Saturday, 15 August 2015

El Camino (Levante) - Rionegro del Puente to Cernadilla (17.2km) Tuesday 13th May

El Camino Levante - Rionegro del Puente to Cernadilla (17.2km) Tuesday 13th May

Chilly start from Rionegro!
Route change for the better - leaving
Sadly a "lot" more on tar, which seems to be becoming the norm on this section of the camino, especially with the new railway being built and diversions all over the place.  I do hope that once it is done, they will reinstate the country camino route and take it back along the off road trails, just adding in appropriate bridges and underpasses where necessary as they have done elsewhere.  It's such a shame, because it means many, many additional kilometres and it is tiring on the feet.  The distances planned become much greater and one could see Peregrinos flagging along the way and also tired of the tar.  It's not the camino at all in these situations, it does not have the feel of it and it feels like a means to an end rather than a spiritual journey.  Tar makes the feet ache, even through good walking shoes - it's totally different walking on earth tracks, even if the ground is hard.  Tar is unforgiving and it numbs the mind and soul.  The Camino usually invigorates and inspires, even when one is tired.

At least at the beginning of the day the roads were lanes and quiet and we did at least find out how the French guys are walking - going forwards, swapping ends and cars, with (we think) their wives... There was also one change for the better - a country route out of Rionegro, along tracks rather than along roads and road crossings.  The first village that one meets is Mombuey, and with buey meaning beef (ox), the origin of the name is fairly easy to work out - Mount and Ox - Ox Mountain, although no one is too sure why!

There is also a very mysterious tower, and no one is sure what it was for but one of the stone decorations includes an ox and there are various stone symbols of pagan cults.  It includes a refuge chamber in the upper part of the tower which can apparently hold up to 40 people!  The only way to it is from the exterior balcony - as there is no staircase to the chamber (!!)  This tower "never" formed part of the church although today it does, and it shows no sign of having been used for defending the area!

Heading out of Mombuey, the way was very pretty, quiet little villages with little going on except some allotment work, again it felt like the self sufficiency of the middle ages.  Old buildings with flowers growing out of the cracks in the walls, some renovated and some that were beautiful and just waiting for someone to see their potential and revive them.  They could tell stories of the people who once lived there if only the walls could talk.

I met another peregrina, who had fallen in love with walking El Camino.  She had come a long way, in fact walking the whole of the Via de la Plata from Seville this trip.  She estimated her trip would take her to Santiago in around 7 weeks.  That's some going and the weather is hot and some of the distances in the early part of the Via de la Plata are long, dry, without shade and without water.  I seem to remember in research that there were a couple of sections around 40km or so!  In fact, on our return to Alhama, we decided to drive south following the route parallel to this camino and the heat of the month of May was really setting in.  We crossed the Via de la Plata a few times and could see scorched pilgrims trudging their way northwards in the searing heat.  I did not envy them.

The peregrina told me that she first fell in love with El Camino when she walked the Frances.  She felt it was the most spiritual - but then that might have been because it was her first.  That was 9 years ago and she had been walking caminos ever since.  She felt the Via de la Plata was more of a walk in nature and that it had a different feel, but we also both agreed that it can be more easy to chat and be distracted away from really experiencing your camino if you meet lots of people, which you do on the Frances.

After receiving my sello at the
ayuntamiento in Cernadilla
Tiny villages - one was
Vallermerilla, with a population
of only 11 souls!
One can lose the camino experience on the Frances if one is not careful or mindful and I have read accounts or watched video diaries from pilgrims who say exactly this - they suddenly neared the end of their travels and found themselves wishing they could get back what they had lost, realising that they had not paid full attention to "just walking" and being in the moment.  They had been chatting and in a different head space, not actually being in the moment at all.  I have been grateful for walking the Levante route and for not encountering pilgrims at all for the first 800km.  Walking it this May has also confirmed for me that walking in the months of October/November is also better - because fewer pilgrims are walking, as well as the fact that it is much easier to walk in cooler weather!

Back in Sanabria - the lake where we ran the dogs each
day and let them swim and have fun before heading
back to our cabin.
On arriving in Cernadilla, I was amazed that I even found anyone in the ayuntamiento to stamp my passport.  I was astonished.  Such a quiet and sleepy town, not a soul to be found actually out in the streets and I really thought that the town hall might be closed!  At this point, on this trip, I had completed another 130.7km of my Camino toward Santiago!

Being with the dogs is always a great way to relax at the end of the day.  Yume demonstrated her prowess for fetching sticks - although she only really likes to fetch things out of water.  She is a funny dog!

After a good splash and often a fast and furious game of chase up and down the shoreline, the dogs are always ready for their beauty sleep.  Although as you can see in the photo here, Yume is always up for a bit of extra bone chewing - her energy knows no bounds!


Time for bed after a long day on the camino

Interesting diversion sign on the
route that took us away from
the tar road for a change.
One has to hope that it is meant to be
this way up for the sake of the arrow...??!

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