Day 38 (4/Nov/2017): Embalse de Alcantara to Grimaldo (20km)

(Embalse de Alcantara to Grimaldo = 20km + Walked a couple more around Cañaveral)
Like yesterday, I had a very slow start, taking in the view of the lake as I had a breakfast of toast with jam, pastries, coffee, and fruit juice, that Andres had left for me. A cow and her two calves came to the front door of the albergue to chivvy me along, but since I only planned to walk 20km, I didn’t see a need to hurry.
Today’s walk took me through several distinct landscapes and a mix of weather conditions. It started with a climb up the hill, where I had startled a family of deer the evening before. (No photos – It was dark and wet, and they dashed off in every direction). From there I had beautiful views of the lake, where I could see several motorboats moving at high speed. Not good news for the anglers, surely? From that point, I was back in the grasslands with stone walls, a few sheep, and lots of cows of various colours. Most moved away from me as I passed, but one group of black cows in a very smelly pen were keen to approach me for a chat. As I left, I noticed what might have been the carcasses of two white cows in a nearby field. I didn’t investigate. Not sure what’s going on at that farm…
Later, I found free roaming cows on the path, which, in spite of their fearsome looking horns, turned out to be quite gentle. I wondered how they could find enough food to survive on this land.
At several points on the walk I had a view of the high speed railway which is under construction. The path also took me over a major new road project, where I found a couple of information panels that described the findings of the archeological study that had been conducted when the digging started. It seems that, back in Roman times, this point was a major intersection between the North-South Via de la Plata and the roads that went from east to west. The panels showed how brilliantly the romans had engineered drainage and supporting walls – but also provided some answers to the maintenance question that I had been mulling for the last few days.
Soon, the small town of Cañaveral came into view, and the skies became darker. I put on my raincoat and rucksack cover. I wasn’t sure if I correctly understood the signs which seemed to suggest that Cañaveral was actually a detour off the Camino route. I continued to follow the yellow Camino arrows until I came to a clearer sign to Cañaveral, pointing me in almost the opposite direction from the Camino. I weighed my options and decided to follow the path into town and get something to eat. Moments later the heavens opened. I was drenched by a sudden and dramatic increase in the intensity of the rain. The raincoat did its job but my lower half was soaked through. I sloshed my way through town and stopped at the beautiful looking albergue to chat with the hospitalero. I didn’t really want to check in. I opted to go to the bar up the road before deciding whether to continue to Grimaldo, as originally planned, or to stop here for the night.
At the bar, an oldies radio station was playing “Walking On Sunshine,” which later made me laugh. I had coffee and lunch, took off my boots, changed my socks, and watched for signs of improvement in the weather. Eventually, I felt confident that the forecast for a dry but cloudy late afternoon was probably right. I ventured out in shorts and t-shirt for what turned out to be entirely different conditions. The rest of the day was beautiful – a fresh feeling about everything after the heavy showers, but no further downpours.
I made a tactical error in heading back the way I came to rejoin the Camino, when I could have rejoined the path by continuing through the town. This added a couple of kilometres to my walk. I picked up the trail at the signpost that I’d seen earlier, walked past a picnic spot and then a derelict railway station, where the railway tracks no longer exist. They’ve moved the track to run a different course. The town also has a strange circular pond, which I thought might once have been a turntable for trains…
After taking me back past the main road out of Cañaveral, the path climbed again, and suddenly I found myself in a pine forest with some wonderful views of the valleys below. After I passed the crest of the hill, the pine trees gave way to cork oak plantations. And in the middle of the forest, some distance from Grimaldo, the Camino passes through the car park of what my Spanish guide describes as the “Puerto de los Castaños Hotel.” Judging from the cars in the car park, the “hotel” was doing a brisk trade on this Saturday afternoon.
The path then climbed through more woodland towards the A66 motorway. It wasn’t clear to me where I was supposed to cross the motorway. I found a tunnel that took me underneath it, but there were no arrows there. I backtracked to see if I had missed some arrows, and found none. The light was fading, and the app on my phone was suggesting a ridiculous detour. I decided to follow my instincts. I took the tunnel, followed a track toward the road into Grimaldo and climbed a fence to reach it. Shortly after, I started seeing yellow arrows again. I can’t have been far from the prescribed route.
There is a privately run posada in Grimaldo, which has posted signs with its phone number and photos of its rooms all along the path. But I decided to stay at the albergue, which is one of the first buildings that one sees on entering the small settlement of Grimaldo. The key is kept in the bar next door, where I also had a decent “combinado” plate for dinner; pork chops, salad, and chips, with a glass of wine and dessert. There is a collection box in the albergue for donations – no prescribed fee to stay here. It’s not sleek and modern, like the facility in Embalse de Alcantara but it’s clean and cosy. It has eight beds, a washing machine (with a bottle opener to replace the handle that some impatient pilgrims broke off), wifi, and a shower/bath. When showering, I noticed that the hot water was running out, so I took a “Bermuda-style” shower. (Get wet. Turn off water. Soap and scrub. Turn on water to rinse off soap). I think this could be a problem if the albergue were full. Once again, I’m the only occupant.

Categories: 2017 Camino Mozarabe (Almeria to Finisterre)

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