Week 13: Mi Vuelta a España

21/10/22 – 27/11/22 230 km

Week 13 started with another act of kindness that saw me leave Mérida with a spring in my step, despite the rain. Before leaving the city I had to double back on myself and pass through the centre in order to run a few errands. As it was still really early I decided to grab a quick breakfast in a bar whilst I waited for the supermarkets to open. It was at this moment that a regular – Jaime – recognised me as a pilgrim (I suspect it was the smell) and insisted on paying for my breakfast. These small moments never cease to amaze me.

It was tipping it down by the time I left the city but I was grateful for the drop in temperature. I soon made mincemeat of the day’s first climb, although I was more than a little confused to see a couple I had passed two days previous. It turns out they took the bus! As the rain subsided I completed the morning’s walk by skirting around a reservoir that used to serve a Roman water mill.

The path then turned north and back into the beautiful green landscape of previous days. Everything was going well until I arrived in the next village to find that all of the bars were closed and there was absolutely no sign of a fountain. Little did I know that water would soon be the least of my concerns!

After leaving the village I climbed immediately back into the hills. At roughly the twenty five kilometre mark, the heavens broke. It was the heaviest rain I had seen since I started the walk. Torrential doesn’t even come close. For the most part I couldn’t tell if it was coming in sidewards or bouncing up from the ground. I was drenched within seconds. The kind of drenched where you find yourself walking through the puddles as it makes no difference. Once you’re wet, you’re wet!

After close to three excruciating hours the rain finally subsided, just as I reached the convent where I would spend the night. Typical! I had never stayed in a place like this before and was slightly reticent, however these feelings were put to one side as my mere survival became a priority. It was Baltic. There was no heat source and it quickly became apparent that none of my clothes would dry before the next day. At least the shower was warm.

The following day I was up at the crack of dawn. I forced myself into my soaking gear and made my way to the nearest bar to grab breakfast, with Klaus from Austria who had also stayed in the convent the previous night. I was freezing but at least my raincover had protected the majority of the gear in my bag.

We walked together that day, stopping twice. Once after ten kilometres for a snack in a tourist shelter and again after twenty five kilometres to eat lunch. After this we followed the motorway the rest of the way to Cáceres, where we stayed in yet another Albergue. It rained all day. At least, due to a wrong turn on my part, the final kilometre took us through the historic city centre, which I would highly recommend.

The next morning Klaus left the albergue early but I had to hang around in order to make yet another trip to Decathlón. The rain of the previous few days had shown my raincoat to be somewhat lacking and after over 1,500 km I had destroyed the insoles of my trail running shoes. I also picked up a couple of pairs of thicker socks in preparation for my transition to walking boots. I couldn’t wait to pick up the package that Cristina had sent to Salamanca.

I was in no rush leaving Cáceres, as I only had to walk twelve kilometres to Casar de Cáceres that day. There I would make the most of the Municipal Albergue at a whopping €6 per night! It was really impressive for the price. Needless to say I made the most of the free laundry and drying facilities. Although it rained the whole way there I couldn’t complain, as thanks to my new raincoat, I arrived dry. Well at least the top half, despite the cold I was still wearing my shorts!

The next morning I was chased out of the Albergue at around 8:30 by the cleaner. In her defence, I had just flooded the place, in mine, I’m certain the shower leaked! It rained the whole morning but I didn’t mind as the landscape was beautiful. It was even greener than the previous week and the views were simply stunning. I spent the last thirty minutes before lunch being followed by two dogs until I caught up with Klaus, at yet another tourist shelter.

After lunch we were forced to walk along the road, which skirted around an embalse, for around ten kilometres, before climbing once more into the hills. The last five kilometres were an absolute slog as the village appeared to get further away as we snaked our way around fields. On one of the downhill sections I nearly fell over twice due to a combination of wet polished (due to the passage of thousands of pilgrims) stone and my now slick shoes! All of these things aside, it was well worth the wait, as when we got there, it had a fire. It was the first time I had really felt warm for days!

I left the next day around 8am as the sun started to appear. The path climbed immediately out of the village and within thirty minutes I was in short sleeves for the first time in weeks. The morning was spent opening and closing gates as I made my way through endless cow fields of luscious green grass. I again caught up with Klaus and together we battled the wind before arriving at the walled town of Galisteo where we stopped for lunch.

After this we followed the road all the way to Carcaboso where we stayed in the world’s coldest Albergue. The next morning I left as the sun was rising. I was greeted to the most magnificent sunrise as the rays reflected off the first frost of the year, no wonder it was so cold the previous night. The morning was spent dodging cows as the mother’s became increasingly more protective of their young calves. At the halfway point I reached the Roman ruins of Cáparra. Yet again, I caught up with Klaus!

The afternoon was spent crossing streams. Each increasingly wider than the last, until we reached one where the stepping stones had been washed out. After some quick thinking, and more than a little ingenuity, we crossed using a makeshift bridge fashioned out of a recently felled branch. Klaus crossed on his hands and knees whereas I chose to walk across. You can imagine how quickly my heart was pounding as the log began to roll. Fortunately I managed to stay upright although I must have run at least ten metres on the spot as the log span around. It was like a scene from a cartoon!

We reached the Albergue just as the sun was setting and as it was Saturday the place was packed with tourists. It was the busiest I had seen any of the places I had stayed in and quite frankly I was glad that I wasn’t completing the Camino during one of the spring or summer months.

The next morning I left with Klaus as it would be our last day walking together. He was looking forward to a shorter day whereas I was keen to press on. We had breakfast in a bar, where a local bought me a shot of aguardiente. This was the first time I had had a shot for breakfast and I can say with conviction it will be my last. I was pissed and it wasn’t even 9 o’clock. Although it did warm my cockles – whatever that means!

We followed the road for most of the morning before embarking on a steep climb which saw us cross the border into Castilla y León, the fifth region of my trip so far. After reaching twenty kilometres I said my goodbyes to Klaus and walked on for another ten before settling down to relax in the next village. After the recent week’s company it would be one of the first nights I would spend alone since starting the Vía de la Plata.

After thirteen days of solid walking, I now have around five hundred kilometres left until I reach Santiago. I can’t wait!

3 thoughts on “Week 13: Mi Vuelta a España”

  1. I just love reading your blogs/travel journal. Packed full of personal insight and experience as well as vivid descriptions of your challenge. I feel that they would make a good book!

  2. Terry and I are so impressed by your fortitude and resilience Michael, not sure where you get the energy from to get up and get going again each morning. Love reading your blogs – definitely a book in there, you are a natural story teller! Keep warm.


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