10 April 2016


When our BBF told us we would be walking the Via de la Plata to Santiago, he also warned us that as fewer pilgrims walked this route we should not expect to meet any new BFs, like Pat and Dan, Millie and Simon, Lisa, John and Suzanne or Kim, that we had gained on Hanna's Camino. We call it Hanna's Camino because Alan walked for her soul and we bears of little brain can't spell Frances.

We began to understand when we set off on Monday 4 April in the wee hours of the morning and the pouring rain. Only fools and horses would be out in this.

We found the first real way marker once we had left the main city of Sevilla. A tall granit block with a small metal plaque which said we had 1000 kilometres to go!!! 

The way took us over the canal on a very dark road and bridge and then we had to follow the canal for a bit on a muddy track. The mud was glutinous and stuck to Alan's boots making him at least two inches taller, and the boots so much heavier.

Not until Santiponce did we stop and then entered a cafe dripping water all over the floor. For Alan at least a welcome cup of coffee and something to eat was needed.

We set off again and once out of the village had the impression we were following someone as there were fresh footprints in the mud and Alan thought he had seen a person at least a kilometre ahead. We never caught or saw this person ourselves until we reached  Guillena and we found and entered our first hostel or Albergue. Here was the man we had followed and we were the first pilgrims to arrive there.
The man's name was Hans-Peter and he came from Korchenbroich, which is only 21 kilometres from where we live! As he had not been feeling very well he had left Sevilla by bus and only started walking since Santiponce. We shared a room with him that night. Other pilgrims, wet and bedraggled than started arriving, but the hostel was never full.
The next morning our BBF was up and out the door fairly quickly. It was not raining and the sun shone. On the other side of town was a filling station where our BBF went to the loo and when he came out Hans-Peter was there, so they walked on together to Castilblanco de los Arroyos.
The way went up a steep muddy track and again the boots became heavy and slippery with the glutinous mud on the bottom.

Once over the top the views were nice and when the sun warmed up everything was hunky dory.

At one of our stops Uwe from Hannover caught us up and stayed for a bit. He started his Camino in Gibraltar and he is on his ninth Camino!!!

That too is one of the things we have discovered on this Camino those that are under way are all "repeat offenders"! That is to say they have walked at least three or more before this!

The view from the Albergue roof in Castelblanco de los Arroyos.

The hospitalero showing us where to eat

From the left, Uwe from Hannover, Robert from the Netherlands, Peter from Canada and Hans-Peter from Germany.

The next morning Uwe and Hans-Peter took a taxi as far as Almaden de la Plata, so we were on our own for the 30 kilometres walk. The first 16 were not nice as we followed a road with quite a bit of traffic, but then we entered a National Park and things changed. 

Some parts were quite steep, but was was rewarded by the views when we got to the top.

Just over the top of the hill and on the way down to Almaden we found a Cross on a rock off to the side so we went there for some selfies.

In Almaden Alan was intent on taking us to the the municipal Albergue, but something made him turn off into a doorway over which hung a yellow arrow.

Here he was shown into a room with just two beds and there were Hans-Peter's things! So needless to say we stopped. Eventually Hans-Peter turned up and Alan left us behind and went for a meal with him and others before turning in.

In the morning Hans-Peter was up first and they took off together to walk the 14 kilometres to El Real de la Jara.

It was a lovely day and we walked through Corkoak forests.

Where black pigs and cattle grazed freely.

Along the way Hans-Peter told us he thought he had seen a Hoopoe, something none of us had seen in the wild before. We could here the hoop hoop sound it made all the time we were walking.

It was a lovely day and as it was only a short walk we were soon in our Albergue and were the first there so had a free choice of beds and rooms.

The humans chose to sleep in the historic cells on the first floor and had a room to themselves, as it turned out.

They also decided to eat the main meal of the day early and only have a snack in the evening in the hostel. This turned out to be a good idea.

Peter (Canada) and Robert (NL) cooked for themselves and the hospitalero Eduardo. When Alarik in the yellow shirt came by they invited him to eat too. Alarik from Devon is the exception that proves the rule, for he is a first time offender and does not stay in Albergues but sleeps rough.

The next morning Hans-Peter was up first again and the humans were the first out of the Albegue. Sadly though Hans-Peter was feeling so poorly he felt he could not go on and so turned back. We were all sad for it now meant we were alone. Hans-Peter has returned home to Germany where we hope he will recover soon. It must be said that we admired the man as he had planned to walk the Via de la Plata with a good friend who had died and so he was walking it for him as well, as he had his friends Pilgrim Pass and was getting it stamped along the way.

Our human made the best of a bad job and walked on in perfect weather.  Along the way we were rewarded by actually seeing a Hoopoe. Alan stopped under a tree and he was just three metres above our heads, but as soon as he got his camera out it was off.

In this derelict chapel Alan snag the pilgrims him. Then when he came out Young Soon, a South Korean woman from Bremen caught us up. She too was sad that Hans-Peter had had to give up.

In Monesterio thanks to Uwe, who is well ahead of us telling us what he finds, we went to a hostel where we had a room with bathroom all to ourselves for 10€!

There Is still a fair way to go we found out in Monestario. Here out BBF bought himself another knee support for his left knee.

The next morning Alan put on both knee supports and set off as usual around 07:15 hrs. Once the sun came up it was another beautiful day and it was as if we were the only people in the world, as we saw no other pilgrims along the way. 

At a point where there was an alternative to the main path Alan took it and followed the grey stone markers with the blue and yellow markers. This took us into the wilderness.

The views were spectacular and we never regretted following this path.

Having seen the bull fighting we do have to say we were a little apprehensive about passing through this heard of cattle once we were out of the wilderness again.

We stayed in the Convent Albergue and had a single bed in a room for at least 12 pilgrims. 

That night Alan formed a Whatsapp group for the Phileas Fogg Club back in Monchengladbach as many of them are not on Facebook and would like to know how we are doing.

Alan is not impressed with his new JackWolfskin boots as they are coming apart at the seams after only some 300 kilometres. He said he will never buy another pair, as that is the second pair of boots he has from them that are not worth the money.

We set off early again on Sunday morning, but the weather had turned grey and miserable. Along the way we caught up with a Japanese Pilgrim on his sixth Camino who, would you believe it has a bear!

The bear has no name, but comes from Latvia and its BBF is called Goichi and is a much traveled chap. After we swapped stories Goichi walked on. When we came to the next small town, there he was in the main square having a break and he gave our BBF an Oreo biscuit. It being a Sunday no cafe seemed to be open yet. Alan was passed by a total of 7 fleet footed pilgrims today. He seems to be walking well but is complaining about having a couple of small, he said, blisters on his right heel.

Well when we got to Zafra things did not look good when he took his boots and socks off.

The Compeed plasters keep sticking to the socks and break the seal. 

After showering it looked decidedly worse.

Alan has put a gauze bandage soaked in iodine on it for the night and intends to try and put Compeed plasters on plus a gauze bandage to protect it from the socks and give it a bit more cushioning. Since we are not in a town that is worth staying in to let it heal.

We've told him to stop whinging as pilgrims are meant to suffer and he chose to do this when he could be sitting with his feet up at home.

Well after a week of walking we can say Alan was not wrong about the number of pilgrims on this route. There are far less than on Hanna's Camino, but more than he thought there would be. We have walked only twice with another pilgrim, Hans-Peter, and have been alone since. Even the few woman on this route are repeat offenders. Whether we do find some new BFs still leaves to be seen, since we have quite a way to go yet. Some say it is a moving village, the people are the same it is just the houses and the beds that are different. A lot like sailing round the world Alan has also remarked. Whatever, we are in a routine of walk, eat, sleep, repeat, where our only concern is to find a suitable Albergue for the night and a reasonable meal. Nothing else matters.

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