The hostel,wasn't particularly crowded but even so my late arrival meant that clothes line space was at a premium, still, by rearranging what was already there I managed to create some space. That days trek had been more like a commando training day and had left me with a bad case of spray across the inside of the top of my legs. My fault, I was so tired over the last few kilometres that I had allowed a clothing malfunction to take place, i.e every bit of clothing South of my waist slowly descended downwards until, without me realising the tops of my legs were rubbing together. Gosh. It was sore, and I had no ointment, but I did have a small slab of butter I was saving for my tuna sandwich.
I rubbed that on and the relief was instant. I crashed out at 9pm and didn't surface again until 7am. I am pleased to report that the sparay is no longer crashing against my rocks and my inner thighs no longer look like Dante's Inferno. My shorts are now pulled up so high I now know what it must be like to wear a thong.
Good day today. Around thiirty kilometres the first along a road, which was great for untying the knots in my legs. Halfway along I came across a rusty tin of discarded family photos. They were of individuals, holidays, and festivals, I wondered what caused these precious memories to be discarded by the roadside. A can only assume, knowing the Importance the Spanish place on family, this was as the result of a burglary.
The road gave way to the Sierra Norte national park, a splendid walk among wild flowers cork trees and the occasional pond filled by the recent rains, a deluge that had kick started the lush vegetation into life and cajoled the flowers into glorious colours.
Of course there is always a sting in the tail and this one came as a lung busting hike up a steep hill. But the reward were glorious views and a ten minute hike to my overnight stop at the spacious and welcoming hostel at Almaden de la Plata, where I arrived at 2pm with plenty of time to relax and go shopping. No large supermarkets in this hamlet. I eventually found a small shop and bought my water and an apple. The ten euro presented for payment caused some consternation which resulted in madam leaving the shop waving my note in the air. She was going, it appeared to get it changed. Well, the time she took she could have gone to Seville and back but eventually she returned and asked if I wanted to buy some chocolate. I patted my tummy and we both agreed it would not be a good idea.
Day three Almanda de la Plata to Monesteio 37.5kms
It can be a little difficult when one is offered the choice of two routes. The sensible route was along the road for the first 16kms, but there was also a route through the national park that was drawing me. The trouble was that at 7pm in the morning it's still dark and I couldn't find the arrow that would start me on my way. An elderly gent, no doubt off for his first coffee of the day at the local cafe caught hold my arm when I asked for the route. Guiding my up a dirt track he pointed to a post with a yellow arrow on it. I was on my way.
The mornings are cold here and I'm not sorry for that as it makes for a brisk pace. The forest was the usual mixture of cork trees and flower filled fields with the occasiona dog straining at its leash to take a chunk out of my leg. Eventually I came across a group of Frenchmen who were debating the way to go. There were no arrows. I suggested that, as the other of the two routes was blocked by a locked gate the other must be the way to go. But there were no yellow arrows to indicate the way, and this disconcerted then terribly. I took off down the hill, they followed, and eventually the arrows reappeared and all was well with the world.
The trail now continued on and the village of El Real de la Jara appeared, all white and pristine and huddled under its hilltop castle that once defended the region. The village is small but supported at least three cafes that I could count, but where the people were was anyone's guess. Probably in them, I suspect. As I tramped the Main Street two elderly men were under the bonnet of an ageing Citroen discussing what part of the engine was preventing it from starting. A smartly dressed woman was sweeping the road directly outside her house with the sort of care a brain surgeon would give to a difficult operation.
On leaving the village I entered the region of Extremadura and my rapid progress was aided by a cooling wind that if I could have captured I would have. Wooded hills surrounded fields that were repleat with dear, black pigs, goats and Hoopos who were competing with the cuckoos for squatting rights. All things considered it was 16kms of superb walking.
On a passing farm I had to negotiate a herd of goats and as I ploughed my way through. They were a little reluctant to move but I told them I would except no buts and they moved out of the way.
The last 10kms were along a road and best forgotten. There are no pilgrim hostels in this town so at 18 euros I secured as small room with an even smaller shower with a shower tap so sensitive it would scorch the scales off an armadillo. The toilet was one of those that never shut off but in truth, nothing was going to prevent a good night sleep, and so it proved.
Day four Monesterio to Zafra 48kms.
Suzy Quattro came into my bed last night, and she brought her group with her. There I am, fast asleep when the hotel disco starts up. No wonder the Spanish talk loudly, that noise could have been heard in London. Fortunately she left again at midnight and all I had to contend with was a chorus of dogs. Still, the bed was comfortable.
The idea today was to walk some 27 Kim's to a small town to spend the night. Another cool morning but the sun was up as I strode through small lanes with stone walls keeping the donkeys and olive trees under control. The scene soon opened into beautiful lush rolling countryside and it is difficult to explain just how saturated the greens and blues of the sky were, even the tracery made by jets high above made a trail of pure white. Eventually the first town on my list appeared on the horizon. It was midday. Time for a sandwich.
On approaching the town I was met by a man on a motorcycle who gave me a leaflet for a hostel. Entering the town a man left from his car and gave me another and offered to take me. I declined, I wasn't staying there. He waved me on. Up a side street I asked a elderly lady dressed in the traditional black if she would fill my water bottle. She returned from the dark interior and presented me with a large bottle of ice cold water. A gift I was very touched.
Normally I carry my lunch with me but as it was Sunday decided to treat myself to a decent sandwich in a bar where I was the only customer. A large baguette covered on one side with cheese and the other with tomato and all smothered in Virgin olive oil which I also spread liberally on my fingers to suck during the afternoon. As I was eating the man in the car came in and indicated toward me. Voices were raised and not understanding one jot of Spanish gained the impression Mr car man was not very pleased. I thought he was accusing the bar owner of stealing his trade. He eventually left with the customary sign for annoyance, a wave the right hand in the air. I just munched my sandwich and enjoyed the cabaret.
Up until then things had gone well. But when I got to the next town 6 Kms away I found the youth hostel I was going to stay in did not open weekends. So that meant another 15 Kms trek to the next town. At least the weather was good with a warm sun and cooling breeze. I was completely alone on the track with no shade and no access to water other than what I carried. It was hard slog and I arrived to find no hostel open there either, so that mean another 5km to Zafra, which is a large town with plenty of hostels. The place I am in is huge, but there is hardly anyone here. The bathroom is like something out of a Roma orgy and I would not be surprised to see the ghost of Franco floating through. It has that ancient feel about it.
Still, that's another day over, I had never in a million years meant to walk 48 Kms in hot sun on a dusty track. Still, it's done now and I can settle down and tuck into my pasta salad. Having cracked on more than I anticipated I should not have so far to walk tomorrow to keep to my schedule. But you never know what's around the corner.