Guadix to La Peza

Friday 27 April

My Guadix hotel (GIT Abentofail) was great. Comfortable, restful and only €49 for such a nice place and a great shower. Yes, albergues in Guadix are about €15 and everyone raves about the sculptor’s place but, give me that particular hotel anytime! Oh, and its wifi: download speed of 56Mb/sec and upload of 51.3Mb/sec. Excellent. Yes.

The cathedral in Guadix remains impressive.

As do many of the partial and complete cave houses. Not all houses are well kempt, or probably occupied, but those that are really do look interesting.

The sun was out most of the morning. No rain despite the forecast. So, it was really enjoyable walking through the rural areas between the surrounding badlands and through the three small towns along the way.

The track starts along a river bed and quickly moves up and away.

Lots of badlands. Lots. A few empty, one room, cave entrances and the most unusual telegraph pole, hanging freely. Heaven knows what and why!

Each area has caves dug in the surrounding hills in which some still live, and others used to live. My especial favourite remains the town of Marchal, with the pink church and, to me, the most impressive cave houses.

A verdant area, especially now. And so different from down south in Andalucía, the prior areas I’ve walked through this trip.

Saw a wild goat way up on top of the surrounding hills. How do I know it was wild? The woman outside the cemetery in Marchal stopped me, pointed it out and said it was a wild one.

Before you ask, I’ve really enjoyed walking the past few days. Stretching out along the tracks and roads, and stopping in different places than last time, has been liberating. Plus I’ve enjoyed the higher milages. Just doing 20km, even if you don’t start until after 07:00, stop a few times for drinks, just gets you to the next place too soon.

I like the walking part of the camino. Even the floods and risks yesterday didn’t diminish that. Reminds me: only one toe nail will fall off so far. Nice change that that’s my biggest foot problem to date. 🤞 And I’m sure my incipient shin splints are slowly resolving. Slowly.

La Peza

Despite leaving a bit after 07:00, stopping for breakfast on the way out of Guadix, and later for a hot chocolate and a huge plate of freshly fried churros, I’d covered the 25 or so km to La Peza by about 13:00.

No-one else in the albergue yet but two, possibly French, are expected. And I’m surprised they aren’t here yet as it’s after 17:00, unless they are lost. Given the updated markings for this camino that seems unlikely. Hmm, even Benedo and I couldn’t have missed one turn today, the one we sailed past last time. Thank heavens for our rescuer, Manolo. No wonder I was much more tired last time.

The later parts of this section still seem more tiring. Interesting. Lots of snow, yes, in the distance. You crouch down to get through a drain in another riverbed and then walk up on the road and later through a road tunnel. Soon after you can see a long stretch with a low gradient that goes up and up and around a few corners, all heading up. Finally you walk down a steep hill into the town of La Peza, nestled along the riverbanks.

What is surprising is how much changes over time in towns that had appeared unchanging to me as an outsider. 18 months ago the only cafe this side of the bridge was the one up the hill, near what was a temporary bullring the day I was here with the boys. Now, that has closed, the owner having retired and, a new cafe down this end of town has opened.

The meals now are very different, mainly pizza and bocadillos (bread rolls with cheese, jamón etc). Plus a standard mixed salad. Yes, with tuna on top but, the usual mixed salad with wedges of tomato, a bit of corn and iceberg (ugh) lettuce. The cafe had 4 or 5 very noisy men in it. I did not feel welcome and got out as soon as I’d scoffed a coffee and the salad. I find the way some of them stare surprising given the number of walkers through this region nowadays. Oh well.

Tomorrow: Quentar. Last time it was a long tiring day. No coffee, no food, rain and a nasty washout to jump. 🤞 the weather is ok. My personal larder is still ridiculous and has to be emptied before Granada, and there have been track works so you skirt around the washout somehow. Promises to be interesting all the same. I’m booked into a hotel in Quentar this year, I hope the one we ate at last time.

La Calahorra to Guadix

Floods!

Thursday 26 April 2018

Rain, more rain and still raining. Left in the rain in the near still dark.

Walked along the road as I’ve seen the mines before and I thought I’d get there faster if I avoided the circuitous camino at this time.

Passed quickly through Alquife. No enticing cafes at that hour. Knew there was a possible creek ahead from being there earlier and, more recently, from Maggie’s blog. She’d said they’d found an upstream bridge so I thought nothing more about it.

Strangely though, I saw no signs of footprints from other peregrinos in the mud. As there are at least 6 on each of the two days before me I expected there would be at least a couple ahead of me. But, not that I could see.

Suddenly, a creek. The first creek was only about a metre wide at its narrowest. Trust me, it was wider than it looked, not just one leap. Got some water inside the heel of one shoe when I jumped across. Nothing more.

The next creek looked impassible and wet feet inevitable. Threw a very large rock in on top of others. Only about 6cm of water covered both it and the next rock I’d need to touch to get over. And again, the camera did not do it justice. Looks much narrower, shallower and slower than it was up or down.

Just made it with no added water inside either boot. Wet outers ++

The third creek was impassible. Wide, fast flowing and I wasn’t sure how deep, at least 40-50cm. Wading was out. So was jumping from rock to rock as they were all to well covered and the water was flowing much too fast. Took off my shoes and socks to wade but it really was too fast, wide and deep. Walking over a fallen log wasn’t possible as it was too thin and dangerous if I slipped (hmm + incompatable with my balance!). Walked, barefooted, up and down. Think I know now what young nettles look like! The tingly feeling lasted a very long time afterwards. Sigh…

Boots and socks on again. Walked upstream to look for the bridge. Couldn’t get far as too much rubbish, mainly old trees, had washed down and blocked access to the side of the creek as it came down through the valley. Truly scary.

Two choices: give up and recross the last two creeks and get back to the road near Alquife; or, try harder to find another way.Still didn’t fancy sacrificing myself to the creek, or to risking washing my precious devices and camera.

Saw a house up on an overlooking hill. Although it was highly likely the house was unoccupied it was well enough maintained I guessed it’d have access to a track or road. Scrambled up the very steeply terraced hill and eventually found a track that ended in a narrow bridge over the valley to the cute little town. I was sooo relieved. Meant I could stop thinking about the Austrian sisters on one camino up to their waists crossing a creek, or a guy, further on who walked through an even deeper creek.

Everything was easy after that! Walked through the town, bought a bread roll and kept walking. A beautiful little old white Andalusian town. Great bread shop, interesting buildings in the town centre plus an impressive drink fountain. Heading out of town a 3 metre high stone wall next to an old house that had clearly seen better days.

On through a small pine bush with interesting constructions just hanging there. Definitely improved it as the young bush didn’t look especially healthy.

Why? Who knows. But, interesting.

And then down to the large dam. The camino goes almost right around it for unknown reasons when you can actually usually cross its wall. Not today!

Much too high a water level to shortcut today. Maggie crossed the dam face a few days ago. No way could you do it today so my hoped for short cut vanished!

Kept going. Arrived at my lovely hotel in Guadix and very much enjoyed a hot shower. It has some really nice features, including a very restful set of pot plants and a little fountain downstairs in the atrium.

The lack of peregrinos today: don’t know but, I’m guessing anyone who stayed in the Alquife albergues last night would have been advised to walk via the road. Since I’m not in an albergue here, in Guadix, I’ve not seen any peregrinos. Just sorry I have no effective way of warning those a day behind me but I’m guessing almost all walk to plan and should hear about it in advance.

Drop off ‘the plan’ and what should you expect. 😁 Yup, us deviants invite problems.

Guadix

The city of cave houses. I know I may see even more interesting ones again tomorrow, depending on the rain (90% likely).

Nice lunch in the hotel so, dinner in bed. Raspberries and blueberries with cream.

Who knew if you pour cream into the containers they are sold in it will run out the holes onto the bed? A spare plastic bag stopped that problem. Oh yes dinner was very nice. Verryyy nice after a bit of mopping up. 😏

Alboloduy to Alba to La Calahorra

Alboloduy is a beautiful little old town. I had more time exploring it this visit.

So far this is not my favourite camino: the contretemps in the albergue Monday evening, a couple of difficulties I knew had to face including walking down a near vertical scree mountain, and, just not doing enough walking.

Bit the bullet today. Got a ride to Abla this morning to ensure I’d be out on my own. Walked far beyond the usual next stage to Huéneja, adding another x km so I had enough km under my belt to know I was really walking and chose a hostale, to avoid albergues.

Rain

Today was wet. Rain was falling when I arrived for breakfast at the bar in Alboloduy at 07:00. And it continued til much later in the day, not heavy, just continuous. Full wet gear day: pack cover plus rain jacket and umbrella.

Got a lift, prearranged, at 07:30 from Alboloduy. I was planning only on a lift part way but in the end went the full stage to Alba, about 28km via the camino.

This stage goes along the river bed, climbs a steep scree slope to the road and then continues as a general track.

At present there is some water going down the river with the rain. The taxi driver kept telling me how dangerous it can be as if there are heavy falls upstream you may not realise the volume that can come down the usually dry river bed. He stopped alongside multiple times so we could look down the steep slope to the river. His last stop was so I could see a gorge you can’t walk through at any time. However, that’s upstream from the camino, there hadn’t been lots of rain upstream and there still wasn’t a lot in the river.

He left me at Abla in the steady rain and I started walking. Passed a couple who will not have enjoyed the day: they were walking slowly already and she was wearing runners as the water poured over the tracks at times. Ugh, snow was visible in the distance.

Abla to La Calahorra

Thought I might just walk to Fiñana, a very interesting place I toured last time. It is on top of a steep hill and has a fascinating history involving the Moores and later the Catholic royals (from 15th/16th century). The romans must have been there too as they certainly had a settlement at Abla. Doesn’t look interesting from down below in the river bed (yes, still no water in this one yet), but it is, up on top.

As it was still early I kept going, up the river bed. Had hoped I’d see the muzzled goats I met there last trip. No such luck! The best I could see was a donkey, who looked at me piteously. Not sure why. I wasn’t stuck standing in the rain for hours at someone else’s whim!

Passed the Canadians along the track. They’d stayed in Abla last night. Nice to see them again.

Still raining….. Still walking….

The next usual camino stop is Huéneja, a cute little town with a creek/canal running through it. The albergué there is in an old school building. As it was still only about lunchtime and I didn’t fancy an afternoon filling in time there, I kept going.

Dólar is a strangely named little town. Maybe I shouldn’t translate it and wonder why but why would you name a town ‘dollar’? It’s cute, high bell tower and behind it some snow covered peaks of the Sierra Nevadas.

Stopped for a quick hot chocolate. Yes, thinking of you JP with your passion for ColaCao. Bought a bread roll to nibble and kept going.

Passed through the next town quickly

and finally arrived at La Calahorra. This town has the most amazing castle on an otherwise bare hill in the middle of it. Visible from way back.

So very impressive and imposing. I haven’t visited the castle and won’t this time and suspect there’s not much more than a shell of a castle there, truth be told. Still, it’s amazing and impressive.

Stopped at first hostile/hotel/accomodation I saw. Got a room with a bathroom for €25 and am happily ensconced. Food wasn’t going to be available until 20:00 or so, the usual time, so I ate some of the food I had with me for lunch. Just don’t manage eating hours here. Years and I’ve still not down many signs of flexibility that way.

Summary of day

A happy 30+km, more the distance I’ve wanted to do. I’m tired but happy I’m in a room alone and have ensured the same for tomorrow when I’ll again do a longer stage than usual. And, I’m going downstairs for some soup soon.

Tomorrow: Guadix. I’m adding some km to the usual stage and hoping for a dry day. My last time there it rained heavily on the way in. So, 🤞.

Guadix to La Peza

Rain fell for most of the night. We planned to be up and at breakfast at 07:00. By 06:30, my alarm had had its say and the only sign of life from the caballeros at that stage was a soft purring from a mattress on the floor 5m away. 

Not fun starting in the rain but mostly I was disappointed as I wouldn’t see the town of Guadix, and its caves, any better today than yesterday. Oh well, I’d been lucky with the weather so far and my near-new rain jacket needed a workout to justify its existence and my carrying the extra weight. 

Breakfast in the dark

By the time we’d had breakfast in a nice trendy bar nearby (very unusually, it had women and kids in it soon after 07:00) and we headed out it’d stopped raining.


 Guadix to La Peza was a day of caves of all types. From housing in a couple of the towns we walked through to caves dug for the storage of food or farm equipment. All types.





We had a day of almonds, then olives, a mix and then some types of fruit trees. It’s obviously a lot cooler and damper in this part of the world, closer to the snowy Sierra Nevadas. In a couple of places maize and various vegetables were growing. But really, a day of caves, caves and caves. And chimneys! Strange shapes at times. 

At one stage B and I were heading off into a sunset definitely not meant to be seen from the Camino. M rescued us. We’d walked over a ford discussing the amount of water around today blithely ignoring a yellow arrow. In our defence, it wasn’t at all easy to see. Like one in an earlier town where you had to approach from the wrong direction to see it. Yes, one of the puzzles of a Camino!


I ran out of energy about an hour before we arrived. Today was hard, not so much the walking as the hills aren’t high, but somehow I had no energy. I had to fight myself and just move into automatic, step by step and then I could finally forget how hard I was finding it. 

Yes, we’d stopped for coffee/coke/beer by then. A few Werthers toffees and I just had to keep going. B and I found 3 more ripe, but small, figs on a tree overhanging the road just after walking through a natural rocky arch over the road. 


During this last section I was planning how I’d catch a bus, a taxi, get Scottie to beam me out….anything to avoid the walk tomorrow. It will be long, 27km. About 7km, maybe even 15km, more than I want to walk. I’m tired and things hurt that don’t normally. However, the one thing I have learnt is that it may be ok tomorrow afterall. 

Having rung the number for the person with the albergue key we waited, in the sun, near the communal fountain.  Tired? Yup! Even the caballeros looked tired sitting in the sun.

As usual, I had no idea what we’d find it this town, La Peza. We discovered that it was having a running of the bulls yesterday but cancelled it until Saturday because of the rain. Phew. We’ll be gone by then. Looks as though the bulls will end their day here, in a temporary ring after a quick, terrified run up the main street . Thank god we’ll be gone. 


We were lucky to find anywhere to eat after we’d left our gear in the albergue, at about 15:00. A large lunch of salad, meat of some sort with chips, calamari and then fish and we were very ready to leave for showers. 

This albergue has at least 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms upstairs, various locked rooms and an open area downstairs used for adult education until about 20:00. Plus, an adjacent commercial kitchen. So, it’s big and I would really not like to be here alone. 

Being with the caballeros has made this walk so much better than being alone. I’ve walked with one or other most of the past few days, mainly B, and expect to for the last two. M works as we walk, taking calls, making decisions and giving advice. 

Dinner

As usual, we shared a picnic at about 20:30. Last night it was bits of one and two day old bread two of us had bought when fresh and carried since, sausage carried for days, a can of black olives, a little box of strawberry milk for me (90% milk, 10%?), and two bottles of red wine. By that hour my capacity to understand spanish has almost gone. Two telling me something at the same time forces my remaining neurones into hibernation. Truly, I can barely understand anything simple even. I escaped after 22:00. 

Going upstairs, again, I was so aware how happy I am to have the company of B and M. They don’t seem to mind me tagging alone in my childlike way as I truly can’t enter most conversations as a full adult. So much I’d like to say, to ask and to discuss and I’m muzzled by my lack of spanish dammit. Oh well. 

Alquife to Guadix

Again, not just white villages today. 
A long day. Theoretically only 25km. Add on at least another 3, in the rain, looking for the Guadix albergue. It’s in an old part of town. Subtext: goat tracks and curved streets to avoid being shot by arrows. 

So, find the cathedral, we’d long ago lost the yellow Camino arrows, no, not the other church. Ok, find cathedral, turn left, left, right, through a plaza, sharp left or was it right, ….get the picture? Yup, we did a few circles. Using an iPhone in the rain, keeping it dry and using the screen? Not easy. Maybe not possible. I obviously need an iPhone 7+ before I walk anywhere ever again. 

We all had wet feet, having crossed one creek without stepping stones or another option as in most.


Highlights from today:

Ripe blackberries near the first little town both going in and out. Hmmm, the three of us grazed. 

A few ripe figs. B and I shared two or three of them. Luckily M doesn’t eat them. 😋

I learnt where babies come from. Yes, a stork on the roof in the town of Jerez del Marquesado was carrying one. Presumably ready for delivery. Too high to be sure.


Cute, and some unusual, houses 


and we walked along the best street in the town for 2016.

Today is Spain’s national day, el Día del Espanidad, el Día del Santa Piña and the day Columbus discovered America. So yes, the bars in the first town,  Jerez del Marquesado were shut. Dammit. Never ever count on them being open. If it’s not a fiesta in that town it’s on in the adjacent one. 

A few hills, pine trees, easy walking generally.

We struck it very lucky in the next town, Cogollos de Guadix. The guy serving in the bar there was one of the nicest I’ve encountered behind a bar.  B and M variously had beers and an anisette drink. Me? A coke light and a couple of coffees.  And back on the road this time.

For most of the next 12km, B and I sorted out the world, everything from the qualities of olive oil to Scipio Africanus. He was very patient and is as happy to talk as I am to listen and add what I can when I can. Truly, everyday I can understand a little more. It’s my increasing familiarity with their respective accents plus, hopefully, an ever growing vocabulary.

We walked past many caves dug into the ‘badlands’ type of hills around here. Some are obviously still functional, lived in, and some not. I love the badlands and was so sorry we had to keep moving. 

 

Rain was falling and I didn’t take many photos. I particularly missed out on the many caves in this city, Guadix. There’s clearly a tourist industry built around them and it’s not hard to see why. White house fronts in many cases with the rooms behind built into hillsides. Chimneys stick up out from the hill behind. 

Walking into town in the rain excited one person who shall remain unnamed!


Guadix is, I reckon, one of the places to come back to see in nice weather. 

Found a soldier (actually Guardia civil).  Poor thing didn’t know what was happening until it was too late! Yes, we were damp, unshowered and needing to eat before everything shut. But a soldier? In drag? Yup! It was really his hat that I loved, that strangest of shapes plastic lid with braid. 


Interesting travelling with B and M, how locals open up to them. I like it. 

Alquife

Remember I commented on a German woman who is currently walking this same section? We ran into her in Finaña. She is older and has a very small pack and no sleeping bag. She is now behind us and it sounds as though she’s had problems because of her lack of Spanish. 

The web of people who run albergues and casa rurales along this Camino keep each other informed as to who is coming, where they are etc. The german woman told me, in english, that she speaks some Spanish. Turns out she may not speak enough to use the phone to ring an albergue or anyone. So, unless she gets a lift, I doubt our paths will cross again afterall as she must be well behind by now.

Albergue in Alquife

The guy running the casa rurale/albergue was interesting. Looking as though he couldn’t walk he apparently decided to establish his place after walking the Camino Frances. 

Funny when you really are an outsider and can’t pick the subtleties reliably as you can in your own milieux. You are an outsider in so many ways. Interesting.


Anyhow, our albergue guy Manuel, in the centre, visited us after dinner last night and brought us breakfast at 07:30. Especially nice of him as he wanted it to be much later. We knew it might rain, could be a long day and needed an early start. He kindly obliged.

Albergue in Guadix 

You couldn’t get a more different place, or owner, if you tried. Manuel is a farmer and our owner tonight is a sculptor. Her place is lovely as you can tell. Very different.

I’m sleeping in an alcove on the only mattress on a bed. Access is low. If I don’t duck it’ll be my last walk!

And some alleys here are, I’m sure, too narrow for cars. The neighbours are very close. 


More rain is expected tomorrow. I’m glad we are out of the river beds, not knowing how to read what is happening and when it could be dangerous.