Monday, 27 April 2015

Aldeanueva del Camino to Salamanca 461 kms to go

A number of people have asked me why I am walking such long distances and the answer to that is simple. It is recommended that one allowes up to 56 days for this trek. I simply do not like being away from home for as long as that. I have allowed myself 36 walking days which brings into focus the problem of accommodation. It is more set up to fit the needs of those who wish to walk no more than,say. 20-25 kms a day. This means I sometimes have to double that distance if I want to keep within my allowance. When I get to where the via de la Plata joins the Camino Frances, that intersects from the east,  then I can take my time as there is a plethora of hostels and hotels, and I am not averse to staying in the latter. There is an alternative but far hillier route to the north west but I know that my knees would never stand up to the descents where I find myself dreadfully unsteady, with or without walking poles. Both routes are about the same distance to Santiago de Compostela so there is nothing  to be gained by putting future treks at risk.

So back to the present. What can I say about the motel.  Yes, what can I say about the motel and its food? I asked if  the soup was a regional concoction. Well, if you include something shipped in by the regional branch of a national soup supplier it was. I shan't bother with the rest. I kept trying to remember where I had seen the shower curtain before. Then, as I got into bed it came to me. I last saw it in the film Phsyco. Perhaps we had better move on.

My next stop was to be 41 kms away at Fuenterrobel de Salvatierra. It was a cold and somewhat depressing start. The sun was hidden to the east by the mountains and seemed reluctant to rise. The arrows pointed to a track that two Germans were returning from. The track was blocked. And if the Germans can't permeate it, no one can. I returned to the road, refusing to follow the directions to get off it. In the town of Banos de Montemayor I could see that there was to be a steep climb out of the valley. The yellow arrows pointed towards a lane way from the road which had a steep incline to it. The road had very little in the way of a walking refuge but had meanders that took the heat out of the climb.

The Germans set off with a thigh slapping bratwurst munching enthusiasm up the correct route. I took the easy option and stuck to the road. Half way up I left Extremadura and entered the region of Castilla and Lyon.

Once at the top I could maintain a brisk pace, but not so brisk that my legs kept reminding me that I had walked 50kms yesterday and had to persuade them to walk another 41 today. 

Under a bridge I came across a lovely serpentine ceramic display of the route from Meriva to Astorga.
 Only one yellow arrow was in existence and it clearly showed that one was required to walk down a lane to follow the route. About a kilometre in a came across two pilgrims who were consulting books and maps. They had not seen an arrow for some time they explained. I pointed to the motorway that was high above taking traffic north to Salamanca. I pointed to the sun which was on our right which was East and where it should have been. I told them that there had been no other lanes leading off this path, but try as I might they would not budge. Short of dropping to the ground to listen for the distant sound  of boots crunching I was at a loss what to do. It they are still there when you pass through give them a kick up the backside and tell them to get moving.

The lane was for me a long and painful descent to the valley floor but the reward was to walk through countryside that resembled my home on Dartmoor. Huge cubes of granite littered the fields and others leaned precariously ready to fall at any millennium. The smell of gorse was pungent and the bright yellow flowers a timely reminder of what I was missing.

From the time I left my bewildered friends in the forest I saw no one else. I passed through villages  whose name I instantly forgot as soon as I left. I saw a dog in one village and a man in another. But a never saw both in any village. I was like tumbleweed rolling in and out and leaving no trace. Some villages were typical. Long rows of single house barricaded with ornate and impenetrable window bars. Others by were held up with pillars that appear to have filched from some long forgotten Roman village. 
Occasionally I would rest in one village or knock on the door leading into a darken hallway in search of a refill for my water bottle, which was never refused. I pressed on through the warm day, along side fields where the wire was held in place with granite posts that would last many, many generations. 

Long into the day I came across a shepherd with a large flock of sheep. I resisted counting them in case I fell asleep. He had four dogs two of which walked to my rear. I called to him and he waved me through. The other two dogs crouched low watching my every move. He gave a command and they moved away. I cleaved a path through the flock and as I rounded the corner came across a ewe that has just given birth and was licking off the afterbirth. The lamb was attempting to,stand. I appreciate this happens a million times a day but it seemed as if this new birth has been especially saved for me. I wished the lamb a happy life and continued on my way.

Just after five I made my hostel in the small village of Fuenterroble de Salvatierra and my hostel.
l like to  have a FaceTime conversation with my long suffering wife each day and can always find a bar with wifi. The local bar here was owned by a lovely homely lady who was fascinated with what I was doing. She exchanged waves and conversation with my wife and we were joined by a local who insisted in lifting up his dog and showing it to my wife. 

That evenings meal was somewhat different than the previous night's. A wonderful courgette soup, a hearty beef stew and a sweet of tart and apricot covered in streams of chocolate. Now that might seem that I new what I was talking about and understood what madam was saying. Not a it of it. It took a table full of pilgrims to attempt to find out what was on offer, much to everyone's amusement.

I asked for white wine but it does seem it is a rarity in these parts. I think my bottom lip must have protruded a bit as a she went away and came back with a bottle which I have to be very careful not to drink the whole of the contents from. At the moment there is half a bottle left. I have now been offered a large coffe and a liqueur, my goodness me. I hope I can get up in the morning.

So, for a day that started out pretty ropey it all turned out quite well. How was yours?

Tomorrow will be a special day in this trek. But I will tell you about that later.

It was the usual,dormitory set up,with one exception. There was a wood burning stove blazing away in the corner. I paced out the distance to the exit across the tinder dry wood floor and made sure none of my gear obstructed my way in case a swift exit was needed. Breakfast was a great assortment of fruit and toast. Someone pointed out to me that I was the only one drinking tea. That's because I'm English I explained. In fact it came home to me at that I was the only Englishman walking this route.

Today was a thirty kilometre walk through fields bounded by snow capped mountains with a long haul to the highest point on the trek. Downhill on rock strewn tracks was as painful as ever but from then on it was fairly flat standard fair walking. 

But today was also special as when passing a pig farm of all places I was also passing the 500 Kms walked mark. I had covered that distance in fifteen days and had another twenty left to complete the other 500.

Nearing the end clouds, of what appeared to me to be Black Kites, crowded the sky.

I located the hostel in the tiny town of San Pedro de Rozados, but that's all I located. It was open but empty. A private house that had been converted to take pilgrims. I shouted, opened doors and generally clumped about the place.

The only response was a rub on the shins from a Siamese that led me inside, its tail erect and swaying like a cobra poised to strike. Well, there was nothing for it but to make myself at home and have a shower. Having mentioned how unsteady I am on downhill runs the same apples when in the shower, I am always looking for something to grab hold of. The problem with this place was that if I did that when falling the whole building would have disintegrated around me and I would be left stark naked standing in a cloud of brick dust and embarrassment. The toilet had the usual warning all Spanish toilets have which roiughtly translated means don't throw anything in here you have not drunk or eaten. The toilet was around 1930 London east end with a touch of Dali thrown in in the way the rust meandered down one side and the paint peeled off the seat. But, anything that gets rid of my body waste and has a shower that provided hot water is ok by me.

The sheets were damp but I found a heater in the room, plugged it in and turned it on high. All the time the cat, who I decided I would call Sammy, for no reason at all. 

I did one other thing, I shaved. I had been growing a beard for the last ten days and I was hating what I was seeing. My face was  turning white and I looked over 100 years old. Not only that it itched and smelled and bits of food and toothpaste got caught in it. It took forty minutes to clear it completely and as I looked in the mirror I welcomed myself back.

Eventually another lady pilgrim arrived and filled in form. I thought I had better do the same as she appeared to know what she was doing. I showed her my form, which was in Spanish, and she nodded, but asked why I had put 1812 as my date of birth. I told her not worry as I was sure none would make an overture so out that. And all the time the cat followed me around.

I had allowed myself one luxury on this trip, a circular battery operated hair trimmer. I have very little left and I like to keep,it short. I took it outside and started using it to the great merriment of the other pilgrims. I had chosen to have a number two,quite short, and as my hair wafted off in the wind I was the subject of many a phone video. A Dutchman said his wife as a good cook me would present me with a fabulous meal if  I shaved my chest hair. I told him I would rather eat stale bread than lose a nipple.

At 7pm everyone left the hostel and went to the bar leaving me and Sammy alone. Sammy stayed on my lap and purred and I snoozed. What was delpidated had become cosy.

Tomorrow I am off on the 24 kms hop to Salamamca. It is a national holiday on Friday and I have been told all the accommodation is taken. It therefore looks very much as if I will be sleeping in the streets on my birthday.

The journey to Salamanca was swift, along broad white gravel tracks, through the usual sleepy town and alongside fields of yellow rape seed. By 12.30pm I was in the centre of the town searching for a hotel. I found one near the cathedral, they could do one night. That would have to do. I would celebrate my birthday a day early. My wife had given me a birthday card which a took to the Plaza Major, ordered a beer and tapas and opened my card. I found I also had one from the dogs, so I sat there for some considerable time giggling inside as passers by
tried to see what my two cards, that I had propped up on the table, we're all about.

For the rest of the day I will explore, and tomorrow I will walk north into my 69th year.


1 comment:

  1. Just to let you know I look forward to reading about your exploration of the route.