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Friday, 18 April 2014

El Camino Levante - Day 17 Toro to Zamora

The last day of our walk was on the 27th October and although it started misty, turned into a superb and sunny day.  We had originally planned to walk 18 days and had allowed a day or two extra for any necessary rest for blisters or aching limbs, but having driven out to Villalazan and the Aurelia, we realised just how much of this part of the walk was going to be on the tar road - of 34km over 19 in fact and some of that on major highway.  As we approached Zamora, there are so many new roads, we never did find some of the yellow arrows and I only picked them up again when we got into the town and walked from where we left the car to the ayuntamiento.

The yellow tape - used where there
aren't arrows
It is such a shame because it really is hard going and this part of the walk is not at all pleasant on the road, especially the busy highways.  It's certainly not a journey for the dogs along this stretch.  There was also a diversion - spotted as we were driving to the Aurelia the day before - that takes the pilgrim back down to the river.  This is not marked or mentioned in the guidebook, but it does at least take you off the road for a while, I have marked where it goes on the map here, although after the river, we could no longer find the arrows that take you into Villalazan and the the Aurelia itself, which is right on the Camino.  We only found a yellow arrow just before the hostal itself.

Lovely cool walk along the river Duero - sadly you can't really
see it because of the trees!
The morning walk was lovely along the river - fresh and perfect walking weather.  We followed the camino to just beyond Paleagonzalo which is not on the camino itself but a little to the left of the route and where it joined the main road to Zamora, decided to "hitch a lift on our oxwagon" and be tourists for the rest of the route, only walking the final part into Zamora and its wonderful old town.  Here we had a tasty lunch before the long, almost 7 hour drive home which we split in two, stopping at a pet friendly overnight just south of Madrid.

Breakfast break along the camino toward Villalazán 

On the way into Zamora you pass through Villalazán which apparently comes from the Arabic - Al-az-ar or "horse of reddish colour".  For those who know me - this is entirely appropriate, because when I had my herd, the majority were red horses and of course, now I have the red dogs.  As you can see from our breakfast break photo - the red girls as they get called - are the same colour as my red horses used to be.

Once we hit the main road, we headed to where we had seen the archaeological excavation of El Alba, a Roman villa that gives its name to the next town - Villaralbo (Alba and Villa combined).  We thought that we would visit and read information about it, but sadly it is all fenced off and although there are story boards that give details about the discovery, there is no access to be able to enter and find out more.  I took photos as best I could to give a picture of an impression of it and the signs to read later once I could enlarge the photos!  As you can see, it was once quite a site!

It's hard to believe that Zamora, where we finished this section of the Camino lies only 50km from the Portuguese border if we continued along the Duero.  From Zamora the Levante route jois forces with the Via de la Plata, the Camino route that travels south to north parallel with Portugal from Seville.  It's another Camino that I would love to walk and is perhaps the next Camino I will attempt.  It was the original route I had planned to walk before I realised that the Levante ran practically past my back door in Chella and that I could easily get started without back up and by walking sections from home.

The right turn by the sand/gravel
lorry park which looks to be a diversion to
the river for the Camino - but not marked on
the maps or mentioned in the guidebook
The scene next to where the arrows
suggest to turn right
Zamora is the city with the most Romanesque churches in all of Europe. The most important celebration in Zamora is the Holy Week in Zamora.  Zamora is the city with the most Romanesque churches in all of Europe. The most important celebration in Zamora is Semana Santa (Holy Week) and it is the time we would be due to do our next Camino.  Because Easter falls late in 2014, and due to other work related issues, the plan is to Camino in early May, and hope that the weather has not heated up too much.  It would be lovely to see Semana Santa, but it is a busy time and accommodation is also in shorter supply.

The view as you approach the river from the track that
turns right past the lorries

Marker on the sign (just seen on the
edge of the photo opposite) indicating
to continue along the river bank

Very pretty route along the river - I wish I had known
about it and not changed my plans and bookings.
However, at Villaralbo there was not an arrow to be found
where this route might have come out in the village
and from here to Zamora the roads are so new and busy, we
also did not see any markers.  We only picked them
up again as we entered the older part of the town
and could cross the bridge and head on up to the
main centre.
The bridge that takes you into Zamora (pedestrian only)
and where we pick up the arrows again
Close up of the marker arrow on the tree

If we go, it will be necessary to set off early each day, perhaps our usual torchlight starts, in order to avoid the hotter parts of the day.  Also, now we are further north, I'm hoping that we will experience cooler weather at that time of year, and even in Andalucia, last year it was quite pleasant walking for most of the month and even into June.  According to the info it can range between 8 and 20 degrees (C) in Zamora with the highest rainfall other than December (!)  Interesting!  I have to admit, we did see some wet days in May last year in Andalucia when we moved - pouring and cold on our arrival at Alhama de Granada without any wood for the fire and everything soggy and damp as we tried to offload!  Anyway, we will see!

Zamora - looks lovely from across the Duero

Wonderful palaces and churches line the route into Zamora and it has the old feel of the pilgrim route.  I got my sello in the ayuntamiento, where as we have so often found on the Camino, an office for the police remains open even on a weekend and sometimes even on a Sunday.  I have now completed 800km - 2/3 of the entire Levante route and with the girls.  I should have two more trips to complete the entire journey.

Happy to have my stamp and to have
completed 800km!


According to the history, Zamora is linked to the old history of Spain and to the origin of the Castilian language which gave birth to Spanish language. 

Wikipedia gives this introduction to Zamora:

After the Roman victory over the Lusitanian hero Viriathus the settlement was named by the RomansOccelum Durii or Ocellodurum (literally, "Eye of the Duero"). During Roman rule it was in the hands of the Vaccaei, and was incorporated into the Roman province of Hispania Tarraconensis. It was on the road from Emerita (modern Mérida) to Asturica Augusta (modern Astorga). (Ant. Itin. pp. 434, 439).
Two coins from the reign of theVisigothic king, Sisebuto, show that it was known at the time as "Semure".
During the period of Moorish rule the settlement became known by the names of "Semurah" or "Azemur". After the establishment of the ChristianKingdom of Asturias, the settlement became a strategic frontier post and was the scene of many fierce military engagements between the Muslims and Christians. Control of the town shifted between the two sides a number of times from the early 7th century to the late 11th century. During this period it became heavily fortified.
Henry IV granted Zamora the epithet of "most noble and most loyal city".

The following pictures show the route along the main roads and the possible route that we discovered going back down to the Duero.
Main new road being built - diagonal
straight line from bottom left.  At the
top the Camino joins the road for
many km's
Camino following the tar road and the
possible diversion that is marked with
arrows from the road and by the sand/gravel
pit (but watch carefully for the arrows)
but we do not know where the route comes out
as we did not find arrows at the other end.

The guessed route and map showing the tar route
- there are no arrows along this and it is confusing
at the new road junctions outside of Zamora and
the intersections are busy, without the Camino
signs which usually warn drivers that there are pilgrims
on the route
As time was short and the direction was not marked on the maps or written in the guidebook, having changed our plans, it was not possible to walk this section and explore it to see if it is in fact marked and possible to follow all the way to Villaralbo.  It looks to be a very pretty route and of course far preferable to walking on the main road!

My two passports (credentials) the original from Valencia now being full and printed by the Frances route, the second
is the new special "Levante" passport printed with pictures from along the way.  If you are walking the longer routes
such as the Levante or Via de la Plata, you will need to request two credentials as there are not enough places
for the stamps (sellos) in the whole passport.  Even the ones produced for the longer routes, do not have additional
places for stamps provided automatically.  

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