Villaharta to Alcaracejos (Stage I)

Today’s stage was 39 kms, with no villages or accommodation in between. Definitely not within the frame of reference of the pilgrim noviciate/acclimatisation/self-care program! However, I had learned that it was possible to get a bus all the way. Also, it was possible to get a taxi to a half-way point and walk the rest of the way. It was also possible to walk to the halfway point, then phone for a taxi to pick you up, then get the same taxi to take you to the same point the next morning and walk the second half. I had considered these options the previous day as I made my way into Villaharta.

1. A rigorously ideological pilgrim would walk the whole way in a day, come hell or high water.
2. A mildly ideological and well-off pilgrim would take the two taxi rides and walk the whole way over two days.
3. A novice, acclimatising, self-care, mildly ideological pilgrim who was mindful of extravagant costs would take the taxi to the halfway point and walk the second half. Two taxi rides, each costing more or less a day’s pilgrim budget, covering the same territory on consecutive days, even though going in different directions, seemed a bit of an ask.
4. A novice, acclimatising, self-care, not at all ideological pilgrim who was even more mindful of expense would forget the taxis and take the public bus all the way.

I pondered these options and had more or less made up my mind to follow option three. However, as I arrived on the edge of Villaharta the previous afternoon I met a couple of Dutch pilgrims (husband and wife). We had stayed in the same albergue in Costa del Rio some days ago, in different rooms, and had seen each other come and go but had not spoken. They shared how they had walked all the way from Costa del Rio to Cordoba in one day, 39 kms, and paid the penalty of blisters. They had decided that 20 km was enough for a day. They felt the next stage was too much. I was able to inform them of the other possibilities. I wasn’t fully decided myself. I wanted to get to the albergue, take my boots off, check my feet and see how I felt before making a final decision. But I foolishly and rashly suggested that it might be possible for us to share a taxi. They thought that was a possibility and they would think it over. I gave them my phone number and we would be in touch later in the evening.

As it turned out, I was feeling OK. The idea of sharing the cost of the taxi made it less prohibitive, so when they rang, we agreed on option 2 above. A defeat for economic rationalism! A victory for pilgrim ambulatory integrity!!

Accordingly, we set off this morning just after 8.00am. They were faster walkers and went ahead. I caught up with them later in the morning when they were taking a break and I went ahead. They caught up with me a short while later and again went ahead. I took a break for lunch and “feet time” (boots off and air the feet) and caught up with them again at the designated half-way meeting point of Puetro Calatraveno around 2.00 pm. I phoned the hostel manager and about 20 minutes later his son arrived to bring the three of us back to Villaharta (again, the return motor vehicle ride going a longer distance than we had covered but doing it in only 20 minutes was an insult to our six-hour long trek of human endurance!!)

It had been a good day’s walk. 17.5kms or 22kms depending on which guide book you read. Some climbing and descending in the morning; a long road walk in the heat of the mid-morning; some cloud cover later, but no breeze, so quite hot. But it was great to do it all without a backpack, which we had left at the lodgings!!! All I had was a small pack with my water supply and a small lunch (ham and cheese bread roll and apple which the hostal manager had provided for me at my request). Tomorrow will be a different story, as we take the taxi in the morning, heft on our packs, and complete the stage, another 18 or 20kms, again, depending on the guide book.

A couple of scenes from along the way:

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A River Crossing

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The Way (if you can zoom in, my companions are on the far end of the visible road).

Ultreia!!!!

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