Last evening I bought a bottle of cava and a big bag of crisps for sharing, then spotted a box of eggs and thought it would be a good idea to have boiled eggs for tomorrow’s walk. But when I returned to the albergue I realised there was no hob, just a microwave. Not daunted by such trivialities I looked up online how to boil eggs in the microwave. Voila, easy-peasy, perfect boiled eggs – three each for lunch…who knew how simple that would be – no mess, no explosions – sorted!
Meanwhile we four were sitting around the table when Charo, señora hospitalera, called in to see us. She warned of a storm approaching tomorrow and kindly told us we could stay an extra night if we wished. We checked the forecast to see that winds of 30-50 km/h with gusts of 65 km/h were on the way. But being hardy pilgtims, we didn’t change our plans.
True enough, the moment we stepped into open countryside we were knocked sideways by the gusting wind. We soon entered the pine forest on sandy, but quite firm, paths and were instantly sheltered somewhat from the wind. This lasted five or so kms and then we were out in exposed countryside again, walking alongside huge electricity pylons. I was puzzled by what sounded like a high speed train zooming by, or the rush of the engines of an aeroplane about to take off, but actually turned out to be the sound of the wind rushing through the pylon wires.
At 7 km we reached the village of Villeguillo and were surprised and delighted to find the bar open earlier than expected so we could all thaw out with a hot drink. As we left the rain started, although it never amounted to much. But the wind continued to gust and push me sideways on the wide open gravel track which continued for around 4 km, and then once again we were welcomed into the relative shelter of another pine forest for a much more pleasant 5 km.
At the 16 km point we were advised by our guide to divert from the ‘official’ camino path because it runs through more forest with deep sandy paths that are hard to walk on. It advises to take a diversion on an open track between vast crop fields.
Paul, Marilyn and I followed the advice and walked along the open track. Bad move! I’m not sure if due to rain or spillage from the massive irrigitation arms that cross the fields, but the track was wet, with very slippery muddy clay that clung to our boots and slowed us down tremendously. Eli, on the other hand, thought for herself, and assessed that in the current weather conditions it would be better to take the official route through the forest and therefore be sheltered from the wind. She reported that although sandy, the path was perfectly firm and very comfortable to walk on. On looking at the map and comparing the routes, the official one is considerably shorter, I’m guessing by 2 or more km. Eli wins again!
I was ready for the cold this morning and wore socks over my gloves, buff around my head and rain jacket hood up. During the latter part of this stage I plugged into my camino playlist and powered on as fast as I could. The irony of singing along to ELO’s ‘Mr Blue Sky’ and Katrina and the Waves’ ‘Walking on Sunshine’ whilst stomping through gale force winds under a dark grey sky was not lost on me, but the music did its job and increased my average pace for the stage to 4.5 km/h.
On arrival at Alcazarén we visited the Bar Real to register and collect the albergue key. It was just after 13:00 and the bar was packed to the gunnells with locals enjoying a Sunday lunchtime drink and partaking of the wide range of tasty looking tapas. The place was absolutely buzzing with not a spare seat in the house.
The albergue is purpose built and situated on a rather unprepossessing (barren waste ground) site at the edge of town. The 4 bunks (8 places) are sturdy with good mattresses, there are lockers and blankets. But the single bathroom is in the style of a wet room (whoever thought up that design – obviously a man – should be made to clean it after every use!), the radiator does not work, the water is barely luke warm and there is no way I am standing on that floor with bare feet for a cold shower without being able to warm up afterwards. So, no shower for me today – I didn’t get at all hot or sweaty during the walk and make no apologies for being one of the ‘great unwashed’ for a day! The kitchen has a microwave but there are no utensils, or plates, cutlery or cups.
For this entire stage of 26 km there was only one opportunity to rest – at the bar at 7 km. In better weather we may have felt inclined to sit on the ground to have a picnic or a break. As it was, Paul and I tramped 18 km without taking the weight off our feet, and the boiled eggs made it all the way to the next albergue, where one of them was employed, together with some bagged salad and goat’s cheese spread to make me a tasty wrap on arrival.
Alcazarén may be harbouring some well hidden gems, but to be honest I am happy to let them remain undiscovered. I’ve had enough of the wind for today, and other than perhaps stepping out for a bite of supper later I have no plans to wander the streets of this rather unappealing town. Wow, that sounds a bit harsh – maybe I just need some sunshine to brighten my mood. Come on ‘Mr Blue Sky’, please come back.
Today’s distance 25.9 km
Accumulated uphill elevation 19 m
Accumulated downhill elevation 63 m
Total distance 201.3 km
Average per day 25.2 km