Maura, my Wife, has come along to see Seville and walk with me for 7 days as far as Zafra. We arrived on Sat May 12th and promptly lost 2 hours with Orange Mobile ‘phone staff trying to set me up for ‘phone and internet service on my new sim card… Gremlins in Spain too !? I left them, still not knowing if my ‘phone was “live” ! Relax and stay cool I told myself…cool ?….the temp’ is in the mid 40’s and I felt anything but “cool” !
Sunday is better….and we are off on an open-top bus tour of the city ( too hot to walk around in 47° heat )…. We enjoy some hangin’ out around town….visits to the odd Tappas bar and cafe for “food and wine tasting” and in the evening we were treated to a wild explosion of colourful Flamenco music and dancing down by the Guadalquiver…. Very nice !
Day 1. Monday May 14th 2012.
Great intentions ! …..we had planned to start at 7-7.30am. (Problem No.1)…… Breakfast is at 8.00am so we decide to stay back and enjoy it. After a few pic’s in the quaint old converted convent where we over-nighted, we finally leave the hotel at 9.00am…much too late by my calculations. I am really concerned about the likely high temperature later on….. 47° heat in Seville yesterday!
So, away we go to the west side of the Cathedral for a photo of “your’s truly” at the iron Concha ( Scallop Shell ) on the pavement. This marks the spot where I start of my Walk….the “Via de la Plata“.
(Problem 2 )… Unfortunately, the Cathedral office where I had intended to get my “Pilgrim Passport” stamped, is closed until 11.00am. I moan a bit and think this is not very bright since most Pilgrims would normally start out much earlier to beat the afternoon heat. By the way, the above mentioned “Passport” is an official booklet issued by the Friends of St. James which one gets stamped at accommodation such as Albergues etc to prove that you have walked at least 100kms before showing up at the Pilgrim’s Office in Santiago to claim your Certificate ( Compostella ).
Anyway, we find our 1st “Concha” direction sign high on a wall at a side street opposite the Cathdral. Here, a bunch of noisy Italian bikers are excitedly having a photo-shoot of themselves before their departure. Some locals look on in amusement and I think, perhaps Pilgrims on the Via de la Plata are still few and far between and quite an oddity ! We’ll see.
Now, at last, we are underway. I have chosen not to use a detailed guide book so I am not sure if the way out of the city will be well enough marked for Peregrinos. No worries…we find yellow direction arrows ( Flechas Amarrillas ) everywhere !…..thanks to the great Volunteer Friends of St. James.
The Italians breeze by with a loud chorus of “Buen Camino”!..and I think to myself…I will probably never see (or hear) them again! I guess that’s the Camino way !
We cross the famous Guadalquiver River into Triana, which is a very historical area and where the wonderful Flamenco music and dance originated. I would have loved to spend some time there but that will be for another time.
The next bit is very commercial and I wish we were away from here. It’s getting very hot already as we re-cross the river and head for a town called Camas roughly 5 kms further on.
I am now beginning to get annoyed with all this tarmac ( asphalt ) underfoot…. my friends know how much I hate the blasted stuff. It burns the Hell out of my arthritic feet. We stop here for a break (coffee and a cornetto)…not my usual combo’ and certainly not as good as a coffee ‘n’ scone at Cavistons in Greystones! We have only walked 5 km…I am fair-skinned and frying, despite my “factor50” coating. Jeeez, I still have 995kms to go! Realism is sinking in and I silently ask myself….”what in the name of God have I taken on ? Soon, we are off again to the next village called Santiponce, 5km further ahead. Here you will find the remains of an old Roman town called Italica. I would love to visit it but It seems to be closed today, which is just as well since Maura has a toe infection ( not ideal for walking ! ). Any “off track” detours/visits are out of the question for her today. She has six more days to walk before she reaches her goal, Zafra and I hope her toe heals soon.
After we leave Santiponce, we wonder if we will ever get off this bloody tarmac. Then, sure enough, there it is…a lovely yellow arrow driving us off-road into what appears to be wheat and barley country. The track is compacted yellow-ish clay and stretches straight and seemingly “forever” onward to the distant horizon and beyond.
This place reminds me a lot of the great “Meseta” on the Camino Frances which I walked in 2009.
A BIG “HOLA” to all the wonderful Peregrinos/as I met on that unforgetful Journey.
We are now at the mercy of the Seville Sun ( which has no mercy at all for fair-skinned Irish walkers like me ). There is no shelter for us anywhere. Virtually “Hot” water from our water containers never tasted so nice! This heat is a really raw challenge and a first for us…but, we just have to plod on and hope and believe we can get some shaded relief somewhere along the way. There isn’t much happy chatter between us now … and then I just realise that we still have another 10km or so of this energy-sapping drudgery ahead of us. I keep reminding myself of two things; (1) this freak temperature will pass and (2) I will adapt and reach my goal no matter what the weather throws at me.
We then stumble upon a couple of friendly guys from South Africa and a lovely New York lady…Bart, Mike and Mary. Bart is sitting in what appears to be a stagnant mud pool and declares that he doesn’t care what might be lurking in there with him. He is just so desperate to cool down any way he can. Yes, 47° heat can have a strange effect on one ! Mike looks amused about it all and Mary is a little further back and stretched out under the “cool” shade of a big tree. I know that they will be o.k so we say our “Adios” and hack on.
For us, the nearest thing to relief is found further ahead towards the end of a young olive plantation where we both go a little off-road and crumble down in the shadow of an olive tree. Here we must try to recover somewhat. I know it sounds romantic…in the shade of an olive tree and all that balloney ! Just then, I think I’d prefer to be in that snow-cave on the top of Djouce Mountain ( right Noel !). About 30 minutes later we struggle up onto our weary feet and are off again…..another drink of that “warm” water. It is definitely still at least 45°+ now!
Maura seems to be dealing with the heat a bit better than me and she leads out slowly and exhaustingly…I don’t particularly want to mention how long it took us to reach Guillena, our destination for today.
As we walk into town it seems deserted…. there is not even a dog to be seen or heard! We head to the local police station for directions to the Municipal Albergue ( basic bunk accommodation ). My “cupla focail” ( few words ) of Spanish is of no use to me here but luckily, a young and refreshingly helpful police man looks us up and down and assumes the obvious ! He walks a bit with us and shows us the way to the Albergue with lots of gesticulations and sympathetic smiles. Nice touch ! Again, Muchas Gracias to you, Senor.
The Albergue is newly built but is full up ( “completo” ). However, we are lucky enough to be given accommodation (on our own) in the older but now the “overflow” Albergue next door…a quick scan reveals that it has air con’ and a good clean bathroom and showers. Boy, do I enjoy that shower and the prospect of a good rest !!
We snooze for a couple of hours and then welcome the sight of fresh gear and our sandals. Off we trot for a pint and tappas in the “local” where we meet two really nice friendly young lads (Peregrinos) from California…Kyle and David. We compare our experiences of the day…and laugh about it over a couple of jarras of Cruzcampo.The tappas are great but we” pass” on the Spanish snails. ( I am not prepared to eat snails no matter what their nationality ! ) The pub is run by a father and son and I think it’s called “Bar Tio Curro”. It’s a nice place to chill a bit after a tough hot day on the hoof! …and the pints and the grub are beginning to kick in and help to stop the “Hurt” !!
Day 1 over. After a final thought for my ill sister Rose and the Kids at Barretstown….. the leaden “lids” fall down and we are “out for the count!