Tag Archives: trekking

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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Caceres, City of the Conquistadors

The old center of Caceres is enchanting. Huge solares, or manor houses, line the narrow cobbled streets. Shady canyons are created by the tall buildings, and as you look up at the sliver of blue sky gargoyles peer down at you. Steep steps lead up tunnels through the fortified walls. From the top you can see all of Cacares and the surrounding countryside. Flowers tumble down the steps, while storks circle over head and land gracefully to become part of the architectural details. Churches and palm trees stand guard over lovely plazas, and a solo guitar player passionately sung the rhythms of Spain. His strong guitar strumming and haunting voice reverberated off of the walls and filled the air.

The city was founded by the Romans in 34 BC and the walls that still circle the old town date to that period. Held by the Moors for several centuries, it became definitively Christian in 1229. The palaces and ancestral houses began to be built at that time, but it was 250 years later that most of the present building emerged. This old center was built almost exclusively in the late 1400’s and 1500’s as the wealth from the Americas poured in.

Many of the Conquistadors came from this region and returned here to settle when finished with their adventures. They went into competition with each other as to who could build the biggest house. Handsome crests decorating the outside of the buildings indicate the family who owned each house. This is the town to which Juan Cano de Saavedra, conquistador and follower of Cortez, brought an Aztec Princess as his bride. What a shock that must have been for her. Daughter of royalty, her civilization no more, how would she have viewed Caceres? This city of gold, so rich and solid, was built with the wealth from the Americas. It is hauntingly beautiful, yet I think of the rape of 2 continents and the destruction of entire civilizations. The enslaving of so many people, and the death of so many more, was the cost. Is it human nature to take just because we can? Why do we have to be so disrespectful and cruel?

These philosophical questions aside, it is a beautiful city and a wonderful place to spend some time. History has moved on to a gentler place, and no one can predict what would have become of the Americas if they had not been discovered and explored by Spanish and other European nation

Actual Distance Walked around Caceres= 4.21 Miles / 7  Kilometers

Accomodations=  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.”

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


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.”

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


Aldea del Cano to Caceres

Senor Spandex got up very noisily at 4:45 AM and turned on all of the lights. He exited by 5:00, making sure everyone was awake, and left the door open to flap in the breeze as he left. Such is life in the Albergues! We needed to get up anyway because it promised to be another hot day and we needed an early start.

The walking was steadily up hill all day and much of the time paralleled main roads and freeways. We have walked into a very open landscape without shade. It was 95*F under blue, cloudless skies. Large farms with grazing sheep stretched in every direction. The mountains to the west shimmered in the heat.

The area surrounding Caceres is a maze of industrial areas and unmarked streets. It was very hard to find the yellow arrows, but eventually we came to a hill rising above us with fortifications on top. We thought this could not possibly be the way, so we skirted around it and found ourselves in a lovely modern part of town. After sucking down 2 bottles of ice cold water from a vendor, as we had run out of water much earlier, we contemplated the taxi stand. I decided to give it one last try and flagged down a couple who turned out to be English speaking tourists with a map. It’s a miracle! We were only a few blocks from the center of the old city, so we saddled up and limped on.

The Albergues were both completely full of school groups. We found a space at the Pensione Carretero right on the main square. We got a room at the back so that it would be quiet. We immediately showered and slept for an hour. Rejuvenated, we stuffed ourselves on Paella, croquettas, and gigantic ice cream cones.

Alejandro, the young man who owns the Pensione Carretero spent several hours loading all of my photos on to his laptop. He compressed them and sent them home for me. It will take all night. I had no idea when I asked him to help me that it was so time consuming. I am very touched by his generosity and kindness.

We sat watching the sunlight of the evening hours light the old city walls of Caceres to a golden glow.   The clear sky turned a deep violet color and stars came out, twinkling magically across the heavens.

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.”

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


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!


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!


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