Life is like a Box of Chocolates

Banos de Montemayor Travel Blog

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Morning tea with the chickens

At our last meeting I was having a ´rest´day ´shopping´in Plasencia. I returned to the cute pueblo of Carcoboso with the Chica Checha (my gorgeous Chech friend Marketa). We had a relaxed night in the Pension and made dinner from some food in our packs: flat bread with two types of cheese and Chorizo, warmed slightly in the microwave . . .mmmm delicious!

The next day was a huge day walking 40 km without anywhere to obtain water or food, one of 3 places on this Camino where it is necessary to start very early and stock up well before leaving. We departed silently at 6.30 for the ancient portal of Carparra (21km) followed by our destination for the night, Aldeanueva.  It was a beautiful walk through pasture with freshly mown hay and the smell of wildflowers - especially wild lavender.

Caparra - the symbol of the Via de la Plata
By mid morning it was time to stop at the first landmark, a farm on the side of the camino. We shared some tarta de manzina (apple tart) with some very friendly chickens and continued another 10km to Carparra, the Roman landmark.

We actually walked on part of the ancient Roman road taking us directly underneath the preserved archway at Carparra. As the visitors centre was another 500m away (making a detour of an extra 1 km we decided to continue rather than detour, and stopped for lunch shortly after under a huge tree. It was so nice to picnic, change socks and devour our oranges in preparatoin for a long and hot afternoon. The sun was now high in the sky and walking not quite as much fun.

Poor Marketa was suffering with sore feet and decided to stop longer while I went ahead.

View from the albergue after I finally made it to Aldeanueva
She had an option to take a detour to a small hostel in 10km.

I zoomed off trying to get out of the sun as quickly as possible and mindful of my limited water now. After another two hours I approached a difficult section of the camino and had to climb a very high gate to progress. This meant taking off my pack and turfing it over the gate ahead of me. As I was very hot, I made a clever decision to add 3 hydration tablets to what was left of my water and drink most of it before continuing.

Once over the gate, I was faced with a very big field of waist high grass (with the sticky seeds that get into your socks, shoes and clothes) It was awful and although I searched in vain (as per my instructions) I could not find the exit gate in the stone wall bordering the field.

Lovely hervas
After 15 minutes I had traversed the length of the field and decided to climb the barbed wire and search on the other side. I was already cut and bleeding from the grass and feeling a little distressed as I had now added more milage and gotten nowhere.

Crocodile Dundee has nothing on this Aussie Chica! I finally spied a wonderful yellow arrow to point me back on the path and nearly kissed it. The next part of the camino was a rough path winding through pastures and around hillsides past abandoned stone farms and barns. It was endless and I was now completely without water and my food rations consisted of Chorizo, cheese and 2 bananas. Another hour later and I found some shade to devour the bananas. These gave me the energy to continue for the final hour and I dragged my sorry body into the tiny but very pretty pueblo of Aldeanueva.

The wonderful sculpture of Angel Duarte
As soon as I was within 20m of the Albergue a kindly old lady approached with the sello (pilgrim stamp) and instructions on how to use the shower. She was very excited and was motioning me upstairs. As soon as I reached the top step, I realised why. There was a happy and smiley Marketa waiting for me with water and kind words!

She had taken a lift in a car at the 30km mark and was very happy to have done so. After a shower and several bottles of water, I had forgotten the ´fun´of the day and we were off to eat.

The next day I decided to detour to a small village called Hérvas. It has an old centre which was once a prominent Jewish settlement and is now protected by the government. The tiny laneways are cobbled and huge balconies overhang at first and second storeys.

Banos de Montemayor - on their way to 'take the waters'
It is perched up on a hill so the layout is higglety pigglety and fun to explore. I met several lovely locals while waiting for the tourist office to open, one a lovely old man who had just picked a huge bag of very big zucchinis.

I left my pack in the tourist office to continue my exploration which included a visit to the Museo. Here I was stunned at a fabulous exhibition of a famous Spanish sculpter, Ángel Durante. I had passed one of his impressive stainless geometrical installations on the walk to the village and wondered how the artwork made its way into the countryside. All was now revealed as I discovered that he had been born in Aldeanueva!. If you are interested, google him as his paintings are divine also.

I wandered about the old building looking at more sculpture (old and new) and some lovely paintings. I was sitting on the landing of the second floor in a huge leather chair, pondering my next move when I suddenly heard a grand piano playing. Being inquisitive I followed the noise up a narrow set of stairs to an attic and quietly listened to the melody. It was classical and so haunting in the old building. The young man finished his piece after several minutes and saw me watching.

I introduced myself and he (Eduardo) explained that he was the local music teacher and was practising.  I asked if he would mind playing more and, smiling at the opportunity, he agreed. I took a seat behind him and for the next 20minutes he played without music and without missing a note. I was spellbound - magic exists in Spain, I know it. I was moved to tears and sat in a type of dream until he finished. When he turned around and saw how the music had moved me, he was touched and I think I made his day as much as he made mine.

I skipped out of the Museo and continued my marvellous adventure in Hérvas. A mischievious scruffy puppy had been following me about all morning and joined me as I sneaked cherries from overhanging trees. Often there would be a small shed open to the narrow lanes and inside families were packing the delicious cerezas in small wooden boxes. I was kindly offered handfuls several times. What kind and generous people!

I left town via a country lane, directed by the lady in the Tourismo as a more interesting walk to get to Baños de Montemayor. Twice in 2 days I found myself lost but this time I knew I only had 4km to walk and I had plenty of water (and cherries!). It was easy to flag down a passing car and check my direction.

And so I think that life really is like a box of chocolates for me at the moment. It just depends which chocolate you choose - the one with the soft or the hard centre and whether you prefer the sweet taste of caramel (like my special concert with Eduardo) or the more bitter nuts (like my crazy day getting lost). Personally, I think I AM nuts!

I arrived in Baños to find both Marketa and German (remember him?) in the Pension so the three of us spent a sporting Sunday watching the Grand Prix and later that night we joined the locals to watch Spain play Italy in Football. It was the most exciting sporting match I have seen since the final of the World Cup Rugby in 2003 (Mitch, are you with me?).

The bar was filled to capacity and everyone from children to the oldies was in high spirits. It came down to two 15 minute extra times (still no score) and then a penalty shootout - nailbiting stuff and I loved it. In the last second, the place erupted and people were screaming and hugging, waving flags and generally elated to be through to the semi finals. I wonder what crazy place I will be in to see them?

Baños is a small town nestled between the Sierra de Gredos and Sierra de Francia ranges and boasts an ancient Roman baths which are at a constant temperature of 43C. It attracts mainly elderly who come to ´take the waters´and can be seen most mornings walking from their hotels to the baths wearing soft comfy shoes and white towelling robes. Excellent!

Baños was cute but the next day I had to keep moving and unfortunately it was a sad goodbye to the beautiful Marketa who took a bus to Salamanca as her time in Spain is quite short. Thanks for the ´girlie´days, Marketa - You are a strawberry cream!

And for today, why not choose a different chocolate for yourself - you might enjoy the taste!

Buenos y Besos to you . . .

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Morning tea with the chickens
Morning tea with the chickens
Caparra - the symbol of the Via de…
Caparra - the symbol of the Via d…
View from the albergue after I fin…
View from the albergue after I fi…
Lovely hervas
Lovely hervas
The wonderful sculpture of Angel D…
The wonderful sculpture of Angel …
Banos de Montemayor - on their way…
Banos de Montemayor - on their wa…
Banos de Montemayor
photo by: Gracethepilgrim