Days 11-16 on the Vía de la Plata


[Before Cáceres]

Just before Cáceres on the Vía de la Plata.

It’s spring it’s spring it’s spring!

Well, okay, so rainy days are spring, too, and apparently 30 degrees Celsius days are spring as well, but for the moment it’s beautifully sunny flowery springy spring.

There are a lot of people walking right now, but so far (knock on wood) I haven’t had any problems finding a bed. I’ve heard some of the albergues have had to use their overflow (very basic) accommodation, though.

Thanks to everyone for your comments. I will answer questions when I can, but this computer is insanely slow.

So … the latest installment.

Day 11: Mérida (0-plus km)

[Rain in Merida]

As soon as it started raining in Mérida, the city was awash in umbrellas.

Honestly, I spent half this day moping around. I got some Internet stuff done in the morning, which was drizzly, and then just as I was about to go out and visit ruins, it started to pour. And then everyone in the albergue seemed to be part of a couple—very nice couples, but self-sufficient, and I was lonely.

As the rain ended, I managed to make my way back to the albergue, and discovered that Sanna, with whom I’d watched that Semana Santa procession, had just arrived. It was great to see her.

[Calle John Lennon]

Somehow this wasn't a street name I was expecting to see in Spain.

And then I got talking to this American guy who was actually cycling in the other direction, but the hospitalera had let him in since starting on Holy Thursday, there was no other accommodation available in the city.

[Roman theatre]

The Roman theatre in Mérida. You can get a combined ticket that'll let you into a bunch of historic sites, including this one.

The three of us ended up hanging out in the museum (free for Semana Santa) and went out for dinner to a vegetarian restaurant.

I don’t talk about eating here much, mainly because I eat a lot of tomato and cheese sandwiches, and sometimes tortillas con patatas or something similar at a bar. But the vegetarian restaurant, Shangri-La, had possibly the best food I’ve ever had in my life.

If you happen to be in Mérida and want to get there, take the street that has the Temple of Diana and the Roman forum (shown on every tourist map) and you can’t miss it. It’s extremely blue.

Day 12: Mérida to Aljucén (17 km)

[Beer can tower]

A beer can tower in the albergue at Aljucén.

The way marking was actually quite reasonable out of Mérida from the albergue, and for the following few days. I was walking with Sanna and we got lost once by the river, but that was really our own faults.

The route went past a resort type area, but none of the bar/cafés were open. After that, it was gorgeous, with rocky terrain, trees, and the occasional herd of cattle or flock of sheep. Unfortunately we couldn’t stop to really enjoy it because of the continual drizzle.

Aljucén is a nice little town with a friendly albergue. The hospitaleras serve supper at the albergue for 7 or 10 euros, depending on whether you have the soup or not.

There was a group of new-to-me pilgrims there, and I spent the afternoon chatting with some of them. Most of what I thought of as the German group (German was their common language, even though only 1.5 of them were German—the 0.5 being Ron, who’s technically American but has lived in Germany for the last 50 years), spent much of the afternoon drinking beer from a vending machine—a novelty to me as a Canadian. Apparently it’s important to wait a while before opening the can, or it overflows when you open it.

Day 13: Aljucén to Alcuéscar (21 km)

[Sheep]

Rocks and wet sheep—what better scenery could you hope for?

This was another beautiful but rainy walk. The way marking generally remained good, though there was one gate with only a blue arrow, for some reason, which worried me a little until I noticed all the footprints. One stream crossing had stepping stones that were nearly submerged, but wading would’ve been easy enough if the water had been a little higher.

The albergue in Alcuéscar is an experience itself—it’s in a monastery that takes in the sick and destitute, and the hospitaleras served a meal to us pilgrims. It’s donativo.

Day 14: Alcuéscar to Aldea de Cano (16 km)

[Highway]

Herman the German walks into Aldea de Cano.

The scenery wasn’t as beautiful, and the Camino often ran near the highway, but the sun finally came out!

This was a rather short walking day. I spent a lot of the non-walking part washing clothes and sitting in the sun talking with Ron (the American/German man I mentioned earlier, his walking companion Keith (who’s originally English but lives in the Netherlands), and various members of a French trio of walkers.

The albergue is basic and maybe not the cleanest place ever, but it has a full kitchen and the town is quite pretty.

Day 15: Aldea de Cano to Cáceres (22 km)

[Plaza Mayor in Caceres]

The Plaza Mayor in Cáceres, from my hotel room. The tower was built by the Muslims when they ruled the city.

We had another beautiful day … at least until I got to Cáceres, when the downpour started, but I was able to hide under an awning.

[Way mark]

These cubes mark routes related to Roman history. I often followed them when there were no yellow arrows. It took me embarrassingly long to realize the yellow line on top indicates the route direction.

I completely lost the way marking soon after getting into the city (and there’s a lot of city to walk through), but I just kept asking the way to the Plaza Mayor, where I was going to stay in a hotel. There is an albergue turístico, but it’s apparently 15 euros, and the room I shared with Sanna in the Pensión Carretero was only 25 between the two of us.

The entire old town in Cáceres is an historical monument, and absolutely beautiful if totally full of tourists. I spent a long time wandering its streets and visiting the occasional site.

We couldn’t find a place we wanted to eat, so Ron, Keith, Sanna and I had a gourmet picnic on a bench.

Day 16: Cáceres to Casar de Cáceres (11 km)

[Clothesline]

A window of the albergue in Casar de Cáceres.

This was actually supposed to be a 33km day, but the albergue at the Embalse de Alcántara is temporarily closed, creating a lot of problems, since it’s the only place to stay in the area. Some pilgrims took the bus ahead, but I really want to walk the whole way.

So I had a leisurely breakfast this morning with Ron and Keith, and then we wandered over to Casar de Cáceres and its cramped albergue. Tomorrow will be 36 or so kilometres.

The way marking has gone downhill again lately, in terms of yellow arrows, but I find that it works to follow the tourist board’s rocky way marks. It took me a lot of time to realize that they actually do point in a particular direction—just follow the yellow “road” drawn on top of the cube or rock.

And now Ron and Keith have been patiently waiting for me to go for dinner, and some kids want to use this library computer, so I’d better be off. More soon, I hope!

* * *

If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.

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Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 9:22 am
1 Comment

One Response to Days 11-16 on the Vía de la Plata

  1. Russell kenny says:

    Hey there
    I remember you on the via de la plata.
    I am Russell from england
    when i got to Santiago on the ‘de la plata route’ i could not rest so i got a bus out of santiago the same night i got there :)… i got the bus to vittoria then to pamplona and got a minibus with other peregrinos to St jean pied de port and walked the whole camino frances…so i walked two caminos no cheating with any form of transport at all.
    i had already done the camino frances 4 times , over the years and will walk ‘el camino norte’ in 2012