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Sunday, 17 August 2014

El Camino (Levante) - Granja de Moreruela to Faramontanos de Tábara (17.9km)

Granja de Moreruela to Faramontanos de Tábara (17.9km) May 10th, 2014

The most beautiful walk on the camino so far.  Little was I to know that this whole camino was going to be filled with walks like this and just stunningly beautiful.

Today's walk started through the railway workings and already the tractors were out spraying the dusty tracks where the lorries were working and taking their heavy loads back and forth.  Here the camino was directed across the works and I guess this was the way that some peregrinos had come in having worked their way across country on the incorrect route having got lost on the previous leg.  Now were were directed straight on rather than turning right as directed in the guidebook and on the maps.  At least here the arrow had been painted out.  The diversion was to avoid the path of the lorries carrying heavy stone and on the horizon I could see the towers from which the tractors filled their tanks with water.  There are scattered along the entire route and the whole support infrastructure and additional excavations and building works that have gone on just to support the construction must cost a fortune in themselves.

The road ahead
Sunrise over the crops
From the GPS we could see where I would meet up with the camino again so I trusted the arrows and headed off.  The cuckoos were amazing and really calling loudly as the sun started to rise and we paused to have our photo taken at the Granja camino marker.  There is one of these in each town along the route, each with a little message to the pilgrim, different on each one, it's a really lovely touch and reminds us to take time to look around us, enjoy the journey and the path we are on and to learn about ourselves.  Today was a perfect day for this.  The road stretched out before us and although Michael had met a peregrino on his way back to the car, we were alone.  She had also wanted to know if the direction was correct and it was nice that he could confirm this for her.  The sun really lighted up the crops and the smell of thyme was heavy around us.  I love smelling the dogs after they have run through the herby undergrowth as they smell deliciously of thyme, lavender and rosemary.  

Akina looking out over the
wonderful scenery and herby
As we started up a long hill, not steep but very long, I heard cyclists behind us.  I kept Akina beside me and it was lovely to hear them calling out "Buen Camino" as they passed us.  I stopped often to take photographs and just look at such beautiful and peaceful surroundings.  Everywhere there was an oak forest, although the trees are spread out, not closely packed and they provide perfect shade when walking.  The majority of the day was like this, with beautiful trees and birds singing.  The climb took us up above the river - Rio Esla, which we were going to climb above after crossing it.  The steep banks and thick undergrowth make for interesting going but the vistas through the trees over the river and the height of the banks all make it worthwhile.

Lavender lines most of the route
Akina coating her fur in the perfume of lavender
As you come down from the long climb, you come out onto the road.  It is only a short section of tar before reaching the bridge over the river.  Another lovely spot with photo opportunities although there were plenty to come.  The day before when heading out for our accommodation we had noticed the arrow on the far side of the bridge which seemed to point directly into a rockface.  I was a tad concerned about this as you might imagine, as crampons had not figured on my list of equipment to bring and the guidebook suggested using the walking sticks and to go by road if it had been raining as the rocks are dangerous and slippery.  It also says that cyclists must take the road route, which is very sad as it is hot and featureless and a really grim route.  Cyclists not taking this route are missing out on some beautiful scenery and at the top, fabulous cycling.

Another familiar site on this section of the camino
from Zamora - many peregrinos will mark their passing by
with stones
To be honest, if you read this and are a cyclist of some athleticism (and many who cycle these hills and camino routes are) and you have one of those light weight competitive bicycles, then if possible and if you are willing (and the weather is good so the rocks aren't slippery) I can't see why you couldn't carry the bike like on the mountain biking challenges, and head up the cliffs above the river.  It's windy and you have to do a fair climb but it's not ridiculously far and not impossible.  Once at the top, the tracks through the woodlands, the birdsong, the scent of the herbs, the flowers and peacefulness are well worth it.  I just loved every second of this walk and if someone didn't walk any other part of the camino, I would recommend taking a day walk on this section.  It is easy cycling and walking once at the top.  I was however very glad of my telescopic walking stick and I have to say that it was the first time I had ever really used it for walking!  It certainly gave some purchase on the uneven ground and support on the steep slopes.  Mostly I have carried it to ward of any less friendly stray dogs, but I did actually use it for the purpose for which it was designed on this stretch!

The views on the first part of the walk as you reach the river and bridge crossing that will take you up the steep climb and stunning walk through the forested area before heading on to Faramontanos de Tábara.

On reaching the top you look back and can just see the
bridge in the distance.  It's then quite a flat and easy walk
for the rest of the day, and still for quite a distance through

There are no markers at the top, so
pilgrims have built obviously "man made"
stacks of stones, in a sort of Zen like
fashion to help other pilgrims feel
confident that they are on the right track

Arrow at the beginning of the climb - keep the eyes
open for markers indicating the way as sometimes
it is a little unclear, but I do not think possible to get
The lady I had seen walking in a different direction from myself yesterday leap frogged with me a few times.  Sometimes I was resting up for a snack or water and sometimes she was doing the same thing.  She seemed to be on quite a mission and marching out.  Later we were to hear her complaining a bit about the heat - although she had chosen to walk a longer distance and continue on through midday and until 14.00!  I have to say I was glad for an ice cold beer once we reached Faramontanos and was glad to head to the overnight stop as it was a particularly warm day once we were out from the shaded woodland area.  I would agree that the climb up to the top would be a little challenging for someone who perhaps does not have such good balance and there are places where if river rises during flood times, the path could disappear under water.  It is definitely important to check how weather conditions have been and if you would still like to walk it but feel less confident because of age or ability for some reason, see if there is another pilgrim willing to walk with you just on this stretch.  It is so beautiful, it would be a real shame to miss it out and although a bit of a climb it's not really difficult walking, and there are lots of good excuses to stop and look at the view!

The way is peaceful and beautiful and brings tranquility to the peregrino.  There were perfect places to stop and camp out for the night and so I knew that Michael and the dogs would be able to find a peaceful and undisturbed spot.

The last part of the walk was in open farmland and now the sun started to heat up.  Along the last part there was yet another route change and although marked (it looks like someone has just decided they do not want to the Camino on their land) it was hard to say how much further it was going to be.  I had arranged for the dogs to be picked up but of course, now we were miles off the original direction.  I was fortunate in finding a dam that Kaishi and Yume could cool off in and get a drink.  Yume is still young and so I had not wanted her to do such a long walk.

Pretty plants along the way
Thankfully we found a dam for Yume and Kaishi
Soon we picked up the original markers again and found ourselves in Faramontanos for a lovely cold drink and a chat with some people who are building a pilgrim stop.  They offered us accommodation and a courtyard for the dogs - which was so sweet and not the first time on this Camino we have found people more than welcoming of the dogs - but I explained we were already booked at the town ahead and thanked them.
The Levante Route crosses and joins
a number of other Caminos from Zamora
to Santiago

Yume - so grown up outside the bar in Faramantanos

Michael's overnight stop with the dogs..

Apparently I'm at the end of that arrow!  Rather amusingly a big yellow camino arrow... no, it isn't really marking the route in this way!
And here we are - yet another route change,
one of the many, many changes on this stretch
of the Camino through to Galica
The Robertson Mala - on its way to Galicia and the final stages of the Camino Levante.
The prayer of the day comes from Ann: "A safe journey with peace and tranquility" and
it was certainly that - the most beautiful part of my camino so far.

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