Saturday, March 31, 2018

Caceres to Canaveral

... by train.

Time to move on today! No buses running, so Plan B by train; Caceres, I discovered, is on the main line to Madrid and the first stop is Canaveral where I wanted to go. After half an hour, the train pulled in to Canaveral Station- real back of beyond place, houses in ruin and 2 kms from the actual town itself.

The Albergue here comes highly recommended in all the guides as being one of the best on the Via de la Plata, everything brand new and clean, lovely bathrooms, duvets on the beds and a superb pilgrims' menu. I had lunch with 3 German women that I'd met before. Two of them had been round Australia and remembered Indiana Tea House at Cottesloe. Our lunch was excellent: mixed salad, beef cheeks in sauce, strawberries and cream and a bottle of vino tinto. Time for a siesta now!

Venison chorizo: I bought one for tomorrow.

View from my window: train line running past.

Albergue garden.

Later, I took a few photos around town:

Friday, March 30, 2018

Good Friday

It isn't easy to find your way around Caceres. I have to rely on Google maps, but there are so many tiny twisting cobbled streets that the satellite can't keep up with me. I set off this morning to go to the Torre de Bujaco, only 4 mins walk away, but found myself 10 mins away somehow!

Soon it appeared that everyone was heading in the opposite direction, all dressed for today's Good Friday procession: blue this time. I watched them manoevering the heavy float into position and the brass band tuning up.

When I eventually found the Tower I was looking for, I discovered that it had a superb birds eye view of the Plaza Mayor and another procession that was going by, this time the penitents all dressed in black and white. I am amazed how many people stand out in the cold, watching the processions go past. Each church in the city seems to send off a different one, in fact one went past my hotel at 10.45 last night.

This map looks simple, but believe me it isn't!

Preparing for the procession

This girl is holding her penitent's conical hat.

Brass band tuning up.

Raising the heavy float.

Another church, another float...

Torre de Bujaco

View from the tower over the Plaza Mayor.

The float in the black and white procession.

This VIP woman must be frozen!

View from my window of passerby in their winter woollies.

Caceres Parador - photo from website

Thursday, March 29, 2018

To Valdesalor and Caceres

Aldea del Cano to Valdesalor 11 kms
Dep 9.15 am. Arr Valdesalor 12.45 pm
(Then taxi into Caceres)
First of all, I had to make my own breakfast!! The doings were laid out in the kitchen, but there was no sign of the Señora.

The day was sunny but really cold, with a bitter wind blowing from the west. It was a case of sunhat and gloves for this peregrina. The first part of the trail was through an area of woodland with large expanses of grass. It reminded me of Windsor Great Park. There were the usual stream crossings with high stepping stones, but I am getting braver about these after a lot of practice!

I found myself crossing an airstrip where two aficionados were tinkering with two WW1-type planes. After half an hour I saw the planes circling overhead.

The way into Valdesalor was rather boring till I came to a lovely bridge. Then I passed the small Albergue at the beginning of town and finally located a bar where I could warm up. I enjoyed a fresh orange juice and chatted to a German pilgrim I'd seen before. I asked them to call a taxi as I'd done enough walking for the day, and I was driven in style to the Parador for 2 nights of luxury! Why not?

Ancient bridge near Valdesalor

Airstrip earlier in the day

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Alcuescar to Aldea del Cano

Alcuescar to Aldea del Cano 15 kms. Dep 8.45 am. Arr 2.45 pm.

The day was warm and sunny again as I set off early on the Camino. The night in the Albergue was absolutely silent after they turned off all the lights at 10.00 pm. It was freezing cold with no heating so I had to pull out my sleeping bag for the first time. But it was a "Donativo" Albergue and beggars can't be choosers!

On the way to Aldea del Cano, I saw lots of livestock, sheep with lambs and cows with calves. I passed a public olive oil pressing plant, guarded by two huge dogs which took no notice of me whatsoever!

There were a series of Roman milestones en route. From memory, a Roman mile is 1000 steps of a legionary soldier and equivalent to 1.5 kms. There were also a number of streams and wet areas to be negotiated, some with square stepping stones, though none so dangerous as yesterday's.

Arriving at Las Casas de Don Antonio:

Roman milestone

Alcuescar 2

Later ...

After the stepping stones, a young Korean girl went past me, wringing water from her sweatshirt. She had obviously fallen in! I spoke to her later in the day and she showed me a huge bruise on her leg.

The scenery today was beautiful again. At one point a hare ran across my path with its ears up. It was a long stage, with no intermediate stops. I was given a luscious piece of home made carrot cake by Naomi at Aqua Libera, which kept me going!

On arriving at Alcuescar it took me some time to find my hotel, Casa Grande. Nobody was there except a German pilgrim waiting for her friend to arrive. The person looking after the place was also managing a bar, some distance away. By the time he was found, my room ( reserved via had been given to someone else. Unbelievable!!!!

Fortunately a Spanish man, who was also looking for accommodation, came to my assistance. He said the "manager" of the hotel would drive us to the Monastery which had an Albergue. First, I thought we were going to have to share a room there, bit it turned out there were two rooms left! He said we might have to pretend we were married, as it was a religious establishment, but I said nobody would believe this as I was old enough to be his mother! He spoke really good English and admitted to attending weekly conversation lessons in San Sebastián. Over dinner (baby squid and white wine) I gave him a free lesson!

I forgot to say that before the accommodation disaster occurred, I took a taxi 4 kms out of town to visit the Basilic of Santa Lucia, a 7th century Visigothic church, which was on my must-see list.

Ancient olive grove with carpet of yellow wildflowers 

Inside the Visigothic church

Monastery/ Albergue 

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Aljucen to Alcuescar

Aljucen to Alcuescar 20 kms 

Dep A 9.15 am Arr 4.45 pm

I stayed last night at Hotel Aqua Libera, a place which tries to reconstruct a Roman lifestyle. There is a Roman bath house with various plunge pools: cold, cool, warm, hot. I only tried the last two!

I had dinner at The Parque cafe, where the pilgrims' menu was only. €7.50. I had mixed salad, calamares with chips and flan for dessert. It was a cold night, but I was nice and warm under a superb duvet.

Today was a replica of yesterday's weather: beautiful and sunny and still. Just perfect for walking! Not many pilgrims were on the trail again. Several cyclists passed me calling out "Buen Camino". I went through lots of cattle grids. 

At lunchtime, I was sitting on a stone bench contemplating how to cross a fast flowing stream, when two guys pulled up in a battered old car and started pulling out a picnic. They offered me coke or an orange. I said: can you help me cross? I am afraid!  

The stepping stones were very high and I was scared of falling off with my backpack. So one of them took my backpack and the other held onto me while I crossed. There is a myth about "camino angels" coming to the rescue and its true. These two came at the right time!

Thermal baths

One of many cattle grids on this stretch

Information board about the Via

Stepping stones

They look easy in the photo, but they weren't in reality!

Monday, March 26, 2018

Merida to Aljucen

Merida to Aljucen 17 kms

Dep 9.00 am. Arr 3.00 pm.

My first day of walking on the Via de la Plata Camino. The gods must be smiling on me, as the weather has been warm and sunny - a perfect day for hiking anywhere! It was 5 degrees when I left M and its 17 now at 4.30 pm.

Two pilgrims passed me early on. A German and a Spaniard, then I saw no-one else till the afternoon, when a large group of Germans with only daypacks went by. I asked them where they were staying, as I thought they'd take up all the beds in Aljucen, but they said a bus was picking them up and transporting them elsewhere. They were surprised I could speak German and thought I might be Swiss!

My first stop at about 11 am was at the Proserpina Dam, built by the Romans to supply water to Merida via an aqueduct. There were several nice-looking waterside cafes, but all closed, so no coffee for me. Had to make do with a banana.

Wildflowers lined the route all day, but my old iPhone doesn't do close ups well. They were drifts of pink and yellow, with a few tiny white star shaped flowers and a couple of poppies in one stop. After 10 kms, where the Camino turned off the country road onto a sandy track, someone had deposited 4 or 5 mattresses. I was able to eat my lunch reclining, Roman style, and have short siesta before pressing on. Another pilgrim passed me. He seemed to have picked up a stray dog on the trail, too.

Merida Aqueduct early this morning.

Proserpina Dam


Official direction marker for Via de la Plata: these are square stones which the locals call "cubes" with the logo on top

Lunch spot

Church at Aljucen

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Later in Merida

Palm Sunday celebrations in Merida. I watched a procession being assembled at the cathedral, the crowds so big I couldn't get a good view. It started with a brass band playing mournful music, the penitents in red and white.

Outside the Parador. See the storks nest! My room is somewhere behind this nest!

View from my window. Two storks feed their babies all day long!

Lunch: deep fried slices of aubergine with honey. Who'd have thought?

Roman bridge into Merida. Span is 760 m and could accommodate a swell of up to 4 m.

Compliments to Parador for the fastest Wifi so far!