Damn it….I am like a briar this morning ! ……and I am not the only one who is in a foul mood. My worst fears about that elderly Spanish couple were realised. Despite several “diplomatic prompts” from most other Peregrinos, they fidgeted around with their backpacks and made countless trips to that bloody “roaring” drinks dispenser which is parked just at the door to the sleeping quarters. Finally at around mid-night they settled a little. They have now reduced the noise levels to loud whispering and a few more sorties to the reception area. I really cracked at 1.00am and tried to explain to them that no one can sleep with this racket going on and that the rest of us have to continue on our walk next morning. I might as well have been talking to the wall behind them….they just smiled and smiled and smiled and loudly “whispered” something to me in Spanish. Exasperating !!!! Whatever they said brought howls of laughter from some of the others who understand Spanish. All I could do now was just to lay down and do my best to at least relax a bit ! …..no point in trying tricks like counting jumping sheep, Iberian porkies or anything else in these circumstances. It’s 3.00am and they are at it again…this time zipping, un-zipping, packing and re-packing and nipping in and out. This is not funny anymore…just plain Torture ! By now some others have given up on any hope of sleeping and are getting up. Led headlights are appearing everywhere but I am determined to stay put for as long as I can. Then I remember that I have planned only a short walk for today…17 kms to a town called Aljucen, so I turn over, again, and try to sleep, …..now that the crazy couple have left.
It’s 7.00am and there are only two or three of us left in the Albergue, so, I decide to pack up and follow the rest who have already left. On the way out of town I notice a pair of trainers hanging from overhead cables ….a drug dealer’s “business card” . This seems to be an international “code” and I have seen it in many countries, including my own.
As I move further on from Merida I pass by the remains of a huge Roman aquaduct and it makes a nice pic’ against the brightening dawn backdrop.
Now I have to contend with some more road walking. I am a little un-nerved after a few kms as I have not seen any Camino signs anywhere…perhaps I have missed a key one somewhere and am on the wrong track ? I see a Cafe/Bar up ahead where, hopefully, I will be able to ask for confirmation, but yes, you’ve guessed it….it is not open yet ! Nothing for it now but to turn around and start again from the last yellow “Flecha” (Arrow ) I have seen. As I walk back, I meet a Peregrino from Asturias who assures me that I had been on the correct path originally. He is a very friendly fellow and we talk and walk together as far as the great Roman Reservoir called Embalse de Prosperina ( I think it translates “Reservoir of Spring” ). This is a beautiful place and he tells me that it was built by the Romans to supply water to Merida. The reservoir is as still as a frozen lake and the sun is heating up nicely. We find some nice restuarants and cafes strung along the lake beaches and my walking companion “hits the roof” when an idle young staff member wouldn’t serve us coffee. He explained that the cafe “was not open yet”. My friend shouts …”is it any wonder Spain is in such an economic mess with an attitude like this to customers ?” He calls modern day Spanish business people “lazy” ! However, I am in no humour to listen to a rant today so I hang back for a while to allow him to walk off ahead.
The walking is now on gravel track and I am happy with this. In a field to my left, there is the fattest hairy pig I have ever witnessed, and with such tiny feet…. I wonder how they can support it !…definitely worth a pic’ !
Before long I am in Aljucen and I feel in tip-top shape….despite my lack of sleep last night. This is another dozy town but very pretty, tidy and clearly with a proud population. A couple of ladies are busy cleaning and decorating the Village church area and they offer me a nice Spanish smile and a “Buen Camino”. I continue through the town but fail to notice the Albergue which is somewhere near the church. This is my prompt to consider continuing ahead for another 22kms to a town called Alcuescar. I debate with myself whether I should stay here or go on….what the hell, “I will do it”. On the outskirts of the village there is a filling station with a small cafe to my left and I nip in for a water top-up and some fruit. I sit for a while and have a nice coffee and a sugary muffin. Now, I am fuelled up and I definitely feel ready for more walking and head off with confidence and gusto.
From here I have to cross the road and head into the woods. Problem !….two huge dogs trot out of the woods towards me and stop in their tracks. Their eyes are fixed on me…..not good, not good ! Should I bravely or stupidly continue towards them and hope that they will ignore me or should I retreat and hope they will not chase me. Thankfully, just then, their master appeared and called them to heel….Phew !… now, that was scary ! I might have been able to defend myself against one, but two….I don’t think so. Off I go again now feeling a little calmer and definitely much relieved. The countryside here is a blaze of colour and contains lots of trees. I never tire of this natural beauty and if I ever feel exhausted and beaten, I just stop, look and marvel at the wonder of it all. Thankfully, I have never suffered with depression but I think a place such as this would be the perfect antidote. All of this, and that sugary muffin, keeps my mental and physical energy levels high. It’s quite hot now and I stop from time to time for a little shade, fruit and water. Some way on, I reach a road with a sign pointing left for Caceres. This is really encouraging since Caceres is at the 300km mark. This also means that I am leaving the provence of Badajoz and entering the province of Careres.
A bit further on I pass by an Info’ sign announcing a “Parque Natural” called Cornalvo. I love these Nature Reserves and as usual, this one does not disappoint. Everywhere I look there lies spectacular scenery with lots of colourful features. I pass meadows populated with dozens of sheep quietly and happily grazing away. Then I see something amazing…..in the shade of a huge tree there are four mother yews overseeing what I can only describe as a “creche” of about a score of little lambs. Who said that sheep are stupid !!!
I walk alone now for about 15 kms through layers of multi-coloured rocky countryside.
I am beginning to tire somewhat and my feet are nagging at me. It’s time for a rest now which I take and change my socks. I remember that my walk for the day is over 40 kms instead of the 17 kms I had planned and this doesn’t help. Still, I am happy and not hungry or thirsty so I hack on. I believe marathon runners can “hit the wall” somewhere towards the end of their 42 km run….I think I have definitely collided with some kind of physical/psychological wall and I am really struggling to make the last couple of kms into a town called Alquescar….No Surrender, eh ! I find the Albergue very easily and as I check in I discover a few Peregrinos from earlier stages are there to welcome me in. The Hospitalerio is really extrovert/excentric and announces that he will have dinner ready for us later. After that vital shower and rest, my feet are beginning to recover and I join the Hospitalario and the rest of the Peregrinos for what can be described as an “interesting little meal”. Still, food is food and the tired body needs it !
After a bit of banter and story-swapping with this bunch, I head for the Spar mini-market and shop for tomorrow. I am hoping for a proper night’s sleep tonight and I collapse onto the “scratcher” at around 9.00pm for a deserved rest, I would say !