Distance, 25.5 km
Elevation gain, 366 m
Elevation loss, 266 m
Total distance, 539 km
Daily average, 28.4 km
The hailstones from last evening were still in evidence in the hedgerows this morning. It is cold, but no wind and a glimpse of blue sky from time to time.
There are two options for this stage, either take a long trek to Atienza of 30++ km or a diversion to Sigüenza. We chose the latter. From start to finish it was a perfect camino. Most of the way alongside the raging, rushing, muddy water of the Rio Dulce which at all points was about to break its banks and at some points it had succeeded.
We first pass through the village of Aragosa at 4 km, very pretty stone buildings dominated by the cliffs. There is a very highly regarded casa rural here, but no facilities. As we leave we see a cheeky ferret who seems as interested in us as we are in her. She watches us approach before leaping up the hillside to get up to mischief.
And then the track and the river are as one, totally flooded with no way to avoid getting feet wet. So we don our flipflops and get on with the job in hand. My goodness that water was cold and I estimate that we had to wade (no deeper than mid-calf) for 100 metres. I have to say, after the initial shock, the icy water worked wonders for my sore left foot! Then came the operation of putting on my toe socks whilst balancing on one leg, not an easy task when sitting down, let alone when standing!
We are soon walking through a gorge with towering cliffs on either side, only a couple of hundred metres apart. There is a constant stream of vultures crossing from one side to the other, just like popping across the road to visit a friend. It is all so beautiful and dramatic with tall poplar trees lining the swollen river. We are walking with our necks bent and our eyes fixed on the sky.
We come across a series of ruins where there was once a paper factory, complete with chapel and workers’ cottages.
The next village we reach is even prettier, La Cabrera at around 12 km – again no services.
The last village at 16 km, aptly named Pelegrina, does have a bar/restaurant but we have to make a diversion to reach it right at the top of the hill upon which it and its castle are perched.
Once we are on our way again we climb out of the valley via a single zig-zag track. When I turn to look back at the castle eagles are circling it. They fly so close overhead that we can hear the noise their wings make.
We are then wandering in the wilderness for a few kms over stony ground through natural woodland and scrub. The way is very well marked because the track is shared between four routes, the camino, the GR10, the Ruta de Don Quixote and the way of El Cid.
We finally regain a wider track and can see civilisation in the distance as Sigüenza comes into view with a massive castle. The town is very historic, with cathedral and several churches. The streets are lined with beautiful old buildings and it is thoroughly charming.
We are staying at an albergue in the convent of the Padres Josefinos, which is situated behind the cathedral, 949 390 890, 15 euros. The rooms are very basic, we have a room with four beds although two of them are inaccessible without ladders, and an en-suite bathroom. I have to say it’s not my favourite place, even though it is housed in a lovely old building. No laundry possibilities, no heating as yet, and a really grubby shower curtain. There are plenty of other options in town, including a parador, but it being a tourist town, I imagine prices are high.
There is a reasonable sized Eroski in town so I have bought a few goodies – hummus (I’ve been dreaming of hummus for a couple of weeks!), pre-cooked quinoa, and some avocado to go in it. There are no facilities enroute tomorrow so it is good to know I will be able to eat well.
We were so very lucky to walk this strage today. Although not warm and sunny, neither was it particularly cold, and not a drop of rain. We were able to fully appreciate the magnificent surroundings. Surely one of the best ever camino stages. And isn’t it about time?