Day 17: Aldeanueva Del Camino to Baños de Montemayor (13 Kms)

Aldeanueva Del CaminoAnother cold but brilliantly clear morning greeted us as we began da 17 on the Via de la Plata. Today was a short day to Baños de Montemayor. Tomorrow will be a 32 Km day and without this short day it would have been 43 Kms. That is too much for our feet these days so we set our destination on Baños forget tonight’s layover. The guidebook mentioned taking a detour through the village of Hervás which is reported to have one off the best kept Jewish barrios in Spain. As we came to the turnoff we decided to go have a look. An hour later we were in Hervás, a very charming tourist oriented town. We poked around a bit, went over to the old Jewish neighborhood and wandered a bit through there. All very nice especially under the crystal clear blue skies. A bracing autumn wind kept temperatures cool to cold as we climbed up and down. Eventually we found a connecting road to our beloved companion, the N 630, and 30 minutes later we turned right on it and set our course for Baños. A little less than an hour later we were walking into Baños. We found our way to the Plaza Mayor and the one bar that seemed to have every shivering person in the neighborhood in there ordering some sort of fortified coffee. We had ours before departure in Aldeanueva (thinking ahead) and avoided the surge at the bar in Baños. We have booked into another Casa Rural, Los Postigos. Very nice and very well heated (big plus). We will push off for Fuenterrobles de Salvatierra In the morning. Not many photos to post today as I somehow deleted them from my camera’s memory card as I was clearing memory storage on my iPad. I believe I know what not to do going forward. Fingers crossed. All is well. Hervás with Jewish Barrio to leftHervásHervás Posted with Blogsy

A Focus on the Rebels, Tulips of the Valley Festival

Ever since I began visiting the Tulips of the Valley Festival, about a 1.5 hour drive east of Vancouver, Canada, years ago, I have become enamoured with the rebel tulip. What exactly is a rebel tulip? It’s not a term you find in Wikipedia (not yet). Is it a tulip that has gone bad? Maybe […]

The Hermit is a Pig

Me and Una, in happier timesI am almost finished being a hermit.I switched everything off this month so I could write a book. I am almost finished. I am getting ready to climb out of my little cave and peer into the sunlight, my clothes hanging off my withered form, my skin white, my ink-stained hands shaking…Well, no. I only wish that writing books made me skinny!Writing books only makes me boring, I’m afraid. I don’t have a lot to talk about besides the book, and most of that is technical stuff that’s only interesting to me.There’s been some animal-related drama: Norman Cat’s dreams came true, and while we were out one morning, he pulled down the cage with Silent Sid inside, and slew the poor canary. I found Sid breathing his last, out back by the washing machine. He died, I cried, I buried him under the olive tree. Rest in Peace, Sid.Lulu has four stitches in one of her front paws. She cut herself running out in the Promised Land, which this time of year is alive with little roe deer and great moving clouds of songbirds and hunters bent on their destruction. The fields are full of dead sunflowers, row on row, a sobering, artistic Anselm Keifer kind of severity. Writing is becoming less interesting these days. I think I am ready to be finished, ready to strap on my boots and get out in the ditches and clean up some pilgrim trash.Yes, I am a strange woman. Each year, I actually look forward to spending several winter days on the boring awful Meseta, cleaning up other people’s trash with a group of like-minded individuals. I am not sure just why, but people who do this are called “Ditch Pigs.” The Camino Cleanup starts at the end of this week, with volunteers coming from Switzerland, England, the United States, and Spain. Eleven donors gave us enough money to each dine on a Menu del Dia every day for five days! I hope to clear a swath from San Anton in Castrojeriz right on out to Calzadilla de los Hermanillos, or maybe do a couple of days’ walks north on the Camino de Madrid, from Villalon de Campos to Sahagun — depending on what the volunteers want to do. And the weather. And how bad it is out there.  Ditch Pigs to the Rescue! Picking up trash is itself a hermetic practice. It has a lot going for it, spiritually — not just the obvious Service to Mankind and Nature stuff, but the long days of physical labor, much of it done alone. Ditch Pigs aren’t burdened with backpacks like pilgrims are, so they can duck and dive and stretch down low, and leave the filled-up bag along the Way to be picked up later. While they’re working, they’re thinking. They’re pilgrimmy that way — the camino juju gives a Pig all kinds of philosophical grist to contemplate, even as they crush water bottles and spear tissues and rake out little streams.We wonder what kind of fool flies a thousand miles to walk a pilgrim trail, then drops litter on it. We wonder why the rise in the number of North Americans has a concomitant rise in the number of white toilet-paper tissues left along the trail. It seems my countrymen have a toilet paper addiction, or are overly fastidious in their outdoor weewee practices. When they finish they feel daisy-fresh. But everyone coming along later gets to see their “paper rose.” One sometimes contemplates the redemptive and preventive power of portable rocket launchers. The problem is, we so rarely actually see anyone drop trash on the camino. We can’t blow up anyone without good evidence and due process and all that civilized crap.So we soldier on. And each year, there’s less of a mess for us to clear up.  This summer a litter cleanup campaign headed up the the Japanese Amigos group had people picking up trash all over the caminos. And over in Galicia, a Spanish group just this weekend cleared up a goodly swath of trail.Hats off to AGACS cleanup crew!Things are looking up out there, I say. From inside my warm, dark cave. Where I need to scribble more, more more before the week is out, before I emerge into the light.

Day 16: Cáparra to Aldeanueva del Camino (20 Kms)

Today was a repositioning day. We spent the night in Plasencia and then right after breakfast we caught a cab to Cáparra. This was supposed to leave us with an 18 Kms walk but it just seemed a bit more according to our walking speed. Nothing scientific here just a hunch it is a wee bit longer than what the guide books say. Could be wrong as well. We had a great stay in Plasencia. We just wandered around the old city and eventually went to the 7:00 pm mass at the cathedral. Beautiful setting. Beautiful mass. So many prayers to offer and such great gratitude for coming this far. It has been a wonderful journey. We parted company without our Korean friend, Hae. She had some blisters and decided to take a bus to Aldenueva and walk on to Baños de Montemayor. So she is now a day ahead of us.The first thing we saw this morning was the Roman arch at Cáparra. Many people have passed through this ancient arch but it still gets your heart rate up when you think about the civilization that could produce such things. To realize that the Via de la Plata passes right under it is a kind of a special treat. But it was soon time for us to be on our way to Aldeanueva. Today was the first day I wore my wool beanie. Temps were in the mid forties and only rose a notch or two above that all day. It was dry to start but as we moved along it was evident that change was in the air. As I watched the distant hillsides I could see low hanging nimbus slowly descending their flanks. Sooner or later we would meet. Just after noon a light rain started to fall and stayed with us for just over an hour. Not bad. We chugged along under the cozy dry canopies of our umbrellas and wondered where the heck this village of Aldeanueva was. It just seemed to draw back as we drew forward. Would we ever get there? We renewed our acquaintance with the N 630 for a bit, wandered off into the hillsides for a bit, and came back to the N 630 just as we approached our destination. Our lodging for tonight is the Casa Rural Caminante. Oddly enough it is right on the N 630. We had a reservation, but had to ring señora to come let us in. She was very nice as she buzzed around explaining switches, washing machine, door keys and who knows what as it all came in a machine gun burst of Spanish. I did much better with her daughter who actually handled the paperwork. I would guess she was around 10, and very professional. She soon had me checked in and the señora swept her up in her whirlwind vortex and departed. Big smiles all the while. It is a 3 bedroom new home. Robin and I have paid 40 euros for the entire house for one night. There is a fire burning in the grate. The laundry, fresh out of a brand new washing machine, is strung across it, and Robin and I are enjoying some left over wine from a late meal at the Bar/Restaurante Seba, which is 300 meters down the street. Just a note on how jam packed that bar was. Yes, it is a Sunday, and perhaps nobody in this village cooks on Sunday, because that is the only way I could explain the throng of people trying to get seated for a meal. It was absolute chaos, even by Spanish standards. Even close to 4:00 pm they were coming in three’s and four’s. The noise level was defeaning. The man and woman running the place were putting a brave face on it, but it was crazy. Maybe it was free food Sunday. Wow, what a scene. My head is still ringing. But, we are very well situated, stomachs are full, and now with the laundry taken care of we can think of bed. Another day on the Camino. Another gift to be grateful for. Loving that fireplace as well.And one with Robin in itLeaving CáparraFollowing the roadThe sky is changingClearing up, camera back out Posted with Blogsy

Day 15: Galisteo to Plasencia (19 Kms)

GalisteoToday we awoke to our first few drops of rain. After two weeks of dry weather we had to break out our umbrellas. It was just a few passing showers, but we got a good hosing down for about an hour or so before the sky cleared and dried us out. We hatched a plan to walk to Carcabosa today and then taxi to Plasencia where we will spend the night. Tomorrow we will taxi to Caparra to pick up the Via de la Plata and walk 18 Kms to Aldeanueva del Camino. All this came about as we struggled to find a place to stay, that was on the Camino, between Caracabosa and Aldeanueva Del Camino. It all worked out fine and Plasencia turned out to be a little gem of a city that we otherwise would have missed. So we walked along the road through the passing rain showers, and then called into the Bar Via de la Plata, in Carcabosa, for a coffee where the owner was happy to call a taxi for us. Hae, our Korean peregrina, also came with us. We are all meeting at the cathedral for the 7:00 pm mass. We had a very lazy afternoon and simply wandered around enjoying the old town. Back to work tomorrow. But this was a nice break.Robin and HaePlaza Mayor Plasencia Main altar In the cathedral in Plasencia Posted with Blogsy

Day 14: Cañaveral to Galisteo (28 Kms)

Just setting out this morningWe got out the door and onto the N 630 at 8:30 which carried us along uphill and out of town. Today’s walk has been redirected in some areas so the actual distance we walked is based in part on our best guess for average speeds where posted distances were not available. As we moved along following the arrows we found ourselves in some quite beautiful, almost park like, settings. In fact the entire distance from Cañaveral to Riolobos was a feast for the eyes. A very peaceful and enjoyable walk. The downside was that from Riolobos to Galisteo (8kms) we walked on a paved road with no shoulders. Admittedly, it was lightly traveled but still managed to produce some heavy trucks and large tour type buses. Perhaps it was the formation of vultures circling above us, or maybe it was the wide eyed girl rounding a corner with tires screeching and the rear of the car starting to overtake the front, that gave us pause to consider the safety of this road. But all in all it was a grand day. We arrived can at 3:30 and called the number posted at the door of the Albergue Touristico. Following the directions offered we found the key in the mailbox and let ourselves in. The dueña would be by later to check us in. We did all the usual stuff and shuffled down to the nearby Bar Los Imigrantes for a couple of beers. A bit later our new Korean friend, Hae, walked and joined us for a beer. So now it looked like it would be just the three of us at the albergue. But hold on a trio of Spanish cyclists have also pulled up in front of the bar and are inquiring about the albergue. So now our merry band of travelers is up to 6. Only 2 beds left. It’s a hot spot after all. Hostal/albergue CañaveralThis will burn off breakfastStart of the new diversion Posted with Blogsy

Day 13: Cáceres to Cañaveral (43 Kms)

Waiting for our ride in CáceresThis morning we sorted out a plan to avoid walking 43 Kms today. This change in plans arose from the fact that the one hostal open in Embalse de Alcántara, our next stop, was fully booked by fishing enthusiasts. So we taxied to Casar de Cáceres (11 Kms) and then walked to Cañaveral (32 Kms) instead. It turned out to be a challenging, but doable day for us. Breakfast at our hotel started at 8:00 so we were a bit late getting underway. But we still managed to waive goodbye to our taxi driver at the Camino trailhead in Casar and get moving by 9:40. The clear weather in Cáceres slowly dimmed as pockets of fog and mist gradually moved in to embrace the trail leaving Casar. But, nonetheless we were off, and happy to be moving northward. Today was a two part story. The first part was picture perfect Camino conditions. Our morning walk temperatures hung steady at 50 F. The trail was packed gravel road which made for very easy walking. As there were no other pilgrims with us today we took advantage of what we had, which was cows, and sheep. We enjoyed their innocent gaze that followed us as we moved by. Why are you staring at us? Never seen a pilgrim before? I guess it was just a slow news day. We moved along passing through farm gate after farm gate until we raised the reservoir. This is where the second part begins. We took a small detour around a highway construction project and wound up on the N 630 highway. We pounded that pavement for, I’m guessing, 6-7 Kms. This eventually brought us across the Tajo River and past the hostal where we had hoped to spend the night, but no room at the inn so onward we went in search of Cañaveral, 11 Kms further on. Just past the hostal we moved off the highway and back on trail but it was quite rocky, and stayed that way until we were about 4 Kms from Cañaveral where it smoothed out. At 5:15 we arrived at the Hostal/Albergue Cañaveral, tired but okay. As we checked in we met a new Camino friend from Korea. I explained that Robin was also from Korea and soon I couldn’t understand a word being said. Her name is Hae and she is going as far as Zamora. Dinner followed and bed soon after. It was a good day. We shall see what tomorrow will bring. Leaving Casar de CáceresAnother Roman millarios (mile marker)Cañaveral Posted with Blogsy

RoozenGaarde Tulips, Remembrance Day & More, Photos of the Week, Nov. 7 to 13

This past week started off with my awareness that my name was mentioned in an online article in The Toronto Star. It wasn’t for something I did as a writer or blogger specifically, but for a tweet I made congratulating Canada’s new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau. It was nice to be mentioned anyway and you can […]