Mar 17 2017

Stage 7: Albacete to La Gineta 19.5km


Stage 7: Albacete to La Gineta 19.5km

The museum of knives and forks AND (probably) scissors in Albacete.. a train, a train, a train, a train – would you could you? .. a short walk wrapped against the cold headwind .. and a red rumped swallow’s nest. Today’s walk in 4 pics. Rather flat, straight, windy and surprisingly tedious. Arrived in La Gineta, drinking beer while waiting for Fernando to bring the keys and (hopefully) the drums. So, it appears that we have the keys to a public toilet.. oh, hang on.. are those mattresses? And Simon seems to be impressed by the en suite shower. Where’s the next place? We’ve walked the past 7 days, since our departure from Alicante last Wednesday, stayed in a monastery, a church, a hermitage, an albergue, two ‘otels, and, tonight, a toilet. Worn full thermals in bed twice – and will definitely require them, plus ski hat, socks, buff, and gloves, tonight. Currently filling up on vino to numb the pain later

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Mar 16 2017

Stage 6: Pétrola to Albacete 35.6km


Stage 6: Pétrola to Albacete 35.6km

35.6km (plus extra bit to visit Chinchilla – really worth a detour if only to see the caves of 16th century Moors, fleeing the war in Granada. Some of the caves higher up the mountain have been made habitable and are rented out). Cold, cold head wind this morning, all the way to Chinchilla. Lost the arrows briefly, but found the caves, explored a cave until it went too deep and we got scared, then found the arrows towards Albacete. Arrows not so great outside the town – but with Albacete in sight, we followed a runway. Decided to go for a HOTEL (Oh yes .. with breakfast) – a bit disappointing and ‘corporate’, though buffet breakfasts always good for filling rucksacks with Bimbo buns!

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Mar 15 2017

Stage 5: Montealegre del Castillo to Pétrola 23.3km


Stage 5: Montealegre del Castillo to Pétrola 23.3km

A day walking between wind turbines. In Pétrola Bar Jesus was welcoming and warm, unlike the church rooms – best sun terrace in town, but when the sun went down the ‘refugio’ was ecclesiastically freezing. And no shower.. (possibly a blessing).

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Mar 14 2017

Stage 4: Caudete to Montealegre del Castillo 34km


Stage 4: Caudete to Montealegre del Castillo 34km

Arrived at next bunk, after twenty something miles of no cafés, bars, or pastry opportunities. Tractors, vines and olives. Beginning to realise that, often along this route, what you carry is what you get. Not complaining, just be prepared. It’s a good path, away from roads and well signposted. Today a wide limestone plain over-looked for much of today by a hundred turbines along a high escarpment. The sun came out and the sky turned blue, but it’s still chilly. A brief nod to clints and grikes (remembering my school geography teacher) before heading into our new town, the old mayor in the bar, the lovely lady with the keys who met us by the town hall (Ayuntamiento – a word worth remembering!), and our albergue.

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Mar 13 2017

Stage 3: Sax to Caudete 29.5km


Stage 3: Sax to Caudete 29.5km

20 miles over limestone scrub, high speed railway crossings and mad dashes across motorways, then into brassica heaven. Got ourselves his & hers bunks in a seriously freezing hermitage. Grateful to Miguel for the clean sheet and pillow case (thanks, man). Currently drawing straws for first to try shower (shortest straw wins) – cleanliness maybe closer to hypothermia than godliness .. then out on the town in our thermal undies.

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Mar 12 2017

Stage 2: Orito to Sax 29km


Stage 2: Orito to Sax 29km

Walked from Orito 8km to Novelda where we met Pedro, the self appointed ambassador of the town, and a very hospitable hospitalero. He took us for coffee and showed us the town’s highlights, including the flat that is the Albergue – where hardly anyone stays because it’s mid stage in the guide book. After Novelda we walked with Pedro along the river passing a castle (the only triangular tower in the world.. said our guide) and a Santuario, where he sent us on with a ‘buen camino’ through the travertine flooring capital of Spain, from mountain blasting to cut & polish. Worth mentioning.. in Elda we were pointed by a couple of locals towards a cafe for lunch, close to the church, called Santa Anna’s (pretty sure) great food, 3 courses plus a drink and coffee – 5.75€. A must! Last night we were given beds in a chilly monastery, tonight we have no choice but to book into a swish hotel in Sax for 40€, overlooked by the town’s imposing castle. Pilgrim’s on holiday! Oh, got rid of my reading book.. bought it on iBooks instead. First of the heavy stuff to be jettisoned.

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Mar 10 2017

Stage 1: Alicante to Orito 23.9km


Stage 1: Alicante to Orito 23.9km

Leaving from the Basilica de Santa Maria, following the well marked path out of town, we walked through scenery reminiscent of a Wild West set, and a mountain biker’s playground. We climbed 400m to Saint Pascual’s cave and chapel – the cut flowers in that place were amazing! Then a steep decent over rocks, picking out the path, down to Orito and a bar, situated close to the Santuario and albergue where we were warmly welcomed by the Franciscan brothers. One of the albergues that are open along this route in February.

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Mar 09 2017

Alicante Reservations


Alicante Reservations

I admit to having had a few reservations about Alicante. As is usual with unfounded preconceptions, they were blown away when seeing the place first hand, while being tourists for a day, wine tasting and eating tapas. A beautiful old town beneath blue skies, overlooked by Castillo de Santa Barbara – worth a visit, offering the opportunity of a warm up for the walk ahead. We got our credentials and latest guide book from a welcoming ‘Asociación de Amigos del Camino de Santiago en Alicante’ – office: Calle de Serrano, 5, 03080 Alicante. Open Tues 17.00-19.00 and Fridays 11.00-13.00. The Basilica de Santa Maria is the starting point on the first day of 44 stages. Follow the yellow arrows, ‘flechas amarillas’. The Sureste is well sign posted.

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Mar 03 2017

Packing like a Pilgrim


Packing like a Pilgrim

We tend to go in February/March – before Easter, before the heat and the crowds. The weather can be unpredictable, so we pack for all eventualities – we’ve experienced temperatures over 30 degrees in Extremadura and no shade (la Plata), to temperatures as low as -10 in Roncesvalles (Francés), and blizzards in Galicia (all!). We pack layers – full thermals, one pair of trousers, fleece top, full waterproofs .. three layers is generally enough. Gloves, buff, hat, sun hat. Plus I take ski mitts – and I’ve used them! Shorts, t-shirt, vest top. Flip flops for evening foot respite. GOOD BOOTS (worn in). GOOD SOCKS! A light weight sleeping bag – most albergues have heating and blankets, though on the Sureste/Levante the refugios are very basic: cold rooms in sports centres and church halls, so a liner is useful too for extra warmth (without taking up much room). Other useful pieces of kit include water hydration pack, individual dry bags, travel towel, money/passport/phone belt, a basic phrase book/phone app? Usual charging leads and continental plug/USB adapter. A guide book – the thinner the better. I’ve seen great apps available for Camino Francés, complete with maps for each stage and a location finder, plus details of albergues and contact numbers – when travelling alone, this technology may be reassuring. A 33/34l sack. Simon loves his clacky trekking poles.. though it’s easy to cut a light weight bamboo pole en route. An army knife! A spoon for yoghurts, and a tin cup for cereal. And the usual first aid kit with Compeeds, and cream to massage feet each evening – most can be bought here – though not in all villages if on less travelled routes. A tiny pot of Sudocrem for any sores. That’s it. Around 7-8k without food/water. Otherwise it’s miserable. And no one likes the company of a miserable peregrino! Oh.. I needed to add.. earplugs (or a blunt instrument) particularly on the Francés when the snoring becomes unbearable (and it will), and a small pack of face wipes for when showering isn’t an option.

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Mar 03 2017

Hooked on Camino


Hooked on Camino

Having walked the Camino Frances (St John Pied de Port to Santiago de Compostela) in 2013, the Via de la Plata (Seville to SdC) 2015, and Camino del Ebro (Barcelona to Monserrat to SdC), 2016 – I can safely say that me and my husband Simon are hooked on Spain’s long distance adventures. You meet people like us regularly on the various routes, who, once introduced to Spain’s many caminos, can’t stop walking. This year we’ve decided to begin our journey in Alicante, in part because we can fly cheaply from Bristol, and follow the Sureste path, joining the Sanabres, towards Santiago, approx 1100km in 40 days. There we plan to meet 4 of our children in early April during semana santa, and spend a leisurely week walking 120km to Muxía and Finisterre, on the coastline west of Santiago. We ended our walk from Seville at Finisterre, and have since wanted to revisit the bar at the end of the golden sands littered with pink scallop shells – a beer in this place is a fitting end to all caminos’.

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