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Friday, 3 January 2014

El Camino Levante - Day 14 Nava del Rey to Castronuño

Akina on the moody wet hilltop in her jacket
The horse in his makeshift shelter
The morning started off in the dark from outside the convent.  The hotel had provided us with a wonderful flask of coffee ready for our break and some to start the day.  They also had the crispest and most wonderful sweet and fresh "Palmiers" (I have no idea if that is the right way to spell this delightful kind of pastry biscuit, but no doubt you will know the thing I mean!  A perfect start to a perfect day.  Perfect for us - depsite the rain and threat of thunder.

It was damp but pleasant and the way, although not blessed with a lot of markers was easy to follow.  It was quite windy as we headed up on

the rolling hills and it started to rain, however, it was one of those wonderful days where you feel protected by wearing the right gear and joyful at the freshness of the air and being out in the elements.  I was warm, Akina was warm and when dressed and prepared for this kind of weather it makes the best walking.  For me I far prefer it to walking in the heat of the day and my first choice of Camino walking weather is always cooler rather than warmer.  Give me

October to January any time, in fact I have had some of my best walks in November and December.  Akina, who previously would have been hunched and cold (and this has caused her to cramp her back muscles in the past) was trotting out confidently and with pure joy in her jacket.  I thought again how delighted I was with them and how glad I was that I had made the investment.  Even the horse we passed up on one of the hilltops was quite happy munching on hay in his makeshift shelter and there were plenty of chickens keeping him company.  I decided to take a couple of movie clips from the morning as they really give a feel for what it is like to walk in this weather and for you to see how joyful we felt about the day.  It really was one of those that just makes you smile - you don't need the sun to be shining to have a great day!  It is what it is when you are walking the Camino and the energy is of your own making.

The next video clip is at a rather jaunty angle (!) but don't mind that - it still works and shows Akina enjoying the day's walk too.  The storm actually blew over and we never did get the threatened thunder.  As we neared the town of Siete Iglesias de Trabancos (we only saw one although the guide says you can see all 7 poking their various towers above the town?!)... Michael had found a gas station on the old part of the camino route and here we stopped for a "slap up breakfast" of chorizo sausage and egg!  Mmmmm!  It was just what I fancied in the cold morning and set me up nicely for the next part of the walk.  Hot water also meant that I could get out my Earl Grey teabag supply and have a proper cuppa with breakfast!  You see - I said it was a perfect day!

Routes and hostals...
The route does take a slight diversion from the one on the map but is well marked, however, the gas station is in fact the hostal accommodation (Los Torreros de Tranbancos) mentioned in the guidebook, but you would have to walk a bit of a diversion to get to it as the route no longer goes direct to the hostal, but crosses the main road first.  It is easy to find, but pilgrims would end up walking a bit of a square - cross the road, turn left, then left again and back over the main road in order to get to it.  You can see it on the map here - where I mark the dog swap point, there is a bridge that crosses the road and this is the way the arrows take us, not left beside the A-62.  There is also another hostal which looked like it would be a suitable stopping point and that is marked on the map also on the N-620.

Before getting to Siete Iglesias the route follows the one I have marked here on the map, although in the guidebook for some reason, it gives you two options - one is the one I have marked with "x's" although it is not marked with yellow arrows.

Footprints in the sands of time!

Coming into Castronuño with
the scallop shell on the
welcome sign
The route heads out of Siete Iglesias uphill - and it's a bit of a surprise as although it does not look too bad, it is surprisingly steep and long.  I guess when one is faced with a mountain, mentally we are prepared, but I had not got myself at all ready for this and so I felt more tired than when climbing up from Cebreros!  Kaishi seemed to feel the same as she too lay down a couple of times!  I even got a bit worried she was unwell as it is so unlike her!  Anyway, by the time we got to the top she was in fine fettle and bouncing as usual.  It was a lovely walk and extra special as Michael had managed to park up and walk a decent distance back towards us.  As I caught sight of him and the dogs playing and running and Cressa a small streak of white lightning across the green fields my spirits were lifted higher and Kaishi and I strode out to meet him.  The roads were sandy and with the rain captured some great foot prints.  It was even hotting up and it was lovely to have someone offer to carry the extra jackets and shirts I had worn earlier and lighten the load I had been shedding as the day warmed up!

Long view from dining room and kitchen toward the
sitting area
Kitchen - well equipped
I had been looking forward to this stop for a while - it was at Castronuño and was at a Casa Rural with a lady who is a writer and who had designed the whole cottage herself.  Wow, what a perfect end, to a perfect day.  As the rain closed in again, we arrived to warmth and friendliness and although Maria José could not be there to meet us herself, she phoned us and her parents (who only spoke Spanish and were the warmest most lovely people and allowed us to practice on them) welcomed us and showed us around.  Maria José had given us a wonderfully special deal as there were only two of us - and had trusted us, allowing us to bring the dogs.  I have to say that if I return to this part of the world, and I hope I do as I would love to bring friends and family here, I would want to stay here and would thoroughly recommend it to anyone.  There was a kitchen, home baked cake, home cooked and grown food provided, washing machine, baths and showers, games and books, a little garden area and HEAT!  All the produce is from Maria José's parents farm - all organic and this included the wine.  Wow, we were spoilt and I have to say that the apples and grapes were the most delicious I have ever tasted!
Our room - the rose room

Looking back toward the kitchen
from the lounge area - the little
breakfast bar on the right
has teas (Earl Grey!!) and home made
If you are heading this way - please do support them.  They are the most wonderful and warm people and I can not see how you would be disappointed.

The decor in the cottage is perfection and the attention to detail astonishing.  This is definitely the most wonderful and beautiful place that I have stayed in Spain.

The dogs in their residence near the radiator
in the dining area

The place is called Las Alamedas and there is a website

To top off the day, at Castronuño I got the best sello of my trip so far - a scallop shell from the ayuntamiento.

As I had planned a shorter walk for the day in order to take the opportunity to enjoy the place, we were able to put our feet up, read, have a long soak in the bath and do all our washing in the machine and get it dry ready for the next day - which was due to be another wet and windy one!  A good nights sleep would be possible in the wonderfully warm and comfortable beds, there was breakfast (and cake to take with us) and I was able to start the walk right from the front door.

The most fabulous shell sello - from Castronuño ayuntamiento.  It is in the new passport, the one
now specifically issued for El Camino Levante!  

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