24 th Sept. Atienza to Miedes de Atienza

Last night at the restaurant attached to our accommodation we met another pilgrim/walker doing the route. Our only one! He only spoke Spanish but we managed to discuss our walking. He was solo and had walked several Caminos and many times back and forth from Alicante where he lived and Bilbao where he was born. He was wiry, fit and 71! The food at the restaurant was not as good as we have had elsewhere though Andy said his pork and ratatouille was really good. We have eaten so much ratatouille I decided to pass and have salmon. It was tasty and fresh but had bones and I found it a bit rich. No green vegetables only potatoes! I will look like a potato when I get home because they are served with everything.

Today Andy Peter and I completed the stage from Atienza to Miedes de Atienza. 15km. Karen took us back to Atienza. Crossing back over the highest point Alto de la Callascosa 1380 metres, the mountain was shrouded in mist. It had a feel of alpine terrain with few trees.

It was a lovely walk past some fancy gates to what looked like nowhere, a melodic mob of sheep and their shepherd, into pine forest and down through farm land again to the little hamlet of Romanillos.

We were charmed by the sheep and their bells though I did get a start when the protector dog barked furiously at us and came charging out of the herd. The shepherd called out and he became friendly coming up for a sniff. Here the shepherds have two sorts of dogs. One like border collies, that work the stock and the other type is bigger and deeper in the bark which is to protect the sheep from wolves etc. There are no fences so the older sheep have bells and act as guides for the rest.

The guard dog

When we arrived at Romanillos we were delighted to see Karen waiting for us. She had walked halfway to meet us and had met a group of women who had been out getting Zucchinis and were going to sell them in Atienza. Karen had arrived and was disappointed to find the bar closed but the owner, who was going somewhere, opened the bar so Karen could use the toilet at least. People are very helpful here. I was impressed by the chair made from pallets at the entrance to the village. After we had rested we set off to finish the distance. Peter and I came into Miedes ahead of Karen and Andy and a jolly fellow asked us where we were going. He realised our Spanish was limited and switched to English. It was excellent English too and he told us where the bar was and it was only open on the weekends. He also recommended pork ribs with beer!

The palette chair

We picked up the car and returned to Retortillo for a lazy afternoon washing and playing cards.

The bar- no side the town hall building.

22nd-23rd Sept. Siguenza to Santamera and Retortillo de Soria

I took a rest day after a completely sleepless night and the beginning of a dribble nose. I remained with Karen and we did some grocery shopping, and later I called Kim for her birthday. It was lovely to talk with her and hear about her celebrations. I had a nap eventually after which I felt refreshed and as if I had managed to forestall my potential cold.

My last tourist visit was to the museum of Guitar and rug weaving. Sigüenza was a big producer of woven and knitted rugs from the 16th Century to the early 19th. Being on the Ruta de la Lana (Wool route) contributed to this development.

The guitar museum told the history of the guitar and its development in Spain . A very interesting exhibition with the accompanying strains of classical guitar music in the background.

Later Karen and I went out to pick up the men from Santamera. Andy had given us detailed instructions which led us to the town off Carabias, quaint with interesting church and tiny streets going in circles. At one point when the road went up and round steeply, with high stone walls and so steep we couldn’t see over the bonnet we decided to abandon the route and go back to the highway. It had been nerve wracking trying to negotiate the place.

The highway took us through Imon which has been a salt producing place since medieval times and still operates. The revenue from the salt funded much of the Cathedral in Siguenza.

Soon we easily found the men in Santamera at a cute bar. The place has the air of an arty enclave.

The next day I joined Andy for the walk from Santamera (Peter took a day off) to Atienza a hilly walk of 15 kms. It was a bit tough uphill but then levelled out into oak forests and heather in flower.

We saw deer leaping across the path on more than one occasion on the walk. We passed through a small village wher there were three large dogs who started towards us and were barking furiously. I scampered closer to Andy and we both picked up rocks to throw if necessary. The farmer whistled and two dogs halted and the third stopped barking but still followed us for a few minutes. We arrived in the next town but once again the bar was still closed at 10.00 am. We gave up waiting and moved on following our arrows. When we crested the hill and saw Atienza we felt eager to get there. It has an impressive castle and is a charming town.

Peter and Karen were waiting for us in the square. Sparkling water, coffee and tortilla revived us enough to walk up to explore the castle. It must have been huge and dominated the countryside. Climbing to the top of the last tower gave us 360 degree views over the surrounding area.

There are archaeological digs below the castle exploring the Muslim era. The area went back and forth between Christian and Moors over the last 100 years of the occupation of Spain by the Moors. We were somewhat disappointed that we will miss the Medieval festival they have here with jousting and other medieval pursuits. It would be quite a spectacle. While the remnants of the castle and the city walls dominate the area, the town of Atienza has a few museums and several restaurants to occupy you for a few days. It is one of Spain’s most beautiful villages.

From here we took the car to Retortillo our next base.

21st Sept. Sigüenza

Slept late- very Spanish! Today was a rest day to explore the town which has been here for 2000 years. Celticiberians, Romans, Visigoths, Moors, Christian, all have left their mark here. The town has a Castle, now one of Spain’s finest Paradors.

Peter and I explored the Cathedral which is both grand and has some amazing pieces of rare art and artefacts. The self guided tour was really interesting. There is a beautiful altar dedicated to Saint Librada that was quite different and delicate. There was an altar piece that had never been seen in full before on display in the Temporary exhibition. Sigüenza was very important politically and as a seat of Religious power in the 12th Century onwards after the defeat of the Moors.

There were curios too such as the skull from the faculty of science 1489 that had notes written over it and a coffin cart ( hearse) with almost cartoon depictions of death.

We wandered to all the gates of the old wall and round quaint streets. It was a pleasant day and Sigüenza has a lot to offer a visitor.

Looking down the street to the hills we walked over to arrive in Sigüenza.

20th Sept Trillo to Sigüenza

All night there had been thunder and lightening which had not abated in the morning so we decided to delay our departure till the storm abated. We passed the time playing Knock out whist- a game of cards popular with my friends. My card playing has improved over the trip so I am not knocked out as easily now! Eventually we decided to drive part of the way and pick up the Camino closer to the Barranco Rio del Dulce park that had been touted as one of the most beautiful parts of the route. The advantage of the car!

Karen dropped us a few kilometres from the entrance where we picked up the yellow arrows and set off. It was quite chilly but soon we came to the entrance through a little town called Aragosa with a population of about 30. No bar here! It seemed to be undergoing a bit of revitalisation though with a Casa Rural and some humorous art. its Main Street wasn’t all that inspiring but it lead out to a beautiful valley. A secret garden feel I thought.

Only resident!’s cars so this sense of a secret place seemed appropriate. The walk followed the Dulce river and wound through poplar forests and small oaks with fields of golden stubble. All surrounded by high cliffs.

We came across a potato farmer picking some of his crop and a wood cutter. The area is supposed to have wild cats and otters and deer and squirrels etc but we saw only eagles. Too high to photograph. I loved the fishing sign. Fishing ground-only live bait, artificial will capture zero. We didn’t really understand what it meant but sounded humorously wry to me. The wood cutter was a small concern without huge logging trucks and only individual trees marked for cutting. Some hard working ants taking a bit of my chocolate away.

Near the fishing sign was a place where all the interpretive signs had braille as well. We were intrigued by its placement in this secluded valley. We passed another village completely in ruins where there used to be a place making paper money. The history of these places is so tantalisingly mysterious. Eventually we emerged at the base of Pelegrína a small village overshadowed by the ruins (of course) of a small castle. Immediately I thought it was like the castle out of sleeping beauty where the princess lay asleep, her castle surrounded by brambles and forest.

Now our walk turned from sweet to sour. Not really but pilgrims always end the day with an uphill haul and soon we were climbing out of the canyon up a stony zigzag path to reach the top, a weird plateau of flat rocks. It was like walking through a grave yard. The path had been way marked with small standing stones to help guide us.

Then we crossed the road and saw Siqüenza in the valley below. What a welcome sight. Still there was a steep rocky path down to negotiate but we knew there was an open bar, cold beers and lemon Fanta waiting. Karen had negotiated the streets to park near our lodgings and was waiting in the Plaza Mayor. Another great day, 26C and 24kms completed.

We are here for three nights and will use it as a base for the next stage. After a reviving rest and lunch we got settled in our Airbnb which is really well set up and charming. We headed out for dinner about 7.30 to see what places are open ( holiday time for restaurants!). Along with many other tourists or locals we had little to choose from. The one Michelin starred place was not suitable. We really were too tired to appreciate such a place even if we were keen. €180 per person was a bit more than we felt up to paying. We stumbled into a little place that was cheerful and it turned out to be owned by an Argentinian who specialised in empanadas. We had the most delicious empanadas and fresh salad with potato’s bravos and drinks and dessert for €64. We returned home happy, full and sleepy.

19th Sept Trillo to Cifuentes

Andy and I set off from Trillo early. Peter opted for a recovery day. He was exhausted from yesterday’s gruelling hills. It was briskly cool and we followed the river which had many cascades. The walk was through gardens and vegetable plots. I startled a deer but still didn’t see one! Again the villages were all asleep and coffee break just a dream.

As we walked to our first village we hoped for a bar but not only was it barless, the yellow signs disappeared and the direction towards a fountain were confusing in a town with 4!

Eventually we found the path and powered up to a small chapel on the hill from which we could see our next destination. Cufuentes was a large town with several historic buildings and a ruined castle and a bar! If this we were assured because Peter and Karen were already there shopping at the market.

We were so glad to arrive at Cifuentes. I was starving! We ordered toasts with tomato and cafe con leche. Karen and Peter had scoped out the town and so took us on a leisurely stroll to all the significant places.

We had only walked 13 kms today and I decided I would have a masssge and swim in the thermal pool at the Carlos111 spa hotel across the river in the afternoon. After yesterday’s massive walk I was a bit stiff.

18 th Sept Salmerón to Trillo-a tough 28 kms day!

We drove back to Salmerón to pick up the Camino to continue the route into Trillo. This involved a 4.5 km steady but scrambling climb up to a wide road atop a range. It was rough and tough but once on the range it was quite flat through oak forests and low spiky shrubs. This part of Spain has many spiky plants similar to Australia which survive in the hot dry conditions. The rivers, when we see them are incredibly clear and fast flowing. Doing this walk in spring would be hard too for reasons other than heat, like muddy, clay paths and swollen rivers.

The flies were horrendous and eventually I resorted to a switch to keep my face clear. Along the top was quite easy until we reached a village that required a steep descent through a narrow stream bed bordered by spiky plants that tore at our legs, scratching and drawing blood. Our reward was at the bottom before entering town. An abandoned house had a flourishing grapevine laden with sweet purple grapes. We ate handfuls and just as well because the village we were entering had no bar open. Today was a bring your own lunch day( which we had) but a cafe con leche or aqua con gas would have been so welcome. It had warmed up and I was running low on water.

We passed through the village and Peter was starting to tire. He always struggles on hills and what faced us was a rough, stony constant climb up and around the Tetras Viana, glowingly described as a natural wild place with ‘savage’ animals. It was probably the roughest path I have walked for some time. It was interesting but you had to constantly watch your feet and the path. It was full of ruts and round stones that slipped and rolled underfoot. Andy was impressed with some of my balletic moves required to keep my footing. It wasn’t long before Peter started to fall behind. We kept stopping to wait and eventually we stopped for a break. Andy had gone back to help carry Peter’s pack up the last part of the hill. We were very concerned about him and rang Karen to see if she could meet us at the end of the walk. I was almost out of water but travelling okay. Andy had more with hydrolytes so he was able to share with Peter. I walked on hoping to intercept Karen.

Nuclear cooling towers at Trillo

I never thought I would be glad to see a nuclear power station but the sight of those towers really spurred me on!

Karen had driven up beyond the village to the start of the walk from Trillo. Eventually we all met her and were grateful to get the last km home in the car. It was a tough 28km. On the way we stopped for ice creams, beer and a bottle opener as our accommodation hasn’t got one!

17th Sept Exciting day back on the Camino

We left Los Majadas in the dark to reach a point where we were rejoining the Camino again after our small break. Passing through a picturesque mountain path we saw a flock of vultures circling overhead. I tried to take a photo from the car. It was near Villaconejos de trabaque where Karen dropped us by the side of the road and we could see the yellow arrow.

It was cool, about 8C but good for walking and we saw the sun rise over the mountains then washing over the fields turning the wheat stubble golden. This is such tidy country and with gentle undulations a delight to walk through. Always there seem to be mountains on the horizon

It was an uneventful walk until we heard the river. There was the sound of cascades and rushing water. A delight to hear. It was deep below to our left and as we turned down to it, the road was full of juicy blackberries. I am missing my fruit so I gorged on them. They are sweet and flavoursome but quite seedy. As we came to the river we saw a bridge and felt quite relieved because the river was beautifully clear but fast flowing. Very enticing actually but alas the bridge had collapsed at the other end and we were faced with an over the boot or in my case well above ankle depth crossing. Peter decided to walk across boots on and was soon awash. Andy and I opted for our sandals and I took out a walking stick for extra balance. It was refreshing but a bit slippery and a really strong flow. We reached the other side without mishap. My feet were happy! While we were sitting we noticed a yabby swimming across the cord.While we dried off we had a snack and revived, we set off for Valdeolives. As we approached the town we heard the bells chiming. Most villages ring the time with church bells but these were ringing and ringing. Curious, we walked up to the church and then saw people coming and we heard a band playing somber music. It was the village bringing in the Christ statue on a platform held by many men led by a brass band. Every one looked at us with curiosity or wished us Buen Camino. A young group of women asked us if we were on the Camino and from where had we started. One of them had completed a Camino in August. They offered us food and were so delighted to have Camino Pilgrims in their town. We had to decline because Karen was waiting for us at Salmerón. As we progressed through town we saw evidence of a running of the bulls earlier in the day. What a shame we missed that! The Christ figure was Christ of Buen Camino- the town’s symbol.

Eventually we arrived in Salmerón to be greeted by a happy crowd who directed us to the bar and the Albergue. Karen had been sitting by the fountain quietly communing with the cats until about 3.30 when the bar suddenly filled with people and became a very happy place with music and lively conversations. It is so typical of these towns. They seem dead until after siesta then everyone comes out to socialise before going to dinner. Another aspect us the snacks that come with the drinks. We have always received olives or nut mixes but this bar gave us ham and chorizo and I got smoked mussels.All washed down by two beers! It had been a warm day in the end and I was very thirsty.

We left and drive on to Trillo where we will stay for 3 nights. We are staying in a type of holiday park of two story bungalows attached to an expensive Spa hotel. As it was Saturday we decided to eat out and set off for the town centre. We couldn’t find any place till a group of old ladies directed us to Casa David. What a hip place and the food was great. We were amused by a group of guys on a bucks night. The groom was dressed in a flamenco dress and his friends were singing like it was a football game.. After our 24 km day we had eaten well and slept like babes!

16 th Sept Finding the source of the river Cuervo

Once again having the car gives us a chance to explore the local protected environment so we headed further into the mountains to find some waterfalls and the source of the River Cuervo. The area is a protected environment with wild bears, wolves, boars, deer, squirrels and pine martens. There are eagles and vultures too. We can say confidently we saw an eagle and a red and a black squirrel and deer but no bears and wolves. We kept making these jokes about occasional bears being squirrel when they weren’t bears. The road to the falls was winding through tall pine trees and deep ravines and really quite beautiful and remote. We arrived at the falls and they were a bit underwhelming this late in the season though moody and mossy. The stream was so clear we could see the fish easily. They looked like trout. As we followed the stream deeper into the valley we eventually halted at a spot where water was coming through a tree root and essentially a fissure in the cliff. It was a gentle but significant flow. I have never ever been at the source of a river. It seemed quite magical.

We meandered back through forest and retired to a cafe for lunch. It was very good and a little different to the usual ensalada mixte. We ventured to Trajacete for petrol. Petrol station closed for siesta so we had to kill time by exploring the town and sheltering from a rain shower in a bar where we played trivia quiz games till the petrol station opened. The shop ( that did have a sign ) did not open as advertised so we settled for petrol and returned to Los Majadas. Trajaceta was a well heeled town with a bank no less and must be the centre for tourism in the area because it had a huge centre for interpretation of the environment. It looked defunct but we assume Covid might have caused it’s closure and it will reopen. Lots of restaurants here and pretty squares.

Finally returned to Los Majadas and capped off the day with rain and a beautiful rainbow.

From my window

15 th Sept Cuenca to Los Majadas

We set off to visit the Enchanted City, not on our Camino but highly recommended, and as we have the car, we can venture off route. It is not far from Cuenca but up in the mountains. All was good until we stopped to take pictures of the Ajúcar river that was such a beautiful deep turquoise colour and Peter realised he had left his walking stick back at the Airbnb. The road was very winding so we had to find a spot to turn before we could return. Fortunately our host was at the place getting ready to clean and had noticed Pete’s special stick. He had brought it from the Via de la plata walk and customised it with Camino pins and crystals so it is very important to him.

The Júcar River

The walking stick

The drive was spectacular. All the length of the gorge till we crested the mountains into forest. I finally saw some deer grazing.

National Park- Serrania de Cuenca

When we arrived at the Enchanted City we were almost the only ones there so it was peaceful. The formations were so much fun and the geography of the rocks was very interesting but beyond my true understanding. Dolomite rock acted on by a chemical reaction between oxygen, carbon, magnesium and calcium plus water and time.

So many different shapes we were enchanted but a bit nonplussed when two bus loads of tourists came walking toward us going the opposite way! We were glad we were nearly finished the walk around. After reviving coffees we headed to Los Majadas. It is a mountain town in a bowl surrounded by forest. While we killed time before we could go to our Airbnb we set off on a hunt for a shop and provisions. Another shop that required local knowledge but ironically we were actually parked outside! This only became apparent after we had scoured all the streets and the understanding of what the bar owner had told us finally registered.

While we regrouped a small mob of horses wandered through town. See the shop behind – no tiendra signs again.

Some locals

We headed off to our place and after a little while the owner arrived and let us in. We had time for a walk out to Los Callejones a place similar to the enchanted city. It was a delightful walk through oak forest and we saw a deer and fawn. There were lots of these strange purple flowers that spring from the dirt. No leaves or stems and wild thyme and wild lavender made it a fragrant walk. We were distracted by a great view over the valley and then had to cut across the open plain to rejoin the road to the Rock formation park.

14th Sept Cuenca

Moved on to Fuentes and decided to take a rest day with Karen as my knee was a bit twingy and I felt tired. Fuentes is another small place but is part of a Dinosaure trail and has some significant Lagunes (deep lakes). It is surrounded by fields of sunflowers with their heads brown and ready for harvest. Karen and I found our Casa rural apartment and looked to do some shopping in readiness for Andy and Peter who were walking the 23 kms.

It was a mystery where the supermarket might be. We only found a bakery with some basic goods such as milk and tuna! After the men arrived about 1 pm we set off for a bar and check out the evening menu. In our meandering we stumbled on a small supermarket. It is potluck when you wander around because the towns don’t seem to have a Main Street like we are used to. They have always a plaza mayor but that doesn’t equate to central shops.

Laguna Negra

The next morning in the rain we set off to visit the Laguna. Karen was a bit dismayed as the car slid and slipped on the muddy road. After our quick look we got back in but the car was a bit bogged so out we hopped again and pushed until Karen got onto more solid ground. Thankfully the rain wasn’t too heavy and we didn’t get soaked. I had left my raincoat in the pack.

We found supermarkets on the outskirts of Cuenca where we stocked up and then found our way through the town. It is a bit daunting after the little places and we all were surprised our big it seemed. We wound round little streets and up hill such that it seemed the streets got ever narrower.

We finally arrived at our residences in the barrio de Castilla. It was raining again but we were able to park reasonably close. Our place is charming with lots of doors to lock. Inside it is three levels and Peter and I each have a bedroom but up a tiny spiral staircase. Wouldn’t want to be too big. Peter has to duck his head going up and down.

Our host greeted us with a few provisions as well as a small piece of honey cake and a liqueur. We all enjoyed its anise flavour.

As we were leaving to explore Cuenca Karen tripped on the front door step and fell heavily gashing her shin on the aluminium door frame. We were all shocked at the amount of blood that had pooled on the floor when she got up and raced for the first aid kit. She also ended up with a bruise on her arm and a cut to her finger. We stopped the bleeding and patched her up. She was feeling okay so we continued our exploration of the town plus looking for a pharmacy for extra supplies.

Cuenca is a really interesting ancient town established first by the Moors then reconquered by the Christian’s and also had a significant Jewish community. It must have had every Christian order at its height of influence. Eventually the fort city outgrew the limit of its geographical site and spread down the hill into the valley. The balance of economy moved from the hill to the plain. The old town houses two significant art galleries and a science museum and planetarium. We visited the Abstract art gallery in a hanging house which was fabulous and also very impressed with the science museum. Lots of interactive experiences.

After siesta we stopped by the Contemporary Art gallery. Amazing building . It was like a maze and the art was very contemporary- a bit weird but interesting.

Little things of life

Walking back on the opposite side of town we looked across the gorge to see two eyes looking back

A mist enjoyable town to visit and well worth the UNESCO heritage stamp. Back on the road walking and exploring tomorrow.