So we left off at the albergue turistico at Embalse de Alcantara, where the cows were swimming and the peregrinos were plotting like mad generals laying out their campaigns, tables full of maps and guidebooks and printouts and elevation charts. Bad math was in the air: 25 pilgrims potentially all heading for a refugio with around 10 spaces.
I set out and found the hike to the next town, Canaveral, quite easy. Things look much better in the early morning than they do after a long hot climb along the highway. So when I reached Canaveral it was still morning, still cool (good walking weather) and there was no way I was going to get on a bus. The question was, would I head for Grimaldo, the town with the small (and rumor had it not so clean) refugio, or be totally crazy and go for Galisteo, the next town after that? The bonus to heading for Galisteo is that it´s a walled city, and (as usual) I was captive to the romantic notion of reliving the Middle Ages as I walked towards the city, walls rising above me.
The walking was lovely, through meadows full of flowers and shaded by oaks, and at one point (after a steep hill) through a nice bit of pine forest. So all was well and good when I reached the turnoff for Grimaldo. I double-checked my math, distance vs. approximate kilometers per hour. Onward!
Well, you know, a 42 kilometer hike is really, really long. (You can do the math; a kilometer is about 3/5 of a mile.) And it wouldn´t even have been too bad except for two things. On this route, it seems like the last bit before a town is always uphill along a highway. Can we say hot and exhausting, and sometimes nerve-wracking? And the worst waymarking along the entire route is hands-down around Galisteo.
Now I had heard that there was a shortcut through a farm to get to Galisteo. There´s an Australian pilgrim on the Via de la Plata, a few weeks ahead of me, and she´s been blogging about her trip, less anecdotally and with more helpful information. Like look for this gate. So here I was, looking for every side trail that might go to Galisteo. And here was the Italian couple, also slogging along, and a group of bicyclists, all looking for the shortcut. The bikers had ridden ahead down the road and found a local who told them where to go, which involved just cutting across tall grass. But we walkers said, but wait! here´s a path! Why bushwhack when people have obviously gone before?
Well, I did get to Galisteo, and exactly within my time estimate, but only after wading across a field that was ankle-deep with water. I learned later that everybody got lost in the same field, and all just ended up saying the heck with it (perhaps in stronger terms than that) and slogging across the wet.
But as soon as you get to town there´s a bar. I ordered the largest, coldest water possible, and a clara (beer mixed with lemonade, which is no doubt a travesty to true beer-lovers everywhere, but is the most refreshing thing ever after a long walk.) And found the albergue, and had a nice long shower, and all was well that ended well.
A few more days walking, and here I am in Salamanca, an absolutely lovely town, and am staying with my friends David and Claudia (he formerly of Peet´s Coffee), being spoiled and pampered and enjoying some down time.
Just fyi, since this blog has been of necessity so skippy, I´ll be posting photos when I return home, and will tell little stories to go with the pictures, just to fill in the missing parts of this adventure.
Now it´s naptime. Hasta pronto!