I decided not to take the 40km direct hike from Castro Del Río to Córdoba; opting instead for the gentler route via Espejo and Santa Cruz, which can be split over two or three days.
I had coffee and toast in the bar next to my hotel and left Castro Del Río at 8:00am – too early to purchase one of the attractive hats on display in the window of a hunting store. I decided that I would get a hat in Espejo. After a short distance along a busy highway, the route took me along a track that more or less followed the path of the Rio Giadajoz. I realised that there was more and more arable land mixed with the olive groves. In a couple of fields I saw circles of uncultivated land that resembled the burial mounds (tumuli) that I know so well from my native Wiltshire. (Of course, the surrounding land is greener there). Sadly, I observed once again that the river banks are used for the disposal of a wide range of domestic and commercial waste. After a few kilometres I was rewarded with my first sight of Espejo – a hillside community with such pride in its castle that it built a replica at the entrance to the town – just as i was starting to feel the sun striking my head and neck with force.
I entered a hardware and home products store and asked the locals where I might find a hat or a cap. They scratched their heads as though I were looking for scuba diving gear. It turns out that there are two shops that sell clothes in the main square, but neither has hats of any description. It would be unfair to label it a one horse town, but as I made my way out of Espejo, I shared my opinion with the barking dogs that were boisterously guarding livestock: “Espejo is all cattle and no hat.”
I continued my walk towards Santa Cruz for another 12km past fields that had the remnants of the plants after harvest – I could only see the thick stalks on the ground (corn or maize? Or cane??). On the approach to Santa Cruz, a flock of sheep were bathing and drinking from the river – but they hurried back on shore as soon as I was spotted by the dog, whose barking warned them of “stranger danger.”
Santa Cruz is a much smaller community even than Espejo – with one main street, a modest church, a butcher’s shop, a hair salon and two grocery stores. I didn’t hold out much hope of finding a hat, after my Espejo experience – but I summoned up the chutzpah to ask in one of the grocery stores. To my surprise, the shopkeeper produced a stack of sombreros for 1.5 Euro each. And so stylish! I will post a selfie tomorrow, but for today I’ll share the humbling image of myself with my knotted pennant as headgear.
In the evening, I met again with my roommates from Baena, who complemented me on my new headgear. They are five (not four) retired guys from Norway. We had a chat and a laugh over dinner and parted on friendly terms. I can’t hold a grudge against them – I’ll save my ire for the owner of the albergue in Baena with no toilet facility in the dormitory block. (Nonetheless, I’m pleased that I have a private room this evening).
One for my friends in Japan: