Torrijos to Escalona and then San Martin de Valdeiglesias 

Torrijos to Escalona

Had to cross a ford today. Phew, not deep. Didn’t think pink-fix-feet tape would like a dunking before finishing for the day. Thank heavens for the thick sticks to balance on, and two trusty poles. Other creek beds were dry, thankfully, as the track showed how wet this area can be with its very deep ruts from tractor tyres, and very visible horse and dog prints. The book warned of creek crossings in this section.

The book didn’t know about the fence. Between me and the path I wanted was a 2m fence. What to do? Climb over as under or through weren’t possible. Nor was around. In case it wasn’t going to work I tried a few rungs. The wire wobbled and quickly made it apparent I could be hoist on top with the pack one side and me stuck on top or on the other side. Gave up and walked along the roadside. The imminent threat of mad drivers with limited spatial awareness was less scary.  

Again, lots of places of all types for sale in all towns since Toledo. Partly built and now derelict houses and factories and, yet another failed subdivision. 

Many shops are empty. Hard to tell in Spain sometimes but many really seem empty. 

The track winds on and on in places. 

Never seems to get any closer. The town in the near distance was Escalona, at last. As my feet were croaking. Or was that me, for a Pepsi light.

Through newly pruned olive trees.

Past the odd castle. Well, not so odd.

  And then, for the first time, I had to go a town hall to get somewhere to stay once I arrived in Escalona. The only hostal I found there was shut. And it wasn’t just shut for the extended Spanish lunch time. No. Shut. Closed. They directed me to the town hall. They in turn gave me a map and sent me to the albergue, next to the Guardia Civil. (Never sure if they are police, or paramilitaries.) No other accommodation in town. No hotels. Nothing.

Anyhow, yes, I got lost in the rabbit warren that is the old town. Curved streets following tracks of confused and drunk goats always confuse me. 😊 Gaia gps ‘refound’ me. Yes I should have used it earlier knowing how successful I’ve been navigating in the past!
As I arrived the two Guardia civils were leaving the place unattended for the rest of the day. One pointed at a building down the street as he shut the gates. It was a primary school not an albergue.

I was ambling around it unsuccessfully as the town hall had rung the cleaner to let me in. I went back onto the street and a very nice woman pulled up alongside, stopped, took me into where the albergue is, behind the school, and found a cleaner. Had a taxi turned up I’d have taken it. Somewhere out if this town. Anywhere but this Escalona.
This Escalona is depressing. The two supermarkets have the most limited supplies of food for sale I’ve seen outside a Mexican slum. Both seem to have the same owner(s) and reek of poverty. Too many young boys are hanging around in groups in the central town. Presumably they are unemployed. Certainly underemployed. 
And yet, this town has the amazingly intact sections of a town wall and a large gate. It also has an old castle up on the hill, visible for miles away. I kept walking towards it, hoping I was getting closer. And to see the walls, they are amazing. Rocks of different sizes, areas clearly mended or changed over the centuries. And a large entrance gate with the arch still intact (rebuilt). 

Sad thing is I thought I had a good stay coming up here. Almost booked a hotel in Escalona online. Considered two nights as I need to lose a day before I get to Avila because of my booking there. Unbeknown to me there are two Escalonas in Spain. I couldn’t figure the map provided as the rivers were just different. So, I asked my phone to show me how to find the hotel. Well, 460km just wasn’t possible today! Trudge, trudge but not that far. So, yes, there are at least two Escalonas in Spain! 
Thinking of trudging: my Fitbit and phone nearly agreed that I’d walked about 30km today the iPhone (30.53km) misses the few steps as its mostly, but not always, in my pocket. And the Fitbit (31.26km) is always on me. The book said 24.5km! And yes, the last 6km were the hard ones. 😗 Some of it would have been searching for accommodation but it was still a little much for my poor feet after yesterday. 
Escalona albergue

Was very comfortable and, surprisingly, I had a companion, Pierro, by 4pm, the time I got back from lunch. He is Italian and walking the Camino Sureste. It crosses the Camino Levante in just this one town. We chatted for quite a while, in Spanish, his third language after Italian and his local dialect. Sometimes he lapsed into Italian but, rarely. I enjoyed having to use Spanish especially because his was a simplified Spanish, without many of the complexities of connector words. I’m slowly getting my ear in again.

Sounds silly but I’m reliant on knowing some Spanish on this trip. My many hours of lessons give me enough to manage. But the accents are quite different from Madrid and Mexico. They all run words together but differently. Pierre was very dismissive about a Brit he met who had only enough Spanish to find the town hall and to proudly say he spoke no Spanish. None. Didn’t even carry a mobile.
San Martin de Valdeiglesias 

Go on. Ask. How come its 8.48 in the morning and I’m sitting in a cafe drinking my fourth coffee when I should be on the track preceding this town for another 30 or so Km? Notice the rain? Solid. Notice the distance? Yes, 30 km, at least. Together? Heavy rain and another 30km on feet only wanting 20km? And what would a sensible person do? 
Yes! For once! The taxi arrived on time. I ordered it last night as my feet shouted and then begged for relief. I’m actually quite disappointed that it’s raining so hard as I wanted to walk the last 5 to 10km through a pine forest into this town. Would salve my conscience to do it as I took the easy way today. 
And now I’m filling in 3.5 hours, in the rain, in the town. I’ve seen the supermarket and recharged my phone. Online recharging is a crime – I get about 100mb for 10€. No kidding. I’ve already recharged it once since arriving, after a 10€ recharge! And then another 15€ and today 15€ more. And this is despite most apps being turned off. Now I’ve learnt how to do it in the supermarket! All I need now is an infallible strategy for finding supermarkets here. 
Anyhow, the taxi arrived a little early. By then I’d decided, no half measures, to go straight to my end point for the day. I can later walk back through the pine forest. A different type of pine that looks very interesting. Not pinus radiata. The taxi charged €32, quite reasonable I thought. Seems to be about €1/km. 
So, a bar. Please. Didn’t get coffee on day one for about 20km. Tough day! Better on day 2. 

Bar 1 in San Martin ……

 Two men already there. One had a voice like a chainsaw and he kept on and on and on at the other guy. So, a quick drink and out. Dropped my backpack at the place I’m staying tonight and discovered i can check in in 3.5 hours. 

Bar 2

The guy behind the bar is one of the many old guys you find in a small town. Grey jumper, face that suggests he’s had false teeth for a long time, slightly cyanosed and he has a distinct intention tremor. Not sure I want breakfast here after watching his food handling. So, 1 small coffee only and off to the supermarket.

Bar 3

Cheerful, friendly young guy. Toast with tomato and coffee and, wifi! What more could I want. That’s what I thought until, unsolicited, he brought me French toast. It is wonderful. Just a present he said. If I ‘need’ it tomorrow, here is where I’ll come. Clearly steeped in the egg and vanilla for a long time. Hmmmm, wonderful.
Did I mention I’m doing my spare day in this town. So, possibly not a lot of walking today. The weather forecasts suggest four days of rain. I didn’t bring an umbrella so will see if I can get a small one today. They are good when walking. 
What is it about some men’s voices here? Another chainsaw voice has just come in. Very deep and raspy. Very extreme for a guy in his 20s. Not the softer rasp of a smoker. No, harsh. Nodules on his vocal cords? Or too much yelling at …… 
And now, the young guy serving here has just given me an umbrella. He saw I don’t have one! No, I didn’t say anything. The girl in the supermarket said I could buy one ‘at the Chinese’. In Granada that was what they called the cheap shops that sold many useful things from bits to crockery to plastic flowers to umbrellas. But the young guy gave me the French toast and umbrella as presents. The second coffee was a present too but he’d gone when I left so I paid for it anyhow. How interesting, he was very solicitous too. Sweet. 
End of day

Checked in at 12.30, walked around town. And vowed tomorrow I’ll go back and walk the pine forest.
An interesting two days.  

Oh, the paragraph structure? Nothing to do with me. I’ve fixed it 8 times but WordPress has its own ideas what I should do. Plus it’s still uploading, 4 hours later! 

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