A Pilgrim’s Journey; starts in Andalucia.

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Day 14 Cáceres to Casa de Cáceres

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:40 pm

Okay so I got the 8 Euros bit wrong; this is what happens after walking until 9 o’clock at night, reading the price upside down and thinking the 1 is a pound sign. Why it would be a pound sign in deepest darkest Spain is completely beyond me but at the time it must have made perfect sense. Either way, I still considered 18 Euros to be good value after using their WiFi all evening to Skype everyone and post updates to the forum.

What I needed after my second forced day of rest was to get right back into the spirit of the camino. What I didn’t need was to get lost trying to leave Cáceres and waste most of the morning trying to find the right road, let alone the actual Via de la Plata. It wasn’t a reluctance to get up this time, I was out the door by 6, and it wasn’t the familiar feelings of pain that slowed me down, my ankle felt fine albeit a little stiff and my blisters were acceptable. Oh no, I was directed up the Avenida Ruta de la Plata, and to be fair it sounded like a good bet given the name, and after a while without any signs I even asked a petrol station attendant who confirmed it was the right way; but where was the camino, and why was I still going west?

As I came to the brow of a hill I could see the countryside laid out in front of me. I could see the main roads, the small country roads and I was nowhere near any of them. Once again I called into action the force of local knowledge. All I had to do was follow the road, over the hill, turn left at the last house and down the hill, but watch out there were other caminos in the area and I might get the wrong one. Easy!

First of all this was the only hill for miles around, and for some reason I had to go over it. At the top it flattened out for a bit and then there was a row of houses with the worst condition track going down the side of it; he didn’t mean that surely. When I say it was bad, I am comparing it to the previous 2 weeks where I have walked some of the worst surfaces known to man, and here I was staring at an absolute nightmare of uneven surfaces, stones, rocks, thistles, puddles and pot holes; did I mention the rocks?

When you have blisters on the ends and underside of your toes there is only one thing worse than walking uphill, and that’s walking downhill. All the pressure is transferred to the front, and all the good work and recuperation from the day before was wiped clean within 20 minutes, and as I approached the garden gate of someone’s house, from the wrong side, I was in the garden already, I began to think that the day could have started better. Naturally the dog came out from behind a lean-to to see who had come for dinner and set off the alarm, which alerted the man who came out to see who was trespassing on his land, which alerted the woman who didn’t physically come out of the house, but sent her voice out to direct proceedings and establish why I was in their garden! I am following the camino de Santiago I offered, as if this would be a familiar excuse offered by all those who had come before me and had entered their garden from the rear, but his face showed no recognition of any camino and was more interested in listening to the voice booming from the open door. He was a good listener, personally I couldn’t understand her over the noise she was making but while he was busy being an attentive husband, here was a good opportunity to slip away. Repeatedly shrugging my shoulders I kept saying Camino de Santiago, and walked straight out the front gate and away hopefully in the right direction. I could hear him replying Camino de Santiago as if asking the question, and then a booming “qué” mixed with a fading bark followed me up the track.

At the bottom of the hill the track met the road. At the junction was a marble wayward sign telling me I was on the Camino de Santiago, but it pointing back up the hill; no way! I checked my compass, rechecked the road I thought I was on and headed north towards Casa de Cáceres. An hour later the Camino swerved in from the left and I rejoined it, happy that I was now on route.

When I arrived in Casa de Cáceres it was early, this was to be my first stop today but was looking more and more likely to be my last. I had not arrived at a town before 1:30 until now and had not seen the bustling high streets and shops presented to me at 11:30. It was either a holiday or school had already finished for the day. All the boys had their red Spanish shirts on after the win over Russia the night before, and even some of the girls were wearing the Spanish flag tucked around their bodies; football fever was all over Spain. The ajuntamiento was right opposite the square, and in the corner was a big sign saying Albergue del Peregrino. Time to sort out my blisters and rest my ankle, because at least 1 day this week I needed to do some walking and it was already Friday.
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macasas
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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

The Pressure of Time

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:40 pm

As a result of another rest day, forced upon me due to sore blisters and shin splints, possibly made worse by my extended walk to Cáceres on Wednesday, probably due to my impatience at Spanish timekeeping, I have once again spent a few hours considering the coming days and the plan ahead. It feels like I am slipping behind and that I need to catch up somehow but after a little bit of rearranging I have ended up in the same place at the same time next week. I had to check this a few times because somehow it didn’t seem right, to have a day off followed by a slack half day and still be able to roughly maintain the schedule I had pencilled in at the start; there must be some magic at work!

After checking this a final time, and it still being right, it struck me that my feelings of being behind, of needing to catch up somehow are just in my head. The time constraints being placed on me are of my own making and are in actual fact not even true. I have spent most of today thinking the wrong thing; how many times must I have done that to myself in the past? Okay there have been times when someone else has put time constraints on something, finishing a job or being somewhere, but whether these constraints are from an external source or from within my own head they do appear to spoil the moment. Instead of having a nice walk today I have been thinking about how to “catch up”, when in fact there was no catching up to be done. Now that’s got me thinking!
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

The sun

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:41 pm

The sun dominates everything in Spain, from the moment they get up to the moment some of them go to bed; some, I am convinced, never actually sleep. It sets the time and the place for every meal, when the shops open and close, when it’s time for siesta, and when to go to church. The only thing that ignores the sun is the church bell, and it does it with alarming regularity and somehow gets away with a few sessions right in the middle of the siesta just in case you had forgotten about it while you slept. I have also noticed over the past few days that for some unknown reason the bell rings out the hour, and then a few minutes later it rings it out again; did it forget or does it think I wasn’t listening?
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Detox

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:42 pm

One part of the camino plan was to start another detox. Apparently the breath and the skin, through sweating, are both excellent ways of ridding the body of modern day toxins that have built up in the body. So heavy breathing and sweating a lot are good, which is just as well because I am doing a lot of that! At the speed I am walking, anywhere between 4 and 6 km/h depending on the state of the path, I think I am also within the fat burning part of exercise, as opposed to the aerobic part, and loosing a bit of this mid-life spread would suit me fine.

As well as some vitamin and mineral supplements I have also bought along a cocktail powder containing psyilium husks, an alkaline green powder and L-Caritine, an amino acid to help mobilise the fat. I have put some in a plastic bag and it looks a little bit like a stash of drugs so I hope nobody asks. This is disappearing at a teaspoon a day mixed with a fruit juice and water and is also an excellent way of filling up and not feeling hungry in the early evening.

The basic eating plan was, and still is, to eat plenty of fruit and raw vegetables in the morning, carbohydrates and fish in the middle of the day and plenty of fluids in the evening. I am working on the principle of eating energy for what is about to happen, not what has already been done.

Even though I am doing a lot more exercise than I would normally, I have not yet felt particularly hungry, and even though I am sweating by the bucket load, I am getting through 4 litres of mineral water and 2-3litres of fruit juice a day and so haven’t felt dehydrated. The current daily record for fluid stands at 8 litres.

If the camino was carried out at a slower pace, or if my eating habits matched those of the Spanish who eat far too late in the evening for my liking, (the sun dictates again), it would be very pleasant to join the locals outside the cafés and restaurants every evening sipping wine and munching on jamon, queso and pan. It’s the occasion I miss, not the food, the slow pace of eating that can take all night and sometimes does. The conversation and the fact the whole family from grandma down the great-grand child all sit down together and enjoy the meal. Sure there is shouting and kids running around, but that is just the way the Spanish like to enjoy a meal. When the camino is over I will join them, hasta entonces, let the detox continue!
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Flies

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:42 pm

One thing Spain could export in abundance is flies, or moscas as they are called here. What do they do that is good, what contribution do they make to this world or do they just live in a selfish world where it’s all about them, who they can annoy and what food they can go and spit on next to make someone ill. I am sitting in the albergue in Casa de Cáceres and I feel like I am trying to push away the tide as it approaches the shore. Every second another annoying little git lands on my face or leg or arm and I have nothing to defend myself with except frustration and swear words. I remember at school, when I was about 7 or 8 having an annoying classmate repeat over and over something that he knew to be false, when I pinned him down he agreed and stopped his annoying banter, only to start it again when he was released and had gotten halfway up the road. But even that was nothing compared to flies, they are just an endless supply of useless annoyance. If they were all to die tomorrow would we miss them, would the world loose an essential asset, would nature’s balance suddenly lean too far or would we all just carry on as normal, but without the lightest sense that something has landed once again, and is about to do what it does best!
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Day 15 Casa de Cáceres to Albergue Turistico Embalse de Alca

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:44 pm

The Albergue in Casa de Cáceres was okay, not quite bed-bug city and the showers worked with hot water in abundance, as usual someone had nicked the plugs for the sinks but I am learning to live with these little inconveniences. Once again I installed myself into the corner bunk, no-one will walk past me in the middle of the night, I’m as far from everyone’s snoring as possible, and there is nearly always a plug socket next to the bed, very useful! I washed, did my washing and got a quick nap in before the drying line lost the sun and the streets below me started getting noisy, I then went and did my shopping, had a quick beer and was back by 9. No-one else had arrived so once again I had the place to myself, I locked the door, stuck my earplugs in and did my best impression of someone trying to sleep; not easy in Spain I can tell you but I was suddenly aware of a banging that was a lot closer to home. I looked out the window and there was a group of cyclists, and they wanted a bed for the night, except I had locked the door, well why not I was trying to sleep and I didn’t want my boots nicked, well actually they can have these one’s, now that they have fallen apart.

As I opened the door I was confronted by an old man of about 60, scowling and mumbling and holding a bunch of keys. It is good to see that the caretaker attitude to life is the same the world over, or at least it reaches across the Bay of Biscay. What a miserable b****! Straight away he started complaining that I had locked the door, then he got annoyed that I had a key at all and was somehow inside his domain without him knowing. To be honest I didn’t catch everything he said, I didn’t need to, he was a caretaker and I already knew what he was moaning about. Ignoring the rambling in my ear I looked at the first cyclist and smiled, told him I was sleeping and asked if everything was alright, he smiled back, told me it was. Good! As for the caretaker, he is probably still moaning, to himself!

So for the next hour I had cyclists back and forth for showers, which were in my chosen section, and then they went out for something to eat, and locked me in. Touché! They were actually protecting their bikes, a few quid there I can tell you, and as I was trying to sleep I didn’t mind. Naturally I couldn’t and then noticed that my watch had stopped working. Before I knew it the penknife was out and the back of the watch with all the inner workings was spread out over the top bunk. It had been blurred by condensation on the inside of the glass since the start so this was a good time to clean it all up, and remove the 6 o’clock luminous piece that had come loose and was twos-up on 8 o’clock. When it was all done, and working, I put it all back together. Bien! Except it was showing the wrong time and the dial thingy wouldn’t adjust the time anymore, and as I took it apart a second time I notice the hour hand swinging in the breeze, I had broken it good and proper, perhaps it was a sign that time was man-made and man-broken, just a figment of my mind and something I could do without. So I would do without it!

I have no idea what time they came back but at 3 in the morning I awoke to hear the same woman’s voice I had been hearing in my dreams, except she was sat in the café bar opposite for real, and she had a voice that would do well in the theatre, it travelled very well, about 50 or 60 meters and was still loud enough to take the wax out of your ears when it arrived. No wonder my sleep was restless, and she was still there at 5 when I eventually got up to go. When I left at 6, naturally she was gone, and the bar was closed. Typical!

The day started very well. After my rest day in Cáceres and my half day to Casa de Cáceres my feet were feeling pretty good. I had a spare pair of socks ready to change at half time, the camino was flat and wide, and the sun was a few hours away so I got into my rhythm. A few hours later I stopped for my routine breakfast and sunrise, a very nice orange red from horizon to horizon followed by oranges and strawberry yoghurt. Not long after this the four cyclists whizzed past shouting buen camino, they said they were leaving at 7 so I felt like I must be making good time, I would check the clock on the phone at the next stop.

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About half an hour later another cyclist went past, not so quick this time and he soon stopped 50 meters in from of me, what could be wrong? It had occurred to him that this was a good opportunity to get a photograph, and as he started explaining himself it soon became apparent he didn’t speak Spanish either, he was German. He didn’t speak English either, who has ever heard of a German who didn’t speak English, they all do, well not quite all because there we were in the middle of the camino, a German and a Englishman trying to converse in Spanish. He setup the scene he wanted using me next to his bike, then he took a picture of me, then handed me the camera to take one of him. That was that, job done! It never occurred to me to get him to take a picture of me with my camera, oops!

At some point I passed a farm and in the little paddock next to the shed was a dead cow.

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I don’t know how long it takes for dead cows to explode but this one was well on the way, with legs sticking out in all four directions from a ballooning body. I was just thinking about the cartoon with a cow that blows up like a balloon for a little boy and then gets popped and flies around the room, when the bloater actually farted. The farmer sort of looked up but then carried on, and so did I because this thing could explode any minute and when it did I wanted to be miles away. A few miles on and I passed another dead cow just laying in a field, this time it wasn’t bloated, but it was definitely dead, the smell was awful. Was I in the middle of an outbreak of some deadly madcow disease, would I be walking through disinfectant foot washes before the end of the day, not in Spain I wouldn’t!

Very gently the track got smaller, it started to wind backwards and forwards and then it started going up and down. They weren’t massive hills but they were fairly steep, not ideal for my toes. The ground was mainly marble with loose slate, every now and again a fresh bit had been chipped away revealing a whiteish kitchen worktop underneath. It was hard on the feet but after half an hour my reward was a fantastic view of a lake. There was and island in the middle and a bridge in the foreground, where was the German photographer when you needed him? Determined not to miss this opportunity I positioned my rucksack on the hill and balanced the camera on the top. I judged the right place for me to stand and pressed the 10 second timer button.

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The camino continued with its winding, following the edge of the lake until it dumped me onto the road that crossed the río Almonte and then the río Tajo. It was hot, windless and uphill all the way. I really wanted to go and dunk my feet in the cool water but I was getting further and further away. The roadside barrier was so hot it creaked and groaned as I followed it northward and every minute or so a motorcycle went whizzing past, adjusting themselves on the seat for the next curve as they practised trying to kill themselves. At the top of one crest the sign said Curvas Peligroso, it should have said Motos Peligroso tambien.

I arrived at an albergue, my guidebook said it had been closed since 2003, apparently it had reopened but was now closed again. The sign said there was another albergue 300 meters down the track and the café was open 12 till 7. My feet were tired and my water had just run out, so down the track I went.

When I arrived the door was locked, no-one was around and it was Saturday. I turned on my phone and it was only 11:30 so I took off my boots to wait. It was a good job I stopped when I had because the loose skin created by the blister was now a gaping hole, the skin had split open; it would take more then vasoline to sort this out.

At 12:30 no-one had arrived and I started to wonder about Saturday opening times, I decided to give the number a call, it was a better option than more walking, especially now I could see the damage. He was on his way, Spanish timekeeping at its best, but at least I could stay here and rest. He wasn’t staying, so we sorted out some food, a pizza, a tortilla, some salad and loads of water and juice, he showed me the room, and was gone; if I needed anything I should just give him a call, what I needed was some new feet.

The routine just came naturally now, I showered, washed my clothes and stuck them on a dryer and got on the bed. It was so hot it was difficult to sleep, but just as I was getting there the doorbell rang. Who was that, no-one knew I was here?

It was another peregrino heading towards Santiago from Mérida on foot, only the fifth one I had seen throughout. I let him in and told him that although I had paid for it already, he could help himself to water and we would replace it when the man came back. So far his phone is switched off, and he hasn’t come back, why would he, and tomorrow is Sunday and nothing is open. This calls for some diplomatic food rationing, because I don’t want to run out of food or water tomorrow.

It is 6 o’clock in the evening and the flies are still persistently annoying. I am determined to go down to the water’s edge and soak my feet before it gets too late, but the heat is so intense that I have decided to stay under shade until it cools down a little. It’s difficult to breath. The owner still hasn’t been contacted, and my water rations are looking decidedly dodgy. Que sera sera! I am sure it will be fine.

Eventually Fransisco and me head for the water, his feet are in the same condition as mine, he has walked nearly 40km today and plans to do the same tomorrow. The way he is limping right now I have my doubts but nothing is ever certain on this camino. The water is luke warm, its been in the sun all day, and it has algae to the point of feeling greasy. The feet go in and stay there while Fransisco tells me about the Camino Frances; its shorter, its cooler, its more scenic and colourful, its busier, and its not so hard, the distance needed to travel each day is shorter, and oh yeah, the sun isn’t so hot; did I mention the heat!

After some food it is time for bed. It is so hot it could still be the daytime, I only have 2 litres to carry and half a bottle for the night and morning. I have plenty of food, it’s not food that worries me, it’s the heat and having enough water. Did I mention it was Sunday tomorrow, and they don’t have Tesco Express!

Today’s lesson will be tolerance, or putting up with those bloody flies. They have not stopped since I arrived at the albergue and even after the whole room was sprayed they still did not stop. But what can you do, it would be more fun to have a small child continuously poke you with a sharp stick while laughing at you; it would be better to be sitting at your aunties house wearing one of those Christmas jumpers while everyone tells you how good you look in it, it probably has a skier on the front because you went once a long time ago; it would be better to be walking 40km a day with blisters on your feet, no really and tomorrow I will prove it, because the final of the European Cup starts at 8:45 and the albergue at 30km probably doesn’t have a TV, it’s 40 or 14, and 14 isn’t nearly enough! Come on Spain, you can’t let the Germans win can you!
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Day 16 Albergue Turistico Embalse de Alcantara - Galisteo

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:45 pm

Today started as a lesson in the tortoise and the hare. Fransisco is limping more than me, which is not easy, and is already talking about going slower by the time we reach the road from the albergue, that’s 300m. I decide that today would be a good day to learn how to slow down, so I slotted in behind him and watched him adjust his rucksack every few paces for the next hour. He seemed to have more than me, and it didn’t really fit him very well. I told him I had reduced mine 3 or 4 times but he seemed sure he needed it all. Suddenly I was in front, it’s easy to do, but I was determined to keep a reasonable pace. Before I knew it we had reached Canaveral and Fransisco was looking for a café, he needed a coffee, I bought a large bottle of water and drunk the lot. Fransisco had coffee and churitsos, we sat there for ages but I didn’t get impatient, this was a lesson after all.

At only 10:30 we reached a junction where Grimaldo, my original destination was to the right and Galisteo, Fransisco’s intended destination was to the left. It was still early, so I figured at this rate with the going fairly easy I would continue on the extra 22km to Galisteo.

The camino was poor, and the markings incredibly confusing but it wasn’t long before we arrived at a small stream. The water was fresh and cold, so off came the boots and in went the feet, que bueno! I could have sat there all day, and although I’m not that keen on cold showers I was soon pouring the water over me to cool down. Fransisco didn’t dunk, and after a little bite to eat looked like he was itching to go. As I was putting my boots on I suggested I would catch him up, so off he went. It wasn’t long before I was away and I could see Fransisco up ahead. All of a sudden I was on a junction, and I couldn’t see him in any direction. I went straight ahead and soon had more and more camino signs to tell me I was on the right route, unfortunately Fransisco wasn’t, he had taken the left turn.

The camino went on and on and the going was not only slow, but painful on the feet. The stones and rocks felt like they were cutting right through the soles, and directly into each blister. Whilst thinking about my feet I realised that my ankle had not been hurting all day, what a bonus!

I eventually arrived at a road, first thoughts had me almost at Galisteo, but then I saw a sign for a Casa Rural in Riolobo, according to the map I was still 10km from Galisteo to the right, or 3 km from Riolobo to the left. I had just ran out of water, no contest!

Riolobo was further than the 3km it said on the signpost, as with most things on the camino there was a state of constant change, and the Casa Rural didn’t exist anymore. The first sign of any life was a small bar, and at this stage of the day size really doesn’t matter, as long as they have water and tinto verano. They did!

It took quite a while to recover from the day so far and found myself sitting in a bar in a town with no overnight facilities and the need to walk 12km by road or 8km by track. The bar tender kept recommending the track, I would be there by 7 in plenty of time for Eurocopa final. At 5 o’clock I hit the road, as I left the bar the heat hit my face, what was I doing, it was stifling hot, but there was nowhere to stay here, okay its only 8km, let’s get going!

With my water bottle on the wrong side of my bag and the sun burning away at the backs of my legs it was over an hour before I caught my first glimpse of Galisteo. Another hour later and it didn’t appear to have gotten any closer, but I was maintaining a good pace, I felt okay and I still had some water; and then my right foot exploded. It was my little toe, something had happened, it felt like the end had burst and the sensation felt like that of sticky blood, the pain went up to level 10, my pace went down to a painful stagger and it was all I could do hobble to the next bit of shade some 100 meters away. I didn’t want to take my boot off, I didn’t want to see how bad it was because I still had to get to Galisteo. The first thing I did was accept that this was far more important than getting to see the final, I gingerly slid my boot and sock off to find a toe that looked like it needed amputating, the end was split and white, the bottom was dark red and painful to touch, the nail was black and looked like it was going to fall off. I should have stopped in Grimaldo, I would be sitting in a bar sipping a cool drink with my feet up instead of on the floor covered with ants and flies wandering what to do; I decided right there that in future I would always know my limits, and stick to my own plan.

I patched up my toe with whatever I could find in my first-aid kit, it wouldn’t win any awards at a ‘how to dress a wound’ competition but hopefully it would get me to my destination. The famous limp into Galisteo began, it was worse than the now forgotten limp into Cáceres. The camino went up and down, around a hill and then up again, Galisteo was nowhere to be seen, it just went on and on. Eventually I saw a Campsa sign and knew that I was close. Before the cashier could get to serve me I had downed 1.5 litres of water, 2 cans of lemon Fanta and a bottle of banana milk. As I presented all the empty bottles on the counter all she said was ‘que calor’. Que calor indeed!

I limped up the hill into town looking for the bar I was going to stay at, and knew I had found it when I could see 2 women beaming at me from across the road. Two German peregrinas were sat outside, the football hadn’t started, I was washed, refreshed and ready for the kick-off. As I walked back into the bar I bumped into Fransisco, yep he had turned left at the junction, yep he was in agony as well, yep he was going to watch the football and so we sat there with our feet up the whole game, sure they hurt like hell, but our team won and our feet had all night to recover, as did my body!
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Day 17 Galisteo – Carcaboso

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:46 pm

The following morning was slow, I didn’t get out of the room until 10 and then started the very slow walk to Carcaboso. It wasn’t much of a day to be honest, me limping along with one insole taken out to provide enough room for my bandaged up feet, but what else was there to do, Galisteo didn’t have a doctor, perhaps the next town would.

I arrived in Carcaboso around one, just as the heat was being turned up so it was a welcome surprise to turn the corner and find I had arrived. I made use of the farmacia as I passed it and restocked on tape, bandage plasters and an antiseptic cream. There was no doctor here either so I would be self administering again. When I did arrive in a town with a doctor I needed to go and see him straight away, apparently you could only be ill in the morning in Spain, by the afternoon the doctor would be closed. The toe looked surprisingly good all things considered, hopefully it would be better in the morning because it was a 20km day, with no options and no alternatives.

The Hotel/Bar Ruta de la Plata, (original name Pasencia) was a plain affair, yes, the daughter Isabel told me in her best English, they had rooms, but I would have to wait for her mother to return. When Elena arrived she said hello, was very polite and then she too ignored me for quite some time until Isabel decided to show me to my room, two doors down the road. It turned out to be their house, she was in the next room and the one after that had 2 German girls in it; it couldn’t be the same 2 could it? Sure enough as Isabel showed me where I could do my washing there was Silvy and Andy munching on some fruit in the shade of the mid-afternoon sun. Later that evening, for the first time since the camino began I sat down with them for a light dinner with a bottle of wine, lucky for me their English was so much better than my German, and it was a very pleasant evening full of interesting conversation, something else I had missed since the camino began.

Did you know that up until only a few years ago, the German people had a real problem with showing their nationalism, a hangover from the Second World War. I had never noticed a lack of flag waving during national sporting events or international football games, had you? These days they have gotten over their inhibitions but unfortunately Spain ruined their most recent planned flag-waving day. The premier of Germany, forgot her name, will look it up later, is also actually interested in football, she doesn’t just turn up at the final and pretend to know what is going on just so she can attach herself to the winning team, unlike some other politicians who shall remain nameless.

When we finally got back the hostal, Elena was waiting for us, well she was waiting for me actually. I needed to pay my bill before leaving early in the morning, she accused me of not paying my bar bill earlier and then to tell me how long my walk would take and that I should stay for breakfast and coffee in the morning. She meant well, but although she could see we were all knackered she carried on talking for another hour. When I finally got up to my room she was there, in the room telling me to take my boots off, should have put my food in the fridge, why did I have a plug in the wall it was getting hot, was I just going to sleep on the top of the bed like that, yep it was like being in school and being told off by the headmistress, no the matron. Eventually I just said ‘todo bien’, grabbed the door handle and looking her straight in the eyes said ‘necesito dormir, buenas noches’. She sulked off and I never saw her again, blimey!
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Day 18 Carcaboso – Caparra

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:47 pm

The day started early with a repair session on the soles of my boots and to the frayed and broken lasses. I was no longer sure they would reach Salamanca where I reckoned I had my best chance of buying a new pair. Sure I had seen shoe shops, but have you seen the style of the shoes they where in Spain, they’re not much use for walking up the high street so to find a proper pair of walking boots is going to be a real challenge. Let’s face it I couldn’t find a decent pair in Southampton high street, what hope have I in the outback?

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My early start also provided me with enough time to bandage up my feet, today was a reasonably short one, only 18.5km in an attempt to give my feet some recovery time and I was rewarded by a fairly flat camino for the first few hours. The camino doesn’t stay the same for long and soon enough it changed to a single path 8 inches wide, so worn that the edges sloped up and twisted my ankles as I walked. On and on I went and was happy with the low level of pain. The camino was so peaceful and quiet, there were no dogs, hardly any cows, pigs, sheep or goats. I had my usual breakfast stop and met some cyclists who had also suffered the Elena treatment the previous night, good, it wasn’t just me!

An hour later the cyclists passed me again, they had gotten lost and were in the process of getting lost again, good, it wasn’t just me! ‘Donde estan las flechas Amarillo?’ ‘no es claro, no es claro’ and then they were gone. ‘Nos vamos mas tarde’.

It was on this peaceful stretch of camino, with me in a world of my own, that I brushed past of large bush overhanging the track and was suddenly surrounded by brilliant white butterflies. I was startled at first as from my waist down became a sea of white. They were weaving in and out of each other like a group of dolphins at play using the wake of the boat to push them along. It was as if the air turbulence around my body was enough to keep them suspended in front of me, and suspended they stayed for what felt like ages. I wanted to reach down and run my hands through the oasis of rose petals floating before me, but as I did the playing stopped and it was over as quickly as it began; wow! From then on each similar bush I saw, I brush my leg against it, but nothing ever happened.

Eventually I stopped to check the time, it was only 11:30 and I reckoned I only had another 30 minutes before I arrived in Caparra. I was going well, my feet were going well, muy bien! As I got going again I came into a clearing and out the other side, through the trees, like a scene out of a Vietnam war film, came the sight of Los Arcos.

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It had been explained to me the night before that Los Arcos was an ancient Roman town, and like a tiny version of the Arch de Triumphe at the crossroads to the town still stood a masterpiece of roman architecture. This structure has stood the test of time, war, weather and everything else and it looks like it will stand for another 2000 years. It was the symbol carved into every marble wayward sign I had seen since leaving Sevilla, it was the symbol of the Via de la Plata, and I had only just realised.

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As I reached the ruins of Caparra I could see Silvy and Andy, they had taken the bus due to Silvy’s bad knee and walked a short distance to see Los Arcos. After having a quick look around we settled under the arch to wait for the man from the next hostel to pick us up. According to the guide the hostal was off camino and the owner was happy to pick up the peregrinos, but not until 4, and it was only 2. I mentioned Elena from the night before, and they both laughed because Elena had actually put Silvy to bed, made sure she had her leg raised over night, had seen them off this morning and had waved until they were out of sight. She was a woman possessed with helping peregrinos, her intentions were pure and I am sure she is a great help to many people, and at only 10 Euros for the night I can see the funny side!

Four cyclists arrived at Los Arcos and it wasn’t long before the food was gone and the roll mats were out, it was siesta time under the arches, the only place with some shade. I smiled at one and said we were waiting for a taxi, you won’t get one round here he replied, and went to sleep. I laid there looking up at the arches, the keystones fitted perfectly, there was nothing wrong with it, no crumbling stones or even the need to clean it.

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At 4 o’clock, a miracle of Spanish timekeeping, a white van pulled up. The sleeping Spaniard woke up and I just said, my taxi. His face was a picture! In the morning I have a walk back to the camino, but because it is a main road getting lost shouldn’t be a problem so a nice early start is planned, Buenos noches!
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Day 19 Caparra to Baños de Montemayor

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:50 pm

It is quite amazing how the body adapts to its’ environment. This morning I woke up at 4:59, calmly switched off the alarm and got up to start my day. The plan was to leave at 5:30 and get a good few hours in before the sun got too hot. Not only was I planning to go 30km, it was uphill 300m, the forecast was the same it had been everyday, just sun! I knew that before I left I also had to use the toilet, and sure enough my body obliged, almost as if it knew it might be the only opportunity for 6 hours.

I had decided the night before to leave my roll mat behind; I had only used it twice the whole trip and it was now punctured by a twig as well, so there was no way of keeping the air out and everyday it just expanded like a balloon, air adds weight, the mat stayed.

In pitch darkness I made my way back to the camino almost 3km away. I arrived at the crossroads just as it was getting light enough to go cross country, which was just as well because cross country the camino went. As the first light started to show my surrounding I could also see the day was starting with clouds, which would explain why it was so dark; all previous days had been helped by the light of the moon. It meant there was te chance of a relatively cool day, perhaps low 30s, it also meant no sunrise, instead I had the red sky in the morning, what a sight that is rising from the east!

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The track was very narrow and the grass was long, there was a good chance of ticks and also the possibility of snakes; I had seen a few little ones the day before and also plenty of dead dried ones on the road side, the barman had warned us about them the night before so my stick was searching in front of me like a blindman and my concentration was acute in the semi darkness. I came to a sudden stop, there was a wolf sat on the track not 20 meters away, I could clearly see its shape his head was looking up to the sky. Then I realised it hadn’t moved, was it moving, no, was it? I walked on slowly, I had already passed a trackside statue days before to a boy eaten by a wolf on his way to a fiesta, the boy not the wolf, but this one hadn’t moved, had it? As I got closer to the tree trunk I started laughing, these early mornings are not good for your stress levels!

In comparison to Andalucía, Extramadura has been very hit and miss when it comes to wayward markings showing the way of the camino. These come in various forms, the hand painted yellow arrow, found on the backs of road signs, on trees, rocks, walls and gates, sometimes white. Then there is the large marble Via de la Plata stones, mostly at junctions in Andalucía and at places on interest in Extramadura, very few and far between. Lastly there is the small cube that is so far exclusive to Extramadura, as far as I can remember.

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The square on the side is the colour of the camino, and so far we have had yellow, white, green and blue. Extramadura also has its own network of walking paths, one of which uses yellow hand painted arrows, it has caught me out and that’s not just because I’m colour-blind. Sometimes, like yesterday when all the cyclist got lost and were hunting around for an arrow, it is just plain confusing, the arrows’ direction isn’t clear or there is a junction with two equal sized options and no indication at all, when all the options have been considered and it still isn’t clear, my compass has the final word; sometimes its just pot luck! My attitude has been that I don’t have to follow the camino 100% of the time. If I loose the signs, I do the best I can to find it and then carry on to the next town and rejoin it there. I have pretty good at spotting arrows in all sorts of places but when you haven’t seen any signs for a few kilometres I start to think I’ve gone wrong somewhere. Today I thought I had gone wrong, it was very poorly signed and I found myself heading west for a long time with the only option to turn back. I couldn’t think of a likely candidate for where I had gone wrong, so I kept going, and going and going, for 2 hours! And then I saw the first arrow for 10km, sometimes even the compass looses out to pure believe and faith that you are on the right path.

I passed through Aldreanueve del camino half an hour behind schedule, this wasn’t a time constraint, this was a rough guide for me to know when I had reach my limit and stop before my feet got worse. So far they felt okay. For the next 2 hours I went uphill all the way until I reached Baños de Montemayor, where I hoped I would find enough people to have some shops, and that one of those shops would sell walking boots. I have repaired to sole 3 times with superglue, it is virtually hanging off the bottom, the lasses have almost cut through and the heel of the left boot is now through to some spongy stuff underneath and keeps collecting stones; 19 days or walking the camino have killed them!

Talking of killing, how would you like to meet this little fella, he was waiting for me and while the others moved, he didn’t, not even when I took his picture. It doesn’t matter how mean they look, as soon as they blink those eyelashes make them all look like Daisy.

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In Baños de Montemayor I struggled up the back street hills to the Via de la Plata information centre that is also an albergue turistico. The woman behind the counter doesn’t know anything, she keeps saying she is from Plasencia and doesn’t know, is there a bank, no sé, is there a shoe shop, no sé, is there a supermarket, and she went outside to get the neighbour, oh and by the way the albergue doesn’t open until 5 she didn’t have a key so I needed to go and find another hostal. They should take the signs down and change it’s name!

For the first time I am trying out a Pension, I have two single beds, my own bathroom with a full size bath, don’t laugh I had a half bath yesterday and its no good for a relaxing soak, this is a luxury. All that was 16 euros!

Right I’m off to jump onto the wifi at the library, which is also closed, and send all this stuff so you lot have something to read over the next few days. There is no shoe shop, so its just food shopping and rest, hasta entonces!
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macasas
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You fat ba*&**$rd !!!!

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 02, 2008 6:52 pm

I have no idea what weight I am now, its more a case of looking in the mirror and seeing how my body is changing, my legs have got bigger, especially the calf muscles and I think my face has gotten thinner, the belly was always going to take a long time to go. I was told that every farmacia had weighing scales, I’ve been I a few with my feet and haven’t seen one yet, perhaps I’ll wait until the end. What do you think, I have uploaded a recent pilgrim photo in comparison to the one at the start?
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Kathy
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Postby Kathy » Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:47 pm

Great read! I can feel the flies, the heat, the thirst and I havent even left Andalucia.

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Re: You fat ba*&**$rd !!!!

Postby karandjon » Wed Jul 02, 2008 9:54 pm

macasas wrote:I have no idea what weight I am now, its more a case of looking in the mirror and seeing how my body is changing, my legs have got bigger, especially the calf muscles and I think my face has gotten thinner, the belly was always going to take a long time to go. I was told that every farmacia had weighing scales, I’ve been I a few with my feet and haven’t seen one yet, perhaps I’ll wait until the end. What do you think, I have uploaded a recent pilgrim photo in comparison to the one at the start?


Well macacas, i´ve just looked at both, and I would definitely say you have lost weight! Your face is a lot more chiseled now!
You´re looking good!!! Make sure you don´t get sidetracked by all the pretty spanish girls vying for your attention on the way!!!
Well done on your journey so far, and thank you for sharing your adventure with us! I can´t wait to see your photo at the end of your journey!!! :wink:
Karen x
vino, sol y aire, y seras rico como nadie

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Postby Kathy » Sun Jul 06, 2008 3:34 pm

Did you manage to get some new boots?

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Sorry, but no WIFI

Postby macasas » Tue Jul 08, 2008 8:45 am

Hi everyone, sorry I have not posted any updates for a while, Spain is just catching up on the internet revolution, some places have wifi and others don´t. I have reached Zamora and they don´t so I have jumped on a PC in the library to say hello and see how you are all doing.

Don´t worry, the story continues and as soon as I can connect my laptop you will have some more reading to do, probably over a week by then so pour yourself a glass of wine before you settle down in front of the screen.

Yes I have new boots, and yes I have new blisters to go with them. I have also had a reply from Blacks telling me I have had good use from my old ones, so be aware, 20 days of walking is considered enough for a 100 pound pair of boots. They consider this to be the equivalent to North Face and other professional boots, I don´t think so. They have offered a 25 pound gift voucher!

Well the librarian is calling me, my time must be up, I will update as soon as I can, hasta entonces!
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Postby Deborah » Tue Jul 08, 2008 6:41 pm

Glad to here that you are keeping with it. You are going to notice such a difference when your route joins the French Route. After your "mainly" solitary walks you are going to feel claustrophobic amongst so many Pilgrims that you are going to meet once you join the French Route.

We will be in Santiago at the same time. Lets meet for a beer. I will need it, keeping 20 American kids walking for 5 days!!!!!! I need more than a beer. Double gin and tonic more like.

xx

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Who likes the French

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:42 am

Hi Deborah

Sorry to disappoint you but I not going to join the Camino Frances, I am going via Ourense. Its not that I am an antisocial type, thats just the way it was planned.

I am arriving in Santiago on the 27th, happy to join you for a beer, as long as you leave the kids at the hotel :)
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Day 20 Banos de Montemayor – Fuenterroble de Salvatierra

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:51 am

Today was a great day! It started at 700 meters and immediately I left the Pension it climbed up to 900 via a straight Roman road. It was still semi-dark during the climb and the wind was so chilling I started to worry about getting too cold, who would have thought after the couple of weeks I’ve had? Totally unprepared for this event the only long sleeved sweat-top that I hadn’t thrown away was right at the bottom of the rucksack so I pulled out my rain poncho from the lid and set off again. It was just enough to stop the direct wind chill, just! When the road levelled out at the top of the climb I saw that I had left Extramadura behind and crossed into Castilla y Leon. That was a one hour climb! Almost straight away the camino got wider, flatter and the arrows became clearer. Back down to 800 meters I went for another hour. My legs could really feel it; I’d never had a workout like this in any gym! The scenery was changing constantly with rivers, roman bridges, motorway underpasses converted into outdoor display areas, there was a definite pride in the Via de la Plata in these parts but I was still waiting for the sun to appear from behind the mountain, there was still a chill wind and my poncho was still flapping about behind me. For the rest of the day I climbed to 960 meters, with varying gradients that pushed my will to stop to their absolute limits. My feet held out, and so did my will power as I covered a total distance of 35km.

I spent a lot of time looking about today, something I have been unable to do on the rough stretches of camino that threatened to b***** up my toes at every rock, tree root or rut. I was on a plateaux at 900 meters, it felt like I was on top of the world, except there was another peak in front of me, which I knew I would be climbing later.

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Well I was close to the top of the world. I filled my lungs with the cleanest air and my eyes with the fantastic view. It may have been an uphill climb all day but I lost hours in a world of my own. I saw no-one until about 2 o’clock.

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It wasn’t all easy going, there were sections where the gradient was very testing, both up and downhill. The camino wasn’t always smooth, it was pitted, swamped, rutted and rocky at times, but today that didn’t seem to matter, even when the worn out soles of my boots let the water in.

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Here’s another shot from the same spot on the hill. As far as you can see back into the distance is as far as you would have walked today, so far!

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For some reason the normal distractions were not there. Perhaps it was too high or too cold but the constant buzzing of flies around my head and in my ears just wasn’t there, what a pleasant change that made! At some point during the day I remember thinking about Drains and Radiators. Most people you meet are easy to fit into one category or the other, some fit into both categories depending on what they are doing.

A Radiator is someone who you like being with, they give you warmth and energy, when you leave, and you probably don’t want to, you know you’ve had a good time and can’t wait to visit them again. Drains on the other hand make you feel knackered! Just being in their company drains the energy from your bones and allows the tiredness to sink in, or the frustration to boil. When you leave, and you can’t wait to get away, you know you don’t want to go back. Radiators are enthusiastic and full of encouragement, drains are doom and gloom, always looking at the negative side or saying something that brings you or the situation down.

I couldn’t help thinking that Elena, the old woman from Carcaboso, was the closest I had got to a Drain the whole time I have been on the camino; but even she fitted into both categories. As a Radiator she was helpful, full of encouragement and advice; as a Drain she was interfering, critical and at times plain unpleasant. At her age, 80 plus, she wanted everything doing her way and with her full attention given to every peregrino who passes her door I bet there is a lot of people who are very grateful for her help, but I could sense a clinging to power that was a real drain. Everyone else I have met has been a full on Radiator, so far this has been a very positive experience, full of warmth and energy.

When I arrived in Fuenterroble a really friendly woman walked me the whole length of their high street to show me where the Albergue was; just like an assistant in Tesco who insists on showing you where the baked beans have been moved to, she could easily have just told me, but she chatted the whole way about where I had come from, how far I had walked and how long it would take. Castilla y Leon is not the same as Extramadura, it is more like Andalucía, friendly people who know you’re just passing but say hello with a smile on their face. And then she walked all the way back!

As I walked into the Albergue there was a familiar face, it was a peregrino I had seen back in Alcuescar, he was repairing the cooker. Back in Alcuescar he had been fixing the door. It turned out he and his wife were driving from Albergue to Albergue, the church ones only, and were just helping out; this was his holiday, he was doing it for free, offering his services to do whatever he could to make the place better; que bueno!

Just like before the wife signed me in with my camino passport, a process I had been through at every albergue except this time she asked me what was the purpose of my trip? This was the first time I had been asked, was it religious, spiritual, cultural, sports or just a holiday? Well it wasn’t religious, and as I hadn’t done any sightseeing yet so it wasn’t cultural, part of it was sports due to the exercise and diet and I suppose it was a holiday of sorts, but my mouth just opened and out came ‘espiritual’; I guess it has become a time of soul searching and I think I have seen glimpses of who I am and what I am; it isn’t as scary as I thought it might be and I am already looking forward to meeting the real me once again.

As the wife showed me where I could sleep an English voice came into the room; another peregrino from Cheshire. He was in the middle of his 4th camino, two on the Camino Frances, and he had decided to stay on for a bit at this Albergue to help out. The place was run by the local priest and had been refurbished out of donations from peregrinos; it was probably the best albergue I had stayed in so far. Nigel was a film editor/director? I was listening at the time I have just forgotten after the next days walk. Anyway he’s in the film industry and after working for nine months on a project he takes three months off to recover. He’s picked himself a nice little spot in Fuenterroble; I think I might come back myself and do a bit of bricklaying and plumbing, apparently there is a skills shortage.

Unlike a lot of English abroad, Nigel is up front with his offerings of information and advice. If you’ve been in Spain long you will know that most expats prefer the “wait until you’ve tried it, wasted time and money and got it wrong” approach before suggesting the local alternative that they knew all along; a bit of one-upmanship. Nigel is a welcome change from the norm. When I mention my boots and that I’m looking for a shop in Salamanca there is a moments silence as I realise he has the exact same pair as me, I need to see his soles and sure enough they are wearing through, not as bad as mine but then mine are special, and Nigel isn’t as heavy as me. He’s hardly been any distance with his too. He looks like he knows a thing or two about walking so I feel much better that this wasn’t just a poor purchase I had made, but it does confirm what a poor pair of boots these Technicals Pro Events are, perhaps it would feel better if the word Pro hadn’t been there; Technicals Events, nope!

I was told mass would be at 8 in the renovated church at the end of the village. Unlike Alcuescar this time I decided to go, just to see what I had been missing all these years. No-one from the town was there, just 6 people all muttering and letting the padre sing his hymn because no-one else knew the words, least of all me, when it was over I slipped away quietly, not really sure this was the real thing, at least I had recognised the lords prayer and Gloria Gloria alleluia!

I got back to the albergue, did my things and got to sleep, ear plugs in. I left the light on for the one other bloke staying, better than being woken up by it being switched on when he came to bed. Instead he woke me at 2 with his snoring.

Now I have no idea how you women put up with us men snoring. Every man I have slept with so far, no literally you understand, but in the same room or even under the arches at Cáparra, has snored enough to keep me awake, or wake me up. How do you do it, what is your secret, please let me know how you get past the irregular snorting, grunting and muttering that makes it such an annoying thing to have to put up with. Unlike the time before when I went and slept in the kitchen, last night I had no-where to go. The earplugs weren’t working, the blanket over the head trick failed and the trying to breath at the same time so I wouldn’t be able to hear him was a total waste of time. So I started shouting at him, señor, señor, SEÑOR!!! But nothing stopped the drone coming from the other end of the room ten bunks away. What do you ladies do at this point, do you read a book, do you finish the washing up or do you just lay there and think of England? I started banging the metal bed head, I heard him grunt and suddenly he stopped. Oh don’t worry he started again but each time he did I whacked the bed harder, sod it, I was walking the same camino he was in the morning and if I couldn’t sleep then why should he. Selfish?? At 2 this morning I didn’t care! In the morning when he walked past me he smiled to say goodbye, I do hope so, he had no idea he had been the only one sleeping and I guess that just adds to the female frustration when the reply to snoring jibe is always “I don’t snore”, but just like always you women know better than that, don’t you?
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Day 21 Fuenterroble – Morille

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:53 am

Today, according to my guide, I reached the highest point on the route and it was some climb I can tell you. Unfortunately is isn’t the highest point, there is more to come. Unlike Almaden de la Plata, which nearly killed me on day 3, this one was actually worth the view. Whether I would have made this climb on day 3 is doubtful, my legs have definitely gotten stronger, as has my determination to get to the top of each climb. There was no stopping for an hour as the rough stony sections turned to goat country and the path became one with the mountainside. Every step was worthy of stopping my progress as my body made constant bids for a rest, but once again there were limits to be tested and my willingness to stop wasn’t one of them. Right at the top was a massive rock jutting out beyond some trees, the view would be better from there. Without stopping I climbed the rock taking my camera from it rucksack pocket at the same time and took a panoramic movie of the whole seen, when I played it back I could hear my voice describing the scene and I was breathing heavily. I was stood on the edge of the rock with a 50m drop just inches away, I had climbed straight up here, I still had my rucksack on and after standing still for 30 seconds my legs had started to shake. But I didn’t go far, I unloaded and spread out my stuff to dry in the glorious sun and sat down to have lunch; there isn’t a restaurant in the world that could have served a tastier meal!

I had seen the road to San Pedro from my rock, I could see all the roads. When I got down to it I could see that it was very long, very straight and disappeared into the distance through a heat haze that had turned the wind into a hot air rushing past my legs and face. I plodded the road for ages, each time I reached the crest of the horizon the road just shot off into the heat haze and disappeared over the next horizon. There was very little shade, certainly not enough to physically get under and rest. So with weary hill climber legs the next few hours seemed like all day. Eventually I passed a large oak tree, the grass under it was already flat, so I wasn’t the first person to take advantage of the shade it offered. Time for some more food and to rest my feet.

After checking the map I estimated one more hour to San Pedro, then just under an hour to Morille, depending on the state of the track. At this point it was a single lane rough tarmac road. 40 minutes later the camino slipped off to the right, the sign said San Pedro. I checked my map and decided to bypass the town and take a more direct route straight to Morille, I reckoned the camino would exit the town to the north-east and head out cross country to the east. 20 minutes later I met the camino just where I thought it would be, and we headed off to Morille together.

Morille is a lovely little place, for one thing it is my halfway point, which makes it a fantastic little place. I went to the town hall, which was closed of course, then asked the only person alive where the bar was. Every town has a bar and that’s where everyone is when there is no-one around. Morille doesn’t have any shops, any banks or anything else for that matter, but of course it does have a bar. When I arrived there was a brewery sun shade in the garden and peregrino sign by the door telling me I was halfway. I peered through the door and could see 2 men and a bar, but as I walked on through the door and my rucksack appeared one man said, this isn’t the bar, well it sure looks like a bar, ah, no this is the old bar, the new bar is around the corner. So when the old bar had closed they just left te counter, the shelves, the glasses and bottles where they were. No doubt the current occupants were getting through the bottles one at a time.

The new bar wasn’t as nice, but the tinto verano was, so was the chilled water and so was the feeling of taking my boots off and putting them up on the chair. An old man asked me if I was going to Santiago, yes I said with a strength and conviction that surprised me, where have you come from, Sevilla I said, well then you are half way he said, good for you and he smiled a smile that said more than words could portray. He knew something about this camino that I didn’t as yet, but I got the feeling I would.

So here I am installed into the 6 bed Albergue, it has cost me 6 Euros for the night and I am hoping, no praying, that no-one else turns up throughout the evening. However in preparation for the worst I am going to siesta all afternoon before going for some food at the bar. Luckily I have fruit and tuna left over from today, because there is no where to buy food. The plan is to leave early, very early, and hit the road straight up into Salamanca. I need to get there early to find the shops, and buy some new boots. There is some hope that due to the size of the city some shops will stay open all day, but typically they will close at 2 and if they do I will be stuffed good and proper.
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macasas

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macasas
Andalucia.com Amigo
Posts: 67
Joined: Thu Jun 12, 2008 3:46 pm
Location: Somewhere on the Via de Plata

Day 22 Morille – Salamanca

Postby macasas » Wed Jul 09, 2008 9:54 am

Hopefully this is the last day I moan about my boots, those professional hiking slash walking boots sold by the outdoor experts Blacks. I am allowed a little one however because in order to get to Salamanca with plenty of time to go shopping I set the alarm for 4:30, and was out the door by 5:00. Of course at this time of the morning it is very dark especially when the moon is absent. The first one and a half hours was spent walking with my head torch beaming out in front of me all of 4 foot, which is absolutely ideal for missing a 6 inch yellow arrow hidden behind an overgrown bush and walking off in the wrong direction. It was like driving in fog, when your eyes are out on stalks hoping to see the car in front before you hit it. I got into the rhythm of sweeping my head from side to side every 20 paces, just to keep track of the track. The system worked a treat, I didn’t get lost at all but I lost count of the number of times I saw, or thought I saw, something up ahead and slowed down whilst I worried about what it might be. This was an extremely good exercise in how the mind and your thoughts can run riot with your feelings; trees, hedges, bails of hay and gate posts all came to life and morphed into something that could do bodily harm. At one point something startled and legged it not 10 foot to my right, I have no idea what it was but by the noises it made I am thinking it was a pig. If the size of the poo pads were anything to go by it wasn’t a cow, or a sheep. The thing is, I was the only thing out here at that time of day, except for a bunch of insects and some farm animals that were just waking up, unless I actually stood on something chances are it would run away. Once I had thought about this I stopped letting my mind stir up anymore spiralling thoughts, its strange how the mind works!

To remove the tunnel vision created by the head torch I decided to switch it off. Within seconds my eyes had adjusted and the path was clearly visible as a greyed out section in front of me. Of course I could see all the rocks and stones but just like any good skier will tell you, its sometimes better to feel your way along and ride with the punches. So that’s what I did.

Breakfast was missing a sun rise, but supplied instead a clear sky full of stars. In the middle of no-where with no city lights to blur the view it is an amazing sight, so much so that I just laid down and waited for my first shooting star, unfortunately I still haven’t seen one, but breakfast sure is different with hundreds of stars all winking at you.

Not long after breakfast at the top of yet another rise the full sight of Salamanca at night came up in front of me out of the darkness. It stopped me in my tracks to be looking down on a compete city as it slept the last few hours of Saturday morning. Somewhere in that lot was some new boots, and off I went again, like an obsessed shopper heading to the January sales.

I arrived in Salamanca at 8:30, walking in the dark was quicker and less prone to getting lost than walking in the day. Daylight had already arrived on my walk in and I had seen no signs to any commercial centre, so I asked a woman on the street. Oh yes, it’s to the north of the city, great, as far away as it could be!

I sent a quick text to Sylvy and Andy to see where they were staying, they were coming to Salamanca by bus after Sylvy’s knee had given up on her. I had beaten them to it, they wouldn’t arrive for another hour. I now had their Pension and armed with a freshly purchased plan of the city I set off to check in, wash and go shopping.

The Pension was a poor excuse for a place to stay, but it didn’t matter, the people were nice enough and I soon had a circle around the commercial center where Decathlon was located. In general women have no sense of direction, even when it comes to shopping, and the original suggestion according to the first woman of somewhere in the north of the city had become the south east corner.

Two hours later I was stood looking at my options, and to be honest it wasn’t looking good. Take away all the boots that only went up to size 42 and there was only 10 pairs left. I tried the first pair and it would seem that a UK 11 EUR 45 in the UK is a size 9½ in Spain. That made me a size 47, I was down to 7 pairs. So I tried them all on, one by one and walked the whole length of the store in each pair. Only 2 pairs of Quechuas were wide enough across the ball, the rest were a poor fit, I tried the 48, but they were much too big. After a week of waiting for a decent size town with shops that actually sld walking boots I can’t tell you what a disappointment this was; only two pairs, neither of them good, never mind the colour, that wasn’t even a consideration. The choice was made based solely on comfort, strength of sole and quality of manufacturer.

I walked around in them for the rest of the day, they felt fine, no rubbing, no hint of a blister, even the existing blisters were feeling okay, I felt like the right choice had been made, I was ready to go again.

Sylvy and Andy had met Petra and Danielle and together with Filipe from Switzerland we all set off for the last supper. Sylvy and Andy were going home, they had done their 2 week stint from Merida to Salamanca and it was a sad moment to see them have to leave the camino, but they will be back next year to continue north. So people were joining and leaving the camino all the time, some were doing as much as they could in their holiday time coming back year after year, Petra and Danielle had started in Merida and Filipe in Salamanca. They all had the same guide book, it described every move down to the last meter; walk 50m to the cross, turn left for 100m, then right after 20m, it was the German way, I had the name of the next town and a map but we were both making the same progress. All the Germans had walking poles.
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macasas

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