Here I go...

Finding magic under the stars of the Camino Santiago de Compostela

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

8 Days on the Via de la Plata - Day 7 - Monesterio to Fuente de Cantos

Another beautiful morning.
Our guidebook mentioned a dolmen, and we managed to find it,
despite it being sunken into the ground
and hidden behind a stand of trees.
Sunken Dolmen

Watch for this "hill" and trees
Then came more of the same landscape; dry, crispy, but pretty in its own way.

For those wanting to walk the Camino Frances, please don't be put off by the dry landscape. The terrain you're seeing in these photos on the Via de la Plata in the southern part of Spain is nothing like what you'll see in the north on the Frances. Coupled with the fact that we made a decision to walk during the dryest, hottest part of the year, the photos could frighten you away. Don't let them. I have been assured by other pilgrims that this walk is spectacular during the spring when the wildflowers are blooming and water is available.  And even in the blistering heat, it was beautiful country.

We continued on through the countryside, and came across several farms in ruins. Occasionally we'd find a horse trough and use the water to wash and cool down.

Finally, we reached what the guidebook described as a creek.
What we found was a dry creekbed full of rocks, with one or two small pools of hot water.
As I put my hankerchief in the water to wash the sweat from my face, I heard a voice in the distance.

"Peregrinos! Peregrinos!"

I looked up, and saw a man waving at us.

"Quieres agua frio?"

Another Camino Angel?

"Sí! SÍ!" we exclaimed in unison.

This lovely man who reminded me of Anthony Quinn walked down the road to meet us and escort us up a small hill to his home, where he invited us in.

His name was Anonio Duran. He was an artist; a woodcarver.
He lived in this tiny one-room house at the top of a hill.
 He kept his motorbike inside the house,
 and all along the windowsills were bottles of something red.
Jars of Gazpacho!
Antonio was so happy to have company! We sat and visited with him, cooling down with ice water from his ice chest. Then he filled our glasses with cold gazpacho... several times while we visited.  What a nice man!  He showed us an old newspaper clipping of him and his art. He told us a story about a pilgrim who had broken a leg in the dry creekbed the month before and how he'd taken him to the hospital in town. He was just a wonderful person and we were so grateful for the food and water!
After about 45 minutes, we thanked him and continued on toward Fuente de Cantos. He told us it was another 6 kilometers down the road. On the way down his drive, he picked two peaches from his struggling trees and put them in my hand. What a blessing! I look forward to visiting him on my continuation trek. Thank you, Antonio!
Soon, we could see Fuente de Cantos in the distance. Once there, we found the first open bar and went in for a cold beer. We sat and had a serious talk about the danger of walking the Via de la Plata in this 105 degree heat.  And there, over cold beer, we made a decision:

So we would not be continuing the VDLP this trip. Tomorrow we would take a bus to Leon and begin walking on the Camino Frances.  We found a Hostal Extremadura (with air conditioning) for 38 euro for a doble, had a great night's sleep, and met the bus the next morning.

It would be nice to pick up stages we had missed in 2006 due to shin splints.  Once we finished walking those stages, Joe wanted to spend time in the Netherlands and I wanted to walk the Aragones Route. Our return home wasn't until November, so we had plenty of time.

What I learned for myself from this experience was that unless you are an absolute glutton for punishment, the Via de la Plata should NOT be attempted in summer. It is dangerously hot and the water sources are unreliable. I know some experienced walkers have done it successfully. But for the average person, I'd say either choose a different route or walk in spring or fall.

I plan on returning to the VDLP either right before my June 2012 trek or after the Sept/Oct trek to finish the route. I will continue notes on this section once I've walked it.

Until next time,
Buen Camino!

See my AnnieWalkersCamino website at 
for more information about
Guided Walks on the Camino Santiago 
and on other Pilgrimage Trails of Europe

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