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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

El Camino Levante ROUTE CHANGES - Zamora to Galician Border

The following notes and map changes are those found during my walk in May 2014.

There are so many changes and problems
on this section of the Camino Levante
and Via de la Plata, that often other pilgrims
build arrows to keep their fellow travelers
on track.  Inspired by this and on my
way home, I returned to a place where previously
I had been lost, in order to build this.
There are major works taking place especially in the section around Pueblo de Sanabria and up to the Galician border.  Often there are many long sections on busy and dangerous main roads, with heavy works traffic carrying hardcore building materials for the new railway.  In some places there are diversions and the Camino continues off road, but often there are long stretches of tar and no off road route.  They can also add on many additional km that the pilgrim is not expecting and for which they may not have made provision.  These notes are to help others plan more or make alternative arrangements if they wish.  I am sure that over time the route will re-establish and there will once again be beautiful off road walking and great Camino signage, but for now, it can be tiring and frustrating having to walk on so much tar and sometimes with direction markers missing.  There was more than one occasion when I, or my fellow peregrinos, walked long distances out of our way or took wrong turns and had to retrace our steps.  On one occasion this meant I was very dehydrated, as I had expected to reach a village and water much sooner but was hopelessly out of my way and with the huge, steep sides of the construction work blocking my path.

At Roales after leaving Zamora:  The camino takes the route marked on the map section below, you need to look for the arrows, which are clear, but because they are not where you expect, it is easy to miss them initially.  I have no idea why it has taken this small diversion, as there seems to be a track in the original place and I saw other locals, walking their dogs, on it.

Before reaching Montamarta:  This is where I built my arrow pictured above and another on the other side of the bridge.  On 7th May 2014 there were no markers whatsoever.  Even on returning, on the drive back to Granada, there were many pilgrims looking for the way, some heading off onto the main road and others wandering aimlessly on other tracks.  Some we could divert and set correctly on their way, others were too far away from us.  Many, just as when I walked it, were on the main and busy N-630 and lorries got very close, some sounding their horns.  It is not a pleasant section to walk on the road and it is also not necessary as the track alongside is much nicer and more peaceful.  Also, once you are on it - the markers are clear, but it is by the new bridge (at the time I thought it was a road but I later discovered it is a railway) that everyone got lost as one has to double back on oneself and go in a kind of loop and then "over" the bridge before turning right.  The loop and area of confusion are marked by my black pen on the map with an arrow on top.  The other black line marks the track of the new superfast railway line.

After Montamarta and before Fontanillas de Castro:  This is a major nightmare!!  Certainly it was in May 2014 and so busy with construction.  Diversions everywhere, signs missing and many pilgrims just giving up and taking the main road all the way.  The sad thing is that again, if you can get to the Camino (now marked Via de la Plata) then the route is beautiful, but here are many suggestions of how to get to the actual camino and many little tracks that could get you there, but the railway cuts right across them all.  Hopefully there will be some underpasses and footbridges built to take the peregrino over the rail tracks and onto the off road route again once it is built, but during my walk, they were building over them almost faster than you could walk it.  Even the track that I eventually found just ahead of the construction will have now been built over - possibly this would have been the case in the next few days after I passed.  If possibly I would suggest that if there is a bus from Roales to Granja de Moreruela, it might be worth considering taking it and skipping this section until the works are complete.  However, the Amigos that look after these sections may publish up to date information on their websites or know more about the current state of affairs.  I have since found notes about other routes on websites which keep pilgrims informed about potential hazards that may impede their route.

Route to Granja de Moreruela and beyond:  This was a horrendous situation and many, many of us got lost and walked miles out of our way!  It was impossible to get back across without turning around, as the steep railway cutting here made it impassible and the speed of the construction trucks and the size of them would have made it scary and life threatening to try and cross illegally.  Two pilgrims that marched past me at a pace I saw again, arriving in Granja de Moreruela after me (!) by quite some time - and I had gone out of my way, turned around, and walked a long way back!  They must have really had a long trek and the day was particularly hot and without shade walking along the soft sand dug up and disturbed by the constructors.  Again, my black pen lines shows the "actual" route - very little of which is on the actual camino yellow marked route.

Before Faramontanos de Tábara:  I have no idea why this has been changed.  The tracks are still there and it looks like they can be walked, but the markers clearly take the pilgrim on the route I have now marked in black pen on the map below.  It is long, can be hot and has little shade.  There is however a fabulous little bar on the left serving wonderfully cold beer as you enter the village of Faramontanos!

Before Tábara:  The new railway route crosses the track but the signs are good and have notices for diversion.  The way is quite obvious.  However, nearing Tábara, there is a yellow arrow and an "A" marked.  Fortunately for me, the French guys walking in the opposite direction confirmed for me that this stood for "Albergue" and it was a short cut to it - rather than walking into town and then back out again.  It is a tad confusing as it looks like one should follow the arrows and that is the "route".  But if you are not staying in Tábara, or you are staying at a different hostal, then this direction is not helpful!  It is marked with a very faint black arrow on my map below - going left off the camino.  

After Santa Marta de Tera and Olleros de Tera:  Note that the hostal Juan Manuel in Santa Marta de Tera is closed, or was in May 2014.  The route is very confusing and could be very dangerous if the pilgrim takes the wrong way down to the dam as it can flood or the dam could be opened a bit allowing more water through and it would rise very quickly.  I took the route that is marked with the black arrows, but the pilgrim should stay on the upper paths, way above the river and dam.  Although the route I took was stunningly beautiful and very cool and mysterious through the trees, it is not the right way.  There are many markers still in existence and often quite clear, so it is easy to make a mistake.  But really - do not do this because it could be life threatening.  There are two routes marked on the map and I took the one past the Ermita.  I then continued, following arrows, through the undergrowth and down to the river, however, the upper route which I think is marked for bicycles (bicis) is actually the correct one for both foot travelers and all others, bicycle or no!  The French guys walking in reverse took the road and maybe it was actually easier to see the correct way "in reverse".  Regardless - staying "high" is the best policy and making ones way to and then over, the dam wall!

Rionegro del Puente:  I have not photographed the map here, but the route is DIFFERENT from that marked in the map.  It is clearly signed with arrows from the town, it will take you over the ohter side of the A52 and to the right of it.  You will in fact run parallel with it for a while, but after a short distance it will reconnect with the correct and original marked camino route.

Entrepeñas to Otero de Sanabria:  Two changes, one nearer Entrepeñas and the other at the Otero end, although we do not actually enter the village of Otero itself.  The first is quite clear and fairly obvious and there are diversion signs.  It takes us along the tar and it is not at all possible to walk on the old route which is shown on the map.  At the Otero end, it gets a little more confusing and sometimes one has to hunt about for arrows because it is quite wet and boggy and a little overgrown in places.  There were a couple of times I wasn't sure I was on the right route, and in fact I did lose the markers twice and then see them on another track next to me or ahead.  The tracks do all seem to interconnect, so perhaps one would end up in the right place regardless but it's worth keeping alert here!  Also, I think that pilgrims have taken different tracks at times in order to avoid the mud!  It is rather like a bog through here and it would require sturdier walking boots in wet months.

Leaving Puebla de Sanabria and on past Requejo:  The route is all along the main road out of Puebla de Sanabria, following the N525 for some km's.  Where there is an intersection of roads coming from the left and right, just before Terroso, there is a marker on the right hand side of the road.  The way winds itself among trees and shady footpaths and is very pretty - a much better bet and welcome break from the tarmac.  I encourage pilgrims to look out for this.  It is worth taking and we noticed many had missed it and stayed on the main road where it is busy with traffic and hard on the feet.  It is especially advised as on reaching Requejo, until the route is remarked and redirected "off road", in order to keep pilgrims safe and away from the railway construction, the camino has been directed along another enormous length of busy main road, filled with construction trucks and heavy vehicles.  If one wishes to continue on foot along this, then a break at Terroso on the scenic route will have been welcome.

However, I would personally advise trying to get a lift/taxi/bus up the long hill to where the camino picks up again above the bend where I have written "no choice" on the map.  There is a small black biro mark here which is where the construction vehicles park and where the camino can be picked up again.  This is a very nice route, but do watch for arrows on one of the roads and as directed in the guidebook.  I have made a note about this on my more detailed blog notes which included this day of walking.  Of course, all of this may be different or improved by the time someone reading this makes their journey to Santiago - but I would suggest that it is likely to still be a problem during 2015 and into 2016... and maybe beyond.

Before Padornelo, through Padornelo and on to Lubián:  The guide book is now out of date and it is important to follow the signs.  The construction means that the camino goes off to the right and onto the road, it does not run between the A-52 and N-525 as suggested and pictured.  It now runs entirely along the N-525.  There is a services along this and after Padornelo (everything was shut here when I passed through) which will provide good refreshment and a welcome break from road work.  Continue from here and down the hill and at the bottom there is a kind of road block which shows that the old road is just cut off and no longer in existence.

The camino heads to the right and winds along the tar road above Acidberos and continues around and along this tar road past Hedroso.  Continue on this yet further past where it says Boca del Porto de la Meda on the guide map, and still onward all the way into Lubián.  This will add on around another 7.9km to your camino for this day and it is ALL TAR.  There is no possibility of taking off road camino here - it is all diversion due to the new railway.  I do not know if this will change when it is finished, I do hope so, because the scenery is lovely and it is hard going taking on so much road work on this section.  The road here is quiet into Lubián and the heavy traffic and fast vehicles, lorries and construction is left behind when you depart the N-525.

Personally I would recommend staying over night in Lubián (or maybe even missing out this section from Requejo to Lubián until things are settled and construction finished)... and then just continuing the camino from Lubián.  The route from the town up into the mountains and toward the Galician border is fabulous and you will not have missed anything on the road route if you choose not to take it.  The route from Lubián is what the pilgrim wants - not stretches of tar and fast lorries.

Once out of Lubián - and finding the way is virtually impossible!!!  I spent a long time hunting around to find it and it is not obvious or well marked - then be aware on reaching the Santuario de la Tuiza.  It is right under the motorway flyover and you need to stay right.  There is a lovely little water trough and fountain here - keep right and you will soon pick up the arrows again and from here it is easy to follow.  Where there is any possibility of ambiguity, pilgrims have left arrows and markers made of stones and sticks to guide you.  Arriving at the Galician border is wonderful and the markers well worth the walk.

Monday, 17 August 2015

El Camino (Levante) Requejo to La Canda (18.2km) Friday 16th May

El Camino (Levante) Requejo to La Canda (18.2km) Friday 16th May
Watch VERY carefully for these markers
on the route from above Requejo to
El Padornelo - or you will get lost!
My final day on the camino for a while, as after this I had to return to the UK in order to get resettled for various reasons including work.  As I write this, it has taken some time and we are still house hunting from our new base in Cornwall.  I have been walking regularly - the daily walks with the dogs of course, but also some excursions along paths like the Ridgeway with a friend, which we plan to walk in its entirety with her horse and one of my dogs next year (Yume as she's a bit smaller and more "portable"!)  This will be a great way to keep my hand in while still finding my feet here.  It's not possible to add on the cost of a Camino trip, flights, transport and accommodation at the moment.  I will only be able to do this once we have our own place and are better established, but I have already planned the two final routes... one from where I left off, from La Canda, going through to Ourense and then finally Ourense to Santiago.  Writing this has given me the inspiration again and I do hope that it will be possible to make my next trips sooner rather than later.  Long distance walking is possible in the UK and this is also something I intend to make more of now I am here.  It means I can still take the dogs - which sadly will not be possible on my return Camino trips - and the ancient routes through Britain remind me of my Camino Time Travel, touching the past and its energies.  It's a great way to discover the history and less crowded places of this island.

In the mean time, back to this camino.  What a fabulous and fantastic day this was but VERY, very tiring!  I have to say that this really took it out of me, far more than the steep climb to Cebreros on the previous trip!  Maybe it was because it came on the last day of a long trip and one that did not afford us a break in the middle to rest up and renew the energy.  The total this time has been 191.3km which leaves me only 213.7km to do!  I can't believe it.  The dogs and I have covered 991.3km on foot across the diagonal of Spain.

The way after Lubián - continue
to the right of this church, following
the track as it curves right in
this photo
Starting early, the climb was pretty much ever upwards!  It was tough going and I was very glad for hard boiled eggs, fruit and nuts to keep me going.  I was also glad I started early as it was going to be a warm day and the morning was nice and cool.  In fact, when we reached the top of the climb above El Padornelo, the wind was really whistling through the trees and creating such an eerie sound Akina and I kept looking behind us, a bit spooked!  For most of the way it follows a gravel track and old road, crossing bridges over fast flowing streams and waterfalls and deep rocky gullies.  The valley is spectacular as you climb its sides and the main road occasionally soars above us across viaducts.

The wind whistled here and it was a little chilly on top
of the hill at 1450m.  We were glad for some "down" time
into Lubián although it was tar all the way and not
such nice walking
On the whole it is a peaceful and beautiful route, although despite my early start there were quite a few pilgrims marching out along it.  Interestingly the steep climb sorted out the distances between us and soon I was alone again.  There is a strange and interesting description in the guidebook which explains that to avoid extra distance along the old road, going around curves that were required for vehicles to make the steep ascent, the peregrino should take a cut to the right with a steep slope and then it will shortly reach the highest point of 1450m.  The arrows take some finding and I was not sure if I should turn left or right at one point, but where I emerged and after wandering about for a few minutes decided to try turning left onto the road, I then found the arrows and the one that distinctly marks this aforementioned "right turn" up a "steep slope" (arrow photographed above)... thank you yet again to some kind peregrinos who help others of us stay on the right track!

The wolf heads on the wonderful fuente in Lubián
Once at the top, the track descends and then takes the pilgrim onto the tar again.  It is quite a long distance from here on the tar and the Camino off road routes are not used for some time.  In fact there is almost an extra 8km on the road to avoid the new railway being built.  Many pilgrims were struggling along and again adding extra distance onto their journey, and extra discomfort to their feet.  Walking on tarmac is no fun and is so resistant, it's amazing the difference walking on it to walking on just hard ground.

The people of Lubián are known as "lobos" or wolves.  According to one camino blog I was reading, apparently this area has the largest

concentration of Iberian Wolves in Spain, right in the forests that we walk through and have been walking through...!!  From other research it seems that the town was known for the trapping of live wolves and I think, if my understanding of the Spanish translation is correct, they invented or developed some kind of trap after which they were named.

One of my own "red" wolves!
Anyway, I did not know any of this at the time, when we were up on the very lonely and quiet, but beautiful track we really did hear strange noises that did freak me out a little and there were strange cries that may or may not have been rutting deer... is it the right time of year for that?  It's what I told myself anyway, as I wasn't sure about wolves and bears after seeing the info on the signs at Requejo.  These things play on the mind, although I only read for sure that there are wolves in the area on my return from the Camino.  The dogs too were a bit unsettled, looking around at times, but were very good.  I was just worried that they would run off and stir up the "whatever it was" and was worried they might not come off the better for it.  My bigger concern now is that I now "know" about the wolves and I still have a lot of forest walking to go... next trip!  But from friends and reading, I reassure myself that they do not really like to cross tracks with humans... they don't, they really don't.. do they? Do they??

Such fun taking two girls with me on this section - long and hard, always upwards, but not a single other peregrino!
Beautiful walk on lovely old paths - again I was back in the past.  Yume and Kaishi played and ran the whole way.

Kaishi on one of the lovely little bridge crossings
on this route before we really started to climb up through
the forest and into the first mountains of Galicia.
Various concrete blocks have been
place along the wet and muddy route as
many streams flow across the forest
paths.  They are very welcome as they
keep the feet dry and sometimes there
are so many they are like giant
stepping stones.

The photo of a kind of river bed, with an arrow on one of the rocks in the foreground is an example of one of the wetter parts of this camino track - the actual camino itself running along the middle of this stream!  Fortunately there had not been too much rain and we could find rocky patches above the water level on which to walk, but it might prove interesting in wetter weather, and it may be harder to find the arrows if they disappear under the water itself, as I can imagine they do!

This section of the walk is just stunning.  It is so peaceful
and so beautiful and the signs are like friends appearing
along the way, pointing us onwards to Santiago.

The views as we near the top of the trail and are about to enter Galicia.  The dogs loved this walk.

I love this - another arrow left by fellow peregrinos to show the way where there is some ambiguity.  Here
the arrow prevents us from accidentally taking a path to the left and makes sure that we continue
in the right direction.

Love this!  Arrival in Galicia and entering the Province of Ourense.  What a great gateway to the final
northern part of our route - and apparently an area of fabulous food!

Great achievement.  Really loved this day's walk and here we all are - with the Robertson Mala after 991.3km

Thank you to Rodney for his wise and simple words... they sum up the essence of the camino and being in
the moment upon it, all one has to do is "walk"... "When walking, just walk".

My credential - getting quite full now!

El Camino (Levante) Otero de Sanabria to Requejo (17.6km plus 7.9km extra by road) Thursday 15th May

El Camino (Levante) Otero de Sanabria to Requejo (17.6km plus 7.9km extra by road) Thursday 15th May
This ended up being a bit of a day off!  Although we started out on the route into Pueblo de Sanabria with some interesting and rather direct signage indicating I guess that drivers should slow down and take more care driving through the little villages (the Spanish don't beat about the bush!)... we soon found that it the day was going to be largely directed along tar roads.  This is no fun for humans or dogs, and the girls needed their exercise, so we decided to drive along the main, and very busy, road toward Requejo and see if there were any diversions onto off road tracks and to find out exactly how far the peregrino was going to be directed along the roads.

Pretty marker on the lovely
way to Requejo, easily missed
if you are just trudging the
tar road.  It's easy to assume
that one will have to take tar
all the way to Requjo - and
sadly many peregrinos ended
up doing exactly that
A little out of Pueblo de Sanabria, there is actually a sign on the right indicating that the camino can be followed along an off road path and to be honest it is quiet and rather beautiful.  I was glad indeed that we spotted it because it is not the way marked on the map and is easily missed - we saw a large number of other pilgrims who had just gone on past this section and were still plodding on along the tarmac.  Sadly, they would have many kilometres to go because there is a very, very long stretch up the hill out of Requejo, also along busy roadway, before the pilgrim is redirected onto the usual country tracks.  There are many lorries on this section, heavy and carrying building materials and hardcore for the new railway being built and which has haunted our camino at many different stages, meeting us, departing from us, running along side us or actually following the original route of the camino itself.

Not to be missed!  Do keep your eyes peeled for the signs to take the diverted camino route to the "right hand side" of
the main road out of Pueblo de Sanabria.  It's well worth it to avoid even more road walking to Requejo - there will be
plenty enough after it!
As we entered Requejo the ayuntamiento makes the pilgrim feel very welcome and we had a great coffee and bite to eat in the little cafe at the foot of the town, where the camino would usually pass by and head on up the steep valley into the hills, but off the road.  For now this is closed and the only way for the pilgrim is to head up the very busy main road.  There is a nice little albergue and the town will be set for peregrinos in the near future, a great place to stop over before the BIG climb up to the Galician border (and believe me it is!)... There were many pilgrims here when we stopped but most were keen to just get on with the journey and conquer the main road section before it got even busier as the day wore on.  On our return from our explorations we saw around 20 or so peregrinos battling their way up the road - one (who we had spotted before and were quite amazed at how they might be achieving the more rugged sections of the camino) - with a wheeled suitcase!!

The cross with St James as one enters
The Albergue

From the restaurant, we drove up the long and relentless hill, the more so for it being a major highway, busy with construction lorries and no pathway so that those on foot had to walk in traffic, and kept our eyes open for where the camino would be redirected back "off road".  We knew it had to be somewhere and finally, although not clearly marked, we found it.  This would be my starting point the next day and I wanted to be off early to avoid being surrounded by too many pilgrims, there were a "lot" staying in Pueblo de Sanabria and possibly some in Requejo.  The total climb above Requejo before heading down again into Lubián is 1450m.
Where the camion gets "back on track" above Requejo
and off the main road, but by where many of the
construction vehicles park up


 Requejo is a kind of frontier zone - between the Mediterranean climate and the Atlantic.  The mountains often have snow and ice and there are salt and sand tanks along the side of the road for gritting in the winter months.  It's also why I had to walk this section out of winter time.  The guidebook recommends alternative routes for when it has been raining because the way can be hazardous, although at the moment, because or building the railway, even the alternatives are not available!  It is an area known for its architecture, its flora and fauna and there are many trails for tourists to explore, even if they are not walking El Camino.

 On leaving Requejo, we decided to have another afternoon in Pueblo de Sanabria - continuing to be tourists, having a bite to eat and drinking a cold beer.  We found a nice shady spot for the dogs and took a wander around the monuments and stalls, discovering signs of St James as we went.

The back streets of Pueblo de Sanabria

Various dried beans and "mushrooms" (especially taken for my mother... haha!) ... the cuisine of this area
is well known for some of its wild mushroom dishes and they are delicious!