Today’s stage was 24 kilometres long. Although the terrain did not present as being too difficult, I knew it was better to stick to my pilgrim noviciate/acclimatisation/self-care plan. Unfortunately, there was not intermediate town along the way, so no bus! So I did the only alternative that was possible, I took a taxi!! One of my reasons for settling on the hostel the night before was that when I phoned, the person who answered had a few words of English, and I felt this would help me explain my predicament and my need for a taxi to take me out of the city next morning to a particular point where the camino path crossed the road). I managed to convey with maps and sign language and a mixture of English, Italian and Spanish that I wanted to be taken to the Lake of Salobral, taking some 13 kms (or 17 kms, depending on which guide book you read!?) off the walk, leaving me a comfortable 10 kms or so to walk. The hotel person understood straight away. It is not the first time he had such a request. He phoned and arranged everything for me, taxi, fare, departure time. The taxi turned out to be a private car, not a signed taxi, so I think it was a friend of the person working in the hostel.
This morning, the taxi driver, of course, did exactly what I had feared he would do. When we had gone the distance, he pointed out the lake, stopped the car, and indicated I was to get out. But there was no sign of the Camino, no arrow, no conch shell sign! The driver even took my backpack out of the car and put it on the side of the road. He was going no further, and from what I could understand of his Spanish, he had no idea about the precise location of the camino!!
I knew the path would not be far away. It went around the lake, so it was in fact very near. But I was a bit hesitant about being left stranded “in the wilderness”. My main concern was not the distance to the path as such, but just how much time it might take me to find the actual path. But I got out, paid the fare, picked up the pack, made the sign of the cross, said a prayer for guidance, and after getting a wave from a passing farmer on his tractor, set off down a track.
A couple of hundred meters later it came to a T-junction, and to the right I could see a familiar arrow! Gracias a Dios! I followed along where it joined the same road that I had been on. If the driver had only gone another few hundred meters, we would have both seen a camino sign on the roadside!! I followed the path for the rest of the morning and had no problems.
Again, sunny day, birds singing, farmers trimming olive trees, relatively flat terrain. When the destination of Baena hove into sight, I felt I could have continued another couple of hours (which augurs well for the future, and is confirmation of the sense of my noviciate/acclimatisation/self-care approach!!).
But from when I first sighted Baena to when I arrived in the town and found my accommodation, it was still another hour’s walking and searching! So in the end, it was quite enough for the day, without having been too stressful.
I still don’t have a good process for navigating the towns and for finding accommodation. The guide books don’t provide much detailed information. I tried taking a photo of the map at the entrance to the town and using this as a reference. But it didn’t seem to work so well. And asking is difficult as I can’t understand the answer!? The map showed an office for “Informacion“. I asked a passerby for “Informacion?“, to which he seemed to reply in Spanish “Information on what!?”, which was a perfectly sensible question, but of no use to me, because I couldn’t explain that I was looking for the office of information on the town, the Tourist Office, where I might get a map (but as yesterday showed, even the maps may be out of date!). Of course, a local would know everything and have no use for such an office, so probably didn’t even know it existed. I said thanks and continued on.
By luck, I happened to see a sign for the albergue (hostel) and followed it (it would have to be up to the steepest and highest part of the town!) and settled into accommodation. It is very good. Not pilgrim basic. So I have been able to wash my clothes, shower and blog! One of the advantages of few pilgrims on the way is that I virtually have the place to myself (though I did hear movement in an adjacent room and later on the steps met another pilgrim who is following a different camino). I have a private room with attached shower and toilet. I am paying more, but for now am happy to enjoy the luxury. I know that it will be pilgrim basic in the days and weeks to come.
I will have a look around Baena, have a meal, and get ready for the next day.