Day 17 (14/Oct/2017): Alcaudete to Baena (25km)

Peter and his dogs accompanied me for the first steps of my walk. We parted company shortly before 7:30am and Peter gave me a printed sheet of directions for the whole day. With this, and the clear arrows that he has painted along the path, there was little risk of losing my way.
I’m in the heart of olive country now. Baena has a museum dedicated to olives and olive oil; it’s evident that the town has prospered from producing them.
Despite the weight of an extra two litres of water that I had packed, because there is no source of drinkable water on this walk, I was able to make good progress through the olive groves. I saw many workers clearing weeds from the bases of the olive trees – some with strimmers and hand tools, and one in a tractor with some kind of plough.
The path took me past a nearly dry lake with a large population of birds that were too far for me to attempt to identify. Then I reached a stream which was not too flooded for me to jump across. To my great surprise, I came across what looked like a market stall in the middle of nowhere – with a display of fruit, soft drinks, and so on. It emerged that this was a support van for a group of cyclists who would soon pass through. The driver kindly offered me some fresh water. I filled my bottle, gladly taking on the added weight, as the temperature had risen to 31 and there was little shade on the path. I later met a couple of the cyclists – They were from NYC and loving the scenery and the experience of cycling in Spain.
As I neared Baena, I noticed that the olives were turning colour from green to purple and I detected a scent of olive oil, which discovered probably wasn’t from the fruit on the trees but from a nearby mill – intimidatingly massive and industrial, in contrast to the light, gentle, olive trees, whose fruit it processed.
I walked into the centre of town shortly after 2:00pm, just in time to see a wedding party emerge from the church – the men and women uncomfortably hot in their finery. My path to the supermarket was strewn with rose petals and rice.
For the first time since I started this Camino, I’m sharing a large dormitory room with other hikers. A group of older men from one of the Nordic countries, who whistle, and speak in outside voices, and leave toenail clippings on the tiled floor. They didn’t return my greeting and they seem happy with their own company. There’s also a younger pilgrim who speaks Spanish well. This route suddenly feels crowded.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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