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.

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