Thursday, November 3, 2011

Day 35: Walk like a Goat

It's clear from my history of pilgrimages that I like to chose a route of historical significance but that I don't particularly like the crowds of the conventional trails like the Caminos de Santiago. I also shy away from highways - carretera in Castillian; estrada in Gallego and Portugese. A busy stressful motorway is a terrible place for a foot traveller. Aside from the traffic, who would choose to deal with the trash, hard surface, roadkill, and I can't stress enough that that's not water spraying off the back of the livestock trucks. Horrific!

I like the historical route and I like to chose my own path. Tranquility is more my style. Sometimes, small single-laned country roads; other times, nature trails or traditional footpaths connecting mountain villages. Farm lanes used by tractors are good; forest roads used by woodcutters are also nice, and fragrant, too. These exist in real life even if GoogleMaps doesn't record them. I don't use GPS and I've given up on searching for the wonderful 1:100,000-scale topographic maps like the IGN series in France. Why bother, I walk off maps pretty quickly. The best I've done with paper maps in Spain have been 1:500,000-scale road maps for each province. Whatever. Walk south. Cross the sea. Turn left. Walk east.

Throughout Spain, in my direct sun- or compass-aided excursions to avoid the dreaded carretera, I've encountered the various networks of Cañadas Reales... historically honored rights of way for livestock grazing. There's no path per se, except if the sheep and goats have recently eaten down the brush, but it is rather unobstructed and the rivers are all easily fordable. I walked along these around Salamanca and again south of Tóledo and have been more or less following another both north and south of Córdoba.

My standard three questions when seeking pilgrim help: a stamp for my credenziale wherever I pass the night; assistance in finding a dry place to sleep; guidance for the next day's 40 kilometers. Consistently, everyone tells me to stick to the carretera, that there's no other way. Of course, they've never walked 40 kilometers south of their town and only know how to go by car. I'm not a car. There's (nearly always) an alternative to the highways. Listen politely then go ask the shepherds and goatherds. My tried and true method.

The rapidity in which I've crossed Andalucia has surprised even me, but it's far more to do with the spacing of the adorable 'pueblo blanco' mountain villages packed with Paleolithic, Moorish and Christian heritage than with the endurance of my legs. I should arrive in Algiceras tomorrow evening and then cross over to Tangiers on Saturday, November 5th. I don't want to leave without commenting on how beautiful this region is - limestone mountains rugged and craggy with deep deep valleys and high high peaks, and it seems to my lungs and legs at least a million mountain passes that I've crossed. And, it's been raining. A rather warm rain as rains go, but wet and misty. I'm sure the glimpses of the distant sea are right there behind the white swirling clouds above and below me. There's beauty in rainy days, too.

Only a few more mountains left in Spain, and then a day or two of rest in Tangiers to prepare for the cultural change. More later.


Juan María said...

Juan María said...
¡Hola Ann!
Uno o dos días más y se abrirá todo un nuevo mundo para tí,¡sólo para valientes y decididas como tú!
Que el Dios de los cristianos, musulmanes, y judios, que es el mismo y único Dios, esté en tu camino en África.
¡Buen camino!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments about route finding. I didn't think you were a road walker, so - well done to find these back routes, not easy for someone passing through a region.

Yes there could be a sea change soon, with (as I found it)the excitement of north Africa.

I wish you all good roads and kindness along the coast there.

The Solitary Walker said...

Oh, what a journey! My heart goes with you. (Followed various Cañadas on my Via de la Plata walk.)

Sheila Phelan Wright said...

No, you are not a car. And you are thin. And not a goat. Life is good. I'm giving a talk about blogging tomorrow (another topic on which I am not an expert) and am using This Little Figgy opening as an example of a great opening to a post.
We'll be thinking of you on your way to Tangiers.

ksam said...

I'm finding myself almost holding my breathe as you prepare to go over to Tangiers!! Have to give some thought to the goat maiden name ended in bock...a mountain goat!! Might explain my itchy feet!

Anonymous said...

I think that your comment on finding your own way is the way of the future for some. Tho' there are quiet Caminos de Santiago,(the Madrid, the Valencia), the Francés (eg) is as you've said a 'superhighway', and one which I can't walk again. The superhighway is reflected in the camino websites with their petty spats and navel gazing.

Good walking to you

Amy R said...

So incredible to read - as usual!