Distance, 28.5 km
Elevation gain, 262 m
Elevation loss,172 m
Total distance 117.5 km
Daily average, 29 km
We leave at 07:00 in the dark and are instantly bombarded with a vicious bitter wind. Normally the weather doesn’t present it’s true colours until you reach open land, but today the wind was howling around the town leaving us in no doubt about what was in store for us.
After a short spell on a quiet road led us to agricultural service tracks – wide, gravel, flat, monotonous tracks. Although there was plenty to take my interest during the first stage – a backdrop of the biggest marble quarry I have seen, the regular features of the stepped terraces gave the impression from a distance of a small city built into the hillside. The rising sun bounced off the marble and gave a stunning colour, enhanced by a line of wind turbines on the ridge above.
But the wind was so strong, and so cold, that we had to lean into it in order to remain upright.
The rising sun always provides good photo opportunities and so I happily clicked away for the first 8+ km, although it entailed countless removal and replacing of two pairs of gloves. I normally walk in shorts – my legs don’t get too cold on brisk mornings, but this camino has tested their endurance. My knees were bright red this morning and in need of protection from the elements.
At almost 9 km the track took a left turn and instead of a side wind we were once again ploughing through a full-on headwind, and to add insult to injury the track was closely adjacent to a motorway, so the noise of the wind was supplemented by the noise of vehicles rushing past. Nina and I had agreed to take regular rests, especially on a stage like today’s when there are no services between start and finish. But when it is so bitterly cold and there’s no shelter, there is no inclination to stop, even when you are feeling tired.
We finally spied a cluster of trees a 100 metres or so from the track and sheltered from the wind whilst we removed our boots and ate a snack, and I changed into my merino leggings under my shorts.
At some point the motorway was exchanged for s rail line and then back to the motorway until finally we leave the traffic behind us at 18.5 km, but still walking across flat land with no wind-break and absolutely no shade at all on this stage. I wouldn’t want to be walking the start of this camino in the hot months.
After another hour or so we spy a well placed haystack and we find some shelter to eat our lunch before setting off again for our destination.
We have passed by much uncultivated land, some ploughed ready for planting, some cereal crops, many newly planted almond saplings. And I see a team of men bent double planting something. It is a huge field and they have only planted two rows into perforated plastic sheeting. I take a closer look and have no idea what it is that they are planting. They are thin sticks with shoots emerging which look like the shoots that grow from aged potatoes. Who can tell me what they are?
Almansa is another big town with all services. There is an albergue run by the nuns of the Convento Esclavas de María (telephone the day before, 967 341 557 / 620 856 934, 7 euros, no facilities, nowhere to hang washing, but lovely hot water). There are three or more rooms each with two single beds and a bathroom. Far from luxurious, but very welcome. The next stage is another with no facilities en route, so we have shopped for a picnic lunch and are hoping that it won’t be so very cold tomorrow.
We have been wandering the town, taking advantage of every showing of the sun and soaking up its warm rays, whilst drinking a glass or two of wine. We went to visit the castle, but sadly it was closed (maybe I wasn’t so sad as I didn’t have to climb any more steps). Almansa is famous for a battle in 1707, look it up if you are interested. Our walk today led us directly past the field where it was fought.
And here is a treat from yesterday…street art Caudete style