Campanario to Don Benito

The forecast was rain. I woke a couple of times during the night and heard light rain falling. It was still falling when I woke to the alarm. The Austrian couple were heading off. I followed shortly after, around 8.00am. I put on the wet weather gear, rainproof jacket and trousers. The hat not only protects from sun, but the goretex protects from rain too! Even the backpack has its own rainproof cover, a zipped pocket at the bottom of the pack, in which there is a plastic cover with an elastic band which encompasses the backpack. And even if some rain does get through into the pack, my clothes, IT and other important items are all compartmentalised in separate waterproof packs. So I and my equipment were as protected as we could be.

In the early part of the morning the rain was steady though not heavy. Later it eased off to light, spotting rain. It wasn’t too bad, but I did feel some dampness creep in, either from moisture which gathered in the padding of my exposed pack straps penetrating through my very old light plastic jacket or through its seams, or maybe some drippage down my back, or maybe it was just perspiration. All in all, not too bad.

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The first town along the way was Magacela, 9kms distant, seen here through the mist and rain, which will give you some idea of the weather conditions. And yes, surprise, surprise, it was on the top of a hill! When we came to the foothill of the town, I did not follow the main road, but loyally followed the yellow arrows. They led me around the hill, and to my surprise, did not take me up to the town at all. I was quite disappointed, not at missing the climb, but to the coffee and bite that I had planned to have when I arrived at the summit of the town. When I had left Campanario in the morning, I didn’t have anything to eat, as it was a public/festive holiday for Easter Monday and all the cafes and bars were closed!

Despite missing out on a late breakfast, I was happy to continue on my way. I took consolation that I was following in the footsteps of the Austrian couple, who were ahead of me, whose bootprints I could recognise. Only pilgrims would be mad enough to be out walking on a day like this!!

The rain had made the dirt track muddy. I was conscious that it was slippery, so as much as possible, I walked either on the grass edge or in the middle grassy part, as I felt these were less slippery.

Incidentally, the 2009 guidebook said, “The whole section from here (Campanario) to Don Benito is now, unfortunately, on tarmac though this part has hardly any traffic at all.” The first section out of Campanario led onto a gravel/dirt track, which continued most of the way to Magacela, and most of the way afterwards as well. So in this instance the guidebook had no relation to reality. Moreover, having negotiated the muddy path, I did not consider myself “unfortunate” to have a stretch on the main tarmac road!! Quite the opposite!!

8kms further on was La Haba. I was still following the Austrian couple’s boottracks. At one point I was tempted to avoid the dirt camino track and continue on the tarmac, since the dirt track joined up with it again a couple of kms further on. However, the Austrians had gone off onto the dirt, so I followed dutifully. However, after a few metres I noticed that their tracks were coming back to the tarmac. I looked up, and sure enough, there were no more boot tracks ahead. They had turned around and come back to the tarmac, as I had been tempted to do – they must have been finding the mud as challenging as I had been finding it – so I also turned back and enjoyed the hard road under my feet for the next 2 kms until I arrived in La Haba.

I had considered La Haba as a possible place to stay, halfway between Campanario and Medellin, but having checked the guidebooks, thought it was too small to have a good accommodation prospect. Don Benito promised a lot more. Besides, that is where the Austrians were heading. But I thought La Haba would at least be good for some, by now, very long delayed brunch! I was disappointed. When I arrived in the town, village really, everything was closed for Easter Monday (and it probably would have been the same in Magacela had I ventured up into the town)! So there was nothing for it but to continue hungrily the next 6km to Don Benito.

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The weather cleared in the afternoon (as you can see above), with some blue sky, and my (in)constant companion (my shadow) even appeared for a short while. However, cloud cover again made him disappear, and I walked solo again, with a few drops of rain again being blown onto me. I was glad to have the wet weather gear as a protection from both wind and rain.

But plastic trousers coming up to the waist, and a plastic jacket going to mid-thigh, both garments strapped tightly under the waist belt of the backpack, means undoing the pack and penetrating two extra layers of clothing to have a pee!! That’s a detail you probably didn’t need to know, but it is just being practical! I held off until I really had to go!!

I eventually arrived in Don Benito mid-afternoon and found accommodation in a hostal. I decided “body” first, so had a hot shower. After the long, hard day of steady walking in adverse conditions for 24 kms, it was realllllllly wonnnnndddderrrrfuuuuulllll!

Having pampered the body, including powdering the feet, I sought nourishment. Most places are closed here too!! The cafe in the main square did not have wifi, so I settled for a milk coffee only and did not tarry. Later I found a bar/restaurant with wifi (the kitchen was closed and would not re-open till 8.00pm) so I had a beer and some olives and started this blog.

My guidebook said there was Mass every day at 8.00pm. I asked in the bar, and they thought it was 7.30pm. I would have to postpone the meal until after Mass. As it turned out, Mass was at 8.30pm! I attended Mass and am now back in the bar/restaurant finishing this blog and enjoying ham, sausages and chips, to be followed by chocolate cake! After all, it is Easter Monday, and I didn’t have a single chocolate egg. I deserve this!!

Another good day, despite the weather. 24kms done!

Let’s see what tomorrow holds. The weather forecast is cloudy.

Ultreia!!

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