Villaneuva de Campéan to Zamora, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 18 (Mérida to Ourense). Sunday 8 April 2018. 18 kms.

I have lost all my notes for this week and there are a lot of photos for 8th April so there are few words.

IMG_20180408_080923 (640x359)
It was early morning when I set off.
IMG_20180408_074936 (640x359)
I was not the first to leave along the Roman road.

The sun rose on my right. It lit up the lush fields on my left as if it was a different time of day there.

IMG_20180408_080524 (640x359)

IMG_20180408_075710 (640x359)

 

IMG_20180408_081127 (640x359)
This gorgeous light speaks for itself.
IMG_20180408_081737 (640x359)
Right in the middle of nowhere. Nowhere else to do a pee.
IMG_20180408_081748 (640x359)
 Just look at the detail!
IMG_20180408_091149 (359x640)
Mini ant mountains all over the path.
IMG_20180408_095330 (640x359)
A traditional skyline on the Via de la Plata camino, Spain.

Calendula (marigolds) and roses in full flower in San Marcial. Red and white cycle path signs reminiscent of the Grande Randonnee in France.

IMG_20180408_104032 (359x640)
Bird foot prints in the clay. There are also dog (or wolf?) ones on all the paths although I only saw one hound running for miles unattended.

Coming into the city of Zamora (‘The pearl of the 12th century’) along the River Duero, close to the border with Portugal in north-west Spain.

IMG_20180408_114620 (640x359)

IMG_20180408_120408 (640x359)
Fragrant Mimosa.

IMG_20180408_122627 (640x359)

IMG_20180408_122728 (640x359)
The rainbow colours of the local rock, yesterday seen as pebbles on the path, today making up these walls.
IMG_20180408_122952 (640x359)
Puente de Piedra (Bridge of Stone).

Zamora architecture.

IMG_20180408_123605 (640x359)
The charming Plaza de San Cipriano, Zamora, Spain.

IMG_20180408_134112

IMG_20180408_134758 (640x359) (640x359)
Zamora Castle, 11th century, Spain.
IMG_20180408_184251 (640x359)
Courtyard at the Cathedral, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_191511 (640x300)
Zamora Cathedral, Spain.
IMG_20180408_191551 (421x640) (421x640)
Iglesia de los Remedios, viewed between the columns surrounding the Cathedral, Zamora, Spain.

The albergue.

IMG_20180408_123916 (640x359)
When I arrived it was fine, sunny weather, and there was a notice on the door explaining that it would not open for 3 hours.
IMG_20180408_123847 (359x640)
The Albergue de Peregrinos is beside San Cipriano Catholic Church where we left our stuff with the nervous woman while we went off to explore. 

Later there was a queue of us waiting at the allotted time and, unexpectedly, it hailed hard. There was only a tiny ledge for everyone to huddle under and not enough space for the luggage, so in 5 minutes the rucksacks, boots, everything was soaked.

The hospitalera was most hospitable (sorry!). She was a fountain of knowledge having worked there for a long time and she was clearly in her dream job – loving chatting and finding out where we were all from. She had great English and knew what we needed. There is a fantastic kitchen and Marie Noelle had been before us, messaging me to say that she had cooked meals for the Seuil men – one vegan for E and the other with meat for the growing lad. I was very lucky that they shared it with me – a veritable feast.

IMG_20180408_132621 (640x359)
Rams head fountain, Plaza de Viriato, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_132920
Interlocking trees, Plaza de Viriato, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_133352
Great graf.
IMG_20180408_134946 (640x359)
Museo Etnografico, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_184353 (640x359)
Detail from the larger than life-size wall painting Saint Christopher and the Infant Christ, which caught my eye in the Cathedral, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_184610
Solid silver altar de plata in the Cathedral, Zamora, Spain.
IMG_20180408_190747 (359x640)
Museo Etnografico, Zamora, Spain.

Baltasar Lobo (artist 1910-1993 buried in the Cimetiere du Montparnasse, Paris, France)

His work is in a dedicated gallery (free entry) beside the Castle and also scattered around the grounds nearby.

IMG_20180408_185531
He was particularly interested in the pregnant form and relationship between mother and child.
IMG_20180408_185955 (640x359)
San Pedro de la Nave with the Cathedral in the background. Zamora, Spain.

I highly recommend Zamora as a tourist destination.

El Cubo to Villanueva de Campéan, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 17 (Mérida to Ourense). Saturday 7 April 2018. 13 kms.

IMG_20180407_104016 (640x359)

The 7th April was a day of varied landscapes – some of the previous day’s wide open fields but also smaller agricultural plots, some houses, the ‘iron road’ etc. I was going at a faster pace, partly because it was cold but also as I knew it was a much shorter day. Going to Zamora in one leg was too long, so I was dividing it into two.

After last night’s heavy rain, it was dull but, hooray, dry! I passed out of the village, took a left over the bridge and straight into the country with no road – another big plus. Cocks were crowing and I spotted them at the front door.

IMG_20180407_085926 (359x640)
A bit blurry because of the zoom. The good thing about hens is that they go up at both ends like two upside down commas joined together

Weirdly there was a digital town clock striking 9am, just as loud as normal bells but with an electronic tone, reminding me of the early days of mobile phones when TV programmes made jokes about huge handsets with ringtones sounding out across the country.

It was right at the fork despite no yellow arrow and I was walking by the railway. The next right was signed. I wondered, why one and not the other?

IMG_20180407_091812 (640x359)
Walking beside the railway today. Sodden ground made the going slow.

I reflected on last night’s round-the-table conversations: how some people do the whole camino all at one go, others walk one weekend at a time; some start here, some there; and I have been meeting so many folk with injuries.

Plant of the day: once again I do not know the name. It has round burgundy / black pods or fruits that I have not seen before. They were hanging on dead trees and when I trod on one which had fallen on the path, it was full of diarrhoea-coloured mush which looked like wet plaster board.

IMG_20180407_091505 (359x640)

 

Who would have thought Spain could be quite so cloyingly muddy with wet sand! There was that cuckoo again – Marie Noelle used to tell me it means she will be rich.

IMG_20180407_093221 (640x359)
The water in the massive puddles is neon orange – so much brighter than in the photo. In the background are the chemical spraying machines like grounded corpses of fighter planes.

My nose runs and pilgrims behind me sneeze. I notice that cows do stand very, very still sometimes!

I muse: people I know walked here yesterday; or the day before; even 3 years ago. I can follow in their footsteps until it rains, wiping out all trace.

IMG_20180407_085603 (359x640)
This guy in front was walking with Chaplin knees and his feet turned right out to the sides, indicating that his hips were tight.

The yellow arrows used by the Friends of the Camino to show us the way are not really the best colour given that there are a surprisingly large number of the same hue: yellow lichen beside the arrows on the gate posts, yellow triangles on pylons, and motorway relfectors found at ground level at the edges of the roads where we have to walk. They are all found in the very places we look for the indicators.

IMG_20180407_110628 (640x359)
Vines at their dead-looking stage, black and twisted, organised in rows. The man I spoke to said they were ‘centenarios‘. Really old, then.

There is a great racket and then I see a flock of sheep being let out of the pen beside a farm, trotting into the field in single file with their new earrings, complaining bitterly.

Looking up I see it is going to become hilly again. The rabbits are too quick for my camera and there are definitely more flowers now, thank goodness. Beautiful purple / pink rocks are embedded in the white / yellow path amongst all the other colours of the irregularly shaped stones.

IMG_20180407_094400 (359x640)
Cyclops!

I arrived at 11.45am and was second into the hostel. I stopped at the bar for the key and had a quick coffee (every now and then I enjoy a tiny decaff with sugar – something I never have at home).

IMG_20180407_114000 (359x640)
There was a long road getting into the town, with a ruined monastery on the right which I meant to go back and take photos of in better weather but forgot.
IMG_20180407_114018 (359x640)
The sign is also in Arabic – a reminder that the folk who started at Almeria or Malaga on the Camino Mozarabe joined the Via de la Plata at Mérida rather than starting at Seville. They are now beside us on the way to Compostella.

There are a number of albergues in Villanueva de Campéan, all apparently as low grade as the others, private ones costing the same as the municipal where I slept. I entered the sleeping area through the kitchen which had a microwave but no fridge and was dirty. Not only does the outside door open directly onto the kitchen, but there is a great gap above the wall between that and the dormitory so the cold and noise travels easily between the two and the street, as does the cigarette smoke. Luckily there were loads of us so we were cosy.

IMG_20180401_141727-623x350 (623x350)
Villanueva de Campéan, Spain.

One by one we all settled in the bar for the rest of the day, and what a great band of cosmopolitan trekkers we were. I managed to write three blogs, trying to catch up, and then decided to continue when I got home. It was simply too loud and hilarious (the locals were playing cards and everyone was watching the football). Lots of red wine and menu del dia‘s were consumed and the atmosphere was most convivial.

IMG_20180407_203132 (640x359)
The two guys from Seuil, the shoulders of the younger looking better after his Shiatsu (which he requested two days before) I thought! There is Carlos behind, with the beard – someone I was to come into contact with every day for the rest of my time in Spain.

In The Pilgrimage to Santiago, Edwin Mullins writes about the history of sending ‘sinners’ on the camino as far back as the 13th century: ‘…there is the case of the parish priest near Chichester [England] who would regularly fornicate, repent, then fornicate again, until in 1283 the Archbishop of Canterbury felt obliged to send him to Santiago as a penitent the first year, to Rome the second and to Cologne the third. What is not on record is whether the cure was successful or whether he thereafter weighted his repentance with the names of three foreign cities in which he had also fornicated.’

Calzada de Valdunciel to El Cubo, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 16 (Mérida to Ourense). Friday 6 April 2018. 20 kms.

IMG_20180406_104823 (640x359)

I am walking in Castilla y Léon and this part is very flat with a deal of road. The albergue in Calzada de Valdunciel is on the opposite side of the town, making it very simple and quick to find the way out in the dark.

‘Lodging facilities were generally provided outside the city walls to enable travellers to come and go after the gates of the town were shut at night’. The Pilgrimage to Santiago, Edwin Mullins.

IMG_20180406_095121 (640x359)

The long straight path  was not overly attractive but as the sun rose, everything changed colour, even the barbed wire fence took on a precious shine.

I came across a small forest of teasal, all turned towards the sun. They stood tall and prickly in the light, old and brown but glowing at the same time. I have never seen so many of them at once. Perhaps because I knew I would be walking past a prison later in the day, they reminded me of inmates pressed against the boundary fence (there was not enough light to take a photo).

IMG_20180406_121648 (640x359)
Plant of the day: the red catkin one – after searching the internet it could be Black Cottonwood

Opposite the sun, in the same cobalt sky, was less than half a lint moon, a wafer-thin gauze of a slither. Where the warmth had not reached it, the grass was still stiff with the haw frost.

I followed the footprints of the people who had gone before me until a significant detour due to flooding. I was under a motorway bridge and the warning signs were easy to see except they were back-to-front, so first I took the left fork, met with the un-passable path and retraced my steps. Then it was not easy- arrows everywhere – and it was counter-intuitive winding back and over where I had already been. It seems that this diversion has been there a long time.

IMG_20180406_111723 (359x640)
I ask myself, what is the person like who leaves these prints?

Soon it was lovely and warm. Straight, straight on, cars rushing past and I somehow missed Huelmos, the only pueblo between setting off and my destination. Shame about the sore feet. This type of stage often seems much further than it actually is, but I revelled in the wild flowers: the same selection from last week. I had hardly seen any since then and I wondered if the wheat spraying was responsible for the lack of them.

IMG_20180406_103455 (640x359)
A typical, simple, Spanish local church.

This time the accomodation, a private hostel, was just off the first road I came to on entering El Cubo, sort of round the back and next to what looked like a derelict area. It had a spacious garden surrounding it and those strips of plastic hanging in front of the front door.

IMG_20180406_174912 (640x359)
Albergue Torre de Sabre, Calle Traversís de la Ermita, El Cubo, Spain.

As there was no answer I phoned and the owner appeared very quickly, offering me a welcome beer. The books say people are welcome to pop in for a drink and a seat – a nice idea that I had not come across before. As I sun-bathed, I remembered that I had forgotten to leave a donation at the Salamanca donativo hostel and resolved to ‘pass it forward’, as the cyclist from Malta who came briefly by for a coke and to fix his bike, suggested.

Later I went into the village to buy my tea and next day’s breakfast. Two women sitting on a bench outside their house pointed me in the right direction. I am now familiar with shops which are in apparently residential dwellings. In Edinburgh it is the opposite – many of the old shops have been made into homes. White doves flew up from the church.

IMG_20180407_085307 (640x359)
See the St James scallop shells decorating the base of the cross – eternal symbol of the camino.

Being private, there was no pilgrim’s kitchen but the retired owners allowed us to sit at the table alongside the others who were eating the supper provided. There were six of us including a young couple who are walking the camino, weekend by weekend, travelling by car from home on Friday nights, to the start of each stage, walking for two days, and then returning to their vehicle on the Sunday night for work the next day. It was a really enjoyable meal and the wine flowed freely – a delicious local white for the starter, red for the main – which I was (happily) encouraged to sample.

I was still meeting up with the duo from Seuil regularly. They always cater for themselves, being on a strict (almost impossible) budget, and the youngest is an avid footballer (he played for Rennes when he was younger) so despite walking every day, he goes out for football practice every evening – E, his ‘accompanying adult’, is consequently improving his moves!

IMG_20180407_085016 (359x640)
A plain, modern house with attractive decorative tiles.

They also washed our clothes for two euros, and there was plenty of hanging space in the garden. Unfortunately, having bought almost all of my stuff in before the storm except my double-layer socks which dry very slowly, I left them out all night. I padded out in bare feet through the puddles in the early hours when I remembered, but it was too late for them to dry for wearing that day.

I had a rather luxurious night: although I was in a shared room and had arrived first, picking the less expensive bunk, the whole establishment was full by 8pm and I was moved to a double bed – presumably because I was the matriach!!

Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino, day 15 from Salamanca to Calzada de Valdunciel (on the Mérida to Ourense section). Thursday 5 April 2018. 15 kms?

wp-1522944822131..jpg
Cathedral, Salamanca, Spain.
wp-1522944859310..jpg
Plaza Major, Salamanca, Spain.
wp-1522944859421..jpg
San Marcos, Salamanca, Spain.

I woke really early and crept out of the female dorm where I slept with 2 others. I had been warned that walking out of Salamanca would be frustrating, and it was. The start was straightforward: to Plaza Major, then onwards, the roads getting wider and more industrial as I went. But then there is a left; straight on at a supermarket (Carrefour); a hotel which would not let me use their toilets; a stadium which I crouched behind as a result; and motorway roundabouts. No paths nor pavements: terrible. I even saw a man spitting which although it is very common in Britain, I had never seen before here in Spain.

wp-1522944859548..jpg

However, I could not help but be elated with the lovely buildings and the sunlight, even if it was mixed with frustration at getting the rucksack comfy, trudging along thinking about past relationships and sorting things out in my mind.

IMG_20180405_082816 (640x359)

Finally there was a clay camino by the motorway and despite the ice on the ground it was starting to warm up.

wp-1522944859693..jpg
It looks more orange in real life!

I was getting a very different feeling from people in this part of the country: in the bars they were polite but gave us half a glass compared to the Spanish, and charged more; on the street, on the other hand, people were kindness itself, helping with directions despite my beginners Spanish.

wp-1522944859603..jpg

For a while I walked amidst the green and earth – the plough had created gracious curves around the hills. Then more by road – I thought, ‘You must be joking’, but the challenge was to stay quiet inside and enjoy what was there. It worked! Very soon I was back off-road, and from then on it was a smooth, flat and ochre-coloured path.

Yesterday I walked in one long stretch of countryside with nothing to break it up, offering a chance to do a walking meditation. Today it was warmer and there were little hops from village to village and there was the spire of a church ahead in Aldeaseca de la Almuña. It was a square bell tower with a shallow triangular roof and a little blob of stork on its nest on top.

I passed one of the women I had seen the previous night. She was sitting outside a village supermarket having a quiet smoke. I chose a lovely wee shop round the corner, full of delights such as an unexpectedly wide range of perfume as well as the sweet things I was ready for even though only it was only 11am.

wp-1522944821936..jpg

There was a tiny arrow between the church and the medical centre but I only saw it when I went back in and the shop-keeper pointed it out. There was a sign that the library bus visits on Mondays. I exited past the sunshine yellow play-park.

I admitted to myself (after my experience near Lake Tajo) that I am somewhat nervous of meeting single men on the outskirts of towns, and at the next village sure enough there was a car which went slowly. He hooted and later approached me, but it was fine – I walked on, did not look at or answer him, and he got the message.

There were new tulips out, a hoopoe saying bou bou bou, and wood pigeons coo cooing. Luckily my book said to walk on the right side of the road, and there was a path between the trees although I did not see the arrows. Later I discovered that others had continued along the road, and I was happy that for once I had found the gentler way.

wp-1522944821896..jpg
I love these wide open spaces. They are one reason why I walk.

Although in this flat land there are not a lot of places to snuck down for a pee!

wp-1522845349861..jpg
More than once I thought I saw a castle in the distance and then realised it was irregularly stacked hay bales.
wp-1522944859333..jpg
This footbridge is what we caminantes appreciate.

Oh the sweet peeping of the small brown bird with a white belly! I had never seen the vino tinto-coloured catkins before: they were all over the ground.

Then, another first, I had to take my boots off and wade through the water which was blocking the way.

I crossed the very busy main road once more, using the motorists’ signs to help me: there are far fewer arrows in this region, though there are the more modern Castilla y León pillars encompassing a variety of directions.  Here there were the same miniscule scarlet succulents growing in the gravel which were all over Extremadura. I was walking beside what you might call a posh housing estate, along a smaller road parallel to the A-one, into Castellanos de Villiquera. (The Valencia one I went to has security guards on call 24 hrs a day)

There were glimpses of turquoise swimming pools through hedges and I wondered for the 100th time, why I walk. We have forgotten the way people used to walk from town to village if they did not have a horse/cart. My favourite parts of the film Captain Corelli’s Mondolin are when the people wend their way out of the village down that zig-zag road, taking their time and following tradition. Now I hear that in America you are advised not to go on foot at all in some cities. I am fascinated by the quietness of this mode of transport, not for the sake of a romantic revisiting of a lost era but because it feels better. I see and hear more. If I am not in a hurry (as I was for the first 50 years of my life it seemed), then there is somehow more time for my soul to catch up with my body.

wp-1522944859737..jpg
At the water tower in Castellanos de Villiquera the yellow arrow tell me to go straight on.
IMG_20180405_104731 (640x359)
The road forks at the Parish Church of Castellanos (Spain) and there is almost no wind so I can go on in a T-shirt.

A woman beats a mat outside her house; in contrast the small tweety birds flutter their wings like hovver flies. A racing 3-year-old spaniel, wet from leaping through young wheat, and her owner (approximately 80 years old) stop to say, aren’t you cold? I said no, not after 15 kms, and we had a nice chat. He wished me a Buen Camino when we parted ways. It seems to be a very popular pastime for the retired, walking on the outskirts.

No-one overtook me today. I suspect the two men who left earlier are going for 30 kms or so. Planning each day involves looking at the distance between hostels and taking any main towns into account. It is certainly tempting to go further, and this is a topic of very regular debate both in my head and with others, but today’s tricky 60 kms to Zamora can be comfortably divided into 16, 23 and 21 which is much more relaxed.

I traipse through Calzada de Valdunciel, right to the other side, past a wall where there is an oficina virtual de turismo ie, not real people, but a digital tourist information. And arrive at a 12-bed, cute little albergue which shares a wall with a noisy metal-cutting factory (blessedly, they take a long lunch break!).

wp-1522944859725..jpg
It was deliciously sunny and I spent all of the rest of the day outside in the paved space in front.

I am there first and although deserted, the door is open. One-by-one the others arrive: the 2 men from Seuil who I have been getting to know for a few days, came first, followed by others who looked and decided to move on, and, finally, the woman I saw that morning and she had to be turned away because by then we were full. There is a little kitchen with a stove and a string of (what turns out to be plastic) garlic. And a little bedside table.

Later I took a turn around the streets and met the same woman for the fourth time. I discovered that she was waiting for an ambulance outside that supermarket because she had come over all giddy. I had noticed her having coca cola and coffee for breakfast in Salamanca before her cigarette, so when she said she did not know why she had felt so ill we had a chat about it. Much later I got to know her well and heard her story. There is always a story.

Morille to Salamanca, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 14 (Mérida to Ourense). Tuesday 3 April 2018. 20 kms.

The camino is otherwise known as The Way, as is the Tao and I turned over similarities between the two as I walked the road from Morille to Salamanca.

There was a straight yellow line ahead of me, almost flat, through green fields of recently sown grass. There were three of us at intervals, visible to each other.

The wind was strong, all on my left and it was overall too cold. I walked with my woolly hat on and hood up most of the way. In fact, I would have recommended  today to avoid March on this camino, but perhaps it was unseasonal. The accommodation, in general, is not geared up to it.

The Cruz de Peregrinos, close to the Teso de Aldatejada (a battle ground between the English and French).

Here there were plains and plains to cross and so for hours I could see Salamanca, and even once I reached the outskirts there were two underpasses to duck under, parks with unfriendly City folk to cross.

On the way into Salamanca. Most of the landscape here is messy and of no particular interest, but these rushes caught my eye.

Then a lovely welcome at the municipal albergue (donativo ie you pay what you think it is worth) and a host of friends in that warm place.

The signs are on the street as you walk into Salamanca to find the albergue.

Oh, it is a very elegant and sturdy city, Salamanca, with its deep ochre buildings and grandeur!

Looking through onto the Plaza Major (18th century).

In Bar Cuzco the man was exceptionally friendly, and though expensive, I waited out the pouring rain with wifi and red wine to warm my insides, stepping out onto the gleaming streets 2. 5 hours later.

Later I wandered around and here are some of the great sights.

Part of the Rostros del olvido, Female faces fallen into oblivion’ exhibition. María de Maeztu.
The same exhibition. Petra Román Arroyo.
University courtyard, Salamanca, Spain.

The starry sky of the University, Salamanca, Spain.
Ditto.

Iglesia de San Pedro, Salamanca, Spain.

 

Cathedral Vieja de Santa María, Salamanca, Spain.
View from the gardens next to the albergue, Salamanca, Spain.

Pedrosilla de las Aires to Morille, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino, day 13 (Mérida to Ourense). Tuesday 3 April 2018.

A dark start to the day.

Last night we had sorted out the boiler,  which fused the lights at top setting but gave out wonderfully hot water after several hours at a lower one. The rain and wind continued all night, the shutter irregularly banging to wake us at intervals, and it was a dreary start. The albergue was freezing as we two dressed, and the cafe was shut so no breakfast (there being no kitchen at the hostel).

Morille, Castilla y León.

It was a very straightforward journey though, through Monterubbio de la Sierra to Morille.

There were more pigs along the way, and men working in the street. Up and down roads we went in conversation for 5 kms, and then walked apart in blessed silence for the further 7.

The weather brightened eventually and the raindrops dried on my specs. It was sheep farming again after days of dairy country.

The Morille hostel: nice and bright in the upper room but open-plan so the one small heater was insufficient. Between us we moved the bunks across the opening to the further chamber and draped the coloured duvets over to keep out the draughts. There was hot water 🙂 and although there were also places to sit, it was so cold that they were impossible to use. Ditto, the fridge was unnecessary at this time, but a stove would have been amazing to make tea on. The cost: 6 euros. The smaller hostel was shut – only this larger one was open. When we arrived all the bars were shut until 12 noon. I had my credential stamped at the bar and paid later. The village has no phone lines: I think I understood from her Spanish that a bull damaged the line but…!

The middle of the village of Morille.

Everyone was at work in Salamanca, 20 kms away. There was a seemingly deserted village school and the townsfolk had made a great effort to rebuild and smarten up the place. As in the previous pueblo, in this village there is a travelling shop but today I missed it (Pedrosilla blog). A most helpful woman in her housecoat helped us find the place.

The Bar where you can pay for the albergue and get a stamp on your credential.

Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to Pedrosilla de las Aires, Via de la Plata

Via de la Plata Camino – Day 12 (Mérida to Ourense). Monday 2 April 2018. 18 kms.

Attractive frontage with classical Camino signs and images.

I slept in the upper room of the lovely hostel in Fuenterroble and two others joined us three from the crowded dormitory downstairs during the night to avoid the snoring.

Fuenterroble de Salvatierra, Castilla y León.

Breakfast was amazing – an Easter Monday special maybe.

Quince jelly, some sort of delicious home-made fruit jam, bread, coffee etc.

It was a flat walk today through holm oak woods. I started with Marie Noelle but we soon parted company to walk alone.

Long straight paths.

A plane left its noise behind it; there were more pigs. I had decided not to walk a very long way (over 30kms) so I took a right at the Dueño de Abajo when the others went left.

It was a lovely way ending as it began with a cattle grid and land-owner’s sign.

The young cows were orangey-red and they played Grandmothers Footsteps with me: first running away when I walked and then freezing, all in a crowd (about 30 of them), when I turned round.

It was wide open countryside and I spent a great deal of time reviewing my dream of the night before – very powerful.

There was rain coming, judging by the wind and the feel in the air. One becomes attuned to the changes when outside all the time.

The snowy mountains were behind us now but still stunning.

The sound of an engine seemed to be connected to the blunt, cut-off tree stumps – also revealing strong orange at the wounds.

Chaffinches with softer apricot-coloured bellys were swooping, and there were some grey cows wandering, activating their sonorous bells.

Leafy glades in the sunlight.
The amazing orange soil banked up to create a pool, apparently to equalise the water table for when it is hot with no rain.
Pedrosilla, Spain on approach – a hill to climb before arriving!

It was getting cold and wet by the time I arrived at Pedrosilla and I went to the bar, as directed, to indicate the keys to the albergue municipal, the council hostel. It was devoid of any heating, dirty and musty-smelling, so when Benito came along he joined me in the bar where there was wi-fi and warmth.

The excellent (and warm) Bar Laureano.

The family-run bar was excellent. The youngest daughter (of 9!) was there with her mother and various relatives; her sister ran the joint when she was away in Paris working as a TV producer. She cooked a wonderful tortilla for us and chatted away, ‘twenty to the dozen’  as they say, telling us about her life and that of the others. There is no shop in Pedrosilla although there is a mobile one which happened by at the right moment and charged me 6 plus euros for a tub of lettuce, one mandarin and a banana!)

Donkeys in a field nearby – my blog’s namesake.
The municipal hostel (albergue) in Pedrosilla de las Aires, Castilla y León.

Nuria made a long afternoon/evening, in a village which had no any other entertainment, and where the weather was almost entirely terrible, most enjoyable.

Village dwelling, Pedrosilla de las Aires, Castilla y León.
Pink sky at night, shepherd’s delight!
Nuria with her mother: like a hen, spreading out her black cardi in her place at a table of the family business.

Note: Something has gone wrong with my WordPress making it impossible to load photos using the usual method, so some of these are elongated for some reason, and all smaller than usual. For which I apologise.

 

Calzada de Béhar to Fuenterroble de Savatierra, Via de la Plata

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, Via de la Plata

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, Spain.

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.

Very sadly I forgot to take my swimming costume off the washing line the next morning.

 

Galisteo to (Oliva de Plasencia) to Aldeanueva del Camino

30th March 2018.

wp-1522593871390..jpg
The walls of Galisteo and the snowy mountains in the distance.

Leaving Galisteo was a long process. I attempted to follow my book and ended up taking a yellow arrow which was a red herring!

It was a beautiful morning but after a steep descent and re-climbing, an hour later I was back where I started. So if you stay at the Pension El Parador, remember you are already on the Camino and only need to take a left out of the front door, walk across the Roman Bridge, then straight across at the first roundabout, right at the second and you are off.

wp-1522593871381..jpg
Road walking with the important yellow arrows.
wp-1522593871414..jpg
Looking back at Galisteo as I was crossing the bridge.

What a very hard day! 11 hours on the road, including two mistaken detours.

wp-1522593871425..jpg
Farm country with plastic tunnels, familiar from Perthshire, Scotland.

I walked along a road with no pavement for ages until I got to Carcaboso where I happily stopped at a bar and sat in the sun with my cortado.

IMG_20180330_105702.jpg
The bar in Aldehuala del Jerte (not Carcaboso!).

Then I took the recommended right fork. I could see inviting-looking countryside to my right and left but I was on the road. Still. With very poor signposting. I did enjoy the toads jumping into a brook and today’s flower – what I think is the field lupin.

IMG_20180330_111322.jpg

Then an old man stopped his car for a chat and told me that, no Carcaboso was ahead! I had actually just passed through Aldehuala del Jerte (Jerte is the name of the river).

When I did get into Carcaboso it was obvious!

IMG_20180330_120526.jpg

I followed the Way past the Iglesia de Santiago and a tiny sign on the wall showing left. It seemed to be a dead-end but, if you are going to do this after me (while the road works are there), do keep going, following the odd indication and then you will be out of the town in no time.

IMG_20180330_120638.jpg
Beautiful, traditional Spanish tiles decorating a family courtyard.
IMG_20180330_120616.jpg
A very smart house.

I stopped at the Three Crosses and rested, people-watching. I read the poem on the sign beside the bench, for ‘every Friday’ and reflected that it was especially apt for today as it was Good Friday. My feet were aching so I took my boots off, renewed the plasters, trooped over the little bridge knowing I had 4 or 5 more hours to go and that the rain clouds looked ominous. IMG_20180330_121755.jpg

At the bus shelter style tourist information, I took a left and found the ‘Bombay’ sign as indicated in my book. (Vía de la Plata and the Camino Sanabrés by Gerald Kelly. He is a renowned author and walker but Do Not get an out of date copy as things change really quickly.)

wp-1522593871434..jpg
New-born lambs everywhere.

The noisy geese cheered me on; the raptors glided and wheeled overhead; fences made of barbed wire and a variety of sticks including Ash with black buds were on either side; bulrushes at the cotton-wool stage; derelict buildings; lots of gates and trolling uphill.

wp-1522593871443..jpg
Storks nest on a handy monument.

I saw what they mean by ‘cow’s lick’ as the fur at the front of the cows’ faces is in a pretty whorl; there were donkeys (I heard them though the night too) and I was happily traipsing in the middle nowhere.

wp-1522593871401..jpg

I was reflecting that there was no point in thinking of going quickly or getting there faster as it is impossible, one must just live through it, even if it does start raining or your feet hurt.wp-1522593871460..jpg

New here is a good idea: start a pole exchange at airports now that it can be impossible to bring them through security.

Up and down I went, wondering if I had made another mistake. Yes, I had! It was a very long way to retrace my steps: at least an hour. A really bad mistake given it was already well into the afternoon.

IMG_20180330_114453.jpg

Basic advice: only go when you see the signs; if there are none, keep going straight; and where there are two blocks of light grey polished stone, one with a yellow square in plastic on it and one with a blue/green one, ignore the latter.

It was so beautiful, like a Garden of Eden, but I was really, really tired and I did not know how far it would go on. Far, it turned out. Through Holm Oak trees; along stony paths; with large insects (for the first time) flying around my head); and amidst cows with scary looking horns I went until I eventually got to the road and tuned right for Oliva de Plasencia.

IMG_20180330_181615.jpg

Then it was a long walk on tarmac – one and a half hours – until I reached the village. The wind howled and the rain rained.

The albergue was full and the woman shouted that I should have reserved my bed in advance. I had in fact phoned approximately 17 times that day, and showed her the record on my phone, but she had not picked up. The other hostel was also full (it is also run by her). And so was the one miles away which she angrily gave me the number for. People walking around the village tutted and tried to help a little. It was nearly dark.

So I went to the church – after all it was Good Friday and I had read that Spanish people are very fond of pilgrims and very generous in their hospitality.

After a long time during which I sat, exhausted, while it started to rain, someone phoned the priest who said I could not stay in the church but in the porch (I knew it was due to snow that night and was already two degrees so that was impossible). No-one was prepared to offer me a floor or sofa, though I said I could pay. A kind woman phoned and discovered there was one bed left at a hostel in Aldeanueva and another couple then took me there in the car. What a mess.

I guess I should not have gone there if I did not know there was a space, but it is a very unusual situation and the men and women who helped me said that he woman who ran the places was not following Tourist Association rules. The day before, I learned later, a fellow walker did the same thing because he, like me, did not want to walk more than 25 kms that day and this village seemed to offer an alternative.

It was pouring by the time they very kindly deposited me at the city albergue and I was greeted by backpackers I knew. It was warm and had all that I needed. I am very grateful to the people who helped me.