Day 27 (Oct 24/2017): Monterrubio de Serena to Castuera (18km)

I decided not to push myself to do the 39km hike to Campanario today. I opted instead to stop halfway at the small town of Castuera. At the albergue in Monterrubio de Serena, I shared some of my yoghurt and bread with Ladislav, who explained his plan to walk some distance beyond Castuera and spend the next night under the stars. Michel was determined to go as far as Campanario. They’re made of tougher stuff than me.
I left at 8:00am, together with Michel, but warned him that I didn’t plan to keep up with him. From Maggie Woodward‘s blog, I knew that most of the route to Castuera would be on a tarmac road surface, and I was dreading the hammering that my delicate feet would take. A short time after we had navigated our way out of town and onto the country road to Castuera, I exchanged phone numbers with Michel, wished him “Buen Camino,” shortened my stride, and watched the distance between us increase, until he disappeared over the crest of a hill. I crossed the road to photograph some trees and felt lighter; free once more to walk at my pace and stop frequently for any reason or no reason.
At about 10:00, I stopped for “second breakfast,” in the shade of a holm oak. Deep joy! I opened a couple of mini-tins of pâté that I found in the supermarket at Monterrubio de Serena; each one just enough to put a thick layer of goodness on a seeded bun. Moments like these made the long trudge on the tarmac bearable.
Eventually, a yellow arrow pointed me away from the road and onto a gravelly path. I spotted a shady spot with a perfect stone for sitting on. When I rested there, I realised that the tree above me was an almond tree. With the help of a nearby rock and the stone that I was sitting on, I split open a few almonds and enjoyed them as I rested. I decided to call this place the “Nutcracker Seat.” It’s about 3.5km down the track from Castuera. You could take your children to see it at Christmas, as a cultural experience.
I reached Castuera at 1:30 and was immediately guided by a member of the Guardia Civil to the Policía Local, who hold the keys to the albergue and collect the 8 Euro fee for staying there. Everyone was super-friendly to me, but there’s something about a policeman copying my passport details and stamping my credencial that makes me feel uncomfortable. The albergue here is delightful – an interesting modern building comprising two large dormitory rooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen and common room, and two patios. The rules state that clothes should not be dried outside. I’m a reluctant rule-breaker, but I could not stop myself from hanging out my laundry in the sunny patch on the patio. I also had time to do some stretches in the roomy common room – disturbed only by the arrival of the Spanish couple who were at the albergue in Monterrubio. Tonight, they have one dorm and I have the other. Luxury!
Apart from having plenty of time to wash and dry clothes, a major advantage of arriving so early is that I had time to explore this small town. In contrast to Monterrubio, I found Castuera to be bursting with life. My big “find” was the old Casino de Serena, in 1920s style with a billiards room, reading room, private room in mock-Arabic style, and friendly bar. The building is in need of restoration, but the regulars were happy to show me around and tell me all about it. Apparently, it served as a hospital in the civil war.
Castuera has a statue to its most famous son; Pedro de Valdivia, conquistador and coloniser of Chile. What a strange coincidence that we both aimed ourselves at Santiago from here…
A comment in the albergue guest book led me to the El Plaza restaurant, but it was busy with a children’s birthday party, so I wandered through town and photographed the church and other sites as I looked for a place to eat. I ended up at Bar Meson de Coto, where the bar tender steered me to an excellent local wine – Balromero (Tinto Roble). I recall that some bars in Córdoba were only serving Rioja, so it felt great to find a barman who was proud to offer a local product. He asked me with a smile “Tell me what you think. Is it good or is it good?” Truly, it’s good! And it goes so well with the 4 Euro brochettes that I ordered another glass and another plate. The aubergine tapas was excellent too. (Total bill was 13.70 for two glasses of wine with tapas, two plates of brochettes, a bottle of water, and a coffee – not bad!) Castuera is also known for its cheese. What’s not to like?
I’m heading back to the albergue now. Very pleased that I took the chance to explore this little town.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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