Today’s distance 16 km
Elevation gain 487 m
Elevation loss 323 m
Total distance from Almería 40
We made a very leisurely exit from the albergue this morning and were immediately tackling some extreme elevation. We wound up and up on the road and then right back down again to the river bed, but only for a short stretch when we took a track between orange groves and enjoyed the most amazing scent of the orange blossom and much buzzing of busy bees.
Soon we are on dirt tracks, sometimes very rough under foot and at others quite comfortable but all the way on completely barren mountainsides, either rising very steeply or dropping alarmingly. Much care is needed not to slip on the loose stones.
At 8km we reach the village of Alhabia and stop for toast and orange juice. The town square is buzzing with cyclists and the bar is doing good business. On the road again we followed alongside the river bed on a narrow asphalt agricultural road all the way to the end of this very short stage and all the time with orange blossom scenting our way. The trees are absolutely laden with flowers and masses of unwanted fruit lies abandoned where it fell. Our very kind and informative hospitalero tonight, Jose, advises that the farmers receive subsidies to maintain the landscape of the area but at around 8 centimos a kilo it is not worth their while harvesting the fruit so it just rots on the ground. We did pick a couple en route and they were absolutely delicious. What a waste of good food.
We arrived very early at our destination because we have only travelled around 16 km, and rested in a bar whilst we arranged for the hospitalero to come and find us and direct us to the albergue which is situated right at the top of this pretty town. He was kind enough to load our packs into his car and drive up the very steep hill where we met him. There are 20 beds here arranged over several apartments, which are also available to tourists. Our apartment which has three bunks and a very decent working kitchen and bathroom costs 50 euros, between the five of us.
Jose stressed how important it is for pilgrims to phone a day in advance to let them know of arrival. The hospitaleros have lives that involve being away from the village and cannot just happen to be there if they do not know anyone will be turning up. And just as important is to inform them if you have reserved and then change your mind and walk on. Much effort is involved in preparing, and in winter the heating, the rooms and arranging to be around to welcome pilgrims. Ring +34 633 357 533
We visit the only restaurant in town for a late lunch and although I very much enjoy the food (salmorejo without the jamon and boiled egg, and a large plate of setas) I am charged way too much for it. But everyone thought the food was good and there was plenty of it. Lesson of the day – ask how much I will have to pay before ordering!
Two of us take an after-dark climb up to the church perched high above the albergue. The views are worth the effort.