Distance 33km (which included wandering about town)
Elevation gain, 169 m
Elevation loss, 45 m
Total distance, 89.1 km
Daily average 29.8 km
We wanted to leave this morning too early to partake of the breakfast included in the cost at el Fuente de Curo, but there is the opportunity to drink coffee or cold drinks, fruit, and dulces. None of it much good for me, but I helped myself to a couple of biscuits and an apple.
When we walked out at around 07:00, the sun was yet to rise and there was a bitter breeze. We walked almost immediately into the countryside on a narrow quiet road and continued for 5 km before encountering a track
Once off-road we are walking through very scrubby land on a soft dirt track. We look back towards Sax and the outline of the castle is very dramatic, as is the red-tinged cloud rising above the mountain ranges.
It is lovely when the sun eventually rises and warms the back of my legs and creates the first opportunity on this camino for a shadow photo.
The track is very flat and very uninteresting. No wild flowers to distract me. No animals to commune with. And if it was hot – absolutely no shade. We slog on in a very beige landscape. But eventually the scrubland becomes ploughed, ready for planting and then I finally see a green field. It’s funny how the simple things in life can cheer you up no end – the green fields of cereal crops in the lovely sunshine totally lift my spirits, especially as we are now walking between fields along a track lined with beautiful flowering trees.
At 10 km we are back on the road for the approach to the town of Villena. At 14 km we stop for hot drink and toast. There is a church of Santiago but it is closed at 10:00. This is another sprawling town that runs for several kms. On exiting there is a major roundabout to be negotiated – a bit scary! But we discover that if we had approached it from the left-hand side there are zebra crossings to ease the way. Also I could see from my map.me app that there is a diversion to the left that takes us on track, rather than immediately next to a busy main road.
It strikes me that thus far on this camino the only towns we have passed through have been sizeable. Sadly, no characterful villages.
The second half of the walk from Villena to our destination of Caudete is totally unremarkable. Long, straight tracks that pass by some agricultural land. I see strawberries planted under plastic, peas, onions, cabbage and some vineyards. But it is a long slog, battling against an ever-increasingly strong and bitterly cold wind. The sun pops out every now and then, but all too briefly.
At the entrance to Caudete we find the Santuario de Nuestra Señora de Gracía. The facade appears carved of stone, but on closer inspection we discover it is entirely flat, all a trick of the eye, a clever trompe l’oeil.
I contact Javier who runs the albergue at Caudete mid morning to warn him of our arrival, and he requests that we ring again when we reach town. The albergue is situated at the very top of town, adjacent to Santa Ana church. Ring Javier, ideally the day before arrival, 634307571. It is a stone building and on this cold day, it is, unsurprisingly, cold. But there is plentiful hot water, cooking facilities, two bunks and an overspill of a triple bunk in an adjacent room. Sheet, pillowcase and blankets are available. 5 euros.
The two spanish pilgrims that we met yesterday have also arrived at the albergue.