The Camino Primitivo detour from our chosen route on the Camino del Norte started out so promising. But when we woke up on our first morning on the Camino Primitivo, we found our walking sticks missing.
We were devastated.
But then a new friend offered to help us hunt down the thieves, and we set out on a Nancy-Drew-style adventure on the Camino de Santiago.
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In an albergue, all boots and walking sticks are often kept in a communal storage room near the hostel’s entrance. Albergue operators don’t want all the mud, dirt, and sweaty-shoe smell tracked into the living space, so there is usually a mudroom.
It doesn’t matter what route you are on, whether the Camino del Norte, the Camino Frances, or this detour on the Camino Primitivo, you can count on one thing: nobody steals from the communal storage room.
For a fellow pilgrim to abscond with another pilgrim’s shoes or sticks is something close to stealing the presents out of the back of Santa’s sleigh.
But, on Day 22 of our pilgrimage, I walked into the communal space and stared at the bucket that had once contained our walking sticks. Our shiny blue, adjustable sticks with their attached blister-preventing gloves were nowhere to be found. Left in their place were two crooked sticks – like actual sticks from the woods.
I poked my head out from the walk-in closet and called out to Lizz: “Hey, we left our sticks in here, right? Right??!!”
Lizz was instantly in the doorway, confirming that we had, indeed, left our sticks in the bucket. She nearly turned over the shelves searching for our missing sticks.
Lizz laughs easily and it’s tough to bring her spirits down, but I remembered her horror when we had accidentally locked our sticks in a hotel lobby before locking ourselves out. She wasn’t laughing about our missing sticks. Not. At. All.
While Lizz ransacked the closet, I told Roberto, the friendly albergue operator who we had sipped wine with the evening before, that our sticks were gone. This involved a lot of miming to bridge our language barrier, but between my exaggerated walk with fake walking sticks, and the destructive noises coming from the communal closet, Roberto grasped the issue.
He mimed to me the motion of someone driving a vehicle, spun on his heel, and ran for the door.
Before long, Lizz and I were seated in Roberto’s car while he careened along the Camino. When we saw a man and a woman walking with sticks that looked just like ours, he slowed the car to a crawl and drove past the culprits while we stared at our beautiful sticks in the hands of two perfect strangers.
As soon as Roberto pulled over, Lizz was out of the car and rounding the corner at a dead run. Roberto called to me to stay put, trying to explain in his broken English that if we waited, the thieves would be forced to walk right by the car. But it was too late, Lizz was already around the corner, fast approaching two known thieves who were carrying, let’s all remember, sticks.
I followed and, by the time I rounded the corner, Lizz was holding two pairs of walking sticks while two very embarrassed pilgrims walked away from her and toward my camera. Naturally, I stuck my camera in their faces.
I like to believe the best in people. I really do. The stick thieves told Lizz that they didn’t think anyone was left in the albergue. This is a possibility, considering that Roberto had given Lizz and me a private room and that we – as usual – slept later than the other pilgrims, emerging as most people were leaving.
Except our shoes were in that communal room as well. Two pairs of shoes, sitting alone on the shelves next to two pairs of walking sticks. Those pilgrims would have had to ignore our shoes while they gathered their own shoes from the very same shelves.
In the end, we decided to believe them.
You can see our debate about this in our post-pilgrimage discussion on YouTube here:
We ended up having breakfast with Roberto, who had driven to the first café on the route in order to watch the thieves walk by (without sticks).
This day would turn out to be my favorite day on the Camino. Better even than the day when we finally arrived in Santiago.
We could not stop laughing at how Roberto had whisked us into his car and took off down the Camino at NASCAR-like speeds, or how Lizz had run toward two strangers carrying sticks without any concern for her own safety. The real threat, she said, was facing miles of walking without her sticks.
That night in Oviedo, perhaps because we were still on a Stickgate high, we splurged on an expensive dinner out at a restaurant with real vegetables. We then stayed out way too late at an Irish Pub, indulging in being a tourist for the night.
The evening was a perfect ending to our short time on the Camino Primitivo and a day that will forever be my fondest memory on the Camino de Santiago. It just goes to show that the Camino will provide.
We stayed in a hotel in the city center, right near the Cathedral. We used Booking.com to reserve our room at the last minute. Sometimes it’s just nice to have a room rather than a bunk, especially in the bigger cities when you might want to have a night out on the town.
Our hotel was OK, but you can find many options for hotels and home rentals here:
(Offstage detour) Miles: 10
Actual Miles Walked: 10
Bus forward Miles: 1 (thanks to Roberto and his car!)
Total Miles Walked So Far: 261 (419 kilometers)