I began walking along lanes lined with stone fences. The rolling grasslands continued without a break as far as the eye could see. Huge solar panel farms spread across the land, contrasting a grouping of Roman Miliarios. These were large columns, engraved with numbers and set at consistent distances along the Via de la Plata by the Romans like mile markers.
I crested a hill and could see a large reservoir in the distance. The arrows split from the road at a big construction site. There was a heated discussion in French: the bicyclists said it was impossible to follow the trail, and went by the paved road. An older French couple consulted their very detailed guidebook and determined that the road was easier but longer.
It was already very hot, nearing 96*F, so I decided to take the shorter way and bushwhack. The arrows directed me over a lumpy, serpentine path that doubled back to the construction site and through a gate. Then there were no more arrows. I followed a dirt path that seemed to be the only logical choice. I ended up on a cliff overlooking the Rio Almonte. I was on the wrong side of the river, with steep gorges between me and the main road that I could barely see, meandering in the distance. I briefly considered throwing myself off of the cliff and swimming if I survived. However, I did not think it could be done with my pack on.
It was now mid day with the sun at its hottest. I despondently turned back and hiked back up the hill. When I reached the construction site I found an obscure, brush covered yellow arrow pointing off the road, and through the bushes. I stumbled on, continuing to find concealed arrows like an Easter egg hunt, until eventually reaching the road. It was many more kilometers along the main road before I eventually crossed another river and found the Albergue hidden down a dirt road. I found the ancient French couple who had walked the road already showered and having lunch. I guess I should have opted for the road!
People are definitely displaying the “Pilgrim’s Shuffle” now. We walk stiff-legged with tiny steps, trying not to stress one more muscle. When we have to navigate stairs, we use a crab-like side step. Down one step, then rest with both feet on the step, then down one more step. Our toes curl under and we wince visibly with each new maneuver. It is a universal bonding experience.
This beautiful modern Albergue has a great view overlooking the lake. In the distance you can see a Roman Bridge disappearing into the water. How would it be to have so many Roman ruins and bridges that you could just say, “They are only minor ones. Let’s build the dam and flood them”? I can just see the boater’s insurance claim: “I need a new prop because I struck a submerged Roman Temple.”
The Albergue host did our laundry in a machine, and I discovered frozen pizza. More American food! I was in heaven. The French couple were here so I had to use silverware again. Darn! Everyone ate pizza and drank wine as we sat watching the sun set over the waters on this warm night. Our contentment was great.
Actual Distance Walked= 16.24 Miles / 26 Kilometers
Accommodations= Albergue Turistico overlooking the lake. This very modern facility has laundry, “walk in” bunks, frozen pizzas and other goodies to be microwaved, a bar, and a nice common area with a view of the lake. This Albergue is poorly marked, but very worth finding. It is directly behind the closed “Linda Mar” hotel. It is poorly marked at the road, but when you come to a gravel road down toward the water and the arrows tell you to cross the road to the right side and begin a steep up hill, turn left down the gravel road instead. Keep going around a corner. 26 Euro, including breakfast.
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