Today’s distance 20 km
Elevation gain 349 m
Elevation loss 289 m
Total distance from Almería 110.5
Well, this is what we have been waiting for. Now we are talking camino walking – and it doesn’t get finer than this. NO RIVER BED – at all. Yay! A full day of fabulous countryside tracks, through farmland with barking dogs aplenty, vast almond groves and beautiful pueblos. The almonds are still partly in bloom and are spectacular against the backdrop of the snow covered mountains. A few weeks ago it would have been even more enchanting, but probably not such fabulous weather, which has been perfect – blue sky, warm sunshine and a light breeze. There were a few ups and downs and lots of different terrain, but the only asphalt was walking in and out of the villages.
Our first stop was at Dolar at 4.3 km where I had toast and hot water. In these parts toast is served with a thick covering of some disgusting looking margarine, which I am sure has no animal products, but also I imagine not one spec of nutrient, so I make sure to ask for ‘tostada sin mantequilla’ and then use my prepared spread. Some readers have been surprised that peanut butter powder is a thing. Well here is an explanation – “Powdered peanut butter is made from roasted peanuts that have been pressed to remove most of the oil and then ground into a fine powder. Some brands contain a little sugar and salt. With most of the fat gone—powdered peanut butter has about 85 percent less fat than regular—you’re left with protein and fiber.” It’s certainly better than dry toast, and with a small ration of marmite added – it makes a tasty breakfast. I don’t suppose that will have convinced many, but each to their own!
The next stop was at Ferreira at 9.5 km. We could see from quite a distance the beautiful church tower against the snow – quite spectacular. We found the only bar at the entrance to the village and sat on the sunny terrace with a cold drink.
Then it was on to village number three, but before it came in sight we see a very impressive red stone castle high on a hill. It is some time before the pretty village of La Calahorra reveals itself nestled at the bottom of the hill. Again there is a bar at the entrance to the town and we all pile in for another drink. This stop was at 13 km.
Three stops in 13 km! Oh well, the stage is a fraction under 20 km and so there is absolutely no need to hurry. We are all of a mind to take it easy and fully appreciate our surroundings.
As we leave town I speak to a woman and say what a beautiful place she lives in. Yes, she replies, it is beautiful with the castle on one side and the snow topped mountains on the other, but there is not enough water and all the young people have left. So maybe not paradise after all.
My next interaction is with a goat herd. I ask if he minds if I take a photo – yes he says, but only of the goats, not of me. He then invites me over to inspect his herd and chooses one for me to see close up and wheel-barrows the creature towards me by holding onto its hind leg and propelling it in my direction. He explains that the herd is made up of three different breeds, from Granada, Seville and Murcia. There is a rather handsome billy that is wearing a rather ungainly form of contraception which would do nothing for his herd-cred. A charming diversion towards the end of our walk.
Then we can see Alquife in the distance surrounded by ruined mining buildings and machinery. Apparently this village used to produce 40% of Spain’s iron.
We had reserved beds at the private albergue Lacho and as we approached the village our host Manuel drives up to meet us. We decided that as we wanted to eat, we would call him when we had finished and he would come and show us the way. Because, as you might have guessed, this albergue was no different to any other we have stayed in on this camino – at the very, very top of the town. A couple of us went with Manuel in his car with all the packs so that we were familiar with the route and then he dropped us back to the others so we could all walk the 5+ minutes up the hill unladen.
I’m not sure of the name of the bar where we ate. The food and service were good but the price, we all felt, was rather high. And none of us was inclined to take the hike back into town for an evening meal. So we pooled our resources and had a varied dinner of Dorito wraps, miso soup, nuts and cheese. Very unhealthy but it did the trick!
There are several rooms with beds for 12 in a house with a very large lounge/kitchen and a huge bathroom which would be big enough for three, but alas we can only use the facilities one at a time. Wifi, washing and breakfast are included for 13 euros. Telephone Manuel 603 170 445. There is another private albergue in the town.
Manuel has a very sweet and affectionate tiny Yorkie type dog chained at the entrance to the property. The poor little thing is very thin, it’s coat is completely tangled and it has no water. Marilyn immediately tended to its needs with fresh water and a cheese sandwich and then with Manuel’s permission gave the poor little thing a bath. It has been the recipient of the best of South African hospitality and seems very grateful. If anyone reading this stays here in the future, make sure the poor girl has some food and water.