Day 4.May17th. Almaden to El Real de la Jara.
We make a quiet departure at 6.00am with our head torches lit up and ready for a short day of just 17kms. At this hour of the morning we feel we must be first out of the blocks today but we spy a small moving light up front. This is no firefly….it’s Francesco, that quiet and gentle Italian with the chiseled facial features of some ancient Roman emperor . Since we don’t speak each other’s language, we exchange greetings in “sign language”. He repeats something about “Pantani”? ( perhaps the famous Italian cyclist who won the Tour de France and the Giro D’Italia in 1998). After lots of big smiles and “of si-si’s”, we leave him to move at his usual leisurely pace. Perhaps he is slowed by that big backpack, always with his large towel draped over it ….you might call this arrangement his improvised “traveling clothes-line” !
Dawn quietly breaks and I take a few nice pics of the morning mist above the distant tree canopies as it is gently wisps around dark rolling hills in the distance.
Everything is now so quiet and peaceful that I almost feel guilty about wrecking the stillness with the now familiar crunch of Camino Tom’s size 14’s on the gravel path.
We soon enter a private estate called “Cortigo Arroyo Mateos”. Our path runs right through it and what a spectacular place it is. A few very big dogs guard a beautiful ranch-style house and farm buildings. Thankfully the dangerous looking one that clearly does not like the passing Peregrinos is firmly tied up. A couple of other narky barkers are well fenced in while yet another monster of a dog lies directly in our path and is chewing on a big bone…hopefully not that of some unfortunate Peregrino! Thankfully, he shows no interest in us and we calmly (nervously) walk on by.
Then sometime later we encounter large herds of goats charging around through lightly tree-planted meadow groves. I never knew that a goat could stay upright on it’s hind legs for so long, as it nibbles at the leaves on the lower tree branches. Mind you, I notice that we haven’t seen any goat’s cheese in the shops….yet. Perhaps it is a prized export product and not for us !
We move on towards Real de la Jara and spy three South African ladies happily picknicking at the edge of a beautiful preserved area where a myriad of colourful wild herbs abound. The colours and scents are truly amazing here.
We are now getting close to our destination for the day and we find a bunch of competing signs advertising accommodation up ahead. A little further on we encounter a lone mother sheep with her new born lamb….mid May…surely a very late arrival ! She instinctively moves between us and her baby…what a nice little cameo ! We are soon in what might be called “Oak-tree Country”…yes, thousands of them in pristine wildflower meadows. Apparently it’s their acorns that give the Iberico ham it’s world renowned and wonderful distinctive flavour.
About 1km before El Real stands a monument to the memory of Jose Louis Salvador who founded the “Seville Amigos of St. James”. Without his leadership and personal commitment, the Camino de la Via de la Plata might not be as “Peregrino-friendly” as it is today. Many thanks to you Jose and may you rest in peace.
Here, find a lovely old traditional Spanish church..locked, of course!
Just across the street from the church is a bar called Meson Cochera…The church might be closed…but, the barra is open, of course! After a Boccadillo and a beer we arrange our accommodation for the night. It’s an old private hostal and we are proudly told by the owner that it is in business for over 70 years. It really does look all of it’s full 70 years allright…mucho mucho basic, but it will do. The Abuelo and Abuela (Grandparents) are quietly suffering their lively grandchild in the living room while their daughter is noisily “project-managing” some building work out in the back yard. She sounds like she is giving a roasting to the builders but with a smile on her face. I notice that you will rarely hear a calm Spanish conversation..they loudly “broadcast” it ! Sure, it’s part of the charm of this great country !
Finally, it’s back to the Meson Cochera bar where we have a nice alfresco meal and a couple of glasses of the local Tinto.( Spanish Red ) to wash it down.
Yes, we have had a nice day which is now almost over We also note that the going is getting easier…at least for now. We are ready for some “shut eye” now…so, Buenas Noches to the World. Day 4 Done.