20 May: Aljucen to Alcuescar


“Today’s blog post has to be about beauty,” I mentioned to Grandpa, breaking our companionable silence.

His answer came back quickly. “It’s more about survival for me!” I looked sideways. He *seemed* to be doing OK! Yes, he was a little out of breath, but we’d been steadily plodding uphill. Yes, he was a bit sore, but Pain is his constant companion so that was not unusual. Yes, he was tired, but he had walked 16km yesterday! Today was going to be a bit more of a challenge – 19km. We knew he would do it. What we did not know is he would even manage another 6km as well! And still be noticing the beauty at the end, even if he had no energy to take pictures.

That extra 6km. It was all my fault.  And there were numerous warning signs, which I ignored. I knew we had “one last climb” after a long steady one and then we would drop over the hill and into the monastery where we would spend the night.

At the top of the hill were conflicting arrows and lots of signage to various albergues and hostals. Instinct said to take the downward path. The majority of arrows pointed left. There was also one big official Camino sign, which we decided to follow in spite of my misgivings that it shouldn’t have a big yellow arrow hand-painted onto it. On we went. A cement truck driver approached and told us the albergue up ahead was very good. I asked if it was the convent and he said that was straight on. So on we went. There was a guy feeding logs into a machine to strip the cork off them – most interesting. The arrows continued and the little trackside bollards, too, so we thought we’d made the right decision. However, it did seem a bit strange that the path became overgrown and clearly unused – had the pilgrims who passed by before us managed to avoid disturbing the spiders’ webs and leave no footprints? And why is there a village just off to the side of and slightly behind us and another one miles and miles ahead? On we did not go. Rob broke open googlemaps and discovered we were supposed to be at the one behind us. Mutiny almost broke out in the ranks. Some Shorter People violently objected to backtracking and did not care about anything else. We ignored them and sat down in a massive patch of bright yellow wild flowers and stuffed cheese and salami into bread and then into ourselves. With food in their tummies all were happy to charge cross-country to our chosen destination. A snake and some muddy patches and water crossings added to the adventure.

The sun blazed down and we ran out of water. Grandpa refused the offer to wait in the shade while we walked on for a taxi. 

When we arrived Grandpa collapsed on the first bunk in the monastery dormitory. The door was about to be locked for two hours, but that was of no concern to us! Rests and showers all round.

When the doors reopened we zipped out for icecream – every day you walk 25km you get an icecream! Grandpa came too. Amazingly he commented that his knee was not hurting at all. Obviously all this exercise was very good for him and he is doing far more than surviving!

Distance: 25km  Total distance: 284km


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