The stage from Alcuescar to Caceres is 39.4kms, far beyond my capability. I decided to divide it into two easy stages of 16.5km and 22.9km, stopping at Aldea del Cano and Caceres respectively.
The day ahead:
The day’s stage was a fairly flat terrain, sunshine, warm but not too hot, still, little to no wind.
I passed Casas de Don Antonio (10km).
It is a typical Spanish village, white-washed walls, red-tiled roofs, the old stone church on the hill overlooking (dominating?) the town. There is a Roman bridge in the foreground. Two fellow pilgrims are crossing it.
At the far edge of the village a couple of mini-vans pulled up and disgorged their passengers. They were about a dozen women, some with day packs on their back, who set off on the camino path. The service vehicles continued on the highway, no doubt carrying their other luggage, and intending to prepare meals for them further on and collect them. As I shouldered my backpack, I could not help but think to myself, “light weight pilgrims”!! In a more charitable mode, I conceded, each to his own.
For some unknown reason, I found the walking today “plodding”. It did not have quite the same flow as on previous days. I am sure that is the experience of most on some days. As I neared my day’s destination of Aldea del Cano, one of my co-pilgrims told me that there was also accommodation at Valdesalor. I considered the options. I could follow my original plan, staying at Aldea del Cano (16.5kms). Or I could continue on the further 11kms, about three hours – I quailed slightly when I saw the figure – to Valdesalor (a day’s total distance of 27.5kms). I reckoned there would not be much to see in Aldea del Cano, just other Spanish village much the same as others where I have stayed, but my guide book recommended a day in Caceres. I arrived at Aldea del Cano at about 11.30am. It was too early to stop. I decided to continue on. The extra three hours of walking today would mean 3 hours less walking tomorrow; which would also mean three more hours to see Caceres.
It was perhaps not the best day to keep walking, since as mentioned above, I had been experiencing it as “plodding”. But maybe for that precise reason, it was also a good day to keep walking, not to give in to the body, but to discipline it. Besides, I also needed to increase my daily range. Having made the decision, and relying on the mantra to help carry me along the way, the long walk of 27.5 kms didn’t prove too difficult, but it certainly demanded perseverance as the time went past midday and into the early afternoon.
A photo which captures several elements of the camino experience: (1) there is the dirt path/roadway that I am following; (2) there is a camino marker, the small, grey, granite block in front of the tree; (3) there is a well-shaped tree (typical of many along the way); (4) there is a Roman bridge (and thank God for it too, for without it, I would have had to wade through a creek full of water!); (5) there is a picnic/resting place (admittedly, I have only seen a couple of these in the past, usually where there is a rural chapel; (6) there are the wild flowers in the field in the background (I didn’t look too closely, as the purple might be a nice crop of thistles!!); (7) there is a stork in its nest on top of the electricity pylon (to the left of the tree), usually found also on church steeples.
Along the way I overtook a shepherd and his flock of small-tailed sheep. He was walking in front with his two dogs. The flock followed behind, their neck bells chiming. As I passed the flock, with my farm upbringing, even my untrained eye could see that some of them were quite daggy! I am sure the newly installed good shepherd at Fairview would not be impressed! As I caught up to the Spanish shepherd, he was taking a rest on a stone. I approached him. He spoke in Spanish. I replied that I did not speak Spanish. He asked where I was from. I replied, “Australia”. He had a sun-burned face, testament to years out in the open with his flock. His features were full of character. I asked to take his photo. He nodded permission. He informed me that his two dogs were both Border Collies. I wondered was there an Australian connection?
Along the way, I sometimes come across culverts filled with water.
Usually I can negotiate to one side of them. This one I managed to pass, as had other pilgrims before me, through the grass on the right-hand side, marshy, but sufficient grass to keep the top of my boots above the waterline. But I really do appreciate whoever made it easier in other gullies by providing granite stepping blocks.
I had followed a Dutch couple for most of the day. It was encouraging to be able to see someone ahead, especially on such a long trek. When I eventually arrived in Valdesalor around 2.00pm they, along with several of the hardy co-pilgrims of the previous days, were already installed and showered, including the 80 year old! I had not been so pioneering as I had thought! Since the lower bunks were all taken, I had no option but to take a top bunk. I had a shower, put clothes out to dry in the sun, walked a few hundred metres into the town for a meal and typed up a post – but there was wifi to publish it. Later!