Hola hola. It seems I’ve been rather a terrible blogger lately—so sorry. Sometimes it seems hard to live and write about living at the same time, and I haven’t done a good job of seeking out libraries and Internet cafés lately.
So where was I?
Day 17: Casar de Cáceres to Cañaveral (33 km)
I walked a fair bit of this with Ron and Keith and a Frenchman named Jacques. It started out with a gorgeous hilly walk over farmland. Later, though, the Camino was running alongside the highway, and the Camino was extremely hilly and the highway wasn’t, so we ended up on the highway, which had a shoulder for most of the route, though not at the end.
Honestly, the distance would’ve been really difficult for me on the Camino route at that point, though I hear it was beautiful. It got quite hot, too, and there was a fairly gradual but long hill at the end that wasn’t so much fun.
The albergue is at the far end of Cañaveral, a very long town with the highest number of bars per capita I’ve yet encountered.
A lot of the pilgrim-only albergues along this route are quite basic. According to my guidebook, people complain about this, but I figure you can’t expect a lot more for the price—anywhere from free to donativo to €5 or so. But I’ve got to say that the albergue in Cañaveral is the worst I’ve come across so far. It’s tiny with tiny rooms, which isn’t the end of the world (unless, I suppose, you get stuck in a two-person room with someone you don’t like) but it wasn’t the cleanest place. There was no toilet seat, and to flush you had to pull at something in the back of the toilet.
Then again, you can’t beat the price.
Day 18: Cañaveral to Galisteo (28-ish km)
This was a beautiful day, walking through fields and tree plantations again. I got one foot half-wet when I was crossing a stream and a stone tipped, but I wrung out my sock and it dried quickly.
Then it went down onto a road and things got interesting. I’d forgotten to take note of Melanie’s brilliant advice, and so ended up at a very ambiguously signed intersection with Keith and a couple from Barcelona. We took what we thought might be the best route, and ended up charging across fields in the direction we thought the bridge across the river between us and Galisteo (which we could see, high up on its hill) must be. We were a lot luckier than an Austrian pilgrim I met later, who figures he put in an extra ten kilometres after getting lost.
There’s a steep but relatively short climb into Galisteo, a nice town with a walled section high on a hill and an albergue that’s new and very clean, even if it does have a big dorm room and is rather lacking in character.
I climbed some rather steep and rail-less stairs up onto a section of the wall, for an excellent if possibly not entirely safe view over the city.
Day 19: Galisteo to Oliva de Plasencia (26 km, including 6 off-route)
The first part of the walk, to Carcaboso , was not-very-exciting highway walking. Then it got beautiful again, with the now-usual trees and rocks and cows over undulating terrain. The weather was great—warm but not too warm, and later overcast, which provided some nice shade.
Since Oliva de Plasencia is one of the few places to break up an otherwise 38-kilometre stretch, it seemed everyone was going there, but there was still room for all of us. There hasn’t been any real competition for beds since the end of the Semana Santa.
Since Oliva is six kilometres off the route, a bunch of people arranged for Monica at the albergue to drive them there from the official route. Since I avoid motorized transportation at all costs on these trips, I walked instead.
The albergue was quite nice—as it should be for €15—despite its killer staircase.
Day 20: Oliva de Plasencia to Aldeanueva del Camino (I think about 28 km, including 6 off-route)
This was a great day. It threatened rain the entire day, but never actually followed through, so the temperature was perfect. I started out with a six-ish kilometre walk through cork trees to get back on the Camino (you can get a ride back there, too, if you prefer). Then I passed through the Arco de Cáparra, a huge Roman arch that was rather a disappointment because the surrounding fence detracted from the atmosphere.
But after that was great—my favourite cows and rocks and trees scenery, with some reasonable hills, and two streams that needed serious fording.
These are the only two streams I’ve come across that it’s not possible to cross without wading. I got my hiking boots a bit wet while looking for an alternative route, and ended up sticking them in my backpack and walking the rest of the day in my sandals. I have to admit I rather enjoyed wading through icy cold streams.
I walked for a while with some other pilgrims, a Spanish man and German woman who, despite barely speaking a word of each other’s language, had been walking together for a while. We worried about a rather ambiguous arrow pointing down a road, and walked on together for a while—rather less-nice road walking.
We came to a river and I, still in my sandals, charged across to make sure there were actually arrows on the other side. I yelled to the others to cross on the bridge, since they looked uncertain about the river crossing. They seemed to agree, but then totally disappeared, so I continued on my own.
There was a bit of not-so-nice highway walking, then a slightly longer off-road option that I wouldn’t recommend if it’s been raining and you don’t want to get your feet wet.
I got slightly lost with an Austrian pilgrim, since in the absence of arrows we took a road that seemed to go in the right direction, but it soon ended and we had to backtrack (the actual Camino route heads off in the completely wrong direction for a short while). It’s a beautiful route, but half of it was covered in water, which I didn’t mind because I was quite enjoying the wading thing.
This was the first day I first felt physically able to fly over mountains, and I haven’t lost that yet. I could just keep going and going and going, but of course I don’t because I want to take my time.
The albergue in Aldeanueva wasn’t anything special, but it did have single beds as opposed to bunk beds, which felt very luxurious. I locked myself in the shower, since it turned out there wasn’t a handle on the inside. I was lucky there were people around to rescue me.
I really loved Aldeanueva, with its rather odd juxtaposition of roses and palm trees (see the photo at the top of its post), and the surrounding mountains. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.
Day 21: Aldeanueva del Camino to La Calzada de Béjar (22 km)
The day got off to a leisurely start. I was in a four-bed room with Sanna, Ron and Keith, and Sanna and I refused to get up when we heard the rain pounding down, and then went out for coffee before actually starting out.
It rained some of the way to Baños de Montemayor, a ten-kilometre slog along the highway. After Baños came a fairly steep but nicely-paved climb. There were a couple of serious ascents and descents that day, some gravelly and awful.
We passed out of Extremadura into Castilla y León, and could notice some differences right away. There was a special pilgrim rest area, and since then there have been a lot of benches and even some garbage cans, though often not at the choicest of locations. The way marking, which was somewhat intermittent in Extremadura, has also gotten better. (I find myself constantly hallucinating yellow arrows, only to find they turn into moss or a bit of paint when I get close.)
The albergue in Calzada was quite nice, with extremely hospitable owners, although it did have big, noisy dorm rooms. The town itself was tiny but pretty. Someone told me there are only two children in the entire village.
Day 22: La Calzada de Béjar to Fuenterroble de Salvatierra (20 km)
It was a nice walk, often along country roads.
I didn’t run into any trouble until near Fuenterroble, where the Camino route parts ways with the road. There were three options: the road, which would have taken me right to town; and two paths leading off to the side. One was the Vía de la Plata route, but the signing was rather ambiguous.
For those of you who are following me: if it’s been at all wet, definitely take the path that goes straight away from the road, the one on the left.
I took the middle path, which after about ten minutes turned into a very long lake. Not wanting to turn around, I put on my sandals and slogged through, hoping the route would eventually connect with something helpful. It did run into the official Camino route eventually, so everything worked out.
The albergue in Fuenterroble was organized by Don Blas, one of the stars of the Vía de la Plata route, and has a lot of personality—it’s definitely a must-stay sort of place. (If you’re there, be sure to ask about the singing donkey.) In the evening, everyone provided some food, and the hospitaleros cooked up a wonderful dinner with a bunch of different courses. The garbanzo soup was so different from anything I’ve had so far in Spain, and quite wonderful.
Day 23: Fuenterroble de Salvatierra to San Pedro de Rozados (28 km)
Another beautiful day of the kind I’ve been raving about. It included a climb to the Pico de la Dueña, the highest part of the Sevilla-Astorga section of the route. But since we were so high already, it wasn’t really that bad (though there were a few quite steep ups and downs, some of which were the awful gravel-strewn kind).
There’s a cross at the Pico, and a lot of piles of stones, presumably left by passing pilgrims.
I stayed in the cheaper albergue in San Pedro. It was quite nice, though not as luxurious as I’d read it would be, and the fact that there was only one washroom created a bottleneck at times.
Day 24: San Pedro de Rozados to Salamanca (24 km)
Another nice day, with rolling hills and fields, and another cross surrounded by rock piles just a bit before Salamanca. I walked with my new Danish friend Maria and a woman from Hungary who started walking ten days after I did, hasn’t taken the bus once, and is already ahead of me.
I’d been afraid walking into Salamanca wouldn’t be very nice, but it was great—we went through a big park, crossed a Roman bridge, and were in the very picturesque (and tourist-filled) centre of the city, passing a guy playing beautiful Spanish guitar. We even got to be a tourist attraction ourselves, as I heard someone pointing us out to friends: “Those are pilgrims walking to Santiago!”
I did feel very grimy though, surrounded by well-dressed, non-sweaty Salamancans and tourists as we walked through town.
Maria and I splurged on a double room in a cheap hotel for €25. It’s amazing. I got to unpack my backpack, and now don’t have to touch it or my hiking shoes for more than a day, which I have to say is very exciting.
Day 25: Salamanca (0 km)
I’m more than halfway to Santiago (!!!) and figured a rest day is in order.
Although there are tons of things to see in Salamanca, I’m being lazy. So it actually has been very restful so far, sleeping in and hanging out in a café with Maria and Sanna, who’s joining us at our hotel for tonight. I’m meeting them for a picnic lunch a later, and then I suppose I should probably go see some sights.
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If you’ve enjoyed this, you may want to read more of my Live from the Vía de la Plata posts.