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Friday, 14 September 2012

Camino Levante - Algamesi to Carcaixent

So here we are again - another Friday, another Camino walk - but this time of course it's the real thing and no longer a practice walk although of course we are still walking in short sections.  Today Kaishi and I took the train from L'Alcúdia de Crespins as usual but this time stopped at Algamesi.  Today Kaishi was superb!  No complaints about her muzzle and very quiet and relaxed on the train journey - which today was thirty minutes.  To mark the fact we are going "official" I have included the pics of the Credencial - Pilgrim's Passport, although I will get the first stamp in Valencia at the Cathedral, another in Xàtiva and then one in Canals.  There are only 40 spaces for stamps and you only need daily stamps for the last 100km.  I understand (although I am getting it confirmed by the Amigos in Valencia) that you can add pages yourself if you run out of space for the stamps (sellos).  Stamps can be obtained almost anywhere on the route - municipal offices, police and Gardia Civil, inns, bars, places you stay, churches and so on...  The route pictured below and printed on the passport is the most walked and commonly know - Camino Francés which runs from East to West across the north of Spain.  The Levante route is shown on an earlier blog.
I have started my diary and have been planning the stages, especially those that I am able to walk from home and I have been working out where dogs can be swapped, dropped or picked up.  So back to todays adventure.  Arriving in Algamesi it was actually easy to find out start point as the route passes practically right alongside the station.  However, for those whose posts I have read who say they would like to walk the Camino without guidebooks etc because they want a more "authentic pilgrim experience"... I DON'T recommend it!  Really, invest in a guidebook - even if you only use it to help yourself find your way through and out of towns, because even with a guidebook it can be very confusing!  Not all towns have easy to spot yellow arrows or shell markers and some just seem to disappear once you are in the depths of a town.  Today was a good example, they were doing repairs to an old building right where I was supposed to walk, so the route no longer existed there.  Without my guidebook and knowing the next streets I should meet, I would have been very lost - as it was it took me almost an hour to find my way around and out of Algamesi.  The other suggestion I would make is carrying a mobile phone with Google Maps or some other GPS type device because I was able to request the road I needed to find out of town and navigate my way around the trouble spot and back onto the Camino route.                   
Maps, diary, train timetables etc... involved in the
planning of the walk with the dogs   
Another confusing thing about Algamesi is that the shells here are round the other way - so you are not following the route to the point, so it feels like you are walking in the wrong direction.  This also threw me for some minutes as I thought I must have taken a wrong turn or be following the street in the wrong direction.  It was only once I was out on the open road again and in Alzira that the shells reverted to their correct orientation.  Although a lovely old town in the centre, I did not get as much of a chance to look at Algamesi as I would have liked because I spent most of my time with my nose glued to the guidebook and GPS.  Once out of the town we were back in our old favourite - the orange groves and the markers were much more helpful as you can see here with Kaishi next to a giant yellow arrow that will leave you in no doubt as to which way to go!  You continue until reaching a rather busy main road, and here 
I did go a little wrong and missed a short section of the route (maybe 500m) because the road and round-a-bout were so busy.  Apparently this part is a piece of old preserved Roman highway - but I missed it!  I could see the covered wayside cross mentioned in the guidebook and went straight to it - it is a 14th Century cross and chapel where it is said that King Jaime I died.  It is a lovely old cross and opposite it can be seen the yellow marker arrows - where I again picked up the route.  Shortly you reach the outskirts of Alzira - the opposite of Algamesi with excellent markers, including a number of other GR and footpath routes including our old friends Via Augusta and El Cid.  There are also signs for the Route of the Monasteries that can be walked in this area.  As I crossed the bridge and entered the town, a man was cycling toward me with three dogs on a bicycle attachment - just like when ours go out!  Kaishi could not believe her eyes and the dogs were having a good work out.  I waved and called out to the man saying they looked great - he gave a big grin back, but sadly he was whizzing along too fast and by the time my camera had turned itself on he was around the bend and heading out in the direction I had just come from.  I so wish I could have included their photo here! 

Following the markers through the town you come across much of the history of the area.  According to the guidebook, Alzira is an island according to the Arabic definition of it as "al-yazirat" or "a land set apart".  The Via Augusta used to cross by way of two stone bridges but these have not survived.  The city was heavily fortified and has some magnificent city walls which can still be seen and the route follows these old city walls as you enter the town.  They were apparently both a military defence and prevented the town from flooding.  One could not imagine this today as there was only a small trickle of water flowing along the river bed - so small that one could step over it!   

As you walk along the walls (you can see them in the small picture in front of the palm trees) in an old part of town, there are many beautiful buildings.  One you pass is the remains of the hospital of Santa Lucia and here is a house where King Jaime I is supposed to have died.  Quite impressive for him to have died at the cross and here - the guidebook finds this quite amusing also!  There is a plaque on the route which can not be missed.  As you can see, Kaishi was reading it with quite some intent!   
The way from Alzira was easy to find and we passed other lovely monuments on the way, including one building almost entirely covered in tiles, the 13th Century church of Santa Catalina Mártir (on the site of a former mosque) and the fountains shown below which are outside the church and near to yet another monument to King Jaime (we passed several more!)
By the fountains at
Santa Catalina Mártir  Church
Because he seemed so popular I thought I ought to look up his history - here is a little from Wikipedia:  
James I the Conqueror (CatalanJaume el ConqueridorAragoneseChaime lo ConqueridorSpanishJaime el Conquistador,OccitanJacme lo Conquistaire; 2 February 1208 – 27 July 1276) was the King of AragonCount of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier from 1213 to 1276. His long reign saw the expansion of the Crown of Aragon on all sides: into Valencia to the south,Languedoc to the north, and the Balearic Islands to the east. By a treaty with Louis IX of France, he wrested the county of Barcelona from nominal French suzerainty and integrated it into his crown. His part in the Reconquista was similar in Mediterranean Spain to that of his contemporary Ferdinand III of Castile in Andalusia.
As a legislator and organiser, he occupies a high place among the Spanish kings. James compiled the Llibre del Consulat de Mar,[1] which governed maritime trade and helped establish Catalan-Aragonese supremacy in the western Mediterranean. He was an important figure in the development of Catalan, sponsoring Catalan literature and writing a quasi-autobiographical chronicle of his reign: the Llibre dels fets.  
James I
King of Aragon, Valencia, and Majorca, Count of Barcelona, and Lord of Montpellier
King of Aragon
Reign12 September 1213 – 27 July 1276

James also wrote the Libre de la Saviesa or "Book of Wisdom." The book contains proverbs from various authors, reaching from the time of King Solomon to nearly his own time with Albertus Magnus. It even contains maxims from the medieval Arab philosophers and from theApophthegmata Philosophorum of Honein ben Ishak, which was probably translated at Barcelona during his reign. A Hebrew translator by the name of Jehuda was employed at James's court during this period.[7]
Though James was himself a prose writer and sponsored mostly prose works, he had an appreciation of verse.[8] In consequence of theAlbigensian Crusade, many troubadours were forced to flee southern France and many found refuge in Aragon. Notwithstanding his early patronage of poetry, by the influence of his confessor Ramon de Penyafort, James brought the Inquisition into his realm in 1233 to prevent any vernacular translation of the Bible.
According to Wikipedia, the king fell ill in Alzira (he is shown in this monument lying down and not looking too good!)... and that he gave up his crown in here with the plan to retire to the monastery of Poblet.  However, he apparently died before he could do this, on 27th July 1276 - in Valencia!  Remarkable!  He died in three places!!  No wonder there are so many monuments to him.

Tiled house near the Church of Santa Catalina Mártir
As we turned toward Carcaixent a man with a horse and cart was exiting the road we were about to take.  I got my camera out in time to take a photograph as he was also exercising (ride and lead but from the cart) two Appaloosas.  When he saw me taking the picture he put his horse into a sliding stop (!) right in the middle of the road and smiled and waved and asked if Kaishi was a puppy.  I said not, but that he had lovely horses, that Kaishi knew horses from her time in South Africa when I had some.  He smiled and waved and watched us as we headed off and we waved back, following El Camino and the horse's hoof prints all along the route into Carcaixent.  

Entering into Carcaixent we followed the route to the place where we picked it up last week and then peeled off through the backstreets (actually crossing the route again where it heads under the railway lines) and made for the station where we finished breakfast/lunch while we waited for the 12.03 train to take us back to the car.  Despite our delays today, the route seemed very short and we were at the station by 11.25.  As before I'm looking forward to the next section - Benifiaó back to Algamesi.  For those who may read this and feel like it is strange that I am walking it in sections "backwards" to Valencia, this is because when training the dogs to get used to the train, I wanted them to do short journeys first and then increase their length of time on the train.  When the time comes to do the section from Valencia, I plan to walk 15km from the Cathedral through to Silla and for this stretch, due to the city walk and road sections, I will do it without the dogs.  The intention is that Michael will also walk with me and do it as his first section.  After that I will pick up the Camino again from Canals and walk it in the direction of travel - toward Santiago de Compostela.  

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