(yesterday, Saturday 25 April)
As we left our lovely accommodation this morning we spied a couple of pilgrims across the road – an Italian couple who had stayed in the sports hall last night. We chatted in spanish for a while and went on our way.
There are two options on today’s route and George was convinced that the route through Yelbes rather than Santa Amalia was shorter, and so we set off this way, walking on the road for a while and at the town of Yelbes cutting through onto farm tracks. I couldn’t advise taking this option – the chances of getting lost in the maze of tracks are quite high. There were very few arrows and we had no idea most of the time if we were going in the right direction, although I could see from my GPS that we were taking a fairly straight line. We did take a wrong track at one point and by the time we had retraced our steps we had added 2 km to our journey. A kind tomato farmer called us over and described the way which should have been very simple, but when there are virtually no arrows and so many tracks around the fields, it is very easy to go wrong. There was a relatively wide river to wade – not deep fortunately – and as old hands at this lark we quite enjoyed the experience. Then more and more dusty dirt tracks through vast areas of newly planted tomato plantations. I have also seen great swathes of sunflowers (only a few inches tall), corn on the cob, broad beans, peas and lots of cereal crops. But the larger part of today’s walk was through areas of very small plants meaning that the outlook was mostly beige/brown – most uninspiring, although for the most part the paths were easy to walk on.
The highlight of the day was finding some wild asparagus growing on the side of the track – I picked it and ate it – scrummy!
I had expected that George and I would part company half way through today. Although he has voluntarily adopted the title ‘poor George’ because I referred to him as such when he was struggling with the inclines at the beginning of our journey, I have now re-christened him ‘super George’. He is many inches taller than I am and subsequently his legs are much longer (and I am not short and have a good stride). When walking through a dusty track yesterday I could see his footprints very clearly and measured my stride against his – mine was a good 8 – 10 inches shorter. So it doesn’t take long for him to be a long way ahead of me, although he would always wait at a change of direction or significant marker. George has a time scale – a total of 47 days from start to finish when his flight is booked out of Santiago, and he is planning to walk to Finisterre. So he needs to catch up a bit for a few of the shorter days we took earlier on.
Today George was planning to walk into Mérida, a stage of over 40 km, whereas I had decided to stop off after 25 km (27 km with our diversion). However when we arrived at San Pedro de Mérida and I phoned the available accommodation the two available hostels were charging either 25€ or 24€ with a 2€ pilgrim discount. Added to that info, there was a fiesta in town, a gathering of bikers (the very loud mechanical sort) and the main square was decked out with an outdoor bar and a blaring music system, and lots of guys and their machines – and it was only going to get louder and bikier as the day progressed. To their absolute credit while we stopped for a couple of tinto de veranos each (George’s first and by all accounts it won’t be his last!) the biker guys brought us over a couple of plates full of freshly sliced delicious jamon.
Armed with the facts of the cost of accommodation and the deafening music, I decided to walk on to the next stop a further 7 km up the track. And when we reached Trujillanos, it was such an uninspiring little town that I couldn’t bring myself to stop there and steeled myself for the rest of the slog into Mérida.
But suddenly the vista changed and we were walking through the beautiful green cereal crops again and the track was lined with stunning flowers for the first time today and I found the energy I needed to plod on into Mérida. By the time we walked from the outskirts, through the city centre and finally to the albergue by the river, we had clocked up 45 km. By far the longest walk I have ever taken. And my feet had been seriously complaining for at least 15 of those km’s.
When we arrived at the albergue we were told by a girl sitting outside that it was full. I couldn’t believe it. I wasn’t going to be turned away. So I phoned the hospitalera and when she told me it was full I explained that we had walked 45 km on the Mozárabe and I was exhausted and I needed to stay in her albergue. I think she could tell that I was on the edge (which I absolutely was) and within a couple of minutes a young guy turned up and said there was actually one bed. George immediately said I should take it and he would find something else, but I asked if it was possible to sleep on the floor and the guy said sure, but there was no mattress available . As it happened there were five mattresses available in addition to the eighteen beds (nine bunks), but all had already been allocated. George was given a variety of blankets to sleep on and judging by his gentle snoring, he at least got some sleep. I resisted the temptation to accept the kind offer of the young spanish woman to take her bottom bunk and she would have the top – I need to toughen up and take it as it comes for the rest of this Camino, so the top bunk it was and very glad I was to have it and very happy I was to pay the 6€ charge for the night (George didn’t have to pay for his space on the floor).
Distance according to wikiloc (my own recording) 45 km, mapmywalk 50.8 km Fitbit recorded steps 58,515
Accumulated elevation uphill 353 metres
Accumulated elevation downhill 405 metres
Total distance walked 501.90 km, average 27.9 km per day
Today’s spend – drinks 2€, packet of biscuits 0.90€, albergue 6€, supper 6.5€. Spend for the day 15.4€
Seventeen days total spend 453.88€