Tag Archives: Camino Sanabrés

Days 26 to 31 on the Vía de la Plata


The beautiful landscape between Roales de Pan and Montamarta (Day 29).

It’s busy, busy, busy on the Vía de la Plata. Actually, I technically left the main Vía de la Plata route this morning and am now on the Camino Sanabrés variant, which will take me to Santiago without joining up with the Camino Francés in the north.

Day 26: Salamanca (0 km)


In Salamanca, everything from building names to excerpts from Don Quixote (shown here) are written on the walls. It's beautiful!

Yes, terrible pilgrim that I am, I took a second rest day. Maria and Sanna, the friends I was sharing a room with, were both ending their trips in Salamanca, so I stayed around an extra day to hang out with them some more.

The night before, Maria and I found a wonderful little restaurant called Mandala with atypical Spanish food and some very good vegetarian dishes. I can’t remember the name of the street it’s on any more, but if you turn off the Rúa Mayor by the tourist office, it’s quite close. We also had lunch at the university cafeteria, which had a substantial amount of quite reasonable food for under €5.

I wasn’t a very good tourist—I spent more time hanging around squares and on the Internet and talking in cafés than I did sightseeing. I did pay to go into the Old Cathedral (which is attached to the New Cathedral), and quite enjoyed the oldness of the murals etc. there.

Day 27: Salamanca to El Cubo del Vino (36 km)

[Castellanos de Villiquera]

There's no doubt about where the route goes ... here. There were a few ambiguous intersections in this area. Amazingly enough, I managed to navigate them successfully, though I had a few friends who got lost.

It felt rather strange to be a pilgrim again, after two days off hanging out with my no-longer-pilgrim friends. I’d thought about staying in Calzada de Valdunciel, a short 16 kilometres from Salamanca, but I got there around 11 a.m. and had no friends to do things with, so it seemed pointless to stay. I ran into Bob and Greg, two American men, just before town, and walked on with them.

The first stretch out of Salamanca was the usual leaving-a-city stretch of awful highway, but that soon turned into undulating fields—patches of red soil mixed with the green of some sort of grain. It was almost prairie-like, but I don’t know if prairie rolls quite so much—it certainly doesn’t in Manitoba, where I come from. Later the scenery stayed the same, but the path ran close to the highway.


Me, sheltering from the rain.

It was quite windy all day and at one point started to rain. Bob, Greg and I took shelter in a sort of large pipe that runs under the highway, and feasted on fruit, chocolate and cookies.

It was my longest day so far, and toward the end it felt very long, but my feet held up nicely.

The albergue was quite decent, with small rooms and a helpful hospitalero. I ended up having breakfast there for an extra €2.

Day 28: El Cubo del Vino to Zamora (32 km)

[Approaching Zamora]

Approaching Zamora.

The landscape was beautiful—a patchwork of rolling farmland. I walked with Bob and Greg again, and we could see Zamora long before we got there, initiating another common Camino discussion on whether it’s better psychologically to see a town long before you get there (in which case it seems to never get bigger), or to have it pop up on you suddenly from behind a hill (the downside being that you start to suspect it doesn’t actually exist).

[Flowers in Zamora]

Zamora. The arch at the back is the Portillo de la Traición (Portal of Betrayal), through which, according to legend, El Cid pursued the man who killed his king.

Zamora is gorgeous, with its walled centre up on a hill beside a river. It’s also eerily quiet for a Spanish city, where the default noise volume is usually super high. I wandered around visiting obscure sites related to El Cid, before bumping into Keith, whom I hadn’t seen in a few days, and going out to dinner with him.

(I should mention here that Keith is the one who turned that stick I picked up on my third day into a proper walking stick. He shaved off the excess wood as we walked along a road, sanded off the edges by dragging it along the highway, and added a hole at the top with a loop of string.)

The albergue in Zamora is also beautiful—very big and clean with a well-furnished kitchen, relatively small rooms with extremely high top bunks, and at the moment at least, a very friendly French volunteer hospitalero.

Day 29: Zamora to Montamarta (20 km)

It started getting hot again, though not as much as at the beginning of the trip—or at least, not until I’d finished walking for the day. The walk started out with not-so-nice street walking, which turned into not-so-nice highway walking, before changing back into the now-normal rolling fields.


Two of the many sculptures in a sculpture garden in Roales de Pan.

In Roales del Pan, the first little town I passed through, I stopped to photograph a yard with a bizarre mix of sculptures: a giraffe, two pilgrims, and various scenes from Greek myths and Bible stories. A little old woman came by me and told me to come in, come in. It turned out her husband made the bright cement sculptures.

The albergue in Montamarta had one huge dorm room and water labelled “non potable,” but the hospitalero told us later that’s just because it doesn’t have chlorine; he drinks it all the time. It’s just outside of town, and most of the pilgrims (lots) gathered in the yard to sit in the sun or the shade. I’d read because it’s a little isolated, theft can be a problem, but that certainly wasn’t an issue the other day—there are so many pilgrims that there was always someone who would’ve noticed intruders.

That said, a Danish woman got her camera and sunglasses stolen in the Zamora albergue the other day, and the most likely suspect would unfortunately be another pilgrim.

Day 30: Montamarta to Granja de Moruela (23 km)


I don't think I've mentioned the storks yet. They were on many, many tall buildings (particularly churches), power lines, and anything else high up, for much of the Vía de la Plata.

It took me a while to figure out what was going on when my yellow arrows led to what seemed to be a lake, but it turned out the Vía de la Plata route out of Montamarta was flooded—I had to cross on the highway bridge and then it was fairly well way marked from there.

I wasn’t in much of a walking mood, and couldn’t seem to settle into it. The Camino criss-crossed the highway a lot at the beginning, and I had trouble seeing all the arrows. At one point I started down the wrong highway, before I noticed its number. I have a love-hate relationship with the N-630, which up till now has paralleled the Camino route. I hate having to walk on it, but it can be a serious help with navigation.

[Castillo Castrotorafe]

The 12th-13th-century castle, Castillo Castrotorafe—the part round the back.

Eventually I came to some castle ruins. I almost walked past, after a couple of photos, of course, but then I went right into the castle. There didn’t seem to be anything spectacular, so I was about to leave when a Spanish man drove up. He asked me if I’d seen the impressive ruins at the back, and showed me some photos. So I followed the road all the way back to the river, and came across a set of perfect ruins. (Perfect for me means it still has recognizable structures, but is also falling apart. Atmosphere is important.)

I ended up getting into Granja late, and all the beds at the albergue were taken, and the only other accommodation, the casa rural, was full. After extended negotiations, the owner of the casa rural let me sleep on the floor of the common area, after its wonderful Danish and German inhabitants—all pilgrims I’d met before—said they didn’t mind.

Of course, I found out later that there were mattresses available for the floor of the albergue. But I think I got the better deal. My floor accommodation was actually quite comfortable and solitary, and I didn’t need to use my earplugs.

In any case, I highly recommend the casa rural, which is beautiful (if rather expensive for a typical pilgrim budget) and has a wonderful owner.

Day 31: Granja de Moruela to Tábara (25 km)


Scrambling over rocks.

I can’t believe I’ve been walking for a month!

In Granja, the route splits: one way leads to Astorga and the Camino Francés, and the other goes through Orense and will eventually lead us straight into Santiago.

The walk out of town was nothing special, but then the route took to the highway, passed over a bridge, and turned off to the left. There it turned into a real hike, which involved clambering over stones beside a river (this can be bypassed using the highway). After maybe half an hour there was a meadow full of flowers with a wonderful view, and roads surrounded by flowers, before the route changed back to the usual rolling fields.


Before Faramontanos de Tábara.

Outside Faramontanos de Tábara, an older Spanish man stopped his car in the road in front of me. He wanted to know where I was from, and if I knew Caroline from Montreal, who’d come this way twice. He says he always stops to talk to pilgrims, and offered me water. It was very nice.

The walk to Tábara was less nice. Dump trucks rolled by constantly, sending up clouds of dust. I actually almost missed Tábara, since the route doesn’t actually pass through it. I started to blindly follow the arrows before realizing I was heading straight away from town.

I got the last bed at the albergue. I hear the local hotel is also full. Beds are starting to be a serious problem, which is irritating—I really don’t want this to turn into a race.

To get to the albergue, I had to follow signs through town and out the other side. It’s another one with huge dorm rooms, but it seems to have a good kitchen.

Physically, I’m doing great. My feet started to hurt a little bit yesterday, but it’s nothing compared to my last Camino. If it wasn’t for this heat, I could put in some serious kilometres, if I wanted to. Which I don’t particularly, as if all goes well I’ll be in Santiago with plenty of time to spare.

Mentally, I’m tired. I’ve also lost a lot of friends, who are either behind me, or have left the Camino. But there are some great people here, and an Austrian chef is making us dinner tonight, and I’m sure things will look better in the morning.

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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.

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 9:34 am

This Week in Pilgrimage: A World Heritage Site in Danger?


Photo of the Week
Karin took this photo took this photo on the Camino Portugés in May 2008. She writes: 'We had so much rain! According to the newspapers on arriving in Santiago de Compotela, as much rain in that one month as the entire previous year! SO ... even the scarecrows wear raincoats! Or as we discovered, the rain in Spain does NOT fall mainly on the plain!'
Submit your photo for Photo of the Week.

It’s been a great week in pilgrimage for me. I finally have almost all my plane tickets, got a wonderful sleeping bag and am almost committed to my boots.

But of course that’s not quite all that’s happened in the world of walking pilgrimages this week.

The usual disclaimer: I’ve done the best I can to ensure accuracy, but a lot of this information comes from Spanish sites and my Spanish is a long way from perfect.

Yesa Reservoir Update

The city council of Artieda, the Asociación Río Aragón Contra el Recrecimiento de Yesa (Aragón River Association Against the Regrowth of Yesa), and the organization Apudepa are planning to appeal the Tribunal Superior de Justicia de Aragón ruling that the regrowth of the Yesa dam is compatible with the preservation of the Camino Aragonés route of the Camino de Santiago.

If the ruling is upheld, then as I understand it, about twenty kilometres of the Camino Aragonés route will be changed, and I believe several heritage sites will be flooded, or interfered with in some other way.

It seems the ruling was justified on the grounds that the Camino no longer follows the exact route that the government of Aragón laid out in 1993, the year the route became a World Heritage Site.

The Asociación Río Aragón says that the judge was “bowing to political decisions.” The association is not mincing words. In a statement, it accuses Jaime Vicente, the Aragonese director general de Patrimonio, of putting (in my translation) “his political career ahead of the ethical commitments that should go along with a job like his.” It calls the Yesa reservoir “a systematic attack on the route of the Camino de Santiago.”

The Camino Francés as a World Heritage Site in Danger?

The Yesa reservoir discussion brings me to something I’ve been reluctant to discuss because I don’t understand all the nuances and don’t have time to investigate right now—but it keeps coming up in Yesa discussions.

In December 2011, more than eighty Camino associations signed the Manifesto de Santiago, which asks UNESCO to add the Camino Francés to its list of World Heritage in Danger. The Yesa reservoir is one of the reasons behind the request. It seems that for UNESCO, the Camino Aragonés is considered a branch of the Camino Francés.

Among other problems the organizations cite are the industrial zone that crosses the Camino at Coruña O Pino and the wind farm at Triacastela.

The request seems to be an attempt to shame the Spanish government into taking better care of the Camino de Santiago.

Pilgrimage Bits and Pieces

  • A dispute over the route of the Camino Sanabrés (which connects the Vía de la Plata directly with Santiago) is being settled. It seems there were two options out of San Cristovo de Cea: the original route went through the town of Piñor, while a variant led pilgrims to the Monastery of Oseira. During the Holy Year, an innkeeper from Piñor kept changing the signage so it only pointed to Piñor, leading to confused pilgrims who had intended to visit the monastery but instead found themselves in Piñor. It sounds like now the the Xunta de Galicia is going to way mark both routes. The official route will pass through Piñor, and the Monastery of Oseira can be visited by way of an 18-kilometre detour. Informational signs will explain the two routes.
  • For cycling pilgrims, Caminosantiago reports that the bike shop in Puente la Reina has closed due to the owner’s retirement, leaving no bike shops between Pamplona and Estella.
  • Caminosantiago also points out that there is an error in the basic map in the Spanish credenciales. The map shows the Vía de la Plata passing through Gerena and El Ronquillo, when in fact it doesn’t go through either of those towns.
  • There will be a three-day Catholic group pilgrimage to Chartres starting June 10, 2011 with a bus trip from England. Learn more or register on the Catholicism Pure and Simple blog. (via Rebekah Scott)
  • The Xunta de Galicia has recognized the Camino de Invierno/Camino del Sur (which connects the Camino Francés with the Camino Sanabrés) as being of cultural and historical interest. The Asociación Camiños a Santiago pola Ribeira Sacra is still working to make the route an official pilgrimage route. Its one hundred members are also trying to way mark the Camino de Invierno better, persuade municipalities to keep it clean, and promote it.
  • The refugio of Muslera, on the Camino del Norte, re-opened last Saturday.
  • The Ministry of Culture recently gave Castilla y León €45,000 for the “promotion and consolidation of the Vía de la Plata as a cultural itinerary.” The money will go toward various architectural and way marking projects.
  • Aragonese author Javier Sierra’s new thriller El ángel perdido mixes history and magic. One of the main characters is a woman who is working on restoring the Pórtico de la Gloria on the Santiago cathedral. The story soon leaves Santiago de Compostela, but the author picked Santiago as a setting because (if I understand this correctly) it’s a place people come to see beyond the here-and-now.
  • The Asociación Tradiciones Esquinas Añoranza of Los Monegros (this means something about nostalgic traditions—I wonder if it’s something like a Society for Creative Anachronism)—is organizing a pilgrim caravan with six to eight carriages and several riders. They will travel from Sariñena (near Zaragoza) to Santiago this coming July. They’ll be travelling with support vehicles, and it sounds like they’ll have to skip a few stages. The whole trip—including the purchase of carriages, shoeing of horses, food for people and animals, trailer rental costs, and more—Is going to cost around €25,800, so they’re getting sponsors, and will have advertising on the roofs of the carriages. (Which will rather spoil the medieval look of the thing, I would think. Oh, well.)
  • An ugly development of some kind near the Camino del Norte in Reicastro has been given the green light, but it will be lined with trees so as not to visually affect the Camino.
  • Organizers of a new project, Acogida Christiana en el Camino (ACC, or Christian Welcome on the Camino) will be holding a weekend conference, starting on February 18 in Ponferrada. The project aims to help interested hospitaleros give the welcome already offered to pilgrims “a spiritual dimension, and to [help bring pilgrims] to a real encounter with Jesus Christ.”
  • El País has a great “tour” of Santiago with wonderful bits of history and legend. You can get the gist of it using an internet translator.
  • I just learned that you can take tours of the Santiago cathedral roofs, where pilgrims used to burn their clothes after walking to Santiago. I’m definitely going to do that when I’m there.
  • The Spanish movie Finisterrae (directed by Sergio Caballero), about two ghosts who walk the Camino de Santiago, recently won the Tiger Award—the highest honour given at the Rotterdam International Film Festival.

Pilgrim Roads

Coming up next week: the history of early medieval Spain/al-Andalus as I currently understand it, with, of course, a focus on the development of the pilgrimage to Santiago and the factors affecting it.

If you missed my post on musician/composer Oliver Schroer and photographer Peter Coffman and the art they created out of their Camino, do check it out. I’ve loved the story since I first heard it several years ago on the radio, and was (and am!) so excited to have a chance to tell it myself.

Ultreïa to all, and to all a wonderful weekend!

Posted by Anna-Marie Krahn at 5:31 pm
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