Tag Archives: inspiration

Banos de Montemayor to Calzada de Bejar

It was raining as I wound my way out of this steep little town on narrow cobbled streets. At the top of the village the original paving stones of the original Roman road are still perfectly in place, and they lead you over the mountain top. It is quite a feeling to walk over the mountain pass on a 2000 year old road. The views of the green valley, shrouded in mists, were breathtaking. The land is terraced with stone walls to gain extra farm land.
Once at the summit, the road wound quietly down to the river on stone-walled paths. The landscape is very green and damp, with a profusion of ferns, moss, and purple wisteria.  There were sections of rocky peaks above, with huge boulders scattered among the cows. The valley is lined by beautiful trees and dotted with stone cottages. Rainbows danced across the hills when the sun emerged. it was quiet except for the rushing of the river and the singing of the birds.
The river is named the Rio Cuerpo de Hombre, or the “River of the Body of Man”. I wonder if the tributaries are named “The head of Man”, “The arm of Man”, “The leg of Man”, etc. to make up the whole “Body of Man”!
Just as I was pushing up a steep hill, I was feeling lonely. I wished I had someone to share this experience with, and I thought of the prayer:
I said to the angel,who stood at the portal of the new year,’Give me a light so I can safely walk to the uncertainty.” He looked at me and replied, “Just go out into the darkness and put your hand in the hand of God! This is better than a thousand lights, and safer than a known way.”
Just then a Camino moment of magic occurred. I looked up, and walking toward me was my Spanish friend Taqui! We hugged and laughed. I was so happy to see a friendly face. He had received my email just this morning telling him approximately where I would be walking for the next few days. He immediately drove to Calzada de Bejar and started walking toward me.  It was perfect timing because we met just 10 minutes from the village.
At the Albergue I paid for my spot because I had reserved it. I told them to let someone else have my place who needed a bed, as I was going with Taqui. There was an excited conversation in French, Spanish, and English as we explained to the Hospitalero and the other Pilgrims who I was and how Taqui and I met.  On my first Camino, Taqui was a Hospitalero (volunteer host) at the St. Francis of Assissi Pilgrims Hostal in Tosantos. Taqui and Jose Luis created a warm and loving environment, and as a result, it was a spiritual turning point for me. I always regretted not being able to tell Taqui and Jose Luis what important work they were doing, and how it changed lives. Two years later, through a series of emails resulting from my book, I found that Taqui’s lady lives only a few hours from me in the Seattle, Washington. Taqui and Robbie came to my house in January, only a few months ago, and we began a new kind of  friendship.  Once we are Pilgrims, we become part of a global community who share a very powerful common experience. The world seems like a much smaller and better place, full of friends with good intentions. This seems more like a miracle than a coincidence to me!

Distance from Banos de Montemayor to Calzada de Bejar= 7.5  Miles /12 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.68 Miles / 20.5  Kilometers

Accommodations= Private Albergue Alba Soraya, 28 places, 8 Euro. This is a friendly, nice Albergue, located just where you need it after finishing the climb out of the valley. They serve very good food upon request.

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.”

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Embalse de Alcantara to Canaveral

I woke to wind on the water and it felt great as I climbed up, up, up the rocky hills until I was far above the lake. I walked on high ridges with grasslands all around me, contra de viento, or against the wind.  In the distance the village of Canaveral nestled into the hillside.

The tiny town of Canaveral was friendly. The whitewashed houses are topped by an interesting variety of stucco chimneys punctuating the sky. I am amazed that these little villages provide free accommodation to Pilgrims. This Albergue is an apartment that might be termed “rustic”, but it has 3 rooms with 2 beds each, a kitchen and a bathroom. It is free, and the man who runs the bar at Hostal Malaga gave us the key. He fed the Pilgrims wonderful food at his bar, and took care of us with a smile.

On my walk about town this afternoon I encountered the local band practicing for the processions they will hold during Easter week. This is the beginning of Santa Semana, or Holy Week, the 7 days before Easter Sunday. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday. Musicians of all ages marched, played and drummed their way through the streets. Villagers  leaned out of their windows, followed along, or watched from the square. The local Padre welcomed them to the 14th Century Romanesque church that dominates the town. It seemed everyone in town was involved in one way or another. This was a very fun and authentic slice of small town Spanish life.

On a narrow cobbled street, sitting with her friend in front of her whitewashed house, I met Maria. She is a tiny lady with white hair and an engaging smile. I am only 5’3″ tall and I towered over her like an Amazon. I told her I was a Pilgrim. She took one look at my feet and decided I needed to sit down. We went into her house and she gave me water at the dining room table. I learned that her husband died 3 years ago and she is very sad. I sympathized and we moved on to her 3 daughters, 1 son,  their spouses, and multiple grandchildren. I got to see first communion photos and learned that 2 of her grandchildren are adopted from China. Her house was small but very cool and lovely. The tile on the floors and walls was beautiful, and her little space consisted of a living / dining room, 2 bedrooms with Jesus over the headboards, a kitchen and a bath. Her back terrace had olive and lemon trees, and looked up at the rocky mountain that rises above the town. When we concluded our visit she directed me the opposite direction that I needed to go. She said it would be easier on my feet, and her heart would not be able to take the stress worrying about me if I ventured the steep way. I felt so honored by this sweet interlude, the welcome to her home, and the touching of hearts.

Distance from  Embalse de Alcantara to Canaveral= 9  Miles / 14 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.2 Miles / 20  Kilometers

Accommodations= Municipal Albergue, rustic. 6 places, kitchen, free. Pick up the key and get your stamp in the Bar / Hostal Malaga on the main road leaving town. You may also stay at the Hostal Malaga for 15 Euro.

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.”

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Caceres to Casar de Caceres

We walked out of town in the dark on a very busy main road. It was scary because the cars were going very fast and very close. Sometimes we were flat against the guardrail, walking right on the line designating the edge of the road, because there was no shoulder. The wind created by passing trucks threatened to suck us into the stream of traffic. In other places there was about a 12-inch shoulder that led to a straight drop off into oblivion. We were all wearing somewhat dark clothing, and were afraid to turn on our headlamps and chance blinding the oncoming traffic. However, once we had begun there was no way to turn around. I was just thankful that the cars seemed to see us at the last second and move over if they could. There were several close swipes when traffic was coming from both directions.

Just as it was getting light the track veered off to the left to a dirt road. This allowed us to enjoy a spectacular sunrise over the rolling grasslands. As we came to the crest of a hill we looked back, and there stood Caceres atop the hill, illuminated like the city of gold that it originated from.

It was only about 6 miles to the town of Casar de Caceres where we stopped, but it was too far to combine the next stage, so we took a short day. Alan is able to walk the longer distance and has pushed on. I am sorry to see his smiling face go. He is a gentle man with mischief in his eyes and kindness in his heart. As we sat having our first café con leche of the day at 9:30, Judy began looking at her book and counting her remaining walking days. I knew she was too full of energy to arrive at her destination so early, but I was sick at heart realizing she would walk on too. Two Pilgrims arrived just then and stopped to ask if one of us had lost a hat. Someone had indeed dropped the hat, so it was returned Camino style. When Judy learned they were walking on to the Albergue at the lake 15 miles distant, she saddled up and went with them. We hardly said goodbye, and I hated like crazy to see her go. It was the right decision for her. She needs to move on in order to reach Santiago in the time she has left, and she is fit enough to do the longer distances. She has been fun, kind, and always positive. I shall miss her terribly, but that is the way of the Camino. Your lives touch, then you must walk on separately. Yet the world is a smaller and more intimate place knowing these beautiful people from around the globe. I feel very blessed that they touched my life.

This is a friendly, cute little town. The Albergue is free and they would not consider a donativo. The library has computers where you can email for free, although I was careful to work quickly so that the kids waiting to do their homework had ample time. It would be very rude to abuse the hospitality of this sweet little town. There is a new promenade into town with lush wisteria covered arbors, palm trees, and untrimmed shady plane trees. It sits at the edge of a shallow lake, which is bordered by a nice walkway with benches.

In the Farmacia it was “little old lady day”. There was spirited discussion about politics, family, and ailments. One particularly frail Senora walked over and hoisted herself up on to a machine, sticking her arm into the blood pressure cuff only to the wrist. She looked confused, took her print out and moved to dismount. Grabbing her walker, she declared, “The machine says I am dead! I am going home now!” An equally ancient Senora crossed herself, praying, “Madre Dios! I don’t understand these things!” They ambled off together immersed in a lively discussion about the merits and disadvantages of technology.

Distance from  Caceres to Casar de Caceres= 7  Miles / 11.5 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 12.4 Miles / 20 Kilometers

Accommodations= Municipal Albergue across from the ayuntamiento, or town hall, on the Plaza de Espana. Great, clean little Albergue with 24 places, kitchen, free. Pick up the key and get your stamp in the ayuntamiento.

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.”

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It is not always easy

I am hoping that I have had my worst day and that things will improve from here on out. It was very hard limping along on my blisters. I must have been favoring my feet and not lifting them as high as usual. The trail was very rocky and uneven. I fell down hard, gashing my knee and elbow. Alan tried to help me and I almost crippled the poor guy. I was just dead weight and had no strength to stand up. We removed my pack, finally pushed and pulled me into an upright position, and off we went. Not more than 10 minutes later I fell again. This time I was dizzy and nauseated. I just had to sit there for awhile, and kindly Alan gave me the best comfort food in the universe, chocolate. I cleaned the bleeding parts with alcohol wipes and antibiotic ointment, then bandaged them with big pads and tape. I drank lots of water. Everyone was very concerned and walked slowly with me as we continued painfully along. Wouldn’t you know we had scheduled a long day? By the time we struggled into the center of Caceres, it was 3:00 and 95* F. I was really dehydrated because I had run out of water, and I was suffering with the heat.

By tonight my ankle was beginning to swell where I twisted it today. I decided it was time to peel the Compeed off of my blisters and take a look at them. I got a very nasty surprise: they had not healed. They were about the size of my thumb, 1 inch wide and 1 ½ inch long, and an angry red color. I was afraid they were infected, so I immediately went to the Farmacia. The woman tut-tutted when she saw them and hauled out a veterinary sized needle, a bottle of iodine, a big box of gauze pads, more tape, and bigger pads of Compeed. She told me to pop and drain the blisters, scrub them with iodine, reapply the compeed and make a big padded boot out of the gauze and tape. I was instructed to repeat this process each day until they healed. When I asked if I could continue walking tomorrow, she rolled her eyes and I am pretty sure I heard the word retardamente.

I limped out of the Farmacia, biting my lip, carrying a bushel sized bag of medical equipment. Judy, Alan and Kess looked very concerned. I told them to get a big bottle of medicinal wine ready for when I returned, because this treatment was going to hurt like a mother.

It did not actually hurt as much as I thought it would, and the pressure is now relieved. It was lucky for me that we had planned a rest day tomorrow to see Caceres.

I returned to the Plaza and found a table full of Australian, Dutch and German Pilgrims waiting for me. I propped my feet up and we enjoyed a pleasant evening eating lentil soup, ice cream cones, and sipping wine. We watched the sun turn the old city into gold. This town looks like it will be amazing if I can walk to see it.

Distance from   Aldea de Cano to Caceres=14.4  Miles / 23 Kilometers

Actual Distance Walked= 17.47 Miles / 28+  Kilometers Steadily up all day.

Accommodations=  We stayed at the very helpful and friendly Pensione Carretero, 25 Euro for a double room or 12.5 Euro per person. Large room with shared bathroom. Right on the main square, the Plaza Mayor. There is an Albergue Turistico near the main square, 70 places, 16 Euro or 18 Euro with breakfast. Additionally, there is the Albergue Las Valetas, 17 Euro or 20 Euro with breakfast.

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.”

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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.”

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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.”

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Merida to Aljucen

We left  Merida before the sun rose in order to arrive at our destination before it became too hot. Once we were past the Roman Reservoir, we traversed rolling hills of deep multi-colored grasses sprinkled with rich dark violet Spanish lavender and yellow broom.    The oak trees grew among huge sculpted groups of rocks.

Deep blue streams snaked through the rocky outcroppings, reflecting the changing colors of the sky. The air was cool and many Pilgrims were walking early. It was an enchanting, colorful walk with cool temperatures and good company. We are trekking along with Alan and Judy, so full of life and good cheer.

We walked into the tiny town of Aljucen at 11:30 to find the Albergue in chaos. It was under construction, and every bit of furniture was stacked outside. There were men with ladders building walls and painting. Everything was covered in dust and draped with plastico. Undaunted, we threw our packs and sleeping bags on some bunks, showered, and hung out our laundry to be permeated with plaster dust. The young woman who runs the Albergue, Ana, is very friendly. She has great dramatic body language because she speaks no English. With a smile on her face, she cleaned and put all of the furniture back in place . She was tireless, and did not stop working until 8:00 PM, when she was satisfied that her Albergue was once again a home.

This will be such a cute Albergue when it is finished. The walls outside are bright orange-yellow with nicely detailed trim painted in dark blue. The walls inside of the main room are a bright green and there is a purple couch. The kitchen will be cobalt blue. There is a little terrace out front with a view of the valley, and a patio in back. But most of all it is the welcoming spirit of Ana that makes this a special place.

We spent several hours at the spa, then lounged on the patio of the local bar.  We laughed as we ate and visited in the sunshine. I so enjoyed the easy camaraderie as people from Holland, Germany, Paraguay, England, Australia, Norway, America, Canada, and other far-flung places around the globe, came and went from our table. Today was just about as perfect a day as one could ask for on the Camino.

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.

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!


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