Apr 28 2017

Camino thoughts: ‘Mas y mas’


Camino thoughts: ‘Mas y mas’

I walk to claim some sanity within this madding state. I walk because while body allows, I shall. I walk to catch the brown haired girl who runs pell-mell, Unfettered soul, neglected mate. Until we sit in churches’ squares to delight at the parry of beaks, the meet and greet of storks in nests. Upon the almond blossomed bough we see the hoopoe nod its head, its brazen crest shut tight with each affirming cry, And observe the subtly changing forms, of earth and sky, through fledgling eyes. She and I take time to wonder at the ants clearing banks of discarded crumbs, To admire the blushing breast and coal black cap of the stone chat, as he alights from his post, Spot the hare upon her hind legs before she bolts, Then gorge upon the larks’ honeyed song. I and we mark the passing of time, as our shadow’s hand sweeps from left to right, across the sun burned sand. Asked again: ‘why walk so far?’ If identifying one’s place in nature is not enough, then consider this: I walk to recognise the appreciative nod from the old woman who has passed this way before – grateful that my boots may warm her tired prints. I walk to receive the simple kindnesses of villagers – some small gift: a local savoury, a sweet pastry; or the generosity of a stranger’s welcome, though I may be dusty and lacking in language. I walk to learn from those with whom I share the way: lessons in poverty, homelessness, poor health, death, wealth; some hunched beneath the burden of success. In this place all are bound tight by a common goal to pass as equals in search of unity. In this place we are all lost souls, freed from the shackles of identity. And again, amplified by younger tongues, ‘Walk? Ha! Take the car, the train, leather seats, hotels with fresh white sheets, fuck pain! feather bed, live fast, drink deep, lose your head, life’s cheap.’ Drug the present. Unplug the past. Says the boy: ‘Mas y Mas’. ‘More and More!’ Feast, forget, ‘Enjoy’. **** I choose to walk not to forget, but with less to carry, desires lost, distractions cast, I am free to remember.

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Mar 19 2017

Stage 9: Minaya to El Provencio 27kms


Stage 9: Minaya to El Provencio 27kms

On the up side, the cold wind dropped yesterday and the sky turned blue and it stayed that way. A minor down: the sports centre cupboard wasn’t conducive to a post 25 mile rest up – football lessons and step classes till 10pm – so woke up needing a good night’s sleep. A cold shower to set us up to walk further within this enormous plain, within the footprints of Don Quixote and Sancho Panza (Ruta de Quixote), with the never ending horizons. Flat, flat, flat with the odd oak tree and road crossing, perhaps a twist in the path, for respite. The guide book is suggesting another sport centre cupboard. A night with a bath and sheets would be good. Possible?

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Mar 18 2017

Stage 8: La Gineta to Minaya 36kms


Stage 8: La Gineta to Minaya 36kms

A day of walking punctuated by 2 carnivals, La Roda (madness – free beer, drag queens and paella) and Minaya (more beer, free sardines, witches and ghouls – in true Mardi Gras style). Tonight we have the keys to the local sports centre cupboard. Great hoola hooping possibilities later 🙂

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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 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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