Today’s distance 20.5 kM
Elevation gain 106 m
Elevation loss 140 m
Total distance from Almería 891.5 km
We were treated to a rather lovely sunset last night and this morning the sunrise was quite spectacular.
It was rather cold in the albergue last night. My lightweight sleeping bag isn’t made to give great warmth. I also have a silk liner. In anticipation of insufficient warmth I wore rather more clothes to bed than is normal. Merino wool leggings, merino T-shirt and after half an hour of feeling a bit chilly (translate as bloody freezing) I added my down jacket and was consequently quite cosy.
As we left the albergue on the dot of 07:00 the air was still and the sky was clear. Our maps.me route directs us to retrace our steps along asphalt for several km, but Eli and I spot a track that could shave off at least half of the distance. We persuade the other two to give it a go.
The first half of the route is superb, wide gravel track. But then we come to a gate that leads to a crop field of rather tall something or other. It almost swallowed Marilyn up – with her green backpack rising above her head she virtually disappeared from sight. And because it had rained last night the crops were rather wet. I stopped to put on my gaiters to protect my boots from some of the moisture. We traipsed along a barely visible track for around 1.5 km, twisting our ankles on unseen branches on the completely overgrown track. The end was finally in sight when we realised that the track led directly through a paddock filled with sheep. Not too much of a problem you might think. But of course the sheep were being guarded by two rather efficient mastins. Definitely a problem! So we skirted around the paddock and came to a barbed wire fence that needed to be crossed. Luckily it was in good order and the wires were very tight and strong. In turn we each removed our packs to be held by another whilst we carefully climbed over the fence trying hard to avoid the barbs and jumping down the other side onto our intended path. Taking this alternative route was rather foolhardy and could have been much worse than was the reality. My leather boots and gaiters protected me from the worst effects of walking through wet crops, whereas my three fellow pilgrims were all wearing textile shoes and their feet were swimming within. Worth a try? Maybe. To be recommended? DEFINITELY NOT!
We then walked on the cañada real (via pecuaria – drover’s path) for the rest of the stage. Various surfaces, mostly dirt based. A few water features to negotiate but none that caused our feet to get wet feet (at least any wetter than they already were). We passed several farms, this giant bull stood guard over his herd but wasn’t really interested in engaging with a motley crew of pilgrims.
The forecast rain finally put in an appearance and we made a pit stop to apply rain gear. Whilst the thunder chundered on for ages the rain was soon over. Overall it was easy walking almost no elevation and lovely scenery all day.
Finally San Muñoz came into sight, although hidden from the track until the last moment. The village is very friendly. I had read that there was a well stocked shop and a kitchen at the albergue, but it is Sunday and village shops don’t normally open on the sabbath. After asking a local about the albergue, he led me to the house where I needed to obtain the keys. No answer to the knock at the door. I popped my head over the gate of the next house and was greeted by a very bouncy dog who would have been happy to remove my nose. Luckily the lady of the house came to see what the commotion was about and fetched the keys to her neighbour’s house and found a set of keys to the albergue. I was very anxious to find the shop in the vague hope that it was open. Aurelio and I reached the town square just as the church emptied from Sunday mass. The hospitalero of the albergue found us (not difficult to spot two pilgrims hanging around expectantly) and asked a woman if the shop might open. She very kindly knocked on the door of the shop owner who graciously left her lunch to open up for us. I bought a selection of veg and a jar of white beans (and a bottle of wine) and happily toddled off to the albergue knowing that at last I could eat a nutritious meal.
To find the keys, walk along the main road until you see the Bar Recreo, there is a road running alongside the bar and the house opposite is where the hospitalelro Tomás lives. If you receive no answer pop your head over the green half-door at the next house. The albergue is at the very end of the long main road, alongside the Medical Centre. There are three rooms with beds, a kitchen with plenty of equipment, a reasonable bathroom, a yard to dry washing and a pleasant sunny sitting room.
I cooked a very tasty dinner and was able to share with Eli and Aurelio who went to the bar for supper but found there was no food. San Muñoz is a very friendly and characterful town with a pretty plaza and extremely helpful locals.
A good end to a pleasant day.