19 May: Merida to Aljucen


 It was a surprise to see the sunrise, but when most fellow pilgrims were up and running soon after 5am, complete with plastic bag scrunching and searching everywhere in the room for a lost item with the aid of a swooping headlamp, it was pretty pointless to stay in bed! (Must be said though, Rob had to be woken – his earplugs seem to do a pretty good job!)

Surprise #2. That moment when the sun popped up over the hill and began casting shadows. Particularly amazing was the fact that our shadows stretched right across the road and into the adjacent field for a good 30 meters. (Rob walked along waving at his shadow. Surprising? maybe not – he does  get very relaxed on these walking journeys!)

 More surprises. More Roman industry. They built this dam way back in the first century.

Surprise: the wildflowers are fading. Or they didn’t fill the fields as prolifically here as they did further south. 

A nice big rock for morning tea (and the big surprise for Grandpa was the absence of bars for a cup of coffee!) 

Speaking of Grandpa, his recklessness surprised today. He decided to play chicken with a herd of steers! I thought it might be prudent to slow down and let them get out of the way, across the path before we proceeded. Not Grandpa; he blasted on ahead, casually commenting, “Let’s see who gets there first.” Luckily for him, he beat the beasts, but unfortunately for the rest of us they got a little tetchy, and by the time the last of our group came through there were three uneasy animals circling around somewhat frantically. Perhaps it’s not surprising how quickly everyone caught up with the Grandpa!

And speaking of that rock in the picture above….there were ENORMOUS ants crawling on it. Some of us saw specimens of about a centimeter in length. Daddy saw THREE centimeter long ones! That surprised everyone when they heard about it later. But no one was keen on backtracking to verify the facts.

What was not surprising today was the fact that we were walking, that the sun was shining, that the paths were dry….

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise was where we ended up. If you’re ever walking the Via de la Plata, could I heartily recommend the albergue at Calle Santiago 2 (that ought to be an easy address to remember). We received a very warm welcome (including ice blocks for women and children) and the men were excited to find a well-stocked fridge (shandy, beer, red wine). There is an incredibly well-equipped kitchen – just perfect for cooking up a storm. We almost bought the local shop out completely. We did take all their bread, but left behind the paint and rolls of plastic tablecloth (a surprise to find in such a teeny tiny shop – Kiwis, think your local dairy for some comparison).    

The house we are in was full of other surprises too. Beautiful bathrooms. Bedding and a handtowel provided. And most interestingly…..this is a new house, just completed less than a year ago, but it’s not what we would expect. The floor follows the lay of the land, that is to say it slopes decidedly and all the furniture is on a tilt! There is nothing wrong with this, it was just another surprise.

I’ve saved the best surprise til last. Uncle Craig.   We’d forgotten he’s a different generation to us;-) There he is collapsed on his bunk, not going anywhere really fast, a jar of muscle cream open….we’ll cook him some dinner later and he’ll revive. He’d better, because he’s got to go even farther tomorrow!

Distance: 16.8km Cumulative distance (not counting wandering round towns, which would be about another 70km): 259km

PS No surprise – Grandpa is doing fine.


5 thoughts on “19 May: Merida to Aljucen

  1. A great post Rach. Lovely to see blue skies at last for you all. Glad to see Craig stretched out and catching a few quick minutes of snooze in recovery! I bet he’s enjoying the walking though.

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