We had coffee and biscuits in the albergue and were walking by 6am. It was probably ~37 degrees, crisp and clear. We walked mostly on a gravel or dirt track and away from farmlands the 12km to Caceres where we had a nice “second breakfast near the medieval section of the city. It’s a UNESCO heritage site dating back ~500 years. We passed through the old city then onwards on the camino route. After we left the city we walked on the shoulder of the highway for 3 or 4 kilometers, probably missed the correct route as no one else seemed to be walking this way. We then walked parallel to the highway on a nice track the rest of the way to Casar de Caceres where we checked into the municipal albergue - only 5 euros per night and not too bad. We had a late and big lunch so decided to skip dinner.
Sunday, April 30, 2017
Saturday, April 29, 2017
We had yoghurt, oranges, digestive biscuits and coffee for breakfast at 6am - we left at ~6:40. The monastery keeps the front door locked until 6:30 so we couldn’t leave before that anyway. The route followed a paved road a bit then a gravel/dirt track for the rest of the day. We passed a village (Casas de Don Antonio) via a Roman bridge and a stork nest, complete with stork, plus a small local park with exhibit of an old olive oil mill. The route was through oak prairies (savannas?) and along the route of the Roman road. We crossed over two more Roman roads as well as past 3 or 4 Roman mileposts (Milarios) marking the distances from Merida. Much of the day was on and off mist or rain and the last hour before our destination (Valdesalor) was pretty heavy rain (not a downpour fortunately) - the heaviest we’ve seen so far. The municipal albergue in the village is nice and we got the last two beds. Tonight we are back on top bunks. The manager of the albergue is the proprietor of the “Bar Rincon Julia” (i.e. Julia herself) and a very busy and nice woman. After a large beer we returned to the Albergue to get organized, shower and do laundry. They had a free washing machine and although threatening to rain, it was windy and everything dried quickly. We returned to the bar for a nice dinner with 6 other pilgrims. After sunset, the sky was clear and calm and hopefully that will continue through tomorrow.
Friday, April 28, 2017
Up before 6am and you could hear the raindrops on the roof over the porch. We had a nice breakfast at the Albergue and were on the road before 7am. One couple left before us but it looked like everyone else wanted to wait out the rain. It is a short day of ~20km but it wasn’t raining too hard. Pretty dark as the rain diminished the early morning light. After a bit on the highway we walked on a gravel/dirt track the rest of the day. Since it had rained yesterday and in the night the road was often soft and muddy in places but overall not too bad. We walked mostly through areas of grass and oak trees and it was quite pretty but would have been better without rain. The rain dimished after an our or two and was mostly mist after that. For awhile it stopped and the rain resumed for the last hour or so. As we neared Alcuescar we walked through small vineyards and olive groves. Just outside town there was confusing markings as a local innkeeper probably wanted to divert traffic to his place. We followed the markings to Alcuescar and entered the town. The Albergue de Peregrinos “Casa de la Misericordia” Alcuescar is in a monastery. It was closed when we arrived so we had lunch at a nearby bar and returned to check in shortly after noon. There were plenty of bunks and Glenn and I got bottom bunks - hurray. The whole complex is locked down from 2:30 - 4:30 for siesta so we quickly got some shopping done in the town and then returned before we got locked out. There will be a tour of the monastery at 6:30 then mass and then dinner at 8:00pm. Tomorrow morning we cannot leave before 6:30am and everyone must be gone by 7:30. Sort of interesting.
Wednesday, April 26, 2017
We had a breakfast at 6am at the bar across the street from our hostal with a group of ~8 other pilgrims and were on the road by 6:45. At first we walked along the shoulder of the highway and then a track/trail alongside. The view was similar to yesterday but the vineyards and olive groves were smaller. We had a short day of only 15km before reaching Merida and crossing the Guadiana river on a Roman-built bridge and entered the old part of the city. A young man on the bridge invited us to his “Albergue Insvka Carisia VIII” and guided the way. It’s small, with only two bunkbeds, a kitchen, dining area and bath. We were the only two pilgrims there tonight so had the room to ourselves and got the bottom bunkbeds! All previous bunks we had to sleep in the top bunks. The albergue is convenient to the historic areas and we had a light lunch in a street cafe.
Merida is the the most historically significant city since we left Sevilla. It dates back more than 2000 years to the time of Ceasar Augustus. It’s latin name is derived from Erimata Augustus and was established by discharged soldiers from his armies. It guards the very long Roman bridge across the River Guadiana. We toured the ancient theater and adjacent amphitheater where they held gladiator battles. Tomorrow our route out of the city takes us past a Roman aqueduct.
Tuesday, April 25, 2017
Breakfast in Albergue at 6:30am and was on the trail before 7am. Another grand sunrise from the road after 2km or so. Today was “boring” and without much variation. Gravel track in a fairly straight line. The main difference was the predominance of viticulture over the olive groves and that the fields of grapevines were immense! Spots to sit and relax were few and far between. We had some chocolate mid morning and stopped for lunch (baguette with chorizo and cheese). We arrive at Torremejia, a fairly sleepy small town and checked into our Hostal Milenium (booked yesterday online), cleaned up and had a nice cold beer. Our Hostal has a bar and restaurant but does not serve dinner until 9PM!! Beers are 1.5 euros for half-liter and a large glass of red wine was only a euro so we enjoyed the bar. Fortunately the place across the street starts dinner at 7PM. It’s hard to dine on Spanish time when walking all day. Life is tough.
Monday, April 24, 2017
We had breakfast in the Albergue and were out walking before 7am. Once outside the town we walked on dirt and gravel tracks as yesterday and through fields, olive groves and vineyards. The ground under the vines and olive trees is bare and cultivated. Several days ago grass grew under the trees and near the vines. Now, we see tractors disking the ground and it seems it’s drier and there’s no grass or weeds. We entered the next village after ~4km and were almost out the other side before finding a small bar open and had a coffee. The next 15km to our destination of Villafranca de los Barros was more of the same terrain and fields. We got the last two beds at Albergue El Carmen, a nice private albergue. After unpacking and relaxing we had lunch at a nearby square. Glenn and I had half-liters of beer and “hamberguesa”. I’ve resisted ordering hamburgers in Spain for obvious reasons. However, they are so different than anything we see in USA I guess it’s okay. I wrote on a facebook post of the sandwich that “Spain puts the ham in hamburger”. There’s no beef at all. This one had a large bun, two patties of pork, bacon, jamon, cheese, and york (like our sliced ham). We each had one but should have split one. For dinner we will simply have an apple and a bottle of wine. Tomorrow is a longish day of ~28km and we are both footsore - i have two blisters and Glenn’s feet are tender. So, we’ll take it slow and I’ve used Booking.com to reserve a room at our destination. We’ll still start as early as possible to beat the heat but can take it slowly as needed.