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Saturday, 14 April 2012

Via de la Plata Guillena to Castilblanco

Via de la Plata  Guillena to Castilblanco Day 2

Sunday 18th September 2011

Shayne - our track stretching away.
With our backpacks ready to go upstairs we were breakfasting on the terrace by 8.30am. I was carrying oat flakes to bulk out my  coffee and roll breakfast and asked Patricia for cold milk, a bowl and a spoon. I got hot milk, a large cup and a teaspoon. We spoke to the cyclists from the day before as they prepared their bikes. Cycling 70kms a day, they were aiming to arrive in Salamanca the following Saturday. Halfway through the day depending on where they had got to, they would phone ahead to reserve accommodation.

The German pilgrims from the day before made an appearance on the breakfast terrace and sat at the next table. Shayne is a fluent German speaker and we were relieved to learn that when the woman hadn't felt well enough to continue in the relentless heat,  her husband had walked back to Santiponce to get a taxi which had leapfrogged them on to Guillena. They were going to take three weeks to reach Santiago de Compostela.

Laden with enormous tortilla rolls prepared and wrapped in the Hotel Francés kitchen we set off at 9.30. Crossing the Huelva river on the town outskirts we headed north on the A 464. The yellow arrows had disappeared. A kindly motorist, perhaps sensing our uncertainty, stopped and pointed us towards a Polígono in the distance from where our path would leave the road. Overhead microlight planes circled.

Easy walking under the cork oaks

It was a relief to leave the road and walk through olive groves and fruit tree plantations. For an hour we climbed steadily, breathing deeply and purifying ourselves physically and mentally. Saturday cyclists passed us on our track, calling out friendly greetings and warning us of how many more of the group were still to come. The signs had picked up again and we praised the local association of Friends of the Camino for their good work. It was getting hotter but from our experiences of the day before we had decided to remain hydrated and drink at regular intervals and most certainly before we got thirsty. The olive groves gave way to Mediterranean pines and oak trees.

Mike - map and communications check.
We stopped to eat our giant carbohydrate packed Hostal Frances bocadillos near a tall Milario, a mile stone marked Camino de Santiago - Via de la Plata. I put a stone on for my good friend Philip. Despite the heat we were going strongly and after leaving our dusty country road and joining the A 8002, we built up speed walking on the narrow asphalt verge. Once, approaching a sharp curve we had to step smartly into the ditch when two cars approached each other both well over the speed limit. After our blissful earlier 7km stroll through the olive groves and oak forests this stretch was not so enjoyable. Two kilometres before Castilblanco we were able to walk safely on a parallel side road.

Our hostal Hospedería de la Plata was practically at the entrance to  Castilblanco. From the outside it looked definitely more upmarket than the previous night's accommodation. In our planning, Shayne had researched hostals along the route before we set off and I had made the reservations.

On entry I was greeted by name which I liked, perhaps there weren't too many other father and daughter pilgrims arriving that day? Of course we had a celebratory cold beer before going up to our room. Reading the day's newspaper I was struck by a photo of the Guardia Civil taking measurements on a section of road we had just walked along. In a sensational accident which gripped Spain four months earlier, the Spanish rancher and bullfighter José Ortega Cano had been returning to his nearby ranch at night and collided with an oncoming car, killing the other driver. Our barman explained that the accident had taken place at Km 28 on the approaches to the urbanisation La Colina just outside Castilblanco at the very spot where we had jumped off the road.

The Pilgrim on our hostal wall. 
Our room  was very comfortable as hostals go in Spain, excellent value in fact. In the groove now, we showered, washed our smalls and hung them near the window discreetly to dry and went downstairs again for more beers mixed with 7 Up and delicious barbecued chicken wings from the Hospederia  de la Plata's chalked menu.  There is a TV in every good bar in Spain and we watched Julia Roberts in My Best Friend's Wedding. The temperature had dropped by 7pm so we walked into Castilblanco. After looking  around an photographic exhibition of churches in the village theatre we chatted to the curator who was sitting outside on a bench fanning herself. Near the square we found an ultramarinos  to buy more Aquarius and water for the next day. We calculated we were needing half a litre of liquid every thirty minutes walking in the late September heat of the middle day.

Before returning to the Hospederia de la Plata hostal we checked out our exit from Castillblanco so that we could find our pilgrims' way easily in the dark of the morning. Our friendly barman Eduardo  had advised an early start for the next day's 30km stretch. It turned out to be excellent advice.

Keeping up the tradition established two nights earlier in Seville, we had a very large glass of Pilgrims Pacharán with ice as a night cap before retiring. The night was cool and peaceful and we slept like tops.

Castilblanco to Almaden de la Plata  Day 3
Back: Via de la Plata Seville to Guillena Day 1












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