Yes! Here I am in Spain, and finally on the internet.
Two words sum up my trip so far:
I think overall the WOW wins hands-down. Or should it be feet-down? The Spanish country side is absolutely gorgeous. Wildflowers EVERY where, a total blaze of red yellow purple white pink. Songbirds all day, frogs in the puddles (really loud!), storks on the church towers. The trail winds mostly through the countryside, with the towns situated far enough apart that we don´t see one from the time we leave in the morning until the time we reach the next village in the afternoon. In between are olive groves, pig farms, hayfields, wheat, chestnut trees and a few really really steep hills.
The ow part comes from blisters under the toenails of the second toe on each foot. My second toes are just a little bit long, but I thought I was safe since they had been fine all through my practice hikes. But once out on the real camino, with full pack (I don´t think I carried as much water on my practice hikes, and water is heavy) there they went. They´re well-wrapped now, and seem to be behaivng themselves. A couple of hot spots showed up on the balls of my feet, but a few days with some moleskin padding was enough to stave off trouble and toughen my soles up. Sore shoulders, sore hips, a bit of sunburn, but nothing serious.
So that´s the overview.
Today I am in Villafranca de los Barros
Banos, which is a spa town where people still come to take the waters. I´ve been walking with Christina from England and Jacques from France, and we have rooms in a lovely hostal in town. Today is the Feria of San Isidro, and we were very lucky to arrive in town just in time to see the procession. It began with men and women dressed in traditional Spanish garb, riding beautiful horses. Plus children on ponies, and carts pulled by horses and mules and decorated with flowers and ribbons. Then the statue of the saint on the shoulders of the men of the town, then a procession of I think the entire population, walking to the fairgrounds and singing. Out timing couldn´t have been better, and I am so lucky to see this event.
Of course, since the entire population is at the fairgrounds, it is very quiet here in town. That´s ok; it makes for a quiet rest day and gives me time to catch up on the internet.
A word on the blog, the internet, and updates. Four conditions have to be met for me to blog along the way:
1. There has to be public internet access somewhere in town.
2. I have to be able to find it.
3. It has to be working.
4. I have to have energy enough to construct a sensible sentence or two.
This is the first time all four conditions have been met, so here I am. I´ll post when I can, but be forewarned: it may not be as frequently as I had hoped.
My itinerary so far, in case you want to map it out.
Day 1: Seville to Guillena. One small mis-reading of the waymarks landed me on the wrong bridge over the river, but I finally figured it out. Roman ruins of Italica on the route, so cool. Two streams to cross, a whole adventure there! Again, it all worked out in the end and I reached Guillena no worse for wear. All the albergues have been splendid, and the hospitaliera in Guillena, Jacqueline, is a gem.
Day 2: Guillena to Castilblanco de los Arroyos: Lovely rolling landscape that reminded me of California. Last long bit along the highway was a drag. Pack too heavy; ditched a lot of stuff.
Day 3: Castilblanco to Almaden de la Plata: A long day, over 30km (a kilometer is equal to about 3/5 of a mile, if you want to do the math). The first 16km along the highway, but it went quickly. The rest in a nature preserve, quite nice. A VERY steep hill to climb at the end. My second mistake reading waymarks led to my climbing the wrong very steep hill; had to come back down and climb the real one. (see OW above). Finally made it to town, the last pilgrim of the day.
Day 4: Almaden – Real de la Jara. Walking was good, got there pretty early. For a long time I thought I´d be the only one in the albergue, which reminded me of a hobbit house. A ruined castle above the town! and another one down the road.
Day 5: Real – Monesterio. The first half of the walk absolutely delightful, through meadows dotted with wildflowers. Then a relay through a highway maze, what fun, then road walking the rest of the way. Monesterio is known as “The Pueblo of Jamon,” and has a giant steel sculpture of a ham at the entrance to the town. Everyone is at the festival, however, and the town is pretty darn quiet. (Yes, we have been following the festival for the last few days.)
Ilsa the Hungarian pilgrim fell and broke her arm, and had to leave the Camino.
Day 6: Monesterio – Fuente de los Cantos. There is a heat wave, and it is very hot. The albergue is in a converted convent, and includes a small information center about the painter Zurbaran, who was born in this town.
Day 7: Fuente – Zafra. Was it hot the day before? It is even hotter today. Hot. Very hot. The heads of the wheat in the fields glow white in the heat. Hot. Another ow moment. Two fast-moving freshets to cross on small crooked wobbly stones. (Crossing water is not my strong point.) Finally, Zafra! and another albergue in a converted convent.
OK, that´s the quick and dirty on the pilgrimage so far. I have lots of photos, and when I upload them I will share more detailed stories. Others are chomping at the bit waiting for the computer, so I will sign off for now.