Day 24 (21/Oct/2017): Villaharta to Alcaracejos (35 or 38km?)

I was lucky to have perfect weather for today’s long walk with quite a bit of up and down.
Michel and I had breakfast together at the Bar Mirasierra, in whose rooms we had stayed and set off at about 7:30am on the main road out of town. The bar owner had told us not to follow the first sign onto the track but to carry on on the road past the first bend and pick up the path from there. This advice was repeated by an old man who was walking his dog, so against our instincts to get off the road, we carried on and saved ourselves a few metres of walking.
Michel is accustomed to walking in the Pyrenees, near his home. He walks at a similar pace to me, but relentlessly; never breaking for a bite to eat, and rarely interrupting his stride to take a photograph. I felt that it was a good thing to have him as my pacemaker on this long walk. It was instructive to see how far ahead he got, each time I paused to photograph the landscape or an interesting piece of moss on a stone.
At about 10:30am we came across a pilgrim from Brno in Czech Republic, Ladislav, who appeared to be sitting by the path with the entire contents of his rucksack emptied around him. He is walking the Camino from Malaga the hard way; he has a lot of equipment, including a gas stove and utensils to cook for himself, and he sleeps under the stars most nights – although he told us that he planned to use the municipal Albergue this evening, where pilgrims can stay in exchange for a donation of whatever they can afford. He offered us a glass of wine from his bottle, which we declined. Ladislav caught up with us at the fresh water tap that a local farmer has kindly provided at the half way point of this walk. But with the extra weight in his pack, his pace was slower than ours so we didn’t spend much time together.
The views on this leg of the Camino were wonderful – staring with a beautiful sunrise through the mists in the valleys around Villaharta, progressing through holm oak meadows, and later a mix of Holm oak, beautiful Mediterranean pine trees (French name: Pins parasols, which is perfect, isn’t it?), and a low bushy kind of plant that I hope to identify soon.
I also had my first encounter with Spain’s famous Pata Negra pigs today. They roam “free range” among holm oaks, feasting on acorns, and getting very large for two years before the farmer comes to take them away to piggy heaven. (Shh!)
With a little over 6km to go (the plentiful stone way-markers were marked with “distance to go” numbers from the “26km to go,” point today) I started to feel some “new” pains in my feet. I decided that I had better stop keeping pace with Michel. I sat for about 20 minutes, had some snacks, and resumed my walk into Alcaracejos with my usual, gentler, approach – taking more opportunities to stop and appreciate things. This gave me the chance to wonder at the apparently disused sports centre, swimming pool, and picnic area in the middle of nowhere; to chat with a couple of youngsters who were kicking a football in their garden; and to observe a farmer carrying a lamb, followed by a few adult sheep and two more young lambs. This pleasant sight seemed like the perfect way to end a beautiful day.
Soon afterwards, I caught my first sight of the red-roofed buildings of Alcaracejos.
This appears to be an unremarkable, small, modern, town. It may lack historic buildings, but the buildings are in good repair, the streets are clean and tidy, and the welcome was warm at the Tic Tac bar, where we collected keys to rooms at the Tres Jotas Hotel across the road. In a moment, I’ll drag my aching feet back across to the Tic Tac for dinner.
And the distance walked today? I don’t know. The guide that I received from the association in almeria puts it at 35.5km, Michel insists that we walked 38km – based on his pace and the time elapsed, my phone counted my steps and reckons that I covered only 34.4km. I can only say that my legs and feet feel like they’ve worked very hard, and the shower at the end of the day felt great.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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