La Peza to Quentar

La Peza

By 18:00 on Thursday there was nasty rumbling of thunder up on the nearby hills. Missed out on rain today but tomorrow? Weather app says just overnight and sun tomorrow!

My neighbours, a delightful Polish couple, arrived at nearly 19:00. They’d left Guadix at 10:30 and must be very tired as over 8 hours is a long time walking. They said we should leave early tomorrow. Certainly what I was planning. They both understand english but only he speaks it. They are really nice to have here for the night.

I’ve reduced the weight in my pack considerably and, I’m hoping that, with the changes to the track, will make the section to Quentar easier than last time.

Pack weight reduction? Yes, a serious larder reduction. Halved the bread and cheese, finished the tomato, egg and sardines. For tomorrow: just an orange, some bread and cheese, a Coke Zero and a batido. Phew. It’s just there’s truly nothing to eat or drink from start to finish, about 30km later. Will make eating the churros on Thursday worthwhile. And I ate the chocolate too but had to throw out at least half or eat silver paper. 😭

Friday 28 April 2018

Left the albergue alone, just before 07:00. The others were up but show no signs of being morning people so I’m guessing they would have taken a while to get going. Sure enough, no signs of them even across valleys where you could see a few km of track going back.

The fountain in town is unusually popular. In my brief time in La Peza I saw 3 or 4 different people drinking from it. The last was a delivery guy, parked alongside, as I left this morning.

Walking today was so pleasant, hard but good.

The start is up a hill out of town. The temporary bullring from last time is again a carpark just below a bullfighter statue.

The track goes up and up. The small bread shop was open, nothing else on the uphill trek out through the town.

I’m guessing La Peza has an interesting history. On one wall was a plaque about fighting with axes and various other weapons that, when I could figure what they might be, sounded pretty desperate and like hand to hand combat of last resort. Or it was just my imagination was working overtime. 😊

The area up the top of La Peza that was so unpleasant last time with a very cold rain and wind was lovely today. Not warm but good to see the surrounding hills and the valley down below so clearly. And lots of snow on the Sierra Nevadas.

Wild deer broke cover, 4 of them. Later, rocks started falling just in front of me from a steep hillside on my left. Seemed odd until I saw the heads of another group of deer, no stags, just deer.

On and on: along a narrow river bed for a few km then along a winding gravel road. That went up and down the hills it snaked around.

Eventually, a valley and a scout hut. Up the next hill was a number of pine trees being tapped for sap.

Unlike last time, almost all of the bigger trees have now been tapped and the tapered runoff gadgets and collection buckets all replaced. Couldn’t see much beyond water in most buckets. Intriguing. I wonder who is doing it and why. They are clearly serious now.

Walked through the gravel pit up top, just where the really difficult section started previously. The signage was confusing but when I doubled back I noticed red signs about where the earlier washout must be. So, my concerns were assuaged: the track was heaps easier. Can’t see that it cut off much distance though, certainly not the 3km someone suggested.

Walking along the track, through fruit trees I saw a guy searching for something and every now and then picking something off the ground. I asked him and he showed me, a type of fungus I’d never seen before: small, shrivelled up black caps and light coloured stems. He said they use them in paellas.

Along the way I saw a shepherd. Unusually he had sheep and goats. All looked ready for milking.

And then two very fierce dogs barking ferociously at me as they snarled and jumped around behind a fence, at least there was a fence today. Yesterday two nearly got their bit of flesh from me: as they were starting to circle me I was looking for stones. Thankfully their owner saw in time. Scarey!

And then, later in the bar while I was scoffing eggplant and honey (a bit yuk as too greasy), a cute little dog was in checking nothing had been left to waste.

The last section into Quentar was one I remembered as it went on forever last time. I remember Benedo lagged us both badly at this stage. Seems to take forever to get to Quentar from when you first see a town. Problem is, it’s not the right town you see.

Quentar is a small, typical Andalusian town with many small old white houses, crooked streets and a particular type of beauty. Hard to capture. Need that skilled photographer here!

Arriving at the hotel was great. Ah, at last…..

The leg into Granada starts nearby, making it more convenient than the other place to stay. Plus, it’s very close to the only bar that opens. Win win. Even without a towel to have a shower, just having a rest before lunch was a bonus. And yes, I eventually got a towel. I know, I do carry one but why use a pocket hanky version when staying in a hotel that provides a REAL one.

Yup, I’m tired today and my Fitbit seems to indicate I’ve walked about 150km since Monday morning. So it’s hardly surprising.

Yes, the Poles turned up a few hours later having also had a good walk.

Tomorrow. Granada. And then a day or so off as I’m bussing off to see Victoria, my wonderful camino companion from October 2017.

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 Peza to Quentar

Energy please! Looking at the information I’ve got for this next section there is not one cafe after we leave town! Not one. And, nothing in this town may be open when we leave a bit after 07:00.  Except the temporary bull ring beside the statue of the, as usual, very well endowed bull.  That will be open still, I’m sure, ready for Saturday. Strange statue as the fate of the man on the ground is quite unclear! And not looking good.


Ok! So what should make a day of walking impossible:

rain – tick

distance – tick 

no coffee or food along the way – tick

no energy or enthusiasm for a long day – tick

hills – no, that’s usual and more interesting than extended flat sections!

Yes, we had it all today! And it was a great day. Why? Who knows? It’s silly to anticipate how it will be as the combination just makes it so different each time. 

We left the albergue a bit after 07:15 and soon discovered the town, La Peza, was dead at that hour. Not one bar was open so no breakfast, usually toast and tomato. No coffee or anisette. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Nada. 

Poor M had to go back to the albergue at this stage and get a cup his grandmother had given him and that he’d unwittingly left there. Was caught getting the key from its hiding place and suspected of being a thief!

By then B and I were well on our way for the day. Nice sunrise. If you ignored the black clouds.


Double rainbow. And then the rain started. I’ll have to change my weather app! Wrong again…. The boys had heard on the radio that it might rain this morning. Yes. It did. 

Rain. On with the wet gear. Cold wind as we climbed higher onto the edge of the Sierra Nevadas. Happily well away from the snow. 

No towns. One town visible way over to the side, well off the track, about 15km in. No others. Not one. Mountains. More mountains and hills. Such a different landscape from yesterday, the types of rock and vegetation plus, we were higher. B and I stopped and shared a can of Red Bull. M caught up and we each had had a strawberry milk as well (90%milk, 10%?), and along the way, a few of my Werthers toffees. Hardly a decent intake for a serious walk of about 28km and 7 hours duration.

Soon after we could have chosen the road: 5km to Quentar. The Camino was another 15km. And I’m sure it was much more interesting than the road would have been. 😋

And so we continued, up and down hills, more hills. None especially high yet. One long one up and down. Found pine trees being milked. Outer bark was removed and a collector funnelled the sap running out into two cans below. Not a labour intensive job as the rate of filling looked very slow. 

One rough stretch beside the road was a bit rugged for 4 or 5km but generally the track was very good, except for the last bit. I’d read a suggestion that you should use poles coming down the last 2k. An unusual suggestion. One I’d now strongly concur with. A very rough stretch. Very. Also it had a few strange signs: for example, on one side of a narrow track is a yellow arrow and on the other a cross so you won’t continue. Hard to reconcile such a contradiction. Earlier it was unclear if we should be on the higher or lower track. We kept going!  The right thing to do it transpired.

At the highest point it was a bit misty in the clouds. And the hill rising above us on the right side was basically gravel. Looked like the lunar surface in a mist might look.


One severely eroded bit made me very glad I wasn’t alone. The track ended in a thick gravel tongue separated from the next part of the track by a deep little gully. You had to jump from the tongue to the restarted, downwards angled track. And you had to land on soft gravel on the steeply angled side or, slip down the gully. M made it look easy and gave me a hand. Alone, I’d have been quite concerned to try it, especially wearing a pack. 

Then the track got progressively better. Down, past more ripe blackberries, a couple of very small figs, and almonds and walnuts in their shells. Yes, we grazed.

Seemed to take forever to find the town. Finally, another white, old, Andalucían town clinging to a hillside. Who knew there were so many! And so beautiful. 


Forget finding the hostal at which we were staying! First, a bar. Coke, wine, coffee and food. Not much else mattered until afterwards.

Afterwards we had to climb back up to the start of the village. After food and drinks it was a lot easier. 

Nice hostal, owned by a German guy living in Spain for 30 odd years. €10 each and for the first time the three of us slept in the same room. And I was able to speak english: an english couple arrived after us, not walkers, just people revisiting spain. They lived nearby for two years, for work, two more in the Middle East and then retired back to the UK. We talked about British ghettos here and the risk of isolation. The manager, a German guy, speaks english, as does the owner and the Taiwanese woman who helped me get the washing done. 

The usual shared dinner, grazing on bread, cheese and salami while drinking coke or wine.


So, seemingly an impossible day after I’d run out of energy the day before. And it wasn’t. Despite all the factors suggesting the contrary, it was a really good day and my legs just worked. And worked. Why? Who knows! Who knows!

Even the hat was happy. Despite dust, showers and reshaping in my pack it was still travelling very well. I feel quite an obligation to it as it was made for a better life than I’ve given it so far. And yes, it will come home with me. 

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.