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Monday, 11 November 2013

El Camino Levante - Route Changes "beware"... and Day 1 Rielves

On the road...
One of the reasons for making this blog detailed in places about the route, is in order to help others who choose to take the Levante route, avoid the mistakes and frustrations of certain changes that have taken place and which are neither written in the current route guide or marked on the maps provided.  I have photographed the maps, marked as best I can with the actual route and I have made notes about options - I have then included these in the blogs.  In this way, pilgrims have the choice of where they walk (in one particular instance) and can avoid going out of their way on a few others.  There are quite a number of changes to this part of the Camino - more than I have encountered at any other time on the Levante Route so far.

There is also a "very" significant amount of tar road as you complete the last stage toward Zamora and into Zamora itself.  I have made notes of these changes (which I will add at the relevant stage of the walk) in the blogs that follow.  For anyone considering walking the Levante route I would suggest reading through the blogs relating to Rielves to Zamora in order to check out the information but the areas to watch out for are the following:
  • Around Barcience
  • After Vl de Santo Domingo near Maqueda
  • Shortly before entering Escalona
  • Around San Martín de Valdeiglesias
  • From Cebreros to San Bartolmé de Pinares
  • Outside of Ávila on the way to Narrillos
  • Around and before Cardeñosa
  • A HUGE change and the chance of a lot of confusion leaving Arévalo
  • No municipal accommodation at the convent in Nava del Rey
  • Before Siete Iglesias de Trabancos
  • Leaving Castronuño
  • After Villalazán and heading into Zamora
As you can see - there are quite a few "problem" areas!!

Day 1 - 10km to Rielves:

However, on arrival at our start point - 10km before Rielves - all the above "trouble spots" were unknown and lay ahead of us, yet to be encountered and dealt with!  

Traveling with us up to Rielves was Cressa, a foster dog who had only been with us for a few weeks.  She had previously been a little car sick, mostly through stress, and was not used to the routine of driving somewhere for walks.  We had been doing some preparation with her, driving out to do fun things and coming home, teaching her not to just jump in and/or out of the car without sitting and waiting first and how to wait for her food and eat in very close proximity to the other dogs, but this was her first big test.  I have to say that she passed with flying colours.  Although a very submissive dog (overly so) we knew from experience that taking a rescue dog on a trip like this, with our "seasoned campaigners" would do her the world of good and change her for the better.  She would grow in confidence and learn that the car is a great place to be and means fabulous walks.  She would also learn to be patient, wait in the car as though it is a big mobile kennel, relax there, sleep there and have the chance to learn how to be a great companion on journeys - including learning how to stay in pet friendly hotels.

Comfort break for both dogs and humans!
We were so happy with Cressa - we stopped regularly as we usually do to let the dogs stretch their legs and "powder their noses" (!) and she did not have any accidents or get sick.  It took us just over 4 hours with breaks, to get to our starting point and the day was sunny and glorious.  I decided as I had not done any practice with my pack prior to leaving (I had just been walking the hills and long dog walks along with the 6.5km lake hike) that I would not carry it on the first 10km and would build up the distance I carried it over the next few days.  Despite the walking preparation and wearing in my new walking shoes over the two weeks before leaving, the first 8km were a bit of a shock to the system!  Part of it was the terrain (uneven small round stones and sand) and part of it was the fact that I was dressed for 9℃ Alhama weather and it was 22℃.  We have uneven rough roads, but the round pebbles were not easy going and the sand - as everyone has experienced on the beach - is a bit two steps forward and one back!  By around 5km I felt like I had done 15!  It did not bode well for the next 270km!!  The wind was quite strong and my face was soon feeling the effects of wind burn.  The dogs slipped into the routine easily and were full of the joy of the walk.  However, the human member of the team was feeling nervous about the coming days and after all the anticipation, planning and expectations, I was worried I had underestimated how difficult this was going to be.  While all this worrying was going on, Cressa ran non-stop for the first 6km!  I had to admire her and by focusing on the dogs it helped me keep putting one foot in front of the other.  

First Camino Markers of our
walk into Rielves
Ndzilo saves the day
When I hit the 8km mark though something interesting started to happen and there was an ease to the muscles that were feeling stiff and tired and the spring came back into my step.  I had the "most" delicious apple ever (have you noticed that when everything seems a bit black and you are tired and hungry that the food you eat is always so much tastier?) and I was able to pick up my enthusiasm again.  On top of this, Ndzilo had now joined me and was moving along in her easy going swinging trot that everyone who knows her loves and regards as a distinguishing feature!  I could not let the old girl get the better of me!  After all, she is the equivalent of 84 if we buy into the dog/human years maths!  Thanks to Ndzilo, she kept me in the moment and made sure that I did not feel overwhelmed by the enormity of the task ahead.  She can go all day at that pace  (!) and I would never keep up with her, but she kept coming back to check on me and she, along with the pretty landscape alongside the river which we met every so often, we made it into Rielves and our first 10km could be subtracted from our total.

Unpacked for the first night on this section of the Camino
in Bar El Abuelo
Rielves is small but very pretty and with some magnificent houses on the route by which we entered!  Lost were very new and being lived it and the whole place did not look much effected by the "crisis".  Everything was neat and tidy and very "suburban" and not at all what I would have expected of such a small Spanish village.  We had not seen a car in all our 10km - just one tractor making its way along the side of the river.  The town too was quiet and I met the support vehicle and dropped off the dogs before continuing into the town centre and the arriving at the point where tomorrow's walk will start.  

Drying clothes on the balcony
There isn't really anywhere to stay in Rielves so we planned to head out to Torrijos where I would walk through tomorrow and stay at one of the recommended accommodations.  Bar El Abuelo.  Before checking in we had a celebratory glass of ice cold beer to mark the first day on this Camino trip.  I then paid my  €15 for the night - a room with three beds - and a little balcony where I could hang out my first day's washing.  Michael went off with the dogs to find a camping spot and I tried out the suggestion I read about on one of the Camino sites - to shower while stomping around on your dirty clothes.  Add some travel wash to the wet clothes and while showering and adding on more shampoo and gel from the shower, shuffle around on the clothes.  As you rinse off, so do the clothes.  Wring them out and hang them up - with the lightweight walking clothing it was pretty much dry by the next day on most occasions.  Sometimes  clothes can then be pegged to the outside of the rucksack to finish drying in the breeze as you walk, and for me I mostly had the luxury of being able to dry them on the warm dashboard of the car or hang them from the string curtain rail we had put up behind the front seats to make privacy in the sleeping area of the car.  A perfect indoor washing line! 

We found a local bar in Torrijos for a menu del dia and enjoyed another celebration with a lovely glass of white wine.  Perfect!  Then, tucked up for the night - Michael trying out his new camping bed and bedroom and me waiting for the three bears to show up (haha!)

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