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Friday, 15 November 2013

El Camino Levante - Day 5 San Martín de Valdeiglesias to Cebreros

The Toros of Guisando
When the alarm goes off at 06.30 I put on the light immediately.  I can't afford to doze off again!  I then immediately do my morning stretches - the same as the night ones and given to me by the physio.  These have been my saving grace on so many occasions during these Camino walks and the previous ones.  They stop me from getting stiff, keep me supple in the mornings and also revive the muscles during the walk.  I would thoroughly recommend have a 2 or 3 physio sessions before going on the Camino to get any tightness sorted out (even if you don't think you have any) and to get the physio to give you some good exercises to do during the journey.  I also do some Qi Gong warm ups as taught to me by my teacher Max Weier, and they too work wonders and wake up the meridians, body and mind!  They also warm you up on a cold autumn or winter morning and help prevent pulled muscles when you march out to keep warm!

In the evenings I also use a massage cream on the muscles and also on the arches of the feet - it's amazing how tight they get and it is the most wonderful thing - with arnica and calendula and other wonderful ingredients.  Doing all this after a hot shower is the perfect way to climb into bed for a sleep after the day's walk, warm and cosy and to let the body rest.

I also thorough recommend using Larnacane powder in all those potentially "sweaty" areas (!!) and in the socks.  It is not a talc but a similar powder and is highly absorbent.  It prevents any heat rashes and keeps you comfortable during the walk and I could remove my shoes at the end of the day and still have dry comfortable feet.

Once all the preparations are done and the rucksack is repacked, I drink as much water as I can manage.  This was suggested by one of the Pilgrim Guides or Associations for the Camino that I read during my research and it's amazing how well this works for getting you going and keeping dehydration at bay during the day, providing you still drink regularly during the walk.  At this point, Michael usually sends a whatsapp to confirm if he is on time with the dogs and we meet outside after I have handed my key in (or sometimes the instruction is to leave it in the door) at 07.30.  We then head to the finish point of the day before (start point of the current day) or on to a new starting point (as we did on this day) if there is a lot of main road to cover.  As we had invested in a plug in cooler box before this Camino trip, we can usually make ourselves some yoghurt and fruit with museli as a light breakfast before I get going.  As I had taught Michael how to use the Trangia (camp cooker) we could also stock up with eggs and hard boil some for snacks and he could make himself a hot drink out in his camp ground in the evening.  As you can see we were much better prepared and organised than the last trips - but then we were only ever away a maximum of 4 days before.

On this day (October 15th and the 5th day of the walk) we were going to avoid the main roads out of town (dark and busy) and go to the recommended tourist stop point of the Toros of Guisando.  It was so dark we saw the sign but had no idea where these bulls might be.  As we waited for the dawn to arrive, a white van with fish and another unmarked van arrived and proceeded to swap polystyrene boxes and inspect goods!  It all looked very dodgy and as we were sitting in the dark car it felt a bit like a stake out!  They were not bothered by us and after some time and various discussions and box juggling, they left!  Hmmmm - do we now buy fish to eat??  Polystyrene or not - fish exchange in the night between unrefrigerated vehicles had us wondering!

As the light dawned, we could see a wall and entrance which took us into to the famous stone bulls.  The Wikipedia info on them is as follows:


The Bulls of Guisando (SpanishToros de Guisando) are a set of celtiberian sculptures located on the hill of Guisando in the municipality of El TiembloÁvilaSpain. The four sculptures, made of granite, represent quadrupeds identified as bulls or pigs. The balance of opinion favours bulls: there are holes which have been interpreted as sockets for horns.
Me cuddling one of the cute bulls!
The Bulls of Guisando are examples of a type of ancient sculpture called verracos of which hundreds are known. They are associated with the territory of a celtiberian tribe called the Vettones. The Bulls may have been made during the 2nd century BC. Whether they are in their original position is debatable. There are some Latin graffiti on them which may mean they were repositioned in Roman times.
The field around the Bulls was the place where the Treaty of the Bulls of Guisando was signed between Henry IV of Castile and his half-sister Isabella of Castille on September 18, 1468, which granted her the title of Princess of Asturiasthus ending a civil war in Castile.
The Bulls are also a recurrent feature in Spanish literature. For instance, Miguel de Cervantes references them several times throughout his novel Don Quixote.[1]Federico García Lorca uses their symbolic value in his Llanto por la muerte de Ignacio Sánchez Mejías:
..y los toros de Guisando,
The latin graffiti
casi muerte y casi piedra,
mugieron como dos siglos
hartos de pisar la tierra
...and the bulls of Guisando
partly death and partly stone
bellowed like two centuries
tired of treading the earth
The bulls are protected in Spain's heritage listings as a Bien de Interés Cultural (Property of Cultural Interest), being classified as a Sitio histórico or historic site.

A multitude of markers!


Once finished with our tourist side trip, we drove to the starting point a little further on and this time I took both Kaishi and Akina with me as the way seemed the ideal "double dog" territory and on these trips, they miss playing with each other as much as they usually do.  The walk was a total delight - relatively flat, with slight undulations and wonderful tracks through boulders.  Certainly no huge climbs today (apart from quite a long hill into Cebreros itself) and so I could give myself a little bit of a break in readiness for the big climb tomorrow.

The funniest thing about today is that it was totally the opposite of yesterday!  Having struggled to find markers and where they were, they were almost invisible (as the photo I included yesterday show) today there was a plethora of markers, positively excessive!  It was like someone had been given a quota and felt the need to use them all up - sometimes all on one boulder!   
Kaishi and Akina on the way to Cebreros

With the way marked so well, if you get lost on this section of the Camino you must have been doing it blindfold!  Yet again we had a real medieval feel on this route as we passed, crossed or walked on Medieval bridges, roman bridges and ancient paved roads.  The dirt tracks were beautifully wild here and with many animal tracks crossing them.  At times there were hidey holes where I thought a wild boar might charge us should one be lurking there and so I put the dogs on leashes from time to time when we approached an area that looked particularly well camouflaged.

I must admit though to being quite exited climbing up through rocks and making our way through narrow gaps in the trail - never quite knowing what might be around the next corner!  The way went on like this for some distance, in fact until we were just below Cebreros.  I had no idea we were so close to the car and it was a wonderful surprise as I made my way over the most superb examples of roman bridges I have ever seen, to meet Michael with Ndzilo and Cressa coming towards us.  From one of the accommodation websites (Abuela Cottages) the following information is given about Cebreros.
One of the narrow rock alleys we had to negotiate

Because of its location, Cebreros is a site of an extremely beautiful rural landscape. From the highest zones, one can see the vineyards with olive trees and vast pineries surrounded by Alberche and Cofio rivers, and the Pizarra watercourse. People in Cebreros benefit from a varied and rich ecosystem: wild hog, rabbit, squirrel, goldfinch, heron, bullfinch, small lizards, pine, juniper, cypress, eucalyptus... Cebreros stands out for the quality of its wines, fruit of the vines that furnish its landscape, for its popular carnivals, and for being the birthplace of Don Adolfo Suárez, president of the Spanish government from 1976 to 1981.

Medieval bridge heading toward
Cebreros but still a distance out, the
guide says you cross it but the
way is now along the road
    Cebreros is composed of typical streets and town squares, two emblematic churches, its representative pillory, the Valsordo valley, its hermitage and its roman bridges, the Nuevo bridge and the Alberche river… Cebreros is also renowned for its good wine cellars, El Quexigal and its station of follow-up of satellites, its new museum Adolfo Suárez y la Transición, its beautiful landscapes, its people and much more...
    There are many places near Cebreros of historical, cultural, artistic, biological, gastronomic, etc., interests. Places like the Burguillo reservoir and the natural park of the Iruelas valley or the Guisando bulls and the Castañar del Tiemblo, just like the Sierra de Gredos or the medieval city of the three cultures: Ávila.

Abundance of arrows!

The walk down to the Roman
bridge and Cebreros in the
distance under the first of
tomorrow's hills
The Roman bridge is one of the most spectacular old bridges I have seen.  It has been fully restored and paved using the original stones and it is so well done that it is still in use, including being able to take light traffic such as cars to the few houses in the location.  The river below it is beautiful and there were photos of it in full flow during the wetter months.  One of the bridges is 2 arched and the other 3 arched.  It is well worth visiting and you can drive to it from Cebreros as the road to it from that side is all paved.  At the bridge I left the dogs (along with my backpack) to chill out and play for a while and walked up the hill (yes another one but really the only one of the day) and met the dogs and car again at the dirt track by the sewage works.

On the Roman bridge with original cobbles
Inscription on the stone next to the bridge - it
commemorates something about Isabel Catolica - but
I can't remember what and I neglected to make a note (!)
At this point, Cressa came with me on her own for a change and she loved being able to scamper - the word was invented just for her - and I was able to get some lovely photos of her.  One I have included here as she is just magnificent in it and shows her when she is proud and confident and the dog she is turning into - and the one she will be all the time one day.

Michael had told me that ahead they were harvesting the vines and wonderfully were taking the grapes out of the orchards in baskets - carried by donkeys.  I hoped desperately to see it and photograph it but sadly they had broken for lunch by the time I got to that point.  However, I could see the evidence of the collection sitting on the wall! (see photo)


The car headed on up into Cebreros and met us below the Medieval pillory.  He had located the hotel - a rather fancy one with good deals (on booking.com)  due to the crisis - and we piled in to head to it via the ayuntamiento where I got my credential stamped.  I couldn't believe when I handed it over that I was so near filling the first one!  I should, momentously, have it completed when I reach Ávila, appropriate too as I will be exactly half way along the Camino at that point.

Part of the spectacular Roman bridge
We did a quick scout around for restaurants for the night with one advertising "asado" roast on the fire like a BBQ but in Spain they are the best and most moist ever, and who confirmed to Michael that they were open later for "la cena" (dinner).  We then found a lovely little pub restaurant - Mesón Las Tinajas (sadly only open lunchtimes as we would have eaten there in the evening) and with a joyful landlord who liked to practice his English.  He also served "Aqua de Cebreros" (his home made version of Agua Valenciana - basically a bucks fizz) and Michael ordered one... it is a much more potent bru but very refreshing!  I had a lovely crisp glass of white and we had delicious home made soup and fidellos (a small vermicelli type noodles).

Strange sign at a water point
along the road into Cebreros!  The
singing chickens - can anyone
shed any light??!
Medieval Pillory
Once satisfied we headed for the hotel - a family home that looks small on the outside and is enormous on the inside!  The owner himself was on reception and basically did everything all day - including (when we returned to the restaurant later and found a grumpy sod behind the counter who insisted there was no "cena" that night even though he was the one who insisted there was earlier) in preparing a quick supper for us himself!  He was so kind and had given us a lovely double room with a little courtyard outside where we could let the dogs out through a French Window.  It was also the perfect area for being able to set up the Trangia for some hard boiled eggs to sustain me on the mountain pass with my fruit and nuts.  The bathroom was luxury with a wonderful bath in which to have a long soak and refresh the muscles after the last 5 days in readiness for the mountain climb tomorrow.

Being met at the top of the Medieval road into
Cebreros
Later, after dinner, the hotel owner kindly, and with passion, showed us around his home, the different rooms and levels to the hotel and the wonderful banqueting area and cellar.  He is obviously proud of it and I hope that they will survive the crisis as his attention to detail and love of the place is so apparent.  It still gets busy over weekends as Cebreros is a short drive from Madrid, but as he said, they used to have dinner guests booked all week.  There was a microwave in the room and he had prepared us an easy heat breakfast that we could prepare before leaving early in the morning.  I was going to go early so that I could get a head start on the mountain and watch the sunrise, and also because I knew that the day was going to go much more slowly over the 18.8km we had to make to El Herradón.

Superb picture of Cressa in her element
Hotel Castrejón - check it out.  Well worth spoiling yourself with a bit of luxury for the night and getting a good rest before the mountain walk.  It's also dog friendly!


















Dogs in the room's courtyard
Preparing the hard boiled eggs
and making tea with the Trangia















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