I am up and ready quite early this morning as I haven’t slept too well….. I have had my latest experience of one of this world’s “Super Snorers”….some guy I had not seen around before, kept the rest of us “normal snorers” awake all night. A quick look through a small window beside my bunk reveals a lovely dawn breaking over some nearby buildings and far off hills. It looks like a hot day ahead and worse still it’s almost ALL tarmac/asphalt road walking. However, it’s only a short 16 km hike so we should get in early to Merida.
I see Julian, my Canadian friend, ahead of me as he dips in and out of the busy N630 and across the railway track. I stop for an early food break and soon catch a glimpse of the rest of a bunch of walkers bearing down on me from behind. It soon becomes apparent that this is the rest of last night’s “diners” on the march to Merida. They are all in flying form and assure me that they will take a break nearer town and wait for me there. It’s all road walking now and I must share it with serious traffic and lots of rainbow coloured bikers. Soon I spy the city of Merida peeping over the horizon and I take a pic’.
Just as I reach the outskirts I re-unite with my group at the entrance to a commercial business unit and we plan our day in Merida. A car with two young ladies appears at the gates and they seem highly amused at the sight of such an eclectic looking band of Pilgrims. One of them hops out of the car and insists on taking pictures of us with our own cameras. This for me is a really nice touch and is typical of the friendly Spanish people I have encountered so far along the way. After a lot of group snapping and much laughter, the girls wave us off with a big happy “Adios” and “Buen Camino”..Yes, happy times and great fun !!
So, off into Merida we merrily march and soon Ricardo is asking passers-by for info’ and directions. A short time later we are crossing a magnificent old Roman Bridge over the Rio Guadiana and it carries us into this great city, soaked in ancient history.
Immediately, we are confronted with well preserved remains of Roman walls and buildings. A statue of a pompous arrogant looking guy ( perhaps Caesar himself ) lords it over this city entrance. Nearby I see a statue of Romulus and Remus with the she wolf. I know I won’t have enough time to explore this wonderful city, but I promise myself that I will return to places like this some day and enjoy all such wonderful historical sites.
To our left is a beautiful linear riverside park and here we find an artistic metal hanging sign that steers us to the Municipal Albergue. It is an old flour mill that has been converted to an Albergue and it is very very basic indeed. However, it is run by a friendly volunteer who arrives on his bike and checks us in for the night. It’s lunch time now and we all scurry into town led by Ricardo who has adopted the roll of “leader” ( well, after all, he speaks the lingo and seems to have plenty local knowledge ! ). Ricardo gets his boot sorted at a shoe repair shop on the way and then we find ourselves in a very nice restaurant which has a good menu and lively staff….not to mention that excellent but inexpensive vino ! Ricardo introduces me to Vino Tinto with gas water…it’s not bad but tastes like port. After a lot of translated chat, story-telling and laughter, we head back to base to carry out the usual programme….laundry, emailing, napping etc. The Hospitalario very kindly takes Julian and me down underground to the original Mill works. The old grinding stones and other relevant materials are still to be seen. He also tells us that these underground caverns were used as bomb shelters during the War.
After a quick tour around this glorious city, I do some vital food shopping for next day. Back at the Albergue the laundry is dry and smelling fresh and I organise my bag for an early start next morning. It’s 9pm now and all is quiet except for an elderly Spanish couple who have just completed their Camino here. They are loud, giddy and pretty excited….we all hope they will settle down soon so that we can get some quality sleep. That’s it for today.