Distance, 30 km
Elevation gain, 365 m
Elevation loss, 318 m
Total distance, 435 km
Daily average, 29 km
Well, that was a night to remember! I had heard about the legendary hospitality of Pepe, and expected that we would be invited to his bodega for the evening. Sadly, as it happened, Pepe wasn’t able to join us. He is a taxi driver and had a fare all the way to Valencia and didn’t expect to be back until very late. But he arranged for very capable substitutes to look after us. Antonio arrived with his cousin Martin and showed us to the bodega, which was in fact a cave dug into the hillside. We were welcomed at the door by Paulino who had prepared a beautiful table, decorated with irises, a ceremonial ‘buen camino’ jug and plates of tapas. There was a roaring fire in a corner grate and a wonderful friendly ambience.
We were taken through to a rough hewn cave, with an oil lamp to light our way. There are huge ancient clay vessels, and we heard an explanation of how the wine was made, trodden, poured into the vessels and stirred daily for 40 days until it was fermented. Antonio, who spoke good English, explained that once you had been in the cave for some minutes your eyes became accustomed to the dim conditions and were able to carry out the necessities. And then, Antonio announced there was a miracle, and someone turned on an electric light. It was all very jolly and our hosts seemed to take great pleasure in explaining all aspects of their wine making, although they now use a large stainless steel vat instead of clay.
We returned to the dining table and took our seats. I was provided with a plate of tomatoes, lettuce and olives and someone had gone to the trouble of making me a potato salad which included tuna and eggs, so I declined. The others feasted on chorizo, belly pork and loin, all cooked on the open fire and washed down with lashings of light red wine. There was bread that is especially baked when pilgrims are in town, toasted on the fire and sprinkled with Pepe’s own olive oil and salt. Really delicious. Afterwards we were offered orujo and a coffee infused liquor which was very tasty. Finally Paulino acts as master of ceremonies and presents each of us with a wooden medallion and a flecha amarilla.
What a fabulous night. What wonderful, kind people to give up hours of their Easter Sunday to entertain a selection of strangers. How grateful I am to have experienced such hospitality.
So it was a late night for us – gone 23:30 by the time I shut my eyes, but still I woke at 06:00. It had rained during the night and we were once again advised to take the road in order to avoid the inevitable mud. It is a very quiet road without much traffic but there is almost no shoulder. The scenery is very pretty with cultivated land to the left end craggy scrubland to the right. And there is no wind. At all. All day.
We have walked about 14 km when Paulino pulls up in his car and says he will meet us for coffee in the first village, so we resist the urge to take a break by the roadside and keep going until we reach Albendea at around 17 km. We say a final goodbye to this charming man and return to the road. At 11:00 precisely the sun peeps out from behind the clouds – our first sighting for days. Oh, to feel the heat on our backs and see our shadows. We remove several layers of clothes, but by the time we reach the next village of Valdeolivas 5 km down the road, the sun has dipped back behind the clouds.
But there is a new delight in store. We are assured that the track from this point to our destination is unlikely to be muddy and we hop and skip the first few metres (well, Nina does while I take her photo!). It is indeed a joy to be walking at last on a track and the scenery is lovely…olive trees, crop fields, undulating hills, indigenous trees lining the track, a bright yellow flashes of broom from time to time, and even the odd wild flower!
Six km of this joy brings us to our destination at Salmerón. The town looks very charming from a distance, but rather less so close up! There is a nice albergue (in Calle Real), in an ancient building. The key is collected from Bar Cazador, a dim, and at first encounter, unpleasant place, darker than the cave from last night! The cost is 5 euros. Five beds with blankets for all. Luckily we find a spare mattress in another room to accommodate the sixth in our group. There is a pellet stove in the corner and the hospitalero tries to get it going, but all that seems to happen is an expulsion of cold air into the even colder air of the building.
There is a bar behind the albergue with a very nice courtyard. No hot food is available in the village, the shop is not open, it being a fiesta day, and there are absolutely no facilities for 30 km tomorrow. So we are all beholden to the bar to provide us with a bocadillo for tonight and tomorrow. I have a little food left from today but will need to buy some bread for tomorrow. It’s cold outside and in, it is due to rain hard for most of the day tomorrow and there is no alternative to the track.
I have really tried to keep a positive spin on this camino, but what with the cold and the rain, the lack of facilities and the likelihood of mud, I am running out of good things to say.
Let’s just see what the morrow brings!