11th Sept Monteagudo de las Salinas

As we left the house this morning the paddocks were wreathed in mist and the moon was still up. It was quite chilly. We drove to our walk which was along the river from the village of Yemeda. It was pleasant walking through high rocky outcrops, pines and meadows. When I stopped to remove my jumper, Karen and Andy continued and came across some young deer. We had seen tracks previously but never the deer. After a couple of hours the sun was up and temperature was rising so we decided to turn around. Andy and I were curious to see a bit more of the river but as we walked on the sound of water stopped. We only walked on for another 15 mins so we were intrigued about the water. We also turned back and concluded that it came from a spring. When we finally reunited with Karen and Peter they were in the local bar(of course) having lemon Fanta and ice creams. Andy and I decided to have the local liquer herbos and Miele as well. The Herbos was a bright green and very aniseed flavoured while the Miele was honey with a touch of anise.we had seen the locals having it and chilled it was quite refreshing.

We returned to our Casa Rosa and scratched together a lunch followed by cards ( nomination whist) and a card scrabble game. It was fun but I lost all the games. Karen is a very good card player and Peter is very strategic. I don’t play enough to match them.

A nap and then a walk up to the remains of the castle then down to the restaurant for dinner. Our host is away tonight but his partner cooked up a lot of food for us. He doesn’t speak English and his understanding of our order was a bit strange. We got salad with tuna ( I got all Karen and Peter’s tuna) then he brought fried eggs and chips and for me a squid as well. All cooked well. This evening we were harangued by a Spanish guy who spoke passionately about the Queen, history, America Catalunya and who knew what else. We barely understand more than the odd word and even though we said we didn’t understand he persisted in talking to us. It was not aggressive but pointless because we didn’t have a clue.

We were all happily full and tired. Early rise again tomorrow after a relaxing day.

I had to take a photo of the shop that doesn’t look like a shop. Customers buzz the door when they need to buy anything and the owner opens up. It was well stocked too. Funny who would know except the locals.

The local shop we searched for yesterday. see the buzzer discreetly by the door.

10 th Sept. Another half day walking and fun at Monteagudo de las Salinas

Once more we made a very early start to beat the heat. Andy is working hard to find the best parts of the walks between towns so we continue to move forward and Karen is not too long on her own. She has become a supreme support person, checking out the facilities , attractions and importantly – the bars! She is having some fun engaging with the locals who inevitably are friendly and helpful. Most of the bars are the centre of social life for all ages so they are lively places. Once people knew Karen was English they offered condolences for the Queen. Very touching.

Andy trying to sidle out of the picture.

Our walk took us through forest and valleys where we saw evidence of deer tracks in the dirt and heard them too but never actually saw them. We enjoyed the walk but the paths are wide so not much shade. We had a creek crossing just before town. This is not a route walked by many or not at this time of the year so w e have not met any other walkers or pilgrims the whole time.

Once into town at Villora, we met up with Karen at the only bar in town for refreshments before heading on to Monteagudo and our Casa Rural, Rincon de Sandra. We arrived and were greeted by the owner who said we couldn’t stay there but she had another house and so we put all our gear back in the car and followed her to the other house. Apparently the original place was booked out. We were happy with the second place but concluded it was the young couple’s home because there was food in the fridge and clothes in the wardrobe! It seems they had visited Australia a few years ago and I suspect their Casa rural funds there travel, judging by the magnets on the fridge. The place is spotless and comfortable. We are here for two nights so we quickly got all our washing out of the way, lunched on our various provisions and had a nap. Then it was time to find the bar for dinner and a shop to buy breakfast provisions. Our host had told us where the bar and the shop were. She told us you needed to press a buzzer to alert the shopkeeper who lived above the shop and she would open up for us. The bar we could find but the shop defeated us. We walked all around the hilly town with no luck. A woman walking her dog said she would show me. I went off with her leaving Karen to locate Andy. I found the shop and buzzer quite literally 5 mins from our accommodation. Now I had to find Andy and Karen. So I set off once again around the town. It is like a maze with different levels and winding streets. At one stage I wasn’t sure I could find my way home! Anyway I couldn’t locate my friends so I gave up and headed back. By now half the old people in town who are all sitting outside nattering were engaged with helping us find the shop. By the time I got back to it Andy was waiting for me because an old fellow had taken them to the shop and they had bought provisions. There was absolutely nothing to indicate it was the shop, bar the buzzer at the door! No advertisements, no signs.

It wasn’t much later that we headed to the restaurant for dinner. The owner had spent years in England and had returned as a grown man to make a restaurant in the family home after his parents had died. He went out of his way to make a delicious dinner for the three vegetarians and me. We have been so lucky. As we walked home the moon rose over the countryside and we all felt very glad to be here.

9 th Sept. Camporrobeles to Mira

Karen dropped us at the centre of town and went on to Mira. We set off in search of the yellow arrows. We walked up and down and all around and finally after asking the police who happened to drive by (they had no idea) we eventually stumbled into the Calle Santiago and found our route. It wasn’t long before we lost the way again! This time we surmised a cross paddock trek would take us to the road we should have followed and it did. We were so happy to see the new markers! This walk took us through vineyards and Almond trees which had Almonds bursting from their skins. We tried a few and they were so moist compared to ones you buy.

I love the tiles they use for street names. Some are little paintings while many are just decorative.

It was cool this morning but heated up quickly once the sun came up. It was a lovely walk but the end was really tough down a rocky hill, slipping and rolling. We were all glad that we hadn’t been attempting this after 30 kms and fully packed.

We arrived in Mira about 12.00 pm and I was feeling quite tired so when Karen greeted us with lunch I was so grateful. A beer and an empanada went down a treat. We have discovered that many of the little towns are semi -closed for summer holidays or after a local fiesta. It is making it quite hard to get meals. This was something we hadn’t anticipated.

After I had a sleep I felt ready to check out this little place. It is very old and had a castle once but there is nothing left except the great view over the town and valley below.

The castle space, street art around the winding lanes, looking back to the bull ring (round white building) a 15 th century house of a famous Anton Martin, whose name is on many things and squares in town.

As we were wandering and looking for a bar a fellow saw us and directed us up the hill further along where we found a bar in which a few guys were talking. They really looked us over but not in an unfriendly way.

The hostal Carlos we are staying at has seen better days. We can’t work out if it is being renovated or just run- down. It is quite large but we don’t seem to have hot water though the bathroom is very nice. The room is large and beds comfy.

Reception

We decided to drive back to Camporrobeles for dinner because nothing is open here and the supermarket options are limited.

Karen and the Hyundai

Dinner was at a little restaurant/bar where the young couple had only just re-opened after their summer break. We discovered lots of towns are closed for either a fiesta or summer holidays. He was very happy for Karen to buy something from the supermarket and bring back to eat. Andy and I could order meat or fish dishes but Karen and Peter are vegetarians and he had no chef to make something for them. In the end we had a great dinner And bar was playing lots of music from the 60s so it was very convivial. The business was booming as tables kept expanding into the plaza.

A great vibe with 60s classics as background while we ate. The owners super helpful and hospitable

Tomorrow will also be a shorter walk than the original 31 km. due to expected temps of over 30 again. A satisfying day after all our angst.

8 th Sept Changed holiday plans

After Andy’s heat exhaustion we have come to the conclusion that with another 5 days of high temperatures predicted we cannot keep walking as planned. Karen went off early to Valencia to organise a hire car. She has struggled with the heat and walking so we just have to change our plans. We are all disappointed but health first. No one could have predicted this extended summer and such consistent and persistent high temperatures.

We drove to our next stop at Caudete de los Fuentes passing more vineyards and no shade. We shadowed the Camino path and saw yellow arrows and signs. Once at our very humble Airbnb we have started to replan our trip. We are going to try to continue walking as much as possible with Karen as luggage transfer. That will help with walking in the heat.

I have a strange sense of desolation that our plans have been so impacted by weather. Being in the car feels so alienating from the land we walk through and even though it was tough I felt alive and aware of my surroundings. Apart from the second day when we were just beginning and it was 38C I haven’t been as impacted as my companions. Tired and thirsty at the end of the day but otherwise in good shape and ready to go again the next day.

Being out in the open country observing the fruit and flowers or crops, the many rabbits scurrying under cover, the silence or the breeze in the trees is a wonderful experience. It is so meditative wandering along with an eye out for arrows. Every Camino has a lesson and being flexible is part of this one I guess.

We cooked our own dinner for a change and sat in the courtyard playing cards and doing the Age Newspaper Quiz.

We will walk out tomorrow from Camporrobeles to Mira. Only 13 kms instead of 30km and lighter packs. It is a plan.

7 th Sept. A day of drama and good samaritans.

We left early from Siete Aguas heading for Requena about 24kms. The morning was fresh and we felt strong. It was uphill out of town and into the forest but not extreme. We walked through lots of grape vines, dark blue and white which were sweet and juicy. No birds here or the scare guns. By the time we reached El Robellar ( half way) Karen was faltering in the heat so decided to take the train to the next town. As it turned out there were only a couple of trains and the next was 6,00 pm!

Ever resourceful Karen had noticed a Dept. of Transport near the station and thought they might know of a bus. The guys checked if there was a bus but then shrugged their shoulders and told her to hop in the car because they would take her. It might be a days walk but it was 15 mins by car! How kind they were.

In the mean time we had pushed on through more vineyards laden with grapes of many varieties and started walking down by the river. There were signs indicating it was a flood prone area and soon we saw evidence of rubbish washed up against trees. I was focused on the quiet-hardly a bird sound at all. So different from the Australian countryside which always has birds galore even if it is just a crow.

As we stopped to rest Andy said he wasn’t feeling well( he had come down with a cold- not Covid, he tested) and would take it slowly. Very unusual for him who is always way ahead checking the route. I asked if he had any hydralite drinks that I had been encouraging Karen and Peter to drink but he hadn’t. He set off with us a bit behind him. It wasn’t much further along before we found him slumped by the river in the shade in a state of exhaustion unable to go on. We decided our best thing was to go into town ( now only 3kms) leave our packs and get a taxi to come back.

As we powered into town a fellow who had passed us going the opposite way on a fitness walk and wished us Buen Camino came up and proceeded to help us find the Albergue and organise a taxi. It was all done very quickly and we soon found Andy slumped again but a little closer than where we had left him. With relief we got him into the taxi and decided no hospital required at this stage.

In the midst of all this we discovered the Albergue wasn’t open and wouldn’t be until 5 pm so we found a hotel nearby which had a room. While Peter minded the bags outside the Albergue, Karen and I organised the hotel where our Good Samaritan and his taxi friend had dropped us while Andy lay slumped on the bench in the square. Once we got a room( thank goodness it had a lift!) we got Andy settled with some hydralite drink and went to collect Peter. Karen and I decided if he hadn’t started to recover after the hydralite we would take him to the hospital.

When I went to take off my boots I discovered that the sole was falling off! The prolonged storage of these boots and the heat had destroyed the glue I suppose. Now I needed a shoe repairer. Peter and I set off in search of one supposedly nearby only to find he was gone. I passed a shoe shop and went in to ask for help in finding one. The lady was very helpful but the nearest was in the next town! I looked around her shop and decided to buy a new pair. I had to do this when I walked the Via de la Plata and my boots turned out to be too small in the hot weather. This pair I brought were a generous size but hadn’t been used much. The new shoes don’t have ankle support but otherwise seem sturdy. They were a reasonable price.

After we all had a good rest and Andy had consumed a couple of litres of hydralite drinks he started to recover and felt up to a stroll around to find a place for dinner. I was starving! We ended up in a Chinese/Vietnamese run tapas bar where we enjoyed vegetarian samosas, spring rolls, potato bravas and I had fried baby squids and a beer! The whole energy in these towns is great after 6.00 when everyone comes out to sit in the squares having snacks and drinks and convivial conversations with their friends or shop. The kids are buzzing on their scooters and tricycles or just playing. I love this and think it is a great lifestyle. Things usually quieten down by about 9 when they have dinner.

Covid seems to be a thing of the past here, almost. Masks must be worn on public transport and the driver will insist, sometimes you see people wearing them shopping or serving in restaurants but it is not everyone, everywhere.

6 th Sept Up, up and over!

Today started well with a funny back to front breakfast at The Posada. Pilgrims are the almost the only people who eat at 6.00 am in Spain! We had a table outside the kitchen and started with cafe con leche and croissants. Then the chef asked if we wanted any fruit and yogurt and presented us with juicy melons and a choice of apples and oranges, then offered juice. It was all delicious and generous. The best thing for Karen was succeeding in getting hot black tea and cold milk in another cup on the side. Tea is a mystery for many Spanish. We paid for our previous evening meal and off we went. They had been very accommodating the night before by going out of their way to make vegetarian meals for two and I had salad with tuna and dessert. When I said I would have wine for a change I ended up with a whole bottle to myself! Our meal cost €40 for 3 including wine and water.

Today’s walk was all uphill for over 10km. Then a 6 km descent. It was pretty steep and warm even though we were early. We did have a cool breeze to offset the sunshine and gradually as we gained the forest a bit of shade on the path. As we saw the sun rise over Bunol I liked the shapes of the buildings but realised I had taken a photo of the cement works! Still, in the pink morning light it looked attractive!

The gentle whoosh of the wind through the trees was soothing and we soon gained some expansive views. There were lots of ripe blackberries to savour along the path.

At one point I looked back and we could see the sun glinting on the Mediterranean and Valencia.

Looking back towards Valencia

Unfortunately the slope and growing warmth was beginning to take its toll on Karen again and she began to slow down. Peter also was finding the terrain hard. By the time we had crested the hill and started the descent they were both quite exhausted. Karen has concluded that she just can’t walk in the heat at all and despite the hydralites I have been giving them, they are struggling. Both are disappointed. Karen is fine in the cold and Peter is good on the flat. We are discussing car hire but it will have to come from the Airport I think. Even though we feel like we are miles from anywhere we are still only 35 kms from Valencia Airport!

Just one part of today’s climb
Taking a break
Siete Aguas

Siete Aguas is larger than expected and it was all uphill into town. Groan. We stopped at the first bar and had lemon fantas and salted peanuts in their shells. Our Casa Roses is a room only accommodation. We have a tiny ensuite for each room. Basic, but clean and comfortable with good beds and a welcome refuge for the end of today.. After a rest we went exploring. Not much is left that reflects the history as a border town when the Moors were expelled by the king or convert.

We joined the locals for a game of cards while we waited for dinner. It was very pleasant and we have come up with another alternative to our dilemma as the hire cars are so busy. Karen will walk while it is cool and then catch a bus, taking some of Peter’s c’things to lighten his load. We have 21 kms tomorrow.

4th and 5 th Sept Bunol

We set off for Cheste as early as possible knowing we had 24 kms and a hot day ahead. Leaving Valencia had us walking through some ugly industrial areas but eventually we hit the orange groves. The trees were laden with green oranges but the path was very exposed and soon we were all feeling the heat. At one stage as we negotiated an orange grove we were grateful for the heat because if it was wet as some of the reading had indicated, we would have been ankle deep in clay.

As time wore on the day got hotter Karen started to feel faint and we were all wet through with perspiration. At one stage the only shade was outside a pig farm. We all sank gratefully to the ground with the smell a small sacrifice for the respite. One of the workers came out with a barrow of pig parts-a bit gruesome. He was cheerful and told us he was a vet from Bulgaria who had been in Spain for 20 years. Bulgaria was too corrupt and Spain was better. We eventually rose to continue up the hill but it was apparent Karen was in a bad way and eventually we all decided she needed to get a lift. Where was Uber when you need it?! Anyway a very kind young man saw her and graciously took her into town. The rest of us powered on. Peter is raising money for his charity and feels compelled to walk all the way. We proceeded into the river bed and had to cross two fast but shallow fords. I got tangled in a spiky acacia called ‘wait awhile’ in Africa because it sticks into your clothes and skin. It had strong 3 inch long needles that poked my arm and leg and drew blood. Needless to say the bleeding stopped very quickly in the heat. The water looked so inviting and on the second crossing I nearly fell in. Thanks to all my Bailar dancing I was able to keep my footing and avoid the crash but I was almost disappointed.

On we trudged and it became harder and harder. Peter was getting slower and both Andy and I hotter. Those last two kms were a killer. After a long shower we decided an early dinner was in order. Little open for dinner because it is so early (6.30 pm) and the Spanish don’t eat till 9. We stumbled on a kebab place. The owner was not too impressed with us until Andy started to talk cricket. The owner was a fellow from Pakistan. We were happy to wait for food but needed drinks. We downed two litres of lemon Fanta and water very quickly and followed up with more. The food was generous in size and soon all I wanted was bed! We all slept like the dead.

Next morning was an even earlier start to try to beat the heat. A 16 km day so we hoped to get to Bunol by 12.00 pm at the latest. Breakfast was after 5 kms at Chives. It was pleasant walking through orange groves, vineyards, fields of pumpkin ( squash) olive trees. The roadside was abundant with wild grapes. They looked like blueberries but had quite a big seed. The cultivated grapes were much juicier and delicious. There were even fig trees that I raised for a ripe fig. Yum.

We saw the sun rise and eventually arrived in Bunol just as the temperature reached 30C and Karen started to fade again. We are staying at a lovely Inn- Posada Vente Pilar. We have discovered that we have missed the famous Tomato throwing festival! Damn! It would have been fun. Our inn is a traditional and friendly place. They offered a delicious three course lunch which was not so great for the vegetarians. We all had the Hervido (boiled vegetables) pretty bland but nourishing. I followed with stewed rabbit which was delicious and then the choice of dessert ( crème caramel or cheesecake) followed by coffee or tea. Karen ended up with tea and warm milk. The Spanish don’t always understand tea with milk!

After a shower, washing duties and attending to emails we set off to see the town. Bunol was on the frontier of the province of Valencia and Castlle so it has one of the last remaining castles. It has been built on the edge of a ravine and the old town is below. We were charmed by the quaint fountains that are still used. In one of the square there were photos of locals in traditional outfits from the festival. Having walked some of our Camino route today we took a very hilly shortcut back to the Posada. At least it will be down hill in the morning. Bunol is a place of rivers and waterfalls and great natural beauty. Hopefully we will walk through forests tomorrow. And get some shade!

3rd Sept Super Hot day 38 degrees celsius

Now we are four we decided to collect our credential ( pilgrim passport) which allows us to stay at the allbergues along the way and is our proof of walking the Camino Ruta de Lana.

Backwards and forwards we went from the old to the new cathedral until a sweet old Nun explained where we should go to get them. The Bishop’s Palace aka admin for the Cathedral. They had a sign INSIDE the building! Not very helpful but ultimately very pleasant once we found them. Then a trek to the post office to send back extra gear that in this heat I am not going to need. The postal service always seems so friendly in Spain. I had to use my translator app to clarify a few things.

Once more we set off, this time for lunch and drinks, the temperature rising steadily. No orange juice! There seems to be a shortage of oranges this year or they are all being juiced in the heat! We decided to walk through the Turia gardens for the shade and explore. A delightful range of trees from Boabs to an Umbre tree, Oaks and Jacarandas as well as Oleander bushes and others I didn’t know. Valencia is full of cyclists riding around in normal clothes at a leisurely pace. Such a contrast to the manic Melbournians in Lycra. We came across a construction that intrigued us until we realised it is Gulliver laid low by the Lilliputians. Eventually we arrived at the centre for Arts and Sciences. What a fantastic building. The surrounding pools of water were so inviting in the now extreme heat but the only things in the pools were marvellous bronze sculptures, though around the corner there were kids in rowboats and paddle boards. We rested and had icy poles. Karen was beginning to feel the effects of the heat. Despite this we pushed on towards the beach. Where we were greeted by pulsing music and a very glamorous restaurant/ poolside bar and lounging area.

I changed into my swimsuit and headed for the water! Divine and surprisingly large fish in small schools swimming around us. when we were feeling refreshed we returned via the bus. Getting tickets was a fraught process as we had intended to go by the metro but after struggling to buy tickets with our credit card we resorted to cash. Thus worked we thought but then when we tapped on Karen didn’t think it was registering so exasperated we went to the bus with a human in attendance! We used our translator app to explain our issues and so we took the bus but it seemed we had used three of the four tickets after all and had to buy more for the bus! The challenge of transport in other countries! It was now apparently 38.5 degrees. No wonder we were hot and bothered. A rest and then dinner at 8.30 at a classy vegetarian restaurant. Slept well.

2nd Sept Hot day’s walking

Yesterday I explored the old city and visited the Cathedral museum which is the repository for two major religions icon. The first was the Holy Grail, an alabaster cup reputed to be used by Christ at the last supper and a monstrance That is used at the feast of Corpus Christi. It is the largest in the world. I was glad I went early because when I left there was a queue! It was very interesting they also had a relic of the local Saint Vincent Martin which was his forearm and hand – quite well preserved. Mostly relics are just bones of some saint but this was pretty creepy with flesh.

The transept of the church was quite unique in shape and had alabaster windows. Another feature was the virgin in the chair. Pregnant women come to pray for a safe delivery by walking around the church 9 times.

After that I continued down the Plaza del Rei towards the post office to buy a box in which I will post my excess baggage! The street had lovely trees and fancy shops but one really caught my eye was A Lolly shop.

Named after my son Jonny?

It was very hot. I tooa stroll to the Turia gardens. This was the river but it has been diverted and the river bed made into playing fields and gardens. They are a delightful green space for the citizens of Valencia. Hot and weary I returned home to wait for my friends. As it happened they too suffered a delay departing and did not arrive until 9.30 pm. In the end we didn’t eat but went for a drink at a nearby restaurant bar. We just talked till midnight like the locals!

Looking across the Turia river gardens

31st August Valencia

After delays due to slow luggage loading in Melbourne (1 hour) we had to rush to make our connection in AbuDhabi. Through security again then a run to gate 45, about 30 gates away! We caught the last bus to the airplane only to wait almost an hour here too on the tarmac for luggage transfer. I was very relieved I hadn’t book a close connection from Madrid to Valencia because we didn’t get in till after 7 am and Madrid is such a huge airport it must be well over a kilometre’s walk to get to customs then the health check point. After that it was a train ride to the baggage collection!While efficient it took over two hours. So many people shuffling along. My backpack arrived intact and I immediately stripped off my winter fleece. It is deliciously hot.

How far to customs and baggage?

The flight was uneventful but the food was pretty average with mainly stodgy pasta or noodles so when I finally got to Madrid Chamartin train station I was craving fresh food and promptly ordered a salad with goats cheese and a beer! It is 9,00 am but feels like lunch time. The train from airport to here was only €3.10 and only a bit more into the heart of Madrid. A taxi is € 30. Brilliant service.

I had a long and tedious wait for my 3pm train. The seats were hard, there wasn’t a lot to do apart from read and stroll the shops but eventually our train with COMFY seats arrived. I was so tired that it wasn’t long before I fell asleep safe in the knowledge that when the train stopped I would be in Valencia!

The country side looks so parched and the crops had been harvested though there were lots of olive trees and several vineyards amongst the wheat. When i arrived it was so hot that the 15 min trek to the hotel resulted in me looking like a Valencia tomato. I showered and set off to explore. Everyone is just getting out and about now after siesta. The hostal Antigua Morellana is a small pensione style right in the heart of old Valencia. Surrounded by charming narrow streets and plenty of bars and restaurants as well as shops. By now I am fading fast. After a dinner of delicious squid a la planchs – ( plain) I crashed. Satisfied that I at least made the local 9.00 pm dinner time.