I eventually found a shop in the strange little town of Valdesalor, but only because a fellow pilgrim walked me to it. I had previously walked straight past it as there was no indication whatsoever that there was anything but a private house behind the front door. From the very uninspiring selection of goods, I gathered a small bagette, a can of fish, a tomato and a packet of chicken noodle soup for the princely sum of 3.25€, and I have to say it was all quite enjoyable (you have to realise that by now my standards and expectations are not too high!)
We were eleven in the albergue which had room for fourteen. I arrived in time to take the last lower bunk, which was next to the door. Next to the door is the worst position, but it is still better than the top bunk furthest from the door. I am surrounded by mostly French and mostly men.
Men – French 5, French Canadian 1, Spanish 1, Hungarian 1, Italian 1
Women – Hungarian 1, me
But it is a nice crowd of friendly people who have been in eachother’s company for a few days (excepting the italian).
So I was in prime position to count the number of times those present in this lovely albergue took a trip to the loo during the night – I lost count after about thirty. It was like Clapham Junction – I am sure everyone was waiting for the last person to return to bed before making their move. I don’t know what they put in the water in this town, but it is very effective!
I don’t rush myself in the mornings – I do what I need to do without panicking about being the last out (which I haven’t been yet), but I am certainly not the first.
I don’t get to see the sunrise from home, as we are on the wrong side of the mountain (but absolutely the right side for the sunset), so today’s sunrise was an absolute treat. No clouds in the sky to defuse the perfect ball of glowing orange. It was so bright that it hurt my eyes to look at it. Stunning!
Today’s stage was a walk of two halves – firstly into Cáceres, an ancient city that I have briefly visited many years ago. The prescribed route took us past the church of Santiago and I called in to ask for a sello (stamp) for my credencial, which was forthcoming, but the route avoided the centre of town and castle that I remember from my previous visit, which is a shame because pilgrims passing through will not get an idea of how lovely this place is.
Walking down the pleasant promenade out of town I came across Javier (Spanish) and the single French pilgrim, and although I stopped for my morning snack, these guys were in my line of sight all the way to our destination of Casar de Cáceres, a bustling fair-sized town with a beautiful approach via a very prettily planted promenade.
Both halves of the walk have been through similar scenery – wide open undulating meadowland – I have to say it is not nearly so inspiring as the holm oaks and cereal crops of the last few days of the Mozárabe. But the paths have been easily manageable, varying from rutted dirt, to rocky, to sandy, to gravel and a bit of road walking thrown in for good measure. The ground water has pretty much drained away now and the sky has remained more or less cloudless all day, with a gentle breeze – although it was a bit chilly first thing and I almost regretted reverting to my sleeveless T-shirt this morning.
My mood changed rather when we reached the municipal albergue in the centre of town. All bottom bunks had been taken, which is bound to happen from time to time and I realise I need to toughen up and get on with it. But here there are not only no ladders to the top bunks, but no chairs to climb on either. I’m not even sure how a tall young person would accomplish this feat with any dignity, let alone a mature woman of my age. Do the powers that be give this any thought when designing their albergue (donativo by the way)? There are two rooms with 18 beds, one has a row of showers about 50 cm from the nearest bed, and the other room has loos in a similar position.
Being allocated a top bunk means that there is nowhere to sit to ‘do your stuff’. Oh, and just to top it off the beds are pushed together so that I might as well be in a double bed with a stranger. Although I am lucky that Javier is next to me, and he is a lovely, very quiet chap.
I shall not worry about my predicament until I have to – and I hope I don’t have a disaster to report tomorrow. But I do have a mini disaster to report now – I just stubbed my big toe on a marble step and split the nail – it doesn’t hurt and I haven’t poked about with the nail yet, so hopefully it will be ok. Feet are good today – nothing new (apart from the broken nail) and all existing problems settling down nicely.
At least the bar opposite has good wifi and I shall spend the afternoon mooching about town.
Good news update!!! More pilgrims arrived so they had to open the reserve room. I found out too late to claim a lower bunk, but quickly moved my stuff to this new room where the slow-coaches are residing. It has a separate quarter for loos and showers and the beds are a reasonable distance apart. Phew – that was a close one. And now I am not the only woman amongst sixteen men – the odds have shortened to four women and twenty men. And I have now discovered that there is wifi in the albergue also – getting better by the minute!
Distance according to wikiloc (my own recording) 25.9 km, Fitbit recorded steps
Accumulated elevation uphill 219 metres
Accumulated elevation downhill 243 metres
Total distance walked 590.8 km, average 26.8 km per day
Today’s spend – drinks 4.2€, sandwich supper and supplies 6.75€, albergue 5€,mminus underspend yesterday 2.75€. Spend for the day 13.2€
Twenty-two days total spend 522.63€