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Saturday, 13 October 2012

VDLP Hostal in Real de la Jara

A Pilgrim's Breakfast

Andalusian countryside at its best
Almaden de la Plata to Real de la Jara 17.5 kms Day 4
Blissful pigs
Castle overlooking Real de la Jara
Well deserved monument to local economy

Tuesday 20th September 2011

Having broken down the 34km walk from Almaden de la Plata to Monasterio into two stages we had time for a short lie in and rest. The only bar open was virtually next door and we breakfasted on coffee and enormous doorsteps of toasted bread baked freshly that morning in a wood oven. Two or three old men stared incuriously at the Spanish Finance minister holding forth on the large flat TV screen above our heads.

Leaving our hostal keys in the basket on the  the deserted reception desk we closed the front door behind us. Once past the banks of solar panels and trial bike track on the outskirts of Almaden de la Plata we upped our pace to wind in and out of encina tree groves passing horses, cats and dogs.  It was a lovely rural setting, the Andalusian countryside at its best. There was water everywhere, in dams, ponds and arroyos. Money from the EU for financing rural projects had ended up financing irrigation projects, piping and water

We looked at the pigs with new understanding appreciation. They were happy and munched happily on the bellota acorns that fell from the trees. We were well rested and were seeing the normally dry landscape with optimistic eyes. Goats grazed contentedly, cows ruminated placidly and the pigs, big fat hogs and sows wallowed blissfully in rainfilled holes in the road.

Signs advertising lodgings in the next villages were wired to fences. The translations were quaint, on one, 'pilgrims' became 'pilgrins.' Little did we know that one particular sign the next day would play an important part in our continued pilgrimage
on the Via de la Plata.

Two cyclists passed us as we stopped for our first rest in the shade of the deep Arroyo de la Huerta del Corcho, The first made it across the rocky stream bed and about 10 metres futher up the far bank. The second cyclist fell off in the stream. They both pushed their bikes up the steep bank, following tracks  on the rutted road. We didn't envy them at all. Our climb continued for another two kilometres and we could see our cyclists well ahead of us as we dropped down into the private lands belonging to a family, proprietors of the Macarena Hotel in Sevilla. We had another four almost level kilometres to walk across their farm. Under the shade of an oak tree we took our last break on green grass, complete silence surrounded us and we sat happily in the idyllic setting of rural Andalusian campo. On our left their country home built on a rocky outcrop towered above the landscape. A worker we met in the village that night would tell us it had 365 windows and was only used at weekends.

As we walked past the municipal albergue at the very entrance to Real de la Jara along Calle Pablo Picasso, we glimpsed our German pilgrim friends again inside.  They were sitting at the wooden table with their boots and socks outside the door. They must have set off earlier than us. Shayne and I wondered if they had actually walked to the Real de la Jara.  Much later I would come to understand that it did not matter. Every pilgrim's experience is different, it is the journey that matters, not how one travels.

Our hostal, Hostal Rural La Encina was at the very back of the industrial estate. In front were the workshops of the Polígono, at the back, the dry grass of the lands bordering the town. Shayne and I sat in the bar for our first rehydrating beer. We explained to the girl that we had a reservation. She relayed the information to the bartender who made an immediate phone call. Elsewhere in the village Encarna the owner of our hostal closed up her photography shop and came to open up our room for us. She gave us the room key and front door to the hostel asking us to leave it on the bar counter in the morning.

Hostal Rural La Encina
She explained that paying her cash on entry would save her having to come back in the morning. We decided later that as a rule of thumb, cash works best in villages of less than 5000 inhabitants. I have grown used to the two way trust that goes with staying in small villages in Andalucia and would not have it another way.

After a shower and a rest we explored the medieval castle which dominates Real de la Jara on the far side of the village. A beneficiary of EU grants it has been carefully restored. An information panel explained that it was one of a belt of castles across Andalucia which served to confine the Moors to the southern territories of Spain.

Surprisingly our seemingly isolated bar restaurant on the outskirts of the polígono came alive in the evening. Workers called in for a beer and tapas on their way home. A family from the village arrived for an evening meal. We ate well on secretos de cerdo - pork secrets with potato chips, more beer and a glass of pilgrim's pacharán.  A skinny mother fox slunk in from the darkness for a plate of chicken scraps put out by the cook. He explained that the mother had just given birth, as yet he hadn't seen the cubs. The mother fox bolted the scraps down then disappeared silently back into the night through the grass below our bedroom window.

We paid our bar bill, said goodnight to our fellow diners and went upstairs for another excellent night's sleep, the only sound we could hear was the wind in the low bushes outside our room. Could I hear a mother calling her cubs? Perhaps I dreamt it. Contented that our last day's walk awaited us, we slept soundly.

Back: Castilblanco to Almaden de la Plata Day 3
Real de la Jara to Monesterio Day 5

Here is the address for our hostal:

Hostal Rural La Encina
Polígono de la Encina 7
41250 El Real de la Jara

Tel: 00 34 652 876 827

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