Oh, today started so very well. We were expecting an easy(ish) 20 km hike and right outside the albergue the arrows indicated we cross the road and we were immediately in stunningly beautiful countryside, albeit on a very steep gradient. We wound our way along a very narrow path and my boots and trousers became soaked from the plants that brushed against them. It had rained during the night and everything around was clothed in raindrops. The sky was still the same grey as yesterday but there was not a breath of wind in the air. And whilst I walked I heard my first cuckoo of the year.
We trekked through olive and almond groves, up hill and down dale, and eventually the path opened up as we walked along a ridge. I found it hard going this morning, entirely due to the ascent but even though it was a grey day, the scenery was enchanting. It had obviously rained more in the areas further away from Almogía as we started to come across deep puddles spanning the track. There were several tricky diversions to be made and at one point where it was not possible to divert we had to do a hop, skip and a jump.
Apart from crossing one road, the path remained in deep countryside for about 17 km with nowhere to rest other than the occasional big rock, and of course no opportunity for a warm drink or a snack. Luckily George had gone to a cafe for breakfast whilst I packed in a leisurely fashion. I am not good at a quick start. The French guy had been up and out at 06:30, flashing his headlamp in all directions in the process. I don’t tend to do breakfast on the camino and I had a supply of almonds that I picked at from time to time during the day – in fact it is now almost 5pm and I have still only eaten a handful of almonds. Time to find some supper and a glass of vino in a while.
After about 10 or 12 kilometres we came to a decidedly different area. The countryside suddenly opened up to huge crop fields – an amazing contrast to the scrubby landscape we had passed through so far.
But with the change of scene came a change of earth and we found ourselves walking in mud. Now this wasn’t the sloppy sort of mud that toddlers like to jump in, this was the sort of stuff you make statues out of – thick and dense and extremely heavy. Our boots were soon plastered in the stuff. I thought that there was only so much mud that could stick to a pair of boots but sadly I was wrong. It kept on building up until the weight was really hard to manage. My super-light boots must have weighed about five kilos a piece and the mud even clinged to the tips of my walking poles forming great balls of clay on the ends that must have weighed over a kilo each.
And of course with the build up of mud came a lack of traction so that for every difficult step uphill there was a certainty that several inches would be lost as I slid back down. Going down hill was a little easier but slightly more treacherous. It was like wearing gravity-inducing moon boots and swinging a shot-put at the same time. Every now and then the weight became so heavy that it was necessary to make the effort to flick my foot out to try and dislodge a few clods – I felt it was a bit like doing the conga – but in slow motion and not nearly as much fun! We WILL laugh about this at some time, but probably not today.
After about two hours of this extremely slow progress up some very steep slippy hills we finally came to the road that led to our destination, and never were two pilgrims happier to be walking on asphalt. I found a cleanish puddle and tried to wash off some of the mud, but this was done more efficiently by wiping my feet in some wild plants by the side of the road. I did quite a good job, although my boots still looked as though they belonged on a farm. But I hadn’t reckoned the the kind-hearted amigos of the camino Mozárabe who were keen to take us back off the road as soon as possible – back onto another muddy track! Bless them.
In dry weather this would have been an absolute pleasure to walk, but we were both totally exhausted with the effort it took to lift up our clay-caked feet.
We reached Villanueva de la Concepción at around 14:30 and I phoned the number given for the albergue hosts and was informed that the key would be in the house opposite the albergue, which indeed it was, and was handed to us by a kind and friendly señora. There are four bunk beds, two bathrooms, a kitchen and a large reception room. George found hot water for his shower but I wasn’t so lucky, so washed the mud off my legs and did a spit and a polish for the rest – you won’t find me taking a cold shower. Again it is a donativo albergue and as yesterday there is a rubber stamp for our credencials and a registration form for us to complete. I am very surprised to see from the forms in the folder the number of pilgrims passing through, lots of French and Spanish. Pilgrims are very well catered for so far on this camino and the signage could not possibly be better.
Let’s see what tomorrow brings….hopefully a little sunshine and dry tracks!
Distance according to – wikiloc 19 km, mapmywalk 22.2 km, fitbit 20.53 km and 29,077 steps
So an average of 20.6 very difficult kilometres.
Total distance walked 45.2 km, number of steps 66,498
Once again, the image below shows the pace of the person who recorded it.
I’m going to try to remember my expenditure each day
Yesterday 12 euros dinner and tip + 10 euros donation to albergue (would have left less but didn’t have change)
Today 11.50 euros dinner, 2.70 euros fruit and dried apricots, 7 euros donation to albergue
Two days, total spend 43.20 euros
No wifi in albergues or bars so far. Last night my mifi unit worked, but not tonight. But also couldn’t connect by phone to David, so I guess this village is a bit of a black spot. So this post will have to wait until I find a connection.
Also of interest to my local friends – we are very close to El Torcal, so you can appreciate how much we’ve been climbing from Málaga!