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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

El Camino de Santiago - Levante Route. My Stage 3: La Roda to Toledo

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.

Garvey - Kwan Seum Bosal
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!
The dogs played and played at our dog swap point - a huge, open field with big skies.  We asked them to wait and then released them to meet each other and they raced towards each other like canine Heathcliffes and Kathys.  Akina was first into the car after her morning walk and chilling out in the warm on the soft matress and once all were settled again Kaishi and I continued on our way.  Shortly after setting off Kaishi put up a hare (we almost stood on it!) and chased after it with glee.  She was not gone long but was very tired on her return, so much so that for the first time ever she would run and play ahead of me and then lie down to wait!  Before reaching Minaya there was a kind of "avenue of rocks"as though they had been parted for us to pass through!

Avenue of rocks - with arrow on the
larger rock: right
Minaya - seems close but took
forever to reach!
Being so wide and flat we could see Minaya from a distance out.  It seemed close but we were a long time in arriving and although there had been grey but bright skies, they had darkened ominously in only about half an hour and soon a fine rain was falling on us.  I kept hoping we would arrive before it got too intense, but fine rain, falling consistently, gets you quite wet!  I sent a message to the support vehicle for my waterproof, as we really had thought the rain would hold off and I had left it with the car.  Kaishi was shaking off the rain drops as she walked and was happy to catch a lift the rest of the way.  The town was deserted and due to the rain exceptionally quiet.  Initially the arrows are good and there are Camino Markers specific to Minaya that I have not seen elsewhere, but they do kind of fizzle out as you reach the town centre.  It appears as though you head straight on after the main church and square, but in fact you follow the bend in the road to the right to head to the outskirts of the town.

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 hostel that I had booked - The Antolin (22 Euros per night) - was at the end of town and on the edge of the main road, directly on the Camino.  It's mentioned as a reference point in the guide.  It was clean, tidy and comfortable but the aircon is used as heating in the room and as with most of these units, they heat the ceiling first.  I made the mistake of only turning it on later and with a large room and high ceilings it took quite some time to warm up.  It was in fact possible to put my hand up and feel the level of cold and how far the heat had filled the room - from the top down!  Quite the most odd thing and fascinating!  I was once again very glad of my sleeping bag and used it as an extra duvet on the bed.

The special Camino markers of Minaya
While waiting for the room to heat up we all decided to curl up under fleece blankets and watch a movie in our "mobile home".  Fabulous!  A great way to spend an afternoon, warmed by "dog hot water bottles"!

Dog hot water bottles - cosy!

Movie time!

Los Manchegos
A hot shower and a snooze later and I was refreshed enough for supper.  The food was basic in the restaurant downstairs (we had had a quick bite at lunchtime) but Michael had discovered another restaurant a little further along the main road which served local Manchegan cuisine: Restaurante Los Manchegos.  Do make sure you have a meal here, the soup we had was one of the best yet and full of flavour.  The cooked the meat on their open fire which made it tender and juicy and the place had a warm, homely feel.  They did have a TV in the corner of the room but we were not too worried by the quiz shows running as they are an excellent way to practice one's Spanish!

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
a thousand tiny hoofprints from sheep which has been herded that way not long before and as we drew close to a large barn, their bleating from within alerted us to their destination.  Outside maybe 8 or more dogs, of some herding type that I did not quite recognise, heralded our arrival with a chorus of barks.  Akina, on leash, keeping by my side but hardly giving them a glance, despite the raucous clamour.  In the village itself there was a loose Jack Russell which she also looked at but did not even think of moving toward and ahead a Boxer, leashed and out with a family.  I was so proud of her as she calmly entered the village - the morning air and sunlight having a calming effect on us both.

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
the Camino
The road follows the tar for a short distance and then takes a right just before a left bend in the road.  It is marked but you do need to keep an eye out for it but it should not be easy to miss.  It enters a small woodland of pine trees, sadly where much rubbish has been tipped, but even so the path is very pretty and provides more varied views.  No longer the featureless plain we had traversed previously and Kaishi as ever delighted in frolicking back and forth along the path.  One farmer stopped to chat - astonished that we had walked from Valencia and wanted to know if we were walking El Camino "solo".  He seemed very pleased to hear that I had a husband waiting in San Clemente and that I had some support and back up.  He wished us well and said something about the rubbish that had been dumped on his land - although he seemed most cheerful about going to clear it, even though he shook his head.  

Way into San Clemente - with hostel
Milán II on the left - flag outside
Before reaching San Clemente there is a another small woodland on the right, sheltered and welcoming and where Michael and the dogs would "camp out" for the night.  Farmers, families and friends were out pruning vines, a fire burning by the side of the track so they could warm themselves from time to time or make a hot drink.  A small dog came out to chase off Kaishi, but we kept focused straight ahead and ignored it as it followed us some distance along the path.  It is easy to find one's way into and out of San Clemente and the Hostel Milán II that I had booked (20 Euros per night) is right on the main street.  They are very welcoming to Perigrinos and offered a lower rate - do check the price as often the advertised rates are much higher for "non-Pilgrims" and it is lovely of these places to do this.  Although there are Municipal Albergues in many towns (not San Clemente), they are often more simple and it is very pleasant, at this time of year, to have a little more luxury and to get a hot bath to soothe those aching muscles.  

One stretch of corridor!
I can't say it too often either - do know some Spanish and do book ahead.  Some of the hostels are closed on Mondays for example and you need to know you have a bed for the night when you arrive in a town, especially when it is a weekend and in particular a Sunday or public holiday.  The Milán II has a lovely "old world" feel to it and is typically Spanish in being a long thin building.  My room was down three lengths of corridor (!) and so often these buildings give the impression of entering, as I have mentioned before, the Tardis - small at the entrance and getting ever bigger inside!

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

Start of the Camino outside
San Clemente
After a lunch of delicious soup and the world's best olives (!) we took a wander around the town itself and out to the starting point of tomorrow's Camino.  The Way is easy to follow through town and passes many of the historical sites on route.  The main buildings and church - actually of Santiago - are all around and just off the main square, the inevitable Plaza Mayor.  You enter via arches, one of which near the church is on the lower half - the original Roman arch.  The Ayuntamiento dates from the 16th century and holds a rare imperial blason belonging to Carlos I (according to the guidebook).  The main part of the medieval town developed from the 12th century onwards adn there is a communal granary and Casa Carnicerías which contain today's law courts.

The following is taken from a pdf document on 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
Windmill interior

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
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 and is apparently the world's largest hiking database.  They list trails in almost every country in the world.

I got my passport stamped in the hostel, but if it is open (as it was when we arrived for a Mass) then you should try and get your passport stamped in the church - after all, it has Santiago everywhere!  They also had a great nativity scene set up - old buildings and the stable, ready to put in the various Christmas figures over the next weeks leading up to December 25th and more importantly for the Spanish, January the 6th when they celebrate the arrival of the "three kings" bringing gifts to Jesus.  Most shops and churches still display these nativity scenes and there are even some outdoor ones in places.  Inside behind the alter is beautiful and the new doors are all carved which is lovely to see as they have kept the feel of the old style heavy oak doors.  There is a stained glass sword and shells of Santiago as well as the carving outside.
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 church....

and Ayuntamiento

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.[1]

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
After walking the town, we made our way along the quiet streets back toward the hostel and as we approached the Plaza Mayor, the light was striking the awnings on the building ahead of us in a striking way.  I tried to capture this in a photo and it certainly gives the feel, I think, for what we saw.  Just past the square there was a delightful little deli which to my delight was selling the delicious marzipan sweets that I had first tried in La Roda... well, one can't pass without stocking up!!

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
First up was Akina although she took off with the others after a rabbit while she had her leash on - getting away from me for the first time ever as I was still fumbling with gloves and so on.  I was wild but also worried she would tangle herself and the leash on the vines and wires out in the fields and get hurt.  Thereafter they were all kept on leashes for quite some distance before we parted company and Akina walked on with me alone (perfectly) the rest of the way.  Both of us at one point, turning to watch the sunrise directly behind us.  The path is traveling due East/West here and so the sun appears to burst out of the centre of the road and into the sky.  It was just the most amazing sight.  Each frost crystal sparkled as the sun's rays hit it and the earth glowed in shades of copper.  It struck me in that moment that no one, even if they were to get up at the same time on the same day of the month and walk at my exact pace to the exact same spot on the path, would ever experience the exact same thing that I had.  Nothing can ever be exactly the same - it is a different moment and the microscopic changes will create a whole different atmosphere.  Each person's Camino will be unique to them and how amazing is that?!

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

POINT!!  Instead - turn left along the tar road and you
find the Camino again on your right a few hundred
meters further along and well marked.  We traveled some
distance down this path before turning back because
this stretch of the Camino could travel a few km's before
giving another arrow so it did not seem unusual not to
see one.  However, the direction just "seemed" wrong - and
You come to a tar road - not mentioned at all in the guide and if you have gone wrong, like Akina and I had, you will need to turn left and pick up the Camino and Rute Quijote again a few hundred meters further on, on your right.  It will be easy to see here.  However, when you don't know this the arrows on the path you are on direct you straight on and there is a big yellow blob and some writing which could be "CS"or "CL" (Camino Santiago or Levante?!) on the sign... but once on this path there is no other marker and we went quite some way along it before realising we were well out of our way.  I could see the castle to which we were headed way over to our left and the path we were on was not showing any signs of turning in that direction.  Fortunately, to make up time, the support vehicle could collect us and help us retrace our steps and then drop us back on route.  When days are short you don't want to spend too much time going wrong!

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 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.

The flock!
The guidebook tells us that the village around the castle is now abandoned and only inhabited by a shepherd and his flocks.  And this is true!  As I approached, this very shepherd was taking his sheep out of the buildings and onto the grazing lands, calling to his dog to bring the herd towards him and away from Akina and myself.  The dog was very good although did get yelled at as it decided Akina was much more interesting and should be "seen off" rather than moving the sheep.  Akina was a bit jumpy but we kept walking, energy low and with me pointing my "woolly hat" at the dog (no stick to hand) to suggest I had a bigger energy around me and it should stay away!   We were soon past the flock and heading to the support vehicle for a quick break and a change of dogs!

Final Map Frustration!
As we approached Las Pedroñeras the sun was getting quite warm so after a quick stop to take off the extra layers and to have a quick snack, Kaishi and I were on our way.  Sadly I had to keep her on the leash a lot of the way as there were many rabbits whizzing off across the fields and many hunters shooting them!  The most hunters I have seen so far.  There were hunting dogs and men with rifles everywhere!  As we crossed the bridge to our meeting point before town, there was also a lady cycling with her German Shepherd, off leash, and he was off visiting all the hunting dogs.  This caused some chaos although everyone was in control and Kaishi squeaked her way past wanting to join in.  At the vehicle I left Kaishi to chill out as I headed into town, along our final map frustration - again heading in completely the wrong direction from the guide although where we were supposed to go is clear on the map but as there are no markers to guide you off the tar and onto the track, it is easy to doubt the way.

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!
This entry into town is not very attractive and it was the first time I had not felt safe.  It was a bit like being in an American Cop movie, with dodgy characters in leather jackets, high collars and hats pulled low hanging out on street corners or walking in a kind of swinging and ambling way towards me.  In a movie a knife may have appeared!  I walked "confidently" forward and projected as much energy of "stay away I have a backpack and I'm prepared to use it" as I could in a big bubble around me and made my way into the town.  As I reached the end of the industrial estate and started to encounter run down and dilapidated buildings the arrows disappeared and I had to fumble and guess my way toward the town centre.  At this point I called the back up vehicle as I had had enough and was not feeling comfortable - the route looked as though it was leading me more and more into a dodgy end of town and of course I no longer had a big dog with me!  Minutes later the vehicle arrived just as I had finally entered something akin to a square with more normal buildings.  The vehicle too had been struggling and as we drove around trying to find a bar where we could get a drink and ask for a sello, I could see why - every street seemed to end in a no entry sign.  It was so complicated that is was almost a "no way" town not a "one way" town.  We eventually located the main square and parked a distance away and walked in.  This main square is the only attractive area in Las Pedroñeras (to my mind!)  Maybe the town has something else to offer but for me, this was the most soul-less town I have visited - and not just in Spain!   
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 little bar on the square was open and at least playing good music if a little loud.  They had no food at all but the landlord cheerfully stamped my passport and a beer was most welcome!  We did not stay long - surprise - and headed off to the vehicle and the now 2 hour 40 minute drive home!  It's astonishing that I have covered that "on foot"!  Lucky for us we passed the starting point of the dirt track that leaves the town and takes the Camino out to El Pedernoso - I am going from this point as I have no intention of heading back into town for the sake of half a km along uninspiring streets!  I had had enough of this town and don't intend to hurry back.  The next journey will take us from Las Pedroñeras through Mota del Cuervo where we will stay, on to El Toboso for the second night and out to La Puebla de Almoradiel where we finish walking for the Christmas holiday period.  I hope, if the weather holds, to walk the final three and two day walks into Toledo in early January and this will finish the third stage my Camino.
The Passport so far!

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