Today’s distance 21.5 km
Elevation gain 240 m
Elevation loss 183 m
Total distance from Almería 433.5 km
It is a cold start to the day but with a bright sky. As we passed the farmacia it showed a temperature of 5°. I wore more clothes than usual, short sleeve merino T-shirt, arm warmers, lightweight fleece, merino leggings and a skirt, and set off at a brisk pace along the road.
Breakfast was available at the guest house, but not until 08:30. There was a bar open close by but it didn’t look particularly salubrious. The consensus was to walk on to the next of several other bars in the town. But all were closed. It’s a difficult lesson to learn, whether to dive into the first place you come across or wait and see what else is on offer. Often, after settling for a grubby bar you will come across one set in a beautiful plaza just around the corner, but then – you might not. It’s a bit of a toss-up. We lost the toss this morning, but as a non coffee drinker I don’t need a fix first thing – I can drink my water hot or cold!
There is a huge military base outside the town and as it turned 8 am the Spanish version of reveille blasts through a loudspeaker. That seems a rather relaxed time to get going!
After 4 km of road walking we came to a very pleasant path that wound through natural woodland with lots of wild flowers and plenty of birdsong. Then, at 7.5 km we transferred onto a wide flat dirt track that had once been a road, now covered in earth and vegetation, which made for very easy walking, and then back onto a narrow path. Throughout the first part of this walk we have been walking within hearing and often within sight of the N-432
There are two types of dog that a pilgrim encounters, the fierce barking type that wish to convey that they would like to rip the seat out of your pants and perhaps remove a leg whilst at it, and the type in this photo. Two young dogs who hadn’t yet learned how to be aggressive, that only wanted some love and attention. It was difficult to give through a barbed wire fence, but I did my best.
I can’t remember now at what point we saw these fine fellows. It was like a porcine conveyor belt, there were hundreds of them trotting through a lush meadow filled with oak trees – piggy heaven with all the acorns they could hope for. A nice life – so long as it lasts!
A village by the name of El Vacar marks the half-way point at around 12 km and there were several bars to choose from for our breakfast. We had already stopped to don some rain gear, although the rain soon petered out, but no sooner had we arrived at the bar than the clouds emptied their contents, and by the time we left, the rain had stopped. Great timing! But we were playing tag with the clouds, for the most part keeping one step ahead and only feeling the odd spot of rain, though as we approached the stage end at Villaharta the sky behind us became very dark and thunder rolled around the hillsides. Fortunately we made it to Hostal Mirasierra home and dry. It’s not the cosiest of places on a cold day, there are several rooms with twin beds, a kitchen with only a microwave and a bathroom shared between, I would guess eight, and a large terrace where I remember sitting and soaking up the sun three years ago. 15 euros. There is no heating and on a cold day the only place to get any warmth is in bed where I am sitting writing this. There is a large bar/restaurant next door, which probably isn’t any warmer.
Today the thunder is rattling the windows and hail is bouncing off the terrace. Hopefully the clouds will empty before a very long stage tomorrow.
The host here offers a service to drop pilgrims at the half-way point of tomorrow’s 38 km stage that has no facilities. I think the three others in my group will avail themselves of this service, but I shall walk unless the weather is appalling. I did it before, and don’t see why I shouldn’t do it again.
Today is Mayday holiday and therefore the village shop isn’t open. Luckily I have been hauling a bag of quinoa for almost 100 km and have cooked this in the microwave with some flavourings from my stash and ate half for lunch today and will take the other half for sustenance tomorrow. Along with other miscellaneous items in my backpack (and orange, tomato, nuts and raisins, and a small pack of biscuits) I should have enough to see me through the very long day without waiting for the shop to open in the morning.