San Pedro de Merida to Merida. 10 miles Flat.
Saturday Santa Amalia to San Pedro de Merida 12 miles flat.
Ciconia Ciconia the White Stork.
Tony and Betsy have been photographing these birds everyday since we encountered them once we moved out of the dry coastal 100 miles or so. From just before Granada onward they have been a constant presence.
These birds are sub Saharan migrants that were in decline in Spain before conservation measures produced a good recovery. We have enjoyed seeing the occupy their traditional rooftops on churches and chasing frogs in irrigated fields. The beak clacking and aerial displays between partners and other close nesting couples are great viewing.
We have seen multiple nest sites on single buildings often also occupied by sparrows as lodgers.
The final picture is of three well placed storks.
Friday 13.5.16 Don Benito to Santa Amalia. 13 miles. Flat one unexpected ford.
Thursday 12 .5 Campanario to Don Benito 16miles pretty flat.
Wednesday 11.5.16 Castuera to Campanario. 15 miles pretty flat.
The forecast for today is a Ralph. Tony’s son can forecast weather with 70% accuracy. “Same as yesterday”. It does seem that weather comes in blocks, yesterday was dry in the morning, raining by late afternoon. Today may be the same. But we head off into sunshine. We hand the keys to the albergue back to the policia locale thanking the bright alert young policeman on duty. We must have been unlucky yesterday! Spirits are high an average distance planned, accommodation at least possible, just outside town on route. Flowers are singing birds blooming as we scurry along. Landscape is dehesa with cereal field mainly, some have large piles of stones removed we presume by generations of farmers. Occasional large granite boulders still provide a good place to eat mid morning oranges.
At one point a large bird takes brief flight. A stork maybe it settles and flies again as we approach. It is huge. An eagle disturbed from its night roost. It is most probably a Golden Eagle possibly a first year juvenile with prominent black and white under wings fooled us for a moment. Betsy wonders if it will return to eat her or if it takes lambs, a really big bird. We are passed, off in the pasture around the verana by a herd of sheep two shepherds and a dog. Plenty of lambs about.
Later we see increasing numbers of storks and then Tony spots the reason, a tree or two are covered in active stork nests. The multiple small fords we cross on the grit road are full of small frogs providing a ready source of food. As close to stork heaven as it gets we reckon.
Just before we enter town we are crossing an area of multiple pools when we see the bodies of two enormous tadpoles. Looking more like jellyfish than amphipian precursors they are two or three inches long. Some net research suggests they may be the tadpole stage of the Iberian Ribbed Newt a large primitive looking creature one of which we may have seen flattened at the side of the road. The dirt track is used by fairly large lorries against which these beasts stand little chance.
Another rare sighting is a man riding on a donkey. It is only the second donkey we have seen being ridden in Spain there are also two dogs one of whom is having difficulty keeping up with a front leg injury. The last ridden donkey we saw was also in Estramadura on the Via de la Plata four years ago.
We get contact with the ladies running the alburgue through the Ajuntamiento and are intercepted by one as we leave town. Well it is not a big place, she suggests we eat and ring her when we are ready to set off the remaining kilometre to the railway station. Most of us are on the ball and realise that the old railway station is our accommodation for the night. It is very well refurbished and a very comfortable lodging. We are followed in by two Irish women who are also looking for the alburgue but are a little less organised and have not yet had lunch.
A washing machine seduces us into a major wash even though the Ralph forecast promises rain before it finishes its cycle.
10.5 Tuesday Monterrubio de Serena to Casuera.13 miles pretty flat.
Hinjosa del Duque to Monterubio over 20 miles moderately up and down.
So leaving the ducks behind, but not unfortunately their weather we head off across the dehesa with no villages, no bars and maybe one place to eat what we bring and rest. We shared the albergue last night with the Italian (maybe older than us) who was full of doing 50 km yesterday but did the same as us, and today with once again poor weather forecast he is not so bold and is probably heading to Monterubios like us. Conversation is difficult even for Betsy as a polyglot of French Spanish and Italian results between us and him.
We are starting by 7.40 and it starts to rain just after, allowing enough time for clothing optimism and the rapid donning of water proofs. Tim whose water proof socks and over trousers worked well yesterday is in sandals, normal socks and shorts cold feet result but his fun in puddles compensates. It is a miserable day made worse by reports of 25degree heat at home. The large heaps of boulders in fields continue but soon fields give way to Holm oak pasture and occasionally fields of crops and cereals. Gradually the landscape becomes one of dehesa but with large areas of wheat with the usual Holm Oak in the fields. This is particularly pretty as the corn is just turning from green to gold.
After a brief stop between rain storms for oranges while being dripped on by an oak tree we next pause at an Ermita, old but done up in the 19th century by a Vicomtesse in memory of her husband. This has a porticoed cloister which we eat in until the rain stops. Only about 8km along the road to town now.
The sky looks black. We reach the border of Estradura and shortly after the skies open. A fitting start to our walking in the province named for climatic extremes. Strictly we are in the province of Badajoz in the Autonomous Comunity of Estramadura. Either way the next hour is cold and wet. The rain stopping just as we enter town. All have had enough and a meal and rest in the Hostal Vaticano at pilgrim rates is very welcome.
Alcaracejos to Hinojosa del Duque. 14 miles pretty flat.
We know it will be a wet day, the Norwegians have said so. Regrettably the Met Office back them up and looking a various Spanish weather forecasts on the television in various bars it is raining nearly every where in Spain unlike in the UK where they seem to be talking about heatwaves. We get the usual breakfast except for Betsy who, fortifying herself for the day has chocolate and churros. Hoping that there may be another churros burros on the way.
Our route is across flat dehesa that overlays a lot of granite. This produces the large boulder piles in the fields, much of pasture but some growing peas and cereals. The Holm Oaks dot the landscape some obviously of great age. The advantage to us is the course grit sand of our path, giving a good grip and little of the glutinous clay that bedevilled us on previous wet days. The villages we pass through have names relating to the mining past and the take over of the area by a higher Dukedom leading to the Duque suffix. It is wet, it rains continuously but we see no ducks or amphibians, a damp hoopoo a few goldfinches and a azure winged magpie are really all we see of note. Apart from statues to the areas mining past.
We met again the Italian walker who does quite long distances in Alcarahejos he was intending to cover 50km today but the rain has put him off and he is here in the alburgue courtesy of Hinjosa del Duque. It was a pleasant walk through the modified dehesa even in the rain and there were as always some parts where the floets would have been stunning. Very mixed farming small dairy herds some sheep and arable of various kinds.
Our bar in Alcarahejos we returned to for breakfast gives us some cake to take with us and we eat it at the usual orange stop in the rain in the middle of nowhere. Later we stop for some biscuits and share a large covered outdoor picnic and entertainment area with two middle aged Spaniards sporting hi tec catapults and a sporting dog. Not a bad walk all things considered. And a good Alburgue at the back of the police station, without bars on the windows.
Villaharta to Alcaracejos Part 2. 11 miles fairly flat.
Sadly we now leave Cafe Bar Mirasierra a very good pilgrim stop. The flat we have occupied for 2nights is well set up with hot water and open and covered drying lines for clothes on the flat roof which has a good view of the local stork nest on the church. Senor Ruis takes us back to the headless statue off the main road where he picked us up in the rain yesterday and we walk the 800m back to the camino on the Canada Real Soriane the old drove route over the dehesa of the Sierra Morena. The terrain becomes flatter and more like the typical dehesa of Estramadura, with cistus and Holm Oak dominating the landscape which gradually appears more like the Capability Brown landscapes of English country estates, with well spaced trees and occasional herds of sheep watched over by very large dogs.
We expect a wet day but it rapidly stops and removal of layers comences not without trepidation as it appeared to us yesterday that whenever a layer is removed the rain starts again. Today it is not so, cool cloud cover remains but no more rain and a good walk is had by all, none of the stream crossings are a problem no wading needed although puddle evasion tactics are vital.
Several hoopoos are seen as well as azure winged magpies just before entering town. A possible cuckoo sighting, heard close by and the huge amounts of asphodel make it s very pleasant trek.
After finding lodgings and the usual housekeeping we go for lunch. A quiet bar with a dining room upstairs which appears in use is fine. Until the wedding party arrives and surges round us. Service and their entertainment continue unabated. We have forgotten it is Saturday. Happily our hostal is out of the way and our windows on the opposite side to the football pitch. We hope for a good night, tomorrow is forecast wet again.