Monday, April 30, 2012

Salamanca - Day 16 - April 30, 2012

We decided to bus forward to Salamanca and take a couple of rest days. Barb is bruised and sore and has an awful looking black eye, which fortunately nicely hides behind sunglasses most of the time. She also has a blister on her heel and has had to adjust her step and walk more on her toes so as to minimize the pain. This would cause some difficulty for distance walking. All things considered, good reason to move forward to a larger centre where we can do some sight seeing and rest up. In the meantime we can hope for better weather and when we set out again, north from Salamanca, the Albergues are a bit more plentiful and closer together.

At kilometer 509, Salamanca is the half way point for the Via de la Plata route of the Camino. By skipping forward to that point we have about the right amount of time to reach Santiago around May 24th, which is my preference, given that I would also like to walk the 3 days to Finistere, which is on the ocean and was once thought to be the end of the world.

 The day started with fog and damp weather as we set out to get the bus from Galisteo to Plascencia, which was the nearest place with a bus forward any distance.

 The bus stop was a short walk from our hotel. We had a few minutes to check out the walled city of Galisteo before we caught our bus.

 We got to Plascencia by 10:30 and had time for a short walk around the city before the bus to Salamanca left at 12:15.

The bus ride to Salamanca was very scenic and it passed through some of the places which are on the Camino. We were quite sad not to have time to explore these towns but glad to miss the steep climb up and over the mountain that would have been the better part of 6 days walk. It was just over 2 hours ride by bus!
We are going to spend at least 2 days here, so I will write more about this city tomorrow but in the meantime here are some pictures from our walk around town this afternoon. And yes, we got rained on again!

We found a real cool bar to hang out at and have a bite of supper. It was called Erasmus Brun Cafe.

They had a great selection of beers, including Duff beer which you may recall was Homer Simpsons brew of choice.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Gailisteo Day 15 - April 29, 2012


When we set off yesterday from the embalse (reservoir), it was cloudy and cool and threatening rain all morning as we walked through the countryside to the next village, Canaveral, some 11 kms distant.

 The road was a rocky car track, which was dissected by a highway in the making. They seemed to be building a super highway in the middle of nowhere and bulldozers had torn up the land and created a barrier to our path on the Camino. The highway had been cut into the terrain in a deep excavation, but there were no signs that any of the work was in progress - it seemed an abandoned site.  It was a muddy trail to get across the site and back onto a reasonable walking path.

It was a tiring walk as it was quite hilly and rocky and there were mud and puddles to trudge through once again as it had rained heavily through the night. The terrain was now decidedly alpine and if not for the several km of mucky roadworks it might have been an entirely pleasant section.
The scenery however, was spectacular and as the morning wore on we were treated to moments of sun as the clouds broke up a bit.

We were able to lunch in Canaveral, where we paid 6.20 for a coffee and a piece of tortilla patatero and some cheese. Mostly when you order tortilla you get an omelette, but this version is mostly potato and is made like a cake and served in slices. Compared to what we had paid elsewhere for such meals this was expensive.

 We had one big uphill climb as we headed to our intended destination of Grimaldo which was rocky and very steep but the view of the valley behind was worth the climb! I felt sorry for the 8 peregrino cyclists who had to push their bicycles up this long steep climb.
Can you see what looks like the remains of a Roman Aqueduct in the distance?

We followed the path through a pine forest and then beautiful meadows with cork trees, flowers, cows and brooks. We walked through a Cork tree forest - something I had not seen before. The trees lower bark is harvested as cork.

In the last kilometer several things happened. The weather took a turn for the worst and started to pour rain as we climbed our way out of the walking trail, down in the valley up to the village of Grimaldo high above. Also, in that final leg, Barb had lost her footing and fell as she crossed a creek. She was quite shaken up and had hit her head/eye on the rocks. The final disappointment was that there was no room in the Albergue and there was no other accommodation in town.

We decided to take a cab to Gailisteo the next destination and treat ourselves to a hotel as we assessed the severity of Barb's injuries. There was a bar, so we had a couple of brandies while we waited two hours for the only cab in town to become free.

Fortunately, Barb had not broken anything and just has bruises and a nasty black eye.
We now have a dilemma. The next few sections are long 30+ km and there are few Albergues. I might add that the locals tell us that the Camino is hosting many more Peregrinos than unusual, so accommodation is scarce. The other concern we have is the forecast for cold temps and rain for the next 2 weeks! We are considering options of busing forward a bit to a section with shorter legs and more albergues. The complication is that there are few buses and a national holiday on Tuesday, so we may end up stuck in a small village and no way out of town if we linger.

We settled into what I would think of as a motor hotel and took a siesta while we waited for 9:00 pm when the dining room opened for dinner.

Stay tuned amigos!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Embalse de Alcantara - Day 14

Finally, Internet! I have uploaded the last two days blogs and can now tell you about today.

When we left Caceres it was cloudy but no wind nor rain! There was a nice path out of town and then a long trudge along the highway for 11 km until we got to Caser de Caceres, which was a nice town with a very long main street. In fact, I think the town was just about strung out along the one main street. After a stop for a cafe con leche and a tortilla we headed out of town for the 22 km trek through the farm pastures to our next destination. The day steadily improved and by 1:30 the sun had come out and our coats were off! The scenery was wonderful as we walked high on the high point/ridge between two valleys. There were plenty of cows and sheep as we moved between gated farmers fields.

 There were blue sky's until we we're nearly at the Albergue, then the sky opened. Hail and rain came down in buckets and suddenly we were once again in the wet as we tried to quickly don our rain gear. As we sheltered in a driveway against the rock a car pulled up and made room for the two wet pilgrims and drove us the two km down the road to the path to the Albergue. As they say "the Way Provides". Barb had motored ahead and had reached the Albergue before the rain started so she was there to greet us as we arrived.

The Albergue del Embalse de Alcántara is really special. At the end of a long gravel road down to the reservoir so a bit off the camino path, but  it is very modern  - it was built in 2009 - and as you can see from the pics the bunk rooms are on 2 levels so the uppers can be accessed directly.   There were lockers and electrical charging posts built into the beds.  Also a laundry service and a dryer if desired!  Dryers are extremely rare - most people hang clothes to dry and there were lines available for those that preferred. The view from the front door and from the community room is superb! At only 16 EU including breakfast, it is a deal.

 The Hospitalera served coffee or vino and sold tinned stews and bread for us Perigrinos to feast on.  She also did laundry and looked after everyone's needs - a busy and efficient person but still had a smile and a cheerful hello.

We all settled in for dinner and with a great bar with good red wine at only 1.60 EU there soon were a very happy bunch of Peregrinos ready to party hearty on Saturday night!

The view from the front of the Albergue is absolutely wonderful!
Tomorrow is a decent 16.3 km and if the weather holds we will be smiling as we arrive at our Albergue tomorrow.
Hasty mañana amigos!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Caceres - Day 13 - April 27, 2012

For two days in a row we have no wifi, so I will will continue writing offline and post when I get some connectivity.

 More evidence of Roman Aquaducts.
 In Spain there is a stork on the top of every tall building.
 We left the Monestary at Alcuescar and walked the 16 km to Aldea del Canos in pouring rain jumping over puddles and through the muddy farm lanes which was today's trail. By the time we got to the village we were sodden and cold. We really should have been wearing rubber boots as the rain soaked through everyone's supposed waterproof hiking boots. Ian had the worst of it as he only had a waist length jacket (again, supposedly but not really waterproof), so he was soaked to the skin. Barb and I were only moderately wet as our Altimus rain jackets, which extend to the calves, are great at keeping our bodies as well as our packs dry. That said, I had to make several stops in the rain to go behind the bushes as I had foolishly drank 750 ml of yogurt drink in an effort to both boost my energy and lighten the load of food I was carrying. I was therefore fairly sodden under my rain gear as I had to remove the pack and rain jacket in order to "go behind the bushes".
 The original Roman mile marker is toward the back of this picture - the newer marker is shown close up.

By the time we got toAldea del Cano we were very sodden and even though we had only walked 15 km we needed to raise spirits before we could carry on - we had been walking in the pouring rain for 3 hours over muddy cow tracks.  At that point it was only 11:30 and we decided to adjourn to the local bar decor to rest and decide if we would check into the Albergue or carry on. Some of the other Peregrinos were splitting a cab to jump forward. The thought of settling into the small, local Albergue with wet clothes and no means to dry them was not very appealing and neither was the option of continuing to walk forward in the rain. We considered busing forward to the larger centre of Caceres where we might find a lavanderia with washers and dryers for our wet and muddy clothes. After several coffees, a tortilla bocadillo and a glass of wine, the idea of waiting until 4:30 at the bar for a bus was dismissed.

 We took a cab to the large city of Caceres and checked into the municipal Albergue. The price for a triple room with a private bath was an astounding 18 EU and it included daysayuno (breakfast) of toast and coffee! The Albergue is large with a capacity of 60 beds for both Peregrinos and Turisticos. But there is no laundromat nearby so we hung our damp clothes on a line in the room and jacked the heat up to about 90 help things along then tucked into bed for siesta.
 After siesta we had a short toot around to see the Cathedral de Santiago and then searched for food.

Dinner was at a restaurant off Plaza Major, a large plaza in the middle of the old part of the city. I had a green salad with tuna as the premier and roast chicken as the secundo. Dessert was the all present "flan" (creme caramel) and a bottle of wine and bread. All that for just 12 EU!

We are having a great deal of discussion about whether to miss one large section in order to get to the end point on time or to skip bits here and there. I am not sure what is best but It seems when the weather is miserable it is a good time to skip ahead a bit and buy some time for better walking weather in the days to come. Barb seems to be the most dedicated of us walkers - She doesn't like the idea of skipping a section and given that she is able to motor ahead of both Ian and I, I suspect she will be carrying on ahead of us at a faster pace.
Tomorrow is a 33 kilometer section. I sure hope for better weather!
Adios amigos!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Alcuescar - Day 12 - April 26th, 2012

It has been a few days since I have had access to Internet, so I will upload the blogs and photos I have been doing offline and date the post as the date the blog was written. Here we go as I post 3 days worth of blogs.

As we left the town of Merida we passed the big Roman aquaduct, which we had not seen during our sightseeing the day before.

 Today it rained steadily all day, so there was no staying dry. Even so, the 17 km walk to Aljucen was quite pleasant as there was no wind and the rain was light.
 The first part of the trail was a really nice bike/walking path for maybe 8 or so kilometers to Embalse de Proserpina, which is a large dam/reservoir with (in season) swimming, concession stands and the like for several kilometers.
 There were also viewing points and interpretive information as this is one of the three original sources of water for the city and part of the World Heritage Site. The dam was built in Roman times to store water which was moved via a gravity powered Aquaduct all the way to Merida.

As we approached Aljucen we learned that taking a break from walking on the trail during rain necessarily means you get wet as you get snacks from your pack and it was a wet walk the rest of the way. The country was beautiful though and the road easy on the feet as it was hard packed sand. We had walked just over 16 km at this point.

Aljucen is a really small town, just a church, a few dozen houses, a restaurant, store and the private Albergue which is the back half of somebody's house. Not so bad really, but Barb wanted to push on and we went to the restaurant to get a meal and figure out what next.  We had great bocadias with cafe con leche and watched daytime Spanish TV while we dried out, rested and decided what to do ... we got to know the hosts of this talk/news show really well by the end of our stay in Spain.

Given that there will be sections of the 1,000 km stretch we need to skip and the steady pouring rain, we decided this was a good day to push forward via autobus the 20 km  to the next town, which is Alcuescar. An hour later we joined 6 other wet Peregrinos on a bus which deposited us just outside the Albergue on the edge of town.


In short order were settled into a dorm room with 14 others on the 3rd floor of the Casa de Beneficiencia de Los Esclavos de Maria y de Los Pobres - a large Monestary which also serves as a residence for the disabled. The place was wonderful and for a donetivo (donation) of 5 EU we got both dinner and a bed.  All  of us were very wet (even inside boots), so we stuffed newspaper in the boots and hoped they would dry enough to wear in the morning.
After a short siesta we took a walk into the village, which is perched up on the side of a mountain. We walked up near the top and enjoyed the wonderful view. Afterwards we found a bar and had a drink of brandy to warm up.

Sorry, for the not so good pic of Barb (eyes shut), but it was a memorable place - and we all watched the spaghetti western dubbed in Spanish for an hour or so as we drank our brandy.

Dinner was simple but plentiful - chicken soup, spaghetti, eggs "rancho" and roast pork. There was an orange for dessert. We were asked to wash the dishes but with 20 helping it was easy work.
We have no Internet here so I will upload and post this blog when I find some wifi.
Adios amigos!