Aljucén to Alcuescar

Track today
About 20km and very pleasant. Along a national park, through farms and just delightful walking. A little rain was no hardship, warm and falling for only a short time. There’s been enough though that there was pretty heavy mud in parts along the track and a little running water. Still, easy going.

Funny that I remember many sections of this part of the track but only one town so far. I don’t know why. 

Last nights albergue (Rio…) in Aljucén was memorable, very pleasant and run by nice people in an organised manner. Reasonable price, at €10 each for a bunk bed. €3 more for breakfast. I highly recommend it. 

Snorers

Sometimes I hate albergues though as you don’t know who you are sleeping with and, more importantly, their nocturnal habits. Our new roommate last night snored the whole night! Sure, softly but, she snored and how is it that snorers always go to sleep first? A cosmic puzzle. And it’s not the first time I’ve noticed it. (Benedo was a classic. )

And to add insult to injury, 3 of us for breakfast and guess who ate 80% of the tomato left for breakfast for the 3 of us! Nationality? Yes, my old bête noir. I am again intrigued by the different attitudes and expectations. I was still very very surprised at such blatant thoughtlessness. And, we’d shared food with her the night before. Thankfully she is in a separate room tonight. 

Fixing blisters

I leant something new today: leaving salt overnight on a blister can reduce its size. This was the first time I’d even heard of that approach. V’s nasty blister-on-blister blisters, one on each foot, both reduced to flat overnight with salt under tape! Today, with tape over the newly flattened blisters and she’s much more comfortable and able to wear boots again instead of socks in sandles. Lucky for her with the mud on the track. 

Alcuéscar

Us same three pilgrims are at the donativo albergue tonight, one run under the auspices of the Catholic Church. It’s a very different type of albergue. 

It’s only my second church connected one, that I remember. 

The guy collecting the documentation was very nice but speaks only Spanish (very rapidly and with a regional accent) and French. His offsider speaks only Spanish. Of us pilgrims, all female, one speaks Spanish and a little english (V), one english and a little spanish (me), one french and some english. 

So dinner was an awkward meal especially when the two guys chatted in rapid Spanish to each other. Thankfully dinner didn’t last long and I got to try a persimmon for the first time. Loved it and would like another. 

Sorry, but, no pictures tonight (except for one of the lovely beans, first course for lunch today). I’m tired, it’s tedious to transfer pictures from my camera to my phone but, most of all, the internet in this location is very slow and loading them is almost impossible. Not even sure I can post at all. So sorry. 

I am still tired. Just not picking up my energy level despite thousands of calories in both fats and sugars. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll get it together as I’ve got about 200km to Salamanca where I am definitely taking a break. 

After tonight, it’s only more night before Cáceres. As it’s a short day there and an equally short one to the following town I’m not currently planning on stopping two nights now. 

My walk from Granada so far 

It’s been about 3 weeks of walking to here for me, nearly two of them with Victoria. We start the day together but I’m much faster and wait along the way for her to catch up. We eat and shop together and, blessedly, she doesn’t snore. Phew. 

She’s also contributed considerably to my Spanish conversational skills. Has a very nice way of correcting me when I run off the rails and, of offering options and explanations. At times my brain still freezes and refuses to recognise that I do know some Spanish and can speak it. Almost like it locks up after time in overdrive. 

Walking without poles this year has been fine so far. But, my pack weighs more than I’d like and I’m not quite sure where I’ve gone so wrong, about 1kg wrong. 

Anyhow, overall, I’m managing just fine, enjoying the walking a lot, and have reestablished my passion for chocolate milk. That adds to the weight day to day and to a level of pleasure in reducing it!

Bedtime soon for me so, hasta la mañana. 

Merida to Aljucen

Last night in Merida

Silly but, I feel more tired tonight than when we first arrived in Merida. It’s as though when you walk day after day your adrenaline levels rise and stay high. They take a day to drop and then go right down. Feels that way to me tonight. I’m finding it hard to get any energy to even pack. Also, unusually for the last two weeks, I’m not hungry.

The chocolate and churros this morning were nice but heavy. And left me disinterested in food for the day. Thankfully we’d bought some fruit at the local market today, the wonderful peaches plus bananas, kiwi fruit and oranges. I’ve stuffed in what I can as not eating before a day of walking isn’t smart. We should get breakfast at a cafe on the way out tomorrow plus, we’re not leaving early so that makes it even more likely. 

I was surprised at how little english I’ve heard in Merida this trip. I heard two guides speaking in english to their groups but almost all the tourists I’ve seen and heard are Spanish. Anyhow, a very different experience from my last trip to Merida when many tourists were english speakers. Quite possibly just the time of year as it was April last time.

Aqueduct in Merida 

Today I visited the main aqueduct. Last time I only learnt about it when leaving town and walking north. Early in the morning then it was a ghostly shadow. Seeing it later afternoon, today, was better. And of course, we saw it again this morning. 

A poor solitary, and perhaps confused, stork was standing in one of the nests above the support structures. Most odd as it was alone and the others have all disappeared to wherever storks go for the winter. Has it lost its partner? Who knows but it looked to be searching for something. 

Breakfast in Merida

Should read: breakfast with the bulls. The cafe was a veritable shrine to toreadors and bulls. From the two bulls’ heads hanging on the wall to the multitudinous photos and newspaper cuttings it was a shrine. Nothing less. More later but, our lunchtime restaurant had a similar theme, bulls and handsome bullfighters. This time with the family as well. 


We’d had to spend time in our chosen breakfast bar as V had forgotten to collect Benedo’s torch from the albergue. He’d very kindly lent it to her as hers is weak, one you wind up as you go. His is very focussed and ideal for finding yellow arrows in the dark. So we left later as the albergue opened at 09:00 plus, we didn’t need to hurry today. 

Rain

My first day in the rain this camino. It’s cooler and I was able to try out my new, lightweight, montbell rain jacket. One unused item less in my pack. The other two are bits of cold weather gear and I’m happy not to need them yet. 

Didn’t rain heavily and as it lasted only an hour or two, not a good test for the jacket. The forecast suggests daily opportunities for more serious testing lie ahead. 

The section leaving Merida seemed to take forever, mainly because it’s the usual uninteresting suburban stuff. Finally reached the Prosperina Embalse, a dam constructed by the Romans about 2,000 years ago. Yes, it’s been fixed over the centuries and used more or less at different times. 

To me it looks very sad and uninteresting, as it did last time I walked here. The difference is, walking with a Spaniard I learnt a bit more about it. Victoria pointed out it’s very popular in the summer when local temperatures can be in the 40s and, we are currently a long way from the ocean. It has river sand and alongside are many bars and cafes, all shut at present. Anyhow, there is also a Red Cross building that I now know is really a first aid station which supports the idea of many people coming here in the summer. 

And I noticed the new signs showing you where you can fish but, the fish are not to be killed. 😏

Later the track changed to a gravel one, undulating, and finally a village. One of the very few with not even one bar! Very unusual. Kept going to our destination, Aljucen. A small town it at least has bars and restaurants, possibly surviving only because of us peregrinos passing through most days.

And, it’s the first time this walk I’ve seen so many grape vines, another change as I move across and now ‘up’ Spain.  

Lunch

Ok. To say the restaurant Sergio’s, in Aljucen, is unusual is an understatement. Go back to the 50s or 60s, imagine how a Spanish bar may have looked then. Not quite the 3 flying ducks on the wall but, the equivalent. Along with a strong focus on bulls and toreadors, again. 

And lunch? No choices, or virtually none. Soup, a nice thick chicken based soup with chick peas and small noodles followed by salad (tomato and lettuce) and a fish based tortilla. 

She also cooked 4 slices of eggplant for us plus we had a large bottle of homemade lemonade (sugar, water, lemon). Desert was fruit. Given everything, I’d expected lunch to cost about €8 or 9 each but no, €11 so quite expensive. But, the food was fine. 

Albergue

This is a family run albergue, €10 per person per night for a bunk. One of those places where it’s €1 extra for this, €3 for that…. But, it will do us. The bonus: wifi and power points near our beds. 

We have company tonight, a French woman about my age. She speaks French, Spanish and english and, she is probably watching costs as she picnics only and isn’t sharing accommodation with her friend who is staying in a nearby hotel. I did notice it was more expensive as we walked past it but, considerably cheaper than in many places. 

There were 15 in the albergue two days ago. Not the one big group but a series of small ones. I’m very pleased we are behind them, apparently an unusually large number for the Via de la Plata in October, usually a slower time than March and April. (I previously walked through here from Sevilla in April 2013. I didn’t stay here and don’t even remember the town even). 

Now, a few hours after lunch, it’s time for a quick sleep. 

Didn’t happen! Blogging and trying to get some photos of the owner’s hobby took time. Honestly, the most amazing little panorama made of acorns, 7 pigs and the Spanish shepherd with his crook! They are so cute. Truly. 

Surprisingly, no bulls!