Monday, May 19, 2008

May 18 - Aldea to Caceres

Tough night last night but on we went. I got to cook last night and no one ate with us, so we left a big pot of chicken soup. I hope someone tonight will eat it. The temperature is dropping and the wind is picking up. The highlight of my day was when we were walking along a very large pasture and the sheepherder called out to his dogs to move them out. Into our camino. They stayed several yards ahead of us most of the time. There were a couple of sheep who limped (I sympathize) and could not keep up with the herd. They stepped away from the others and stayed behind. Suddenly the dogs turned all the others back around and they headed towards us. Ahead of us, coming at us, were a couple hundred sheep if not more! I had no place to go, and when they got close enough they stopped. We stopped. We jsut kind of stared at each other. I thought, now what? I assume they were thinking the same thing. The dog barked and I told Salvador, I am moving ahead. Suddenly they were moving ahead too and we were surrounded by them. They were scared of us and wanted to avoid us, and I was a bit nervous with the thought of trampling, but we all did just fine. I started singing the tune to Rawhide. *Rolls Eyes* We walked on and came across an airplane field, and read a sign "Danger, Airplane Field - This does not Affect Pîlgrims".
Whatever that means. Just to the other side of it was an old Roman fountain, which water no one should dare drink. We stop for lunch at a gas station where they have made a sweet little gazebo with a picnic table for us. There were a couple of Spanish men we had met earlier on the camino. They were stopping in Caceres and going home until December when they plan to take it back up again.. Alot of people do this. Unable to take 6 or 7 weeks off, they do the Via a couple of weeks at a time until they finish it.
The topography is getting better and better all the time. Finally we come near Caceres, which was just down the hill.... which took forever it seems. Like most big cities, once in it, the arrows seem to disappear. But I ask for directions. And they get me to town. We stayed in a hostal right in the center which was recommended by another pilgrim. It was ok. Not having a bathroom in our room sucks. You have to go down the hall to use it. So does everyone else. We ate at the restaurant downstairs and the food was not good at all. A bit disappointed but we found an internet cafe and that was great. I got to catch up with my emails and upload some Camino info, and talk with home. Inga asked me what I liked best so far and I told her the sheep story. You had to be there, I guess. I am now updated with the family and with the Birth Cottage. Rest tonight. TOTAL 22,2 KILOMETERS

May 17 - Alcuescar to Aldea del Cano

I am handling walking so much better now. Rarely do I feel any pain. Finally! The day has started out beautifully! Skies are clear, although it is chilly. The wildflowers are getting more and more abundant. I think that as we move north, spring is moving north as well. We will probably be in eternal spring!! All around us is eye candy. The skies, the flowers, the birds. Stork nests are all over the place now. The babies are moving around in their little homes, peeking over the sides. I can see plumage, no longer little naked babies. When the mom flies over us I think they look just like they look in cartoons, all they need are the little bundles of babies in their beaks. Aside from these magnificent looking birds, there are many other large birds flying around all the time. Eagles, hawks, falcons (?) I do not know, for sure, although I can make out an eagle, but the others I am not sure.
We crossed an intact small Roman bridge as we entered a town called Casas de Don Antonio. These names!! A nice little fountain made a comfy area to rest and eat a little breakfast. We carry some food with us, nothing too heavy. Fruit unfortunately weighs a lot so one can only carry a little. Today I ate the orange. Less weight in the backpack.
On we went. Another Roman bridge in the middlw of nowhere. I would think that hundreds of years ago, this area must have been a forest, for one can only wonder why there would be a bridge in this particular spot. Another Roman piece of "construction" we see is the Miliario. They are basically mile markers. Placed by the Romans when building the road we are walking on. The distance from one to the next is considered a Roman Mile, which is about 1000 steps or 1.4 kilometers, close to our mile. Hmmm I wonder if our word mile comes from this word, miliario.

We are doing some road walking now and there is a town straight ahead, yessss, almost there!! But wait, why is the road taking us to the left of the town? And further left,hmmm. Now we have the town to our right, and the yellow arrows keeps pointing straight and away fromthe town. We decide to venture into the town anyway and see if it is our chosen destination. Well, yes it is! I still wonder why the camino did not take us into this town. Our guide says there is no albergue there, but a very basic refugio in a nearby school. Luckily we went into the Las Vegas bar and there was our friend, Manfred, from Germany. He said he had the key to the albergue and took us there. Well, this was not a basic refugio, but a very nice albergue. I was so happy, no sleeping on the floor tonight. We paid at the bar and settled in. Manfred was a little high, said he likes this town because it has many many benches for him to sit and relax in! All other peregrinos that arrived today went to a hostal,,,, guess they did not know about the albergue. Conrado from Salamanca joined us, and we were 4 for the night. Back at the bar, we ate and Manfred was drinking a bit heavy and kissing people. Later that afternoon, when he started putting money into people´s pockets, I had to intervene. Drunk people have no idea what they are doing and I wanted to protect him, I just had to. I asked people to give me his money back, I have no idea if they all did, and with a little assistance we got him back to the albergue and put him to bed. I tucked his money into his credencial. Later he went back out and was escorted back by some local guy. I put him to bed. Slept very little that night, between the bar noise and Manfred. Gotta love him! TOTAL 17 KILOMETERS

May 16 - Aljucen to Alcuescar

Ohhh, I had to wake up and get out of bed!!! After such a great evening yesterday. I felt great! And ready to walk. I had a good walk today, and realized my leg/hip thing was like almost gone! I believe those baths and the physical movements I did helped untwinge me. Oh yeah, and my quiromasadista!
It was very humid, overcast, and we had to put yesterday´s wash pinned to the back of our backpacks hoping they will be dried by our next stop.

We are in the region of Extremadura, and the government has placed these large square stones with the emblem of Extremadura, a Roman arch with the yellow path going through it. You are to follow the direction of that path just like the yellow arrows.
We walked through so many pastures, fields, farms with bulls, cows, pigs,sheep. Today´s walk had a lot of poop on it. I joked we were were on the Via de la Caca. At one point, walking through a farm, the farmer had spread out all the poop so that there was no other thing to do but walk through it. It stunk.
As I walk I have to look down most of the time it seems, to avoid pits, rocks, poop, whatever and notice that the ants are out full force. They make little paths across the camino; so many of them that they have pressed down the soil to actuallly see and trails. I avoid stepping on them all the time. I am reminded of the movie, 7 Years in Tibet, when the monks were moving worms(?) to another place as they dug the ground, for fear of hurting them since they may have been an ancestor in a past life. I don´t want to squash my great aunt Nana!
It was raining on and off, but we did get to use our ponchos for the first time. We had used a little umbrella on other rainy moments, but now it required the ponchos. I end up sweating a bit! Wet no matter what! The fields of boulders are majestic.
I get excited seeing such big rocks! How did they get there? Is this where the Romans went to take stones and make those incredible arches and aqueducts? One of the things I am very amazed at, is the amount of stone walls in Spain. I remember that from last year´s Camino Frances. Thousands of kilometers worth of stone fences, with the stones so neatly placed that they do not require anything to hold them together, and that they are probably hundreds of years old. And just the sheer amount of stones required to make them!! Boggles me.
We are seeing purple arrows. My fave color! They stop at one point. I saw green ones as well and realized they must be the arrows placed for pilgrims walking back, for they are on the other side of trees and posts that I am facing. I wonder how many people walk both ways...
The trail is flanked by those church incense bushes. I love the way it smells, and it gives a sense of tranquility, just like I feel when I sit awhile alone in a church.
We got to Alcuescar and I asked a gentleman if this particular building is the albergue and he was the hospitalero. From the window upstairs he can see us walking up the road and hurries down to the street to greet us. Antonx and Maria Paz are a married couple volunteering for 2 weeks at this albergue. It is a monastery and the priests there take care of the mentally ill. It is very comfortable and it is paid by donativos. Antonx took my rucksack after arguing with me that he wanted to do it since I have walked long enough and it is 34 stairsteps to the albergue. They had water and cookies for us. Salvador and I each had a room to ourselves. There are rooms with 1 bed (like ours), a few with 2 beds and one large room with bunks that were not used that night. I sat outside on the benches to warm up, since it was colder inside than outside, and I was greeted by some of the men that live there. One in particular keeps asking me for a cigarette and a pepsi, and Antonx gives him a cigarette and the guy hides in the bushes to smoke it, since the priests don´t want him smoking. (Don´t tell anybody, I don´t want to get anyone in trouble). 5 minutes later he is next to me asking for a pepsi and a cigarette. They´re lovingly taken care of here. It was very pleasant. Mary Paz gives me a tour fo the church and the chapel for the men who live there. The confession booth is quite old.

For dinner, we ate what the priests ate as well. Very tasty, may I say and by donativo as well. Priests do not eat at the same table as women, and since I was there (and the only woman) there were no priests eating with us that night. Shame. It would be nice to be together. I had no idea that was one of their rules. We all cleaned up together. I really enjoyed this albergue, it felt very real in some kind of way. Hard to explain. TOTAL 21,5 KILOMETERS.

May 15 - Merida to Aljucen

I left Merida walking! I was so delighted, even though I could still feel some slight pain. Ignoring it can work most of the time. When I start being in pain, that is all I can think of. I just keep looking around at the countryside and that helps alot. But really, it is much much better than it had been. Thanks, Octavio Augusto, quiromasadista!!
That morning we walked along some Roman aqueduct ruins. They look immense, and being early morning and with a beautiful sky they were awesome to see. Leaving Merida was tricky. The camino is broken up due to road building and we followed the yellow arrows and it took us out towards the east and then we were lost for no more arrows were to be seen. We asked many times how to get to where we needed to be and after circumventing this construction area we headed west almost to the road we had left, just further north. All road walking!
Along the way, in Embalse de Proserpina, we rested by a large lake, spreading my sarong to lay on for a while. There was a chilly wind and I keep going from wearing to taking off my fleece all day. Fields of flowers are blooming, the sights are beautiful. Vineyards were abundant, with their early spring leaves filling out.
Walked through a small town that had chickens all over the place, loose.... we dubbed it Chicken Town. Salvador takes a picture of a chicken walking across the road....why did the chicken....ahh never mind.
We get to Aljucen and find Ana at her house. She owns the albergue as well as the hostal or pension where she also lives, with Elena. She takes us to the albergue and I asked her about the Roman Baths sign I saw upon arriving into the town. She called the place for us and they were ready for us to come over. I could not wait. She accompanied us and you would not know it by the plain door, no different than any other you see along the road, but once in there it was incredible.
A young woman owns it and explained the whole reason she opened one up in that particular village.... very simple... she wanted to open one and that village was cheaper than Merida and quieter. It sure is. She decorated it with a Roman look. It is a must see. We were taken into a room where we could change and then she showed us the Baths. OK. If you are a couple you would want to be here together, alone. Yeah well, I was with my son so it was specifically a "let´s do something we ahave not ever done before and hey, it´s thereapy for my legs". I chickened out going into the cold water...well, I made it to just under my navel. She encouraged me to dunk myself but no way! I stayed in it for a little while though. Salvador was already in the warm water and was blissed. I want bliss! This pool is large so once I went into it (ahhhhhhh) I could move my legs around and swing my hips and body around and it felt like the best therapy I could ever have! I stayed in that pool quite a while, for the next one, the hot one, is the end. It was magical being in the hot one. It is rather smallish but it´s perfect for just soaking in it. Out time was up (was it really almost 2 hours already?) and we got out and went to pay. Get this... she cahrged us 5€ for the both of us!! Why? Well, she explained that this day was Mercury Day. The god Mercury represented profit, thievery in commerce. So, on this day, people who own stores or services charge half price as a way to honor him and give back to the community for the "thievery" commited against them. Awesome!! I kind of felt bad only paying 5 euros for such service.

Then we headed to our albergue. We were the only ones there that day,,,,we had the place to ourselves. Salvador chose a different room just so that he could have one night without hearing me snore. SMILE.
Ana was waiting for us back at her house for dinner, so we went there. Turns out she had no one staying there either. We were the only peregrinos in Aljucen! She served us a delicious meal and we got to chat a bit. After dinner she poured a little bit of Liqueur made from acorns, a specialty of that area. It was sweet and very good. Then she showed us her home, including her house, the attic of the place. She was very nice and I highly encourage people to stay in Aljucen. Oh, she also gave us a private tour of the church, since she gets to hold the keys for the place. We went to bed all happy. What a great day! TOTAL 17 KILOMETERS.

May 12 - Fuente de Cantos to Merida

Okay, Okay, I was looking for the sign, and nothing came down like lightning. What did happen was that people told me to take it easy. Enough people told me that until I felt obliged to honor their wishes (yes, I know). So I told Salvador, walking or coming with me. Not sure why, really, since he has been enjoying the walking and even wanted to walk by himself a few times, but he decided to go with me. We went to the bus station in Fuente and took the next bus to Merida. A quick ride later we were there. The bus station was right by the modern bridge that crosses into the casco viejo (old town) and I made it into Merida. From that bridge you can see the ancient Roman bridge right across the way. I was in a lot of pain at this point and was glad we did not have to go too far to find the albergue. As we were coming back from the tourist center, coming straight at us was Manolo. We were all happy to run into each other again and we met back up at the albergue. Juanito the hospitalero was not there yet so the 3 of us and now 4, with Jordi from Barcelona, spread my sarong on the ground and turned it into our dining table. Manolo got on his bike and brought back bread and fruit, we all took out what we had in our packs and made a splendid lunch. Juanito came and we moved into the albergue. It was full by the late afternoon. This albergue, El Molino de Pan Caliente, is very nice, very clean. And the location is awesome. At night though, the street lights come in through the windows and shines right on our faces, no problem, I put my head at the foot of the bed (why didn´t anybody else?).
That evening we walked a little to find some dinner, then headed back to sleep. Next day Salvador and I found the hostal we had heard about and moved in for another couple of days. In all we stayed in Merida 3 nights.
Monday, yeah, all museums and touristy sights are closed, so we did not get to visit the the amphitheater but got a sneak peek of it through the fence. Oh how I wish I could have been standing in the middle of it. Just for the sheer feeling of ancient energy. We did get to see some of the other Roman ruins and now wish to go back as a tourist.
My purpose for staying in Merida was to rest the leg/hip/foot issue and find a therapist for it. Took a while, but finally I found someone who could see me and off I went to his office. He is called a quiromasajista, like a combination chiropractor and massage therapist. I renamed him quiromasadista! Octavio Augusto, how is that for a Roman name. Nice man.... until he touched me. Pain, all pain!! Definitely not like the wonderful massages I got back at home. But this was therapy, got to get that hip and leg thing resolved! At the end he pulled on my leg so hard and jerked it so violently, that I left with knee pain which I did not have when I arrived. I rested after that. The next day I went back for more!UGH, but I knew what I needed and asked him to skip the leg jerking part. Instead his helper came in too and they held me down adn turned my hip one way and my shoulders the other and I yelled at them. Oh my goodness!! But, guess what... I felt like I could walk.
Manolo and I went to a Jazz bar with live music and it was very nice. He left the next day.
Salvador and I took it easy, a little sightseeing, ate out every time. He really enjoyed the Montaditos restaurant, where there are over 100 different tiny sandwiches to choose from.

May 11 - Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos

I am walking again. So hard not to. Each time I ride I get so disappointed, for what I want to do more than anything is walk. That is why I came! So we walk. No rain, just chilly. We left before the others. Just outside town Manolo rides up and stops to say goodbye. The area is very nice. I am enjoying it, trying not to think about pain. Which right now is not so bad....but wait. I know what everyone tells me, but hey, I have to wait for the sign, what sign???? I don´t know!!! By the way, I pee often in the bushes. Salvador is very patient with me for I probably pee 4 times for each time he does. And I never throw toilet paper on the ground. I take it with me. Which is something I must mention. Compared to the Camino Frances this walk is void of litter. It is so refreshing, for I remember the CF had so much of it. Void of litter on what is considered the camino, because when in cities or along main roads there is a lot of litter, which obviously is not from pilgrims, otherwise it would also be seen along the camino. I congratulate everyone of us for being so careful about our loved Via. I had to stop and rest. My leg was hurting. Moos caught up with us and he wanted to rest a bit also. So I started walking alone slowly and told them they would catch up with me at some point soon, but that I was going to thumb a ride. I walked by a pig farm adn all those piggies were scattered around until they heard me approaching. All of a sudden it was like a pig magnet appeared (me) and they came up to the gate screaming and clammoring over each other to see me. It must have been feeding time and they thought I was the food. It was so funny I wish I had videoed instead of a picture, but here they are... It was a long time before I was on a main road that led to a major road. I stayed at the stop sign until they caught up with me. They went across the road and stayed on the camino and I turned right, onto a paved (!!!) road. It was a pretty walk today. I stayed on that side road and no one picked me up. I stopped at a small brook and rested for a bit. By now it was sunny with a chilly wind. I wrapped myself up in my sarong (multi-use, I love having it) and made it to the main road. It was a sunday.... hardly anyone on the road. I walked and walked and started getting upset that these guys were walking on a beautiful camino and I was on this highway, on asphalt, and km after km was going by. I stopped often to get the cramps to subside and finally, finally someone stopped. A young man was on his way to pick up his daughter for the day in Fuente de Cantos. He told me he liked me and wanted me to meet his daughter. We stopped to pick her up and she is adorable, 5 years old. I told him he should make a dozen of them, he laughed, rolled his eyes. Then he dropped me off at the albergue. The albergue is in an old convent. The place is very spacious, the rooms, the living area, the courtyard, the place to hang your clothes, all large. It rained and we had to hang our clothes to dry in the room. There was one room with just 2 beds and the Iranian couple had that one. They were so quiet, for any attempt at conversing was difficult. They knew none of our languages and we did not know theirs. But lots of smiles. They burned incense and it wafted into our room, I loved it, for I am carrying the same incense they are burning. Something in common. I met Peter from Galway,Ireland and we went out for a beer. The guy is young... first young person I met besides my son, and he is teaching English in Salamanca. Peter is learning Japanese, for he is going to Japan to teach English. That is his work. Travel and get to know the world and teach English. Great way to see the world. I enjoyed our conversations, they were deep. Notice I am not writing anything about my feelings,sentiments, etc.... this blog is for me to remember what I did, who I met, where I went. My thoughts, feelings are mine to keep. The Via, like the CF gives time to reflect, to plan, etc. Everyone I have known comes away with positive mental experiences. Although I do love reading other people´s blogs where they share intimate emotional experiences. I went into the chapel. Since it is Sunday, all is closed except for that bar, so we all ended up eating dinner there. The place was full of men all watching the bullfights, a commom thing to do in the evenings. I know it bothers many people, but I don´t let it bother me. It is their customs, their traditions. And I can see it is changing as younger people in Spain are feeling different ethically from the older generation. TOTAL 22 KILOMETERS. I DID ABOUT 18 OF THOSE!

May 10 - Real to Monesterio

Funny episode during the night. I was sound asleep and at one point I felt something on my leg. I opened my eeyes and waited to feel more and decided it was my sleeping bag settling down onto my leg. Then I felt it a little firmer against my leg. OK, is someone trying to get into bed with me? Manolo? Who? HAhaha. I sit up quickly and turn to look and banged my head onto the bunk above. Nothing there. So I threw my covers open, thinking snake, and hear a meeooowwww. PHEW!! I pushed the cat off my bed and he jumped back on it, so I shooood him out the door, which apparently can be pushed open by the cat. I put a chair up to it so that he cannot get back in. This morning Finnish guy was the first one up and I wonder what he thought. The bikers left early. Manolo is also on bike. He started in Sevilla, is biking to Santiago then the Camino Frances to SJPP and then home to Albacete where he lives. Quite the trek! He left next with plans to meet later in Monesterio. I made the decision to bus to Monesterio due to my leg thing (grrrr) so Salvador and Moos left together. Yeah, well, there is no bus service on Saturday. So I had to hire a taxi and I was in Monesterio in a flash (30 € later). He charges 30€ whether he is taking one or 4 pilgrims, one or 10 rucksacks. I checked into a hostal, because there are no albergues there. I bought a few groceries and waited for the guys. Manolo arrived first adn checked into another hostal. Salvador and Moos arrived and after resting a bit, we went to a museum of the Via de la Plata (not mentioned in the CSJ guide, by the way). It is pouring now. Amazing how little the rain has actually fallen on us while walking. Really, none. But at night, downpours! The weather is now much chillier. Skies overcast and very windy. I have no pictures of today. Maybe Salvador does and he walked a TOTAL 21 KILOMETERS.

May 9 - Almaden to Real de la Jara

The 3 of us (Moos, Salvador and I) were the last to leave. Angel woke me up, gave me a piece of paper with his phone number and told me he was going to walk further ahead today. This 75 year old man is walking 40+ kilometer days from now on. Puts some of us to shame (not because how fast he´s walking the Via, but because his body can do so much)! On we went and it was another nice walk. The skies are overcast and a bit chilly. Unfortunately, it was another road day! See, the Guardia Civil yesterday as well as the woman of the albergue told me the road through the private estate was closed now. Pissed me off!! Why? When we got to Real de la Jara, Esmeralda told me that nooooo, the estate was open and that the road was beautiful! The CSJ guide says it is open, but we went with what the people had told us and bummer, they were wrong. Several of us were disappointed with this. Lesson.... ???
Either way, it was a nice walk, for the sides of the road we walked on was full of farms with bulls, sheep and those black (yummy ham) pigs. Oak trees in abundance, for these pigs eat acorns, which helps make their ham the best tasting in the world! The scents of the bushes, the flowers is intoxicating. I do not know the name of it, but the scent of church incense is all around us. The flowers from those bushes are blooming. I love it! The stork nests, which are on every corner of every tall building, especially churches are occupied by the mamas and little little babies. I can see their little bills poking over the sides of the nests. I cannot wait to see them taking their first flights. We are now in town and went to the ayuntamiento to get our credenciales stamped and pay our fees but it was closed with a note to go to the woman´s house who works there and let her know we are here. We do so; I notice I am limping a little more than earlier today and feel much pain. hmmm. We went back to the albergue which is at the beginning edge of town. You walk into a dining room and there are bedrooms on wither side with a small kitchen. It feels like you are in a cave, and have to duck yourhead as you go from room to room. The flies....oh my,the flies! Dozens of them in there. UGH! Salvador passed the time catching them. Then he and Moos went to the castle to explore it. At night it is lit up. Finally we go back to the ayuntamiento and wait for the woman. We meet a young man from Finland who speaks perfect Spanish. As we pay, Manolo arrives. Manolo is someone who had contacted me through a forum I belong to. We had hoped to meet and exchanged phone numbers. I recognized him right away when he arrived and we hugged. So cool we were able to accomplish a meeting. We went back to the albergue and was happy we were staying on the second floor. Spacious, wonderful and NO FLIES! Moos, Manolo, Salvador and I went to town and had tapas for dinner. We let Manolo order since he knew what sounded good and we had an enjoyable dinner. The pain in my leg is worrying me. TOTAL 16 KILOMETERS