Calzada de Béhar to Fuenterroble de Savatierra

1 April, April Fool’s Day and Easter Sunday 2018. Day 11. Via de la Plata Camino, Spain.

There was a good breakfast provided at the communal table, but I had enough of my own and wanted to eat it so it did not need to be carried. Most of the others seemed to be enjoying a good spread. T’ai Chi that morning in the lee of the mountains, with the full moon still strong in the sky, was inspiring.

After a false start when I had to go back for my baton, I made my way through the very ancient village and out into the countryside along what might have been an old railway between pollarded trees – the first I had seen here.

There were cows everywhere: black ones on the left – mum grazing and her newborn calf souking; beige / white on the other. The white snowy mountains were ever present when I looked back, walking happily alone. What a wonderful morning! We walked into the region of Castilla y León.

I watched for a while as the young bovine, on their long spindly legs, geared themselves up to jump across the stream; I admired the bright white ones still with the tufty cord sticking out under their bellys, and all fluffy. I realise now that lots of the females have impressive horns, but in this bullfighting country how was I to know when put on the spot a few days ago?!

I mused on my topic of the last few months: the balance between a solitary and a social life. I set out from Mérida eleven days ago expecting the same quiet experience I had had when walking from Seville the previous May. Instead I found a great camino ‘family’ (as people like to call it) forever changing its members but, warm and supportive. With them around, one rarely loses one’s way or dines all alone. On the other hand, there is hardly the chance to meditate in peace; one has to politely refuse company when setting out in the morning if silence is required; and all-in-all it’s profoundly communal and not at all the solitary wandering of the historical pilgrim which I have enjoyed over the past year.

Today’s plant: catkins, at the early spiky stage.

They use natural stone for fence pillars here compared to further down in the valley.

As the morning wears on, the sun shines more brightly and the colours strengthen – water, fields and rocks in stark contrast.

I remind myself that I must stay alert and look for the details of the journey, the arrows. I come across a bridge very similar to one in Kent. Later there is a really helpful, home-made railing to help the hikers across the flooding, but for me the stones are too far apart!

It took me two hours instead of one to get to Valverde de Valdelacasa – I walked slowly, paying attention to touching the the tip of my stick on the ground very gently, taking photos and notes etc. But, then, no, it turned out that I had misunderstood the book. I was not behind-time after all.

My feet were throbbing; the birds were trilling; and Alsatians were being walked as I made the long, uphill trek into the village.

Benito was already there, tapping on the window as I went by (I had meant to walk on), and the bar was just opening after what must have been a riotous night.

Oddly there was this colourful bird, curious, in the bar that morning.

If you walk this camino, make sure you go straight on at the roundabout along the road. I was able to change into my shorts as the sun warmed up.

Dead oaks and copious lichen for miles in this landscape – further behind, Spring-wise, than the south.

Here were big black pigs in a very plain enclosure; there, quarries and multiple farm buildings. The land was all beautifully ploughed and ready for sowing.

Initially they ran away. I stood still and they returned, curious, with up to 5 rings per nose.

The paved road was hard on my feet so I lay down on the prickly ground, my back against a rock, and was sung to by cattle and birds and tickled by insects and it smelled sweetly of disturbed earth and nearby flowers. Even a large yellow butterfly flew by me, like an angel.

There was not one car or person on the next stretch although much later a tractor and finally a yellow arrow heralding the near end of my walk.

The entrance to the albergue at Fuenterroble de Salvatierra.

What an amazing albergue. It is a religious community, looking after the flock when the priest is away tending to his seven other parishes. They take great care, the people who live there, some long-term, some shorter; and the food and accommodation is excellent. Particularly as it is a donativo hostel it you pay for what you think it is worth / you can afford.

A little grotto or shrine at the back of the hostel, Fuenterroble de Salvatierra.

Aldeanueva del Camino to Calzada de Béhar

Walking the Via de la Plata camino, Spain.

March 31st 2018 10 kms 2. 5 hours then a bus to Béjar and a shared taxi (6.5 euros each) to Calzada de Béhar.

At the large hostal in the centre of the busy town, I had a couple of very interesting conversations with an Irishman, and an Englishman who lives near me in a Fife forest, both of whom are wild campers and walking with tents etc. This is something I have been thinking about for a while as it eliminates the need for finding a free bed every night. (See yesterday’s blog for a good example of how hard it can be unusual but worth knowing about if you are considering walking the Via de la Plata).

The remains of the rain from the day before lay over the mountains.

The dormitories are warm and the kitchen well equipped. It was swarming with peregrinos I had seen before and so was a friendly place to be.

After the escapades of the day before, I set off as usual, walking to Balneario which was all along the road.

Once there, I immediately saw the sign to the terma, the hot baths, and thought that would be a lovely treat but…

I entered a bar to find my companions already partaking of their morning coffee. One said he was staying behind to visit and after telephoning the hostel we were heading for, both for myself and 3 others because I spoke the most Spanish, I decided to stay as well.

The Roman baths were booked up ahead of time (this was the Saturday of Easter weekend and very busy with tourists) but the kind woman at the desk showed us around.

Benito, a German with a propensity for delight in all things.his is the old Roman bathroom, now a museum.

Then we went over the road to the modern baths and took advantage of the Pilgrim Discount (4 euros) for a leisurely swim and laze around on loungers, with a huge blue bathrobe thrown in for good measure. It was a small pool with one fountain and the only others present were a family with 2 young daughters, so reminiscent of my own in days gone by. I had a good sleep and after an hour and a half my feet were barely aching at all. Wonderful. (They are open until lunchtime and then reopen later in the day. )

Modern baths in Balneario.

We had a nice meal back at the bar (he had salad with orange and goats cheese; I had salad with gulas and prawns which turned out, despite my thinking it was a seafood salad by the title on the menu, to be sprinkled with thousands of tiny pieces of bacon which I laboriously separated from every mouthful before I ate it.)

Note to self: always check for the presence of meat before ordering!

The town is beautiful, tucked right in under the mountains and, on account of its height, very windy.

Street art in Balneario.

We managed to find a sunny corner to wait for the bus, before being driven to Béhar (only two buses that day at 12-something and 5pm) – an idea which the Tourist Information adviser had come up with. He said we could walk from there. It was lovely and warm and we wound our way up, higher and higher, through spectacular scenery, to the main town of this region, on the edge of Extremadura.

The centre of Béhar.

Once again we visited the Tourist Information and discovered it was further than we we had been led to believe and, it being close to the evening, my companion suggested we take a taxi – ending what was essentially a rest-day, which after all was day 10 and so a sensible time to take it.

Camino friends had already arrived at the albergue after a very steep climb, and the hospitaleros were most accommodating. There is a a garden overlooking the wonderful scenery, and loud music coming from a closed outbuilding which I was told the next day was where they were training horses to dance.

Albergue, Calzada de Béhar.

There were two very large sittings for the evening meal which consisted, for us vegetarians, of salad, omelette and flan. The usual, but all cooked on the premises and delicious.