So here I am starting on my third stage - La Roda to Toledo, I can't quite believe it! As the guidebook lays them out, these three days cover stages 10 and 11. The trip out to the start point is getting longer and longer, hence why I will walk a week at a time or more from Toledo onwards. The walks this weekend are 15.9km, 18.6km and 23.7km, bringing my total up to 323.8km, now over 1/4 of the Camino Levante! It is appropriate I think, to therefore start with another four beads from the Robertson Mala, to mark this very special occasion on my journey.
The three days was a very strange walk, mostly wonderful weather for walking, although cold, not windy and not too difficult in distance, but there were annoyances that I found ruffled my feathers this time and on the last day made me quite ill tempered. I guess that is the challenge of the route. The dogs of course, ever present, were just happy to enjoy their walk and were not out of sorts at all, although their exuberance could be trying when muddy feet covered everything one wanted to sit on lie on or sleep in! Rather appropriately Garvey's Mala Prayer and also the chant I am carrying with me through this journey along with the Mala itself is "Kwan Seum Bosal"! When one realises that by chanting the name of Kwan Seum Bosal, you are more or less expressing your desire for the spirit of compassion to manifest in the world, this is exactly what I needed on my "grumpy day"! Thank you Garvey... what do they say, we get what we need but not always what we want?! Haha!
Day 1 La Roda to Minaya: Despite our early start we still arrived in La Roda too early for yummy marzipan sweets! The Ayuntamiento was also still asleep and so we headed off, passing a lovely looking Jamon, Queso and Pan shop which Michael decided he'd stop at on the way back from his dog walk in case they could make up some bocadillos. The 6th December, being a holiday (the day before the walk started) I had not been able to get my usual fresh provisions for our journey and so Michael's task was to go "hunter gathering" in the town. As we headed past the two big chimneys on the edge of town the arrows were distinct and easy to follow. They led us along the same route as the "Ruta de Don Quijote" and a lovely sign that explains that the preferred method of traveling this route should be "not" motorised. The sign has a hiker, a biker (bicycle), a wheelchair, a horse and actually a tractor as often these are agricultural roadways. These signs appeared at regular intervals along the Quijote route which is very well marked and appears easy to follow.
|Choza built into a "wall"|
|Choza of a different style|
Much of the next three days was flat and undemanding on the legs, although featureless plain can be demanding on the psychology. The Way is now coming into more interesting topography again and although flat, it has more rolling hills, varied agriculture and small villages start to appear to break up the day's walking. There are more trees scattered about and different "textures" to the landscape. There are also many, many of the shepherd "chozas" built along the route. So many in fact that it makes one wonder whether it was a hobby because to have a hut for shelter every few kilometres makes sense but to have them every hundred metres or so seems very strange! They take quite some building and many are not small. They are stone versions of igloos - there is nothing to cement the stones together it is all done with balance and angles and weight, so that the roof suspends itself. Many are now collapsed but there are also many in very good condition. Some are built into walls, maybe part of the corral for the sheep and these reminded me of small stone built versions of the Long Barrows of Wiltshire where I grew up - old burial chambers in the Wiltshire Downs.
|Mmmmm - wrapper from the most delicious |
fresh bocadillo of jamon y queso!
At our meeting point Michael had lovely "Almendras" cakes - sort of almond shortbread biscuits with lovely hot coffee and the most superb bocadillo of the trip yet! Fresh, crusty bread, delicious Jamon and tasty manchego cheese! It was so good I ate the lot and saved none for later! I would thoroughly recommend anyone on this leg of the journey to order a bocadillo from this bakery if they are open when you are on the way out of La Roda so that you may take one to enjoy on your journey!
|A tired Kaishi!|
|Avenue of rocks - with arrow on the |
larger rock: right
|Minaya - seems close but took |
forever to reach!
|Strange gateway as you enter the|
town, you will turn left and have this
on your right and follow the road
past the municipal pool
|The special Camino markers of Minaya|
|Dog hot water bottles - cosy!|
On returning to the room I finally had some heat and could make myself a hot drink with my fabulous heating coil. It also really makes a difference to start the day with a hot drink.
Day 2 Minaya to San Clemente: At the hostels so far it has been possible to leave at any time, they show you where to leave the room keys and TV/Aircon controls and the exit. I was up at 06.50 to pack up my sleeping bag - which had given me a very warm night - and to be ready to head out at 07.30. We knew where we were heading as we had checked out the track the day before and I'm very glad we did as it is still dark at 07.30 and it would have been very easy to take the wrong path. There are in fact a number of Caminos crossing here and just outside the Antolin to the right there is a path that heads to your left and out across the fields in completely the wrong direction for the Levante but still marked with yellow arrows. If you cross the very busy road from the hostel (take care there are many lorries) you will find arrows straight on and indicating turn left, then a little further on still a sign which is much clearer. The Camino Levante goes straight on but there is also a Camino San Clemente (where we were headed anyway) and a Camino El Provencio! Setting off, the light was perfect, the golden glow bringing out the red of the dogs and the red of the earth.
The sound of the gravel crunching under foot has a particular resonance when it is frost covered. It struck me that this sound and the long shadows very much symbolise my Camino at this time and set the scene each day for this early morning movement among the stillness. I filmed it to include here and watching it takes me right back to the rhythm of the day's walk.
It did not seem long before we were heading into Casas de Los Pinos, a tiny little village with a lovely little church in the centre. As we followed the lane into the village, the road was marked with
|Church of Nuestra Señora de la|
Candelaria - Casas de los Pinos
The guidebook says that "there may be a bar here" and I can assure you that there is! Settling down to coffee in the bar, to warm up and take a rest, eating my bocadillo breakfast and listening to the stories and laughter, any troubles of the world were a million miles away.
The route is easy to follow through the village and out toward San Clemente. We are still following the Ruta Don Quijote and he is to be found everywhere, on gate posts, curtains over doorways and silhouetted against the skyline on the edge of villages as he is at Casas de los Pinos.
|The turn from the CU-V-8303 onto|
|Way into San Clemente - with hostel |
Milán II on the left - flag outside
|One stretch of corridor!|
The food here is good and the olives exceptional! I loved them so much and told them so, so often, that they kindly brought us extra helpings each time we had a meal or sat down for a drink. They were apparently left to soak in a kind of pickling vinegar with oregano, garlic (which seemed to already have been roasted first) and Pimiento de la Vera - the smoked and picante kind. Deeeeeelicious!!!!!!
The bar is welcoming and serves good food and it's nice to be able to wander down from your room to a good meal. They will also make up a bocadillo for you to take with you if you are leaving early the next day. The only downside for me was the the heating does not come on until 15.30, but once on, the room quickly warmed up and it was comfortable and very quiet, providing my best night's sleep yet. Both the Antolin and Milán II are mentioned in the guide with their contact numbers. There is also a good list of "alojamientos" (accommodation) on the town website and a list of where to eat "Dónde Comer". Do check it out www.sanclemente.es.
|Start of the Camino outside|
The following is taken from a pdf document on www.turismocuenca.com which is a lovely document outlining the history and places of interest for tourists in this little province. It looks like a "find" and a place often off the beaten tourist track - well worth exploring a little more I feel.
This town is located in the southern part of the province. It reached the height of splendor at the end of the 15th century, and enjoyed the favor of the Crown in the 16th century. This royal preference allowed for the residence of noble landowners and attracted various religious orders in search of land to build their churches and convents. A walk through the streets of San Clemente provides an opportunity to get to know an authentic Renaissance village, whose fundamental elements have been preserved. Convents, public buildings (that of the Notary Public), noble houses, the Old Tower, the Roman Arch—these are all essential parts of the urban landscape. On Sunday and Monday of Pentecost, the Rus festival is
In other villages of La Mancha, various festivals are celebrated that have been declared of Regional Tourist Interest.
• Convent of Las Carmelitas Descalzas, Convent of Las Clarisas and Convent of Los Franciscanos.
• Old Tower. • Sanctuary of Rus and Santiago de la Torre. • Renaissance Plaza Mayor. • Ayuntamiento with two floors (defensive tower gallery with columns and arches on the lower level and large windows up high). • Grain Elevator. • High Court. • Ancient Inquisition Building. • Church of the Apostle Santiago from the 15th century, with an open Renaissance nave featuring various Gothic elements.
• Museo del Objeto Encontrado. • Numerous noble houses with stone facades and coats-of-arms, palaces, and primitive convents that take up entire city blocks in the old quarter.
• GR 163 hiking trail (Cristal de Hispania). • BTT CU-04 biking trail (Ercávica- San Clemente).
• Museo Etnográfico de Labranza o Torre Vieja (Agricultural Museum). Plaza. del Marqués, 6 – 16600 San Clemente. Phone: (+34) 969 307 090.
• Fundación Antonio Pérez (Museo de Obra Gráfica). Plaza. Mayor, s/n – 16600 San Clemente. Phone: (+34) 969 301 200
• Museo del Objeto Encontrado. Plaza de la Iglesia, s/n -16600 San Clemente. Phone: (+34) 969 302 126. • Information and Tourism Office of San Clemente. Plaza del Marqués, 6 – 16600 San clemente.
Phone: (+34) 969 307 090 email@example.com
Plaza Mayor of San Clemente: festival of the Living Passion is held on Holy Saturday, and in Valverde del Júcar, where the Moors and Christians festival is celebrated on January 8th.
The hiking trail - GR 163 mentioned above is 57km and rated as "easy" and will take you three days. There is a great site that once you join will give you the description and routes for all these trails and more. The site is called www.traildino.com and is apparently the world's largest hiking database. They list trails in almost every country in the world.
|Behind the alter|
|Through the Roman arch|
Apparently there is a great devotion to the Virgen del Rus and on Easter Sunday an auction takes place to see who will have the right to carry her statue. The next Sunday she is carried from her chapel to the church where she remains for 40 days. She has to travel 9km to get there and is accompanied by many pilgrims.
|Here he is - Santiago!|
The monastery of San Francisco and the Camelite Convent is a lovely building on the corner of the street down which the Camino passes.
The Discalced Carmelites, or Barefoot Carmelites, is a Catholic mendicant order with roots in the eremitic tradition of the Desert Fathers and Mothers. The order was established in 1593, pursuant to the reform of the Carmelite Order of the Ancient Observance by two Spanish saints, Saint Teresa of Ávila and Saint John of the Cross.The Carmelite nuns live in cloistered (enclosed) monasteries and follow a completely contemplative life. The Carmelite friars while following a contemplative life also engage in the promotion of spirituality through their retreat centres, parishes and churches. Lay people, known as the Secular Order, follow their contemplative call in their everyday activities. Devotion to Our Lady is a characteristic of Carmelites and is symbolised by wearing the Brown Scapular.
Carmelites trace their roots and their name to Mount Carmel in the Holy Land. There, in the 13th century, a band of European men gathered together to live a simple life of prayer - Wikipedia.
|Awnings of San Clemente|
Day 3 San Clemente to Las Pedroñeras: And what a day this turned out to be! Frustrating at various levels at various times during the day. It started out well, warmer than previous days despite the frost as the morning was still and we were on the Camino at just after 07.30 - in the dark and peering at every mark that might be an arrow. We found the way and it was then easy to follow for some distance, but to give you an idea of how we started I have included a photo here!
|Setting off at just after 07.30|
As the sun steadily rose behind us we came across this wonderful gateway, put up by some very patriotic person and welcoming all those who pass by. There was the Quijote route, the various Caminos and generally a celebration of Spain as you can see from all the decorations on it. There was even a large water vessel with "Agua" written on it and a tap for those who might like to "refuel" although I am not sure if there was water in it or it was just below the tap level which is quite high up on the side of the vessel. I did turn it to see if it was working but without success.
Shortly after this lovely gate we suffered our first map frustration although we did not know it at the time. The guidebook does mention that we will pass a farm and a geodesic marker at Casas de Tesorero, and that we should take a path to the left and to be alert as there is a small slope to the left and thus (it seems to infer) the path is easy to miss. However, it is not at all clear and we still managed to miss it and the arrows in fact continue straight on - it is only later that we found the route no longer goes this way, but the markers have not been removed. There also does not appear to be "any" slope on this route - so something has been lost in the translation and I am unable to explain what or to alert future Perigrinos more specifically because I managed to miss it and end up in the wrong place.
|Map frustration 1|
Very easy to miss this "wiggle" I did not
see the slope mentioned, everything
was very flat and there are arrows directing
the Pilgrim "straight on"!
|Map Frustration 2 - if you get to the point|
circled on the right, you must turn left along
the tar road and pick up the Camino again a
few hundred metres along on your
We picked up the route again and headed on toward the castle of Santiago de la Torre. A stunning building almost in the middle of a field and set above what is now a small river, almost a stream. This river "Záncara" must have been bigger in the Middle Ages because this is where the Order of Santiago once defended the crossing of the river and aided Pilgrims. We are now in the "Lands of the Order of Santiago" which extend to Toledo. The Cuenca Tourist site has more information on this and what to visit and it seems like the buildings are well preserved. The information for the website that will take you to the pdf on the area is listed above. It also lists a number of other hiking trails that can be found throughout the region. In the Sierra to the north of the region there are some wonderful areas of nature, amazing castles, waterfalls and cave paintings. Bears can still be found in this region!
THE LANDS OF THE ORDER OF SANTIAGO (SAINT JAMES)
The so-called Lands of the Order of Santiago are located in the western part of the province and extend to Toledo. Their abundant and well-preserved historical heritage gives a faithful idea of the importance of this territory when, in the 12th century, the Military Orders were created, and the Order of Santiago was added.
|Santiago de la Torre|
This area, as well as countless others, offers good wines and cheeses from La Mancha with denominación de origen, indicating local products held to the highest standards. Game
meats provide the base for the exquisite traditional cuisine that has led to gastronomic celebrations in villages such as Villarejo de Fuentes and Uclés.
Here there are natural areas of utmost interest that are worth visiting. Among the most notable are the protected El Hito Lake, the Gigüela Gorge and the archaeological site of Segóbriga. The heritage of this region is divided among many locales, such as Uclés, Segóbriga and others.
|Final Map Frustration!|
Fortunately we were not far wrong and we turned back and headed along the correct track, a yellow arrow appearing by a cottage on our left, low down on some rocks along the track next to the cottage, but not visible from the turning where we should have gone earlier. Only once you are heading into the industrial estate to the arrows appear again on the walls of the buildings heading into the outskirts of the town. The guidebook says to take the track "100m" from the main road, but it is far more than a 100m! Hence how we walked past it, not quite believing that we were on the right route. So far, the guide has often been correct and the maps slightly out of date, so it's not always easy to trust the map 100%, again, why earlier in the day we had also followed the arrows with confidence - when in fact they should have been removed and the new route marked.
|The street just after the industrial estate, just before the|
area got a bit more "suspect" again!
|One of the few nice buildings|
in Las Pedroñeras - on the square
It's sad really as it has maybe just been hit harder than some other areas with the current economic crisis, but it does look like a town that has been on the slide for some time. The guidebook tells us that it is one of the most important centres for the cultivation of purple garlic but it was not obvious from to the newly arrived tourist! Many towns promote what they are famous for or have signs declaring it, but not here. The streets are also strange in that they still retain the narrow Medieval roads, but all the buildings are modern and ugly! When they knocked down the old buildings they must have done nothing to widen the streets - but simply build where the old buildings had previously stood. Narrow streets and old buildings go together but modern concrete and on the same lay out lends nothing to a town's character!
|The church on the main square - relieved that today's|
walk is over!
|The Passport so far!|