Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Day 27 Another New World

I looked up into the pre-dawn sky when I was set to leave Tirteafuera expecting to see Orion pointing me in the right direction. Instead, he was shooting sharp arrows at me from a pitch black sky. Rain, and lots of it. And cold, too. And in a hamlet way to small to have a bar; no coffee to ease me into it. Ah well. Rain cape quickly set, tightened against luffing in the squall wind, off I walked. (I saw that it was snow in Galicia - easier, dryer, and quieter to walk in.)

The world stayed dark until well after 9 that morning, and I made the last kilometer into the larger town on the fender seat of a tractor... it was a muddy field track I was on and the farmer took pity on me as he slowed to pass me, so he indicated, but since he bought me a cup of café con leche and churros along with those for himself, I think he was heading to town anyway. Miserable weather to be outside; cozy in the comfort of a bar-cafe thick with outdoor workers and piles of churros.

The mountains of southern La Mancha don't come across as friendly as those in northern Spain. Gone are the adorable timeless stone walls; present are tall endless barbed wire fences with padlocked gates and angry warnings against trespassing. The villages are pretty mundane with each house barricaded behind stuccoed walls and fortress-like gates. Outside the villages, weekend house after weekend house for cityfolks from Madrid to find private refuge. The fruit trees are locked beyond reach, their bounty rotting on the branches. Absent, too, are small shrines and niches with religious statues seen all along the Camino Frances. It's a different Spain altogether.

References to Don Quixote are abundant, however, giving an air of literary sophistication to the region and where I can find accessible unpaved roads connecting villages, I'm generally following one of the marked itineraries of the regional tourist board. Every village has a Calle Cervantes, Pancho Sanchez, and other character and place references making me regretful that I didn't re-read the books in preparation for the walk. Next time.

Off-camino villages offer different accommodation for pilgrims... unused primary schools, a local sports hall, a community center, some donated apartment with co-habitating mice... generally it falls to the mayor, el alcade, to hold the key and open the door; sometimes his wife will send over some food, sometimes he'll nod to the barman to offer me something... every day's a new day.

Many mountains have been crossed through numerous passes every day - they're adorably called 'puertas' meaning gateways and are marked with their elevations, generally around 900 meters / 3,000 feet. These gruelling climbs for me end with an armwaving dance, like Rocky Balboa reaching the top step of the Penn Stadium, then I can relax for the kilometers of descent before the next climb. Occasional information panels reveal the Roman history of the area - old mines, mills, roads, settlements - and local cave paintings capture the much more antiquitous human presence. Remarkably, the cave and rock paintings have an uncanny similarity to those I saw in New Mexico and northern Mexico last winter.

Just arrived in Andalucia - more later.


ksam said...

Hope you were able to photograph some of those cave paintings?? For those of us peeking over your shoulder!

OHMV said...

Congratulations! It's amazing how you keep voaging on. Sending you blessings from Denver.

Mony said...

I just started following your blog. Andre Weill pointed me to it. What an amazing pilgrimage! I walked from Rome to Jerusalem, and actually lived in southern Spain (Cadiz) for seven years. If I can be of any help, please let me know. If you'd like, I can add your blog to a Facebook group called the Confraternity of Pilgrims to Jerusalem. We're all pilgrims who have walked to Jerusalem from different points around Europe. It's a great place to ask for advice. Buen camino, and one step at a time. Un abrazo, Mony.