Friday, 24 April 2015

Caseras to Aldeanueva del Camino - 579kms to go

Friday in Caseras was heaving with couples, families and lovers strolling under the high walls of the old town. The buzz whizzed around the large main square like swarming bees and the cafes in the collonaded walkways could hardly cope with the orders that were flooding across their radar.

I picked a sunny corner of the square and, sophisticate that I am, wrapped my lips around a three cheeses pizza The size of an aircraft carrier and sipped vino blanco from a bottle.

I had no problem finding my hotel as I had hung my washing on the second floor balcony that was my bedroom and the steady drip of water onto the street had some townsfolk wondering why the weather forecaster had missed the shower they were passing under.

I did consider another night but instead opted to have a gentle stroll to a tiny town called Casar de Caseras. There I found a pharmacy, bought some blister plasters and enquired as to the whereabouts of the aubergue. The Chemist beckoned me out of the shop and I followed him down the street into a noisy bar before he shook my hand and left The bar owner got his stamp out and beckoned for my pilgrim passport. He checked it, stamped it, and it was his turn to march out of his shop with me hopping along after him.

Across from the bar an L shaped two story building with the obligatory red tiled roof was approached by a grand set of steps which in turn led to the familiar dormitory of beds. He shook my hand, I made a donation into his tin and without a word that I understood being spoken I was once more homed for  the night.

I followed the instructions for the shower, which said I had to wait for the container to fill, so I waited, and waited, and eventually it started to drip, then stream then flood. I had no idea how long this bonanza of hot water would last as I had no idea as to the size of the container. So I soaped and sluiced in record time. 

Returning to the bar to type my blog a very old lady meandered her way across the road clinging to her walking frame, spoke to me and sat beside me. I told her I was English and did not speak Spanish. She ignored this and was more than happy to rattle on to me and I was more than happy to shake or nod my head where the inflection in her voice made it seem appropriate. Thirty minutes later she left. We were two strangers who had enjoyed each other's company without understanding one word of what was said. I did, though, notice that her walking frame used wheels, I wonder what she would have considered to be a reasonable offer for it

The weather was due to turn for the next few days and thunder storms were forecast. I wanted to get to Salamanca by the end of the month and to do that meant yomping along which meant an early and dark start from the hostel. Fortunately my head torch found the first arrow easily and from then It was plain sailing. A broad grit path through undulating countryside where plates of granite lay on the surface meant good headway could be made. The views were long and clear and if ir stayed like that I would be happy for it meant rain was not imminent . I had some 39kms to cover to Canavarel and had arranged lunch in such a way that I could get at it without having to stop, which I didn't,arriving at the excellent and modern Hostel Turistico at around 2.30. 

The  only thing that might have stopped me was a dog. All are either chained or behind bars but this one, quite large, was in the middle of the track. I picked up a few big stones but kept my pace. The dog sniffed in my direction, I could see that it was blind, old and covered in sores. If it were my dog it would by now be enjoying the everlasting sleep. I didn't need the stones.

Passing the reservoir at Alacantara

I looked out the window the following day and I could see very little through the sheets of rain that were thundering down. The only thing moving was a ginger cat racing for all was worth along the road. It was going so fast I fully expected to see a man with a red hot poker in close attendance. I asked the local sage when it would stop. 9am I was told. At 10.30 it stopped. I slid my poncho over my head and stepped out. I hadn't gone two kilometres when it started again. I put my head down and best foot forward, which was a mistake, because I missed a yellow arrow and ended up going an hour out of my  way. The one good thing I did get out of it was that I met this little fellow. From what I can find out it is Fire Salamander. I called him Spot.

The sun came out eventually and, as if in apology, the countryside sprung to life in an explosion of colour and the 280 degree views from my elevated trail were stunning. Distant rolling hills, two elderly granite viaducts. Protrusions of granite formed mini mountains in the fields where the cows and horses were steaming in the warm sun while lapping the fresh water from the newly filled dew ponds. You could even here the grass growing. A number of kites thought it would be a good idea to go hunting and myriad butterflys danced around the vegetation like drunken ballerinas. 

My destination was the little hilltop walled town of Galisteo. My courtship with Mother Nature was to come to end end as another huge bank of black cloud came up from the south-west. I was only an hours walk from the town but sufficient distance away to ensure that everything that had dried out would soon be soaking again. The spots of rain became heavier and as I struggled to get my poncho over my head a car stopped alongside me. The driver, a young man, opened the door and told me to get in. Now I know one is not supposed to talk to strange men but I had know him for at least five seconds and the rain was beginning to bucket down. I couldn't get in fast enough

It turns out he was the manager of the local hostel that I was aiming to spend the night in. Now I must have done something decent in my life but I can't for the the love of me remember when. Still, gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

It was Sunday and I was short of food for the next day. Simply nothing other than bars open in these remote villages on a Sunday, so 'twas more in hope than expectation that I tramped up the hill and through the main gate of the old town. Sure enough the local Spar was closed. I ambled around and noticed tucked away and easy to miss in the corner of the main square another general store. I went over and shook the door, closed. As I walked away a lady came from and adjacent house and opened the shop, switched on the lights, put her hand on her ample hips, and waited. I made my purchases and left. She switched the lights off, locked up and left too. Not a word as a exchanged. Looking back on it that evening, if I didn't have the goods as proof, I could easily believed I had dreamt the whole thing.

It was a nice hostel and I had paid for breakfast. I counted that there were eight beds and six breakfast packs laid out. I new exactly what would happen if I wasn't careful. So I took my pack and put it in my rucksack. If someone was going to dip out it wasn't going to be me. By the time I had got back from using the Internet in the local cafe I saw that five other people had had the same idea.

I am a little behind schedule now if I want to arrive in Salamanca on Thursday, so tomorrow will be a 50kms day . At the least the sun is going to shine.

There were eight men last night in rows of four double bunks in line against the walls. There were only two that snored, the chap,in the bunk below me and the one whose feet were closer to my ear that I would rather have them. So I appointed myself snore monitor. When the chap,in the lower bunk started I would jump on my bed, and when the other started I would rattle his bed bar. Sometimes I bumped when I should have rattled and vice versa but it did work as I fell asleep during the middle of a bump.

My breakfast pack that I had secreted in my underpants where not even the fearless would dare to go consisted of two packets of biscuits, two lemon fingers, and a Tetra pack of milk and orange. Some people are very good opening these packs but not me. In the absence of scissors I rip it with me teeth and the contents invaiarablybfo into the other chaps coffee. And so it came to pass today, except that it was the orange juice that ended up in the  coffee. I he didn't notice as he was happy to drink it.

I started out at 7am, but I did have a get out clause if the trip proved too much. The first ten kms was on road which, after the town of Carcaboso, gave way to a broad gritted track and then a walk though oak and meadows where the only thing that disturbed me was the chirp of a thousand birds and somulant clanging of cow bells. It was another of those magical little places. When I sat down for lunch the cicadas chorused in unison that I had no time for that, I still had twenty kilometres to go.

At the half way stage my bail out point came. There was a hostel just off the track. But he weather was good, the track was flat and easy and I was half way there. I pressed on with no one else in sight.

The weather remained fair except for catching a few drops from the rain that was fallong on the nearby mountains many of which were snow topped. It was light and sweet rain and actually very welcome as it had been hot. A few kms from my destination, Aldeanueva del Camino, I came across a German lady on her own. She was in some distress as she couldn't find her way to the town we were both going to. She had got herself into such a state she had even rung home to see if someone could check out the lie of the land on Google maps. The trouble was, she was four foot nothing and the yellow arrow she was looking for was on a post some ten foot from the ground and hidden by vegetation. I took her hand, calmed her down and showed her the sign. Her relief was instant. 

She followed at a discreet distance behind me into  the town and having done my Superman bit I hoped that I didn't get lost. Eventually she peeled off and I assume went to her hostel.

It was luxury for me tonight. A motel at the end of the town, the sort that has a bath with step In it that is so small you can rub your nose with your knees while scrubbing your privates. Still, it got me clean, it got me a good nights sleep, and I am now once again on schedule to reach Salamaca by Friday. 

You may wounder why it is important to me to get there on that date. It's simply that I want to take my day off there as the 1st of May is my 68th birthday.

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