

There was also a sense of Primitivo in the simplicity of the village and farm life we walked among each day, no metal gates for a long time and then mainly mattress bases used as gates. Close to no commerce in most of the pueblos we walked thru, occasionally a bar, many days there were “no services”. We walked on the same paths as the locals and the cows and the metaphor of dodging cow pats seemed to call us…sometimes there was no dodging!

Many days we saw wind turbines as we walked, Paul became fascinated and discovered wind power is now the single biggest contributor to Spain’s energy needs, supplying approximately 22%. Amazingly Denmark will be 100% powered by renewable energy by 2020, even South Australia had 46% of its energy needs met by wind power in 2014…time to ponder and a new passion arises on the Primitivo…

We have loved the isolation and wildness of this path and the sense of connection to so many pilgrims past “generations have trod, have trod, have trod”. We are enormously grateful to those who have made and maintained the paths, just for us it seemed some days.

Our daily readings stayed with us as we walked, one day from the Maha Ati, our interfaith reading in Sydney recently, which spoke of the practice of openness and acceptance to all situations and emotions and people, with absolute simplicity and nakedness of mind. We found with Joyce Rupp how being present helps us become aware of beauty, the detail of our daily walks becoming us as it were, lovingly appearing in our photographs and art making.

Recently we met Louis who when he retired at age 60, looking for adventure and freedom, walked the Camino from his home in Grenoble, 2000 kms over 80 days to “wash my head”. What draws him back, 14 years and many caminos later, is living simply and true people, not like in the world, a “fraternite”….I don’t carry food or book accommodation, I depend on providence…the horizon is my home…I love the Camino all year whether I am on it or at home…I had many problems at first, the Camino helped me become peaceful, that has stayed with me.