Today’s distance 37 km
Elevation gain 613 m
Elevation loss 574 m
Total distance from Almería 470.5 km
Last night I had to make do with a supper of lettuce, tomatoes and chips – it seems there were no fresh vegetables to be seen in the village on the Mayday holiday!
Marilyn’s Apple Watch told her it was 4° when I left this morning so I quickly put on my raincoat for the first time. The problem with wrapping up warm is that my back gets really hot which makes me glow (ladies glow, men perspire, horses sweat) so I often find myself needing to strip off layers quite soon.
I was the only pilgrim in the village walking the full route today. A few took a ride half way and walked slightly less than half the distance. Others took the bus to the end stage. So it was a solitary walk for me. Not that there is a problem for me with that. I very much appreciate the company of my camigas, but walking alone makes for more of an adventure. As you probably know, I have walked this stage before and I remembered how beautiful a walk it is, but it was somehow more special wandering along entirely at my own pace, stopping regularly to play with my camera and admire the scenery, whilst involuntarily ooh-ing and aah-ing every few metres.
There were lots of photo opportunities this morning with thick fog down in the valleys – it looked very ephemeral
A 2.6 km uphill slog on the road started the way, but fortunately there was almost no passing traffic. After that it was track all the way. Beginning with a very narrow path through long very wet grass and even a bit of frost. It seemed prudent to put on my gaiters in an attempt to keep my feet as dry as possible. Very soon the track widened, but as I appreciated the extra warmth the gaiters provided, I kept them on for a while.
There was a huge variety of surfaces to walk on during this very long stage, wide and sandy (fab), stony (not so), slate (so-so), steep up and down and extremely wet!
There was much birdsong and distant chiming of cowbells.
8.7 km I encountered a river that needed to be crossed. Maybe 20 metres wide and upper-calf level in depth. I knew it was coming and was prepared to swap boots for crocs securely fastened with elastic straps. I popped my iPad and phone into ziplock bags, just in case of mishap, and tip-toed through the freezing water. Safely on the other side I dried my feet and clumsily attempted to put on my toe socks whilst standing on one leg…quite a feat (yay, a pun!). In fact it can be quite an effort to get each toe into its corresponding pocket even when sitting down in the comfort of one’s own home.
I had planned to take three or four breaks over the 38 km, the first scheduled for around 10 km. But it was difficult to find somewhere dry to sit because of all the dew and/or rain on the grass. I eventually found a well-placed rock and sat down to a portion of the quinoa I had cooked last evening. What a beautiful place to eat breakfast – quinoa never tasted so good as I looked out on hillsides covered in oak trees as far as the eye could see.
Somewhere around 17 km is a small holding in the absolute middle of nowhere. When I walked past three years ago the owner engaged me in conversation, let a couple of his pigs out of the field to introduce them to me and seemed reluctant to let me leave, but I was walking with George and didn’t feel any concern for his behaviour. I have heard from others that he was equally friendly with them. I guess he takes his opportunities for conversation when they arise. But I have since heard from a solo woman walker that he tried to be amorous and frightened her.
As I walked, past his dogs alerted him to my presence and he hurried across his yard towards me. He tried to engage me, asking if I wanted water and then saying something about the river being high. I called back that I needed to keep walking but thanked him for his help. I felt a bit mean, but better safe than sorry.
My second stop was as 22.5 km for food and rest – more quinoa, an orange and a couple of biscuits, and I finished the quinoa and my final two biscuits at my final stop at 32 km at the granite picnic benches by the ermita. Then it was just about 4 or 5 km on asphalt and gravel road into Alcaracejos.
It was a stunning walk in perfect weather conditions, but I was very pleased to arrive at around 16:30
The four of us stayed in Hostal Las Tres Jotas. We had a huge room with six beds and paid 15 euros each, wonderful hot shower, but no cooking facilities, so for supper I ate a bowl of salmorejo in the bar across the road and bought supplies from the shop for the next day.
Apparently there is now a municipal albergue in Alcaracejos and I wished I had taken a look. It only opened recently so hopefully it will have good facilities.
My feet are still behaving well, the toe socks are doing their business and I am no longer using any of the gel toe caps. I am coping with the weight of my extra heavy backpack (due to my diet) although when I am carrying extra food and water for a long day without facilities my shoulders ache a bit. But all things considered, all is well with my camino.