Monthly Archives: January 2012

Into Alcuescar

We have climbed through lavender and yellow broom, oak trees and sculptured rocks. As I emerge from the canopy of shady trees, the town of Alcuescar appears before me . The sunshine illuminates and warms the village walls, it’s white shapes spilling down the hillside to meet the olive groves. It is 85* F on the 10th day of April.

“Into Alcuescar” is a 12” X 12” original oil painting on canvas.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at http://www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!

Advertisements

Alcuescar to Aldea de Cano

I felt very sick after our lovely communal meal last night, and I could not even help clean up. I went straight to bed feeling feverish. Despite my silk sleep sack, all of my clothes, my down sleeping bag and a blanket I could not get warm. I was shaking and shivering, yet when I touched my skin I was burning hot. I was up and down all night with vomiting and intestinal issues. This morning my stomach was still very rocky and I could not eat. Worse yet, I could not keep coffee down! Every time I took a sip of water I wanted to vomit again. It appears that the hospitalero  was right yesterday when he thought I was sick and gave us a private room. I was the only person who was ill, so I know it was not the wonderful dinner that we were served.

Walking was very difficult and slow today for me. Fortunately it was very flat, perhaps even down hill slightly. My blisters hurt with each step, and I felt more blisters forming. I stopped to bandage my feet and apply a compeed pad to the entire ball of my foot. However, on the bright side,  we were walking directly on top of a Roman road which historians say is 50 CM below the current pathway. We crossed a Medieval and a Roman Bridge, just standing in the sunshine after 2000 years,  still used by walkers. The sky was very blue and it was a sunny 88*F by this afternoon. There is always something good to balance out the negative and make you glad you ventured out to see and experience it.

Not every day on the Camino is easy. However, I feel that this is the test of our fortitude. I could have stayed in bed for a day, but walking in the fresh air seemed to help. I think by going slowly I helped work some of the fever out of my body. I remember when I was about 16,  I stayed in bed one day when I was only marginally uncomfortable. My Mom asked me what I thought I was doing. She told me that there were lots of days that were less than perfect, and that I would waste a great portion of my life if I babied myself like that. She promptly informed me that I should get out of bed and go to school because she was not going to write an excuse for me. As small a thing as this seems like, it was great advice. You can be a whiner and a hypochondriac, and you find excuses by blaming your situation or those around you for your failings. Or you can do your best, and get on with making the most of your life. Either choice leads to a pattern of behavior. I prefer to think of life as an interesting challenge and just get out of bed and start walking each day, metaphorically speaking.

Thankfully our walk was only 10 1/2 miles today so I was able to have a restful day in this tiny town. The streets were very quiet during afternoon siesta. Even the cats lounged and lay draped from the warm, colorful rooftops. Storks circled overhead and a herd of goats grazed at the edge of the village. The soft goat kids frolicked and played king of the mountain on nearby rocks. They playfully butted each other off the rocks to gain a superior position before returning to the bright yellow green grass.

Distance from  Alcuescar to Aldea de Cano=10.3  Miles / 17 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.6 Miles / 20  Kilometers

Accommodations=  Municipal Albergue, pick up the key and your stamp at the bar / restaurante Las Vegas. Small  Albergue on the main road with a kitchen, 1 bathroom, and 2 sleeping rooms. 12 beds with mats for extra places on the floor, 3 Euro. Food at the Bar Las Vegas across the street. There is also a very nice Casa Rural Via de la Plata on the main square in town. If you choose to walk slightly further, there is a basic municipal Albergue 7 miles past Aldea del Cano at Valdesalor, 10 places, free.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


Señor Spandex

We have been for shadowed several days by a huge, gregarious Spanish Pilgrim who snores like a jack hammer. Señor del Ronquido, or Mr. Snorer!

This is a muy grande Peregrino, yet he is attired in short, tight , black pantalones lycra. He has 2 tight, equally shocking, spandex shirts. One is a flourescent orange sleeveless number, and one is hot red and yellow which makes him look like the massive Spanish flag flying over a Futbol (soccer) game. This is, believe me, a fashion statement that should not be made. The truly appalling thing is that there is no bicycle attached to this wardrobe. We have dubbed him Senor Spandex.

This afternoon he flirted  with a couple of us, telling us that we were muy guapa, or very handsome women. When I confessed to Judy, she said I would have to keep an eye on him. I refuse to keep an eye on any man who wears pantalones like that, so I have assigned the duty back to Judy. She was taking her job seriously when he emerged from the bathroom with a fiendish look on his face and a pair of nail clippers that  looked like pliers designed during the Spanish Inquisition. He asked her to cut his toenails, as he has not seen them in at least 2 years, and he fears they have become claws. (true) Horrified, Judy refused due to the fact that she has a foot fetish, and immediately resigned as watcher. No action from the ladies for Senor Spandex!

This evening, he tried to talk Alan, Judy and another Pilgrim out of the private room they were all sharing. He played on their conscience with a confession of snoring so loudly that he keeps everyone awake. At first they gracefully gave up the room for the greater good. They agreed to sleep on rubber pads on the cold, hard kitchen floor and save all of us. I then pointed out that there was a 3 foot square window in the bedroom wall with no glass, so their sacrifice would not help us. Foiled in his plan to snatch a private room, a loud discussion in heated Spanish ensued. He went to sleep off his full bottle of wine and do a very accurate impression of a rumbling mountain. We jammed our earplugs in so far that we felt we might suffer brain damage and pulled our pillows over our heads. What will tomorrow bring?

Distance from   Aljucen to Alcuescar=12.67  Miles / 20 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 14.13 Miles / 23 Kilometers

Accommodations=  Albergue at the Casa de la Misericordia monastery, Donation. Apx. 30 places. Communal dinner.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


Into the Mountains Near Aljucen

Approaching Aljucen I could see the rise of the mountains. They formed a  hazy blue-gray backdrop to the whitewashed village spilling down the hillside. Pastures bordered by oak trees formed a patchwork of greens as they undulated over the land. Where will this shaded pathway lead? What is in store for me in this tiny village perched at the gateway to another mountain pass?

“Into the Mountains Near Aljucen” is a 12″ X 16″ original oil painting on canvas.

I completed a tiny thumbnail sketch in my journal while walking along the way. Next I found the photo that corresponded to this place the most closely. However, it is clear that artistic license was involved. The photo bears little resemblance to the scene I had sketched and written about.  I later executed a fast under painting in sepia tones of the image to provide a guide for values and shapes. Finally, the full color painting emerged as you see it here.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


Aljucen to Alcuescar

We snuck out of the Albergue as quietly as possible at 7:00. We stealthily slipped past sleeping Peregrinos, who were  packed like sardines into the kitchen. The local bar was miraculously open. The barista mistakenly made 3 muy grande cafe-con-leches because he could not conceive of anyone not wanting one. I drank both mine and Judy’s and shot out of town on a caffeine high with my headlight on, howling at the local dogs. It was like rocket fuel!

It was foggy and mysterious as we walked through another national park. Our senses focused down to the micro level. Fog rose up from the ground and encased the landscape in a soft,  gray blanket of moisture. We noticed spider webs quivering in the mist, bejeweled with dew.

We pushed steadily up hill through forests of twisted Holm  Oak trees, rising from bushes bursting with lovely cream and burgundy rock roses. Huge stones continue to add interest to the landscape. There was bird song filling the air at the sun broke through the mists. The sun revealed a scene of  intense beauty, spot lighting the deep violet lavender and yellow broom. The sheer natural beauty of this walk took my breath away. It is hard to believe there could ever be a more lovely spot on the earth!

We were warmly welcomed at a Monestary, the Casa de la Misericordia. Monks care for disabled men in this quiet, peaceful place. You can actually feel the gentle spirit of the Camino that resides within the walls. I have developed my first blisters of the trip, several on the bottom of my heels. Because of this, I had sort of hobbled into the Monestary. The Hospitalero was very concerned, and asked if I was sick. I shook my head “no” and said I would be fine. However, he assigned us to a small room with twin beds, a sink, and a window overlooking the countryside below. I appreciated his kindness in giving us a private room so that I could rest. It is a friendly, heartfelt, welcoming  home for Pilgrims.

Tonight we were served a communal meal in the Monestary. Everyone pitched in to help serve the food, and later clean up. We sat at a long table and enjoyed the soup, fresh salad, slices of juicy pineapple,  and baskets of bread as we spoke of our journeys. We met two young Danish men who were just out of high school. They are cycling from Morocco to Denmark. They came upon the Via de la Plata, so they decided to merge it into their trek. What a fantastic adventure they are having! I am grateful for the simple food and lodging, and for all the wonderful, inspiring people who are crossing my path.

Distance from   Aljucen to Alcuescar=12.67  Miles / 20 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 14.13 Miles / 23 Kilometers

Accommodations=  Albergue at the Casa de la Misericordia monastery, Donation. Apx. 30 places. Communal dinner.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


Walking Companions

We met a Spanish man, Guillamo (William), who is walking the Camino with his faithful donkey,  Churro. William smiled gently as I scratched Churro’s ears and  rubbed his wooly neck. I enjoyed the few moments while he nibbled my fingers as I fed him a treat of grass.  He has a beautiful old-fashioned leather pack-saddle with baskets on the sides.  He carries his own food as well as William’s pack. Donkeys and horses expend a lot of energy walking long distances just like we do. They need high energy food, such as grains and corn, to keep up their strength.

This is the 5th year that William and Churro have walked the Via de la Plata together. Churro has his own scallop shell on his forehead, hanging from his halter, that commemorates all the years they have walked the Way together.  William seems a kind and gentle soul, content with his walking companion and his journey. He says it teaches him patience because he walks only as far as the donkey wants to walk. here is no persuading Churro to go further once he has decided that he has finished walking for the day!

They walked slowly into the morning sunshine together, without the necessity of a lead rope. Churro knows the way, and Guillamo taps him gently with his walking stick if direction is needed. I swear I could see both of them smiling.

Distance from   Aljucen to Alcuescar=12.67  Miles / 20 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 14.13 Miles / 23 Kilometers

Accommodations=  Albergue at the Casa de la Misericordia monastery, Donation. Apx. 30 places. Communal dinner.

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


Termes Aqua Libera

After all the immersion in Roman history during our stay in Merida, we decided to go pagan for an afternoon. In the tiny town of Aljucen, the “Termes Aqua Libera” have recreated a Roman house with the private baths that they would have enjoyed. Domestic baths were smaller than public baths, usually consisting of two rooms. However, they shared the essential elements of warmth and intimacy centered around  hot and cold pools, that gave them a unique charm.

The studded wooden door had a little square opening where the mistress of the house could look out. The exterior door admits you to a courtyard open to the sky. Columns surround a planted area with a  small fountain in the center. Soft music played as the incense filled the air with its pungent scent. Rooms opened off of the central courtyard so that each received natural light. To the rear of the house was an open area with a square outdoor pool surrounded by a tiled, roofed lounging area. Oil lamps decorated the walls and there was a sloped lounging area for laying around while you feasted.

I enjoyed a 45 minute foot and leg massage in the atrium, complete with fragrant oils and flute music. Just as you thought you could not get any more relaxed, the Gods smiled on me again. Thoroughly slippery and content, I found my way down a passageway that led to a marbled bath area. Vaulted ceilings captured the warm steam and lovely mosaics shown brightly under my bare feet. The walls above the marble baths were a deep, rusty red. Fragrant incense and scented candles flickered in lamps while soft music filtered in. It was a step back in time, a real treat to the senses and the imagination, after having explored the treasures of the ancient world in Merida.

http://www.aqualibera.com/en/facilities/baths.html

Distance from   Merida to Aljucen=10.5  Miles / 17 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.3 Miles / 20 Kilometers

Accommodations= Municipal Albergue, 10 Euro per person per night. 18 places. Kitchen, common area. Small friendly town. You may also stay at the Termes Aqua Libera!

If you are enjoying this trek along the Via de la Plata, and the imagery, please share this blog with your friends and family. Visit my website at www.theartistsjourney.com to see the complete collection of my artwork or purchase “The Artist’s Journey.”

Please help others find this blog by Liking me on facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/ArtistsJourney Tell your friends!


%d bloggers like this: