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Wednesday, 18 April 2012

VDLP Almaden de la Plata

Shayne on the long hot road from Castilblanco
Castilblanco to Almaden de la Plata 30kms 
Day 3

Monday 19th September 2011

Martha the owner of Hospederia de la Plata was up at 7am to make breakfast for us before she did
the school run with her two daughters. She chatted as she cooked us a hot breakfast. With 16 kilometres on asphalt coming up Martha told us that we would be passing the enormous finca belonging to José Ortega Cano the bullfighter. Still a controversial case, the Guardia Civil's report established he had been driving too fast in  the accident I mentioned yesterday and was three times over the legal alcohol limit.  A well known personality, once married to the legendary singer Rocio Jurado  he is an important figure locally. With powerful friends would justice be done we wondered?

By 7.20am we were walking through the dark village. A few bars were open. Men nursed coffees or their first drink of the day. We headed towards the cool glow in the east then swung north walking in single file. Wearing a white shirt I walked ahead on the narrow verge and then as the day lightened, Shayne wearing a red shirt walked in front I timed us against the kilometre posts. We were walking at a steady 5km an hour. We passed the imposing entrance to the bull fighter's ranch Finca Dehesa Yerbabuena   Take a break, click through and you'll see the great man, glimpse his fighting bulls and his imposing spread. Take note of the countryside for your Camino!

After three steady hours on the black road, the last hour really dragged. The hard asphalt was relentless, the soles of my feet hurt. We leapfrogged an Italian couple  few times. She was in her fifties, the man in his seventies. She strode ahead, waited for him and then set off again when he caught up. Ahead of us on the highest point on the SE 185 road we could see a gigantic antenna, part of a regional communications project. Hours later we would peer back to find it and and marvel at how far we had walked

Not a moment too soon we turned off at the entrance to the Parque Nacional de los Berrocales. A taxi pulled up next to us. The Germans got out, they looked fresh. They had started the morning by posting excess baggage back to Germany from the Castilblanco post office and then hired a taxi to carry them over the 16 long kilometres of asphalt. They must have seen Shayne and I looking sideways at each other. Pilgrims in taxis? They explained that they had already walked the Camino Frances, some 870km and felt they had earned the right to travel in a taxi when they felt like it. New pilgrims ourselves, Shayne and I did not argue with them. It gave us something to talk about during what was now an endless winding walk through the redbarked national cork oak forest.  
We walked from far beyond the horizon

Almaden de la Plata - great little village
 We passed the Casa Forestal and a garaged yellow fire truck. A lake appeared down to our right, it looked tempting. We checked out the long abandoned buildings of the Pueblo de los Berrocales. The day was hot. Ahead of us we could see a low range of hills. It was the Cerro del Calvario marking 27.5km along our route. We laboured up a climb of 130 metres on a steep, stony  track. From the lookout at the top we had a first glimpse of Almaden de la Plata below us. Looking back we could see coloured shirts on the track we had just come up. They were cyclists. Suddenly they were upon us, three sweating, muscular young men on mountain bikes. They would be in Santiago de Compostela in five days. Before nightfall they would have cycled 170kms. Shayne and I looked at each again.

Our descent into Almaden de la Plata was slow, the track was rough and our feet hurt. We startled two enormous fat hogs who leapt from their cooling mud bath. We found Hostal el Romeral easily. It was locked. Shayne rang the number on the door and José appeared from around the corner. He gave us the keys to the hostal and said he would be back in the morning. Our downstairs room on the corner was cooled by a welcome through breeze.  It was a large bedroom with an equally large bathroom and the water was hot and plentiful. We were happy and very satisfied with our performance, after showering we changed, rested and then set out to check on the village.

Meet the Germans

We found the German couple in one of the plazas in Almadena de la Plata, a village we were becoming very fond of. They had walked into the village, asked for the albergue and an elderly man had offered them a bedroom in his house for a few euros. We chatted to them before dining at Casa Concha. The meat is highly recommended, we had barbecued secreto and ribs. I'm not a great pork eater but even allowing for my hunger this was the best tasting pork I have had in Spain. It had been a long, hot, tiring day and to accompany our dinner we rehydrated with ice cold beers and ice filled glasses of Patcharan. We were in bed by 10.30pm. There was no traffic at all in the village and it was a very silent night with the gentle breeze blowing softly on our faces all night long.

Almaden de la Plata to Real de la Jara Day 3
Back to Guillena to Castilblanco Day 2

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