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::: By Hand and On Foot :::

Category: Via de la Plata (page 2 of 3)

Moving Right Along

OK, so computers on the Via de la Plata are scarcer than hens´teeth, either because it´s less well-traveled, or because everyone now has iPhones and iPads and there´s no need for old’fashioned cyber cafes. A bit of both, I think.

But here I am at the albergue turistico in Embalse de Alcantara, on the side of a large large reservoir. That has cows swimming in it. Isn´t that a health code violation or something? Well, I went swimming too –must make lugging the bathing suit worthwhile!– and it was lovely; I can´t blame the cows for diving in one bit.

The feet are fine, the blisters are gone, but I have a bit of tendonitis on (in?) my right leg, so have dropped back a day in my planned schedule to take it a bit easy. And have dropped right into a giant mob of pilgrims! So much for 4 or 5 in an albergue, now it´s 25 or 30. And I had hoped to avoid bed anxiety this trip. Nope. I may do the unthinkable and take the bus to get back to where I was. Not to mention that would get me back in sych with my previous walking companion Jacques, from Paris, who has a tighter schedule than I and had to forge ahead.

The weather has been great, except for a sudden downpour outside of Merida. The thunderstorms have come at night, leaving the days cool and breezy and perfect for walking. I hear we have more heat coming, thought. But pilgrims are full of dire warnings about bad weather ahead.

So Merida –Roman ruins! wonderful! Amphitheaters, aqueducts, forums, temples; amazing to think they´ve lasted 2000 years.

Then Caceres — the old walled town still intact within the modern city. Carvings, churches, towers, turrets, so cool.

In between, wonderful small villages with whitewashed houses and steep streets. And cows, and vines, and olive trees.

So all is well in pilgrim land. The line is getting anxious for their turn on the computer, so off I go. I think a glass of vino tinto is in order.

Hasta pronto!

Oops, Silly Me

Anyone who knows what they´re talking about will think I have no idea what I´m talking about. Well, they may be right.

I am in Villafranca de los Barros. NOT los Banos. There are no baths here, except for those in peoples´houses. Barros.

My only excuse is that last night I was reading the excellent tourist guide that was lying about in the albergue, and so had the baths of Banos de Montemayor in my head. So when I was walking today I was singing ¨Ride of the Valkyries,¨ inspired by the opening scenes of Fellini´s 8-1/2 with the grand procession of people going to take the waters, and, well, it all got mixed up in my head.

Villafranca de los Barros. Today.

The baths come much later.

Oops.

Hello World!

Yes! Here I am in Spain, and finally on the internet.

Two words sum up my trip so far:
Wow.
Ow.

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.

Hasta pronto!

Seville

My marathon trip went smooth as silk, and now here I am in beautiful Seville.
Yesterday I went to the Cathedral and got my credencial, aka my pilgrim passport, stamped, and found the first couple of waymarks. I also went to the Alcazar, which is simply amazing, full of layers of tiles and decoration and mudejar arches. And I must say, Ferdinand and Isabella were at the forefront of branding. The symbols of Castille y Leon are EVERYwhere.

After a dinner at a tapas bar, I wandered in the gardens of
Seville, joining the local paseo.

Today I visited the Basilica of the Macarena, the Museo des Bellas Artes, and the marketplace in Triana, where I bought some oranges and other snacks for my first day walking. Plus I traced the first few blocks of the Via de la Plata, so I can find my way in the morning.

So much to see! So much I could write about! But even after a couple of days I´m still a bit jet-lagged so will keep this short. I am just so happy to be here at last.

Now no more tourist for me; tomorrow I hit the road and head for Guillena, my first stop on the camino. Wish me luck!
Hasta pronto!

Seville

My marathon trip went smooth as silk, and now here I am in beautiful Seville.

Today I went to the Cathedral and got my credencial, aka my pilgrim
passport, stamped, and found the first couple of waymarks. I also
went to the Alcazar, which is simply amazing. And I must say,
Ferdinand and Isabella were at the forefront of branding. The symbol
of Castille y Leon is EVERYwhere.

After a dinner at a tapas bar, I´m wandering in the gardens of
Seville, joining the local paseo.

Tomorrow I´m planning on visiting the Basilica of the Macarena, and
the marketplace in Triana, to buy some fruit of vegetables for my
first day walking. Plus I hope to find a lavadora & secadora — I´d
like to start out with some clean clothes, if possible. The pilgrim
chores, they start right away!

I´m still a bit jet-lagged so will keep this short. I am just so
happy to be here at last.
Now maybe one last glass of wine, and then bed.

Hasta pronto!

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