23. Footsteps of the Romans

“A la sueur de ton visage
Tu marcheras la via plata
Apres long travail et usage
Voici le bar qui te convie.”

( thanks to Bill for the perfect poem for today.)

Aldeanueva del Camino was good to us. Our albergue was top notch and we found a restaurant that served a fabulous pilgrim dinner…. charcoal roasted paprika coated chicken… yummy! We met a few other pilgrims. .. French and Spanish and the Danish guy. The wifi in the albergue was so good i even managed a video call home to Gerry.

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When I woke this morning, Maggie was already awake. She hadn’t slept well. It was cold… the Spanish chaps told us it was 6c… so we pulled out our jackets before we left.

Maggie was quiet this morning… pensive maybe? Certainly not her usual carefree self.  We left in the dark. We’re leaving at the same time but the mornings are getting more and more dark. Today was going to be longer than our preferred 20km and steeper than we’d had so far… both up or down with precious little flat.

Finding the arrows wasn’t easy… I really wish they’d add a few more… especially at busy road junctions where we have to focus on the traffic as well as search for arrows.

I pulled out my phone to check our notes… I’m using a Kindle guidebook by Gerald Kelly and two apps… Via Plata Premium is brilliant… its only 2.99 and it has saved our bacon on several occasions. I’ve also got Wise Pilgrim which is useful too. They all concured that we were on the right road. Sadly they also all concured that we would be on this road for another 9.8km. Our hearts sank. We walked on in silence, sticking to the tiny hard shoulder like glue. The entire road journey was going up… And oh it was cold.  There was no sunrise either. Instead we had tarmac and lorries thundering by belching diesel and cars zooming passed at over 100km an hour. This was not nice walk. In my head I had already called todays blog Slog. Maggie had something similar. In my head I was asking myself what possessed me to even think that this walk was a good idea… Maggie agreed.

The Via is no Frances.  It’s hard.  It’s hard underfoot and isolated.  Last night Gerry said he’d wondered what he would do if my messages to home just stopped.  If something happened whilst we were here walking this old path… what would he do?  His concerns rattled around my head today on this crazy road. I decided I’m just selfish… taking myself off on crazy wilderness walks. I quit.  I quit several times.  I hated the walk.  I hated the Via.

We were diverted off the road into a little piece of tranquil woodland.  Bliss.  Short lived though because at the next turn we were back on the wretched road… and I was angry with myself all over again. I saw a magpie… only one… I said hello and asked after his wife and family but I suspected it was sorrow he was offering.

We were walking to Banos and the only glimmer of light on the horizon was that it was a town… a midway stopping point. Unheard of for the Via.  We could have a hot drink and something to eat and sit and rest before moving on.  We found a cafe ordered cafe con leche and fried eggs… and took off our boots.  I wanted to take off my socks too but it felt impolite for the other customers… and I was cold. (I was so cold my hands and arms were numb… I put my jacket back on and tried to defrost my hands on my coffee cup) … and we both moaned about the awful walk.

We knew the worst of the climb was still to come… 2 km of sharp incline. Please please please don’t let us have to stay on the road.  We ordered another coffee… I wiped my plate clean of the salty egg with the last of my bread.  There was nothing for it, we had to get back on the road.

We asked for directions from a couple of chatting ladies… they pointed to the steep path ahead.  The good news was it was off road.  Up we walked.  And more up.  And then a little more.  Before we knew it we had reached the top.  It was easy.  Hahaha I thought. .. I laugh in the face of your hills.  We stopped and took photos.   The relief of completing the first big climb washed over us both. That was fine… that was more than fine.

The sun came out and we felt it warm us. On we walked through paths and forests. There was a tiny bit of road but only 15 minutes.  We walked out of Extremadura, as beautiful and rugged as she was we walked into Castilla Y Leon and it felt like coming home.  There were arrows and markers and benches in the shade. There were signed posts that told us which way and how far… there was even a fountain or two.  Oh it felt good.  We fell back in love with the Via. I saw another magpie… oh two for joy… and I quirky rejoiced.

We passed chestnuts and figs and elderberries and apples and big fat red rosehips.  We passed conkers and acorns and mushrooms and red ivy and a carpet of yellow from the falling leaves.

Once off the tarmac we rejoined the roman road.  We followed the road for 12km… up into the high Sierra de Bejar y Francia hills.  Oh it was beautiful.  The trees are turning from green to yellow to red.. the air was cold but the sky was blue.  On and on over the roman path… and when we reached the top we went down.  Down and down following their road… over the roman bridge and over the rushing streams.  Then when we reached the bottom we went up again. Through the forest.  Always, always, always on the roman path. We passed cows and bulls and sheep and horses. The odd dog… men working… more roman path.  It was fabulous.  It was stunning.  Everywhere we looked there was something new to look at or gaze across at.

We were nearing the end of the day. We’d walked 22km but the last 2 km had a sting.  All up… and steep.  The marker said 1.7km to go… we braced ourselves. The sun was hot and the shade was gone but my feet felt fresh and the climb felt envigerating.  Up and up and up we went the wind blowing against our backs willing us on.  The roman path was still there but crumbling.  And then we reached the top.  More stunning views looking back from were we’d been earlier.

We’re staying in the most adorable little casa rural… Jorge.. in Calzada de Bejay.   The lady of the house is preparing dinner for us at 8.00… we might wander down to the only bar later… or we might just stay here on our beds and admire the zillion photos we took today… I just hope they manage to capture how amazing it’s been.

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3 thoughts on “23. Footsteps of the Romans

  1. Well done!!! the countdown begins at halfway.
    Lovely pictures; the silver roman camino looks great. In Santiago camino frances, I remember there were stories about the roman galleys coming to collect the silver from the mines in the picos europa and the central sierras. So to see an old roman silver trail is fantastic.
    keeeep going! keeep walking! keeep singing! and keeeeeep dancing!

    PS “think red” is for the morning cold – I know it’s psychological but it works!

    Liked by 1 person

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