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Ruta de la Lana (and some Quijote/Cervantes)

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Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Setting out tomorrow from Almansa. For reasons of time I'm only going to walk as far as Cuenca this year (I've already walked previously from Alicante to Almansa on the Sureste). I hope to complete the Ruta de la Lana, as far as Burgos, next year.

I'll be using the Sagrada Trinidad of the IGN map, Kevin O'Brien's guide and Bad Pilgrim's recent thread on this very same forum. Having completed the Ruta del Argar earlier this summer with virtually no information, that's a real cornucopia of sources. Thanks guys. But I won't be following the Camino religiously. As anyone who has come across any of my previous threads on this forum (Levante/Sureste/Quijote, Camino Manchego and Ruta del Argar) will know I'm a sucker for a detour for anything that pertains to Cervantes or Don Quijote.

There isn't anything related to either Cervantes or Don Quijote, as far as I am aware, until at least Sigüenza - and that will have to wait until next year. In the meantime, and by happy chance, Salman Rushdie's recently published latest novel is entitled Quichotte. It's a modern take on Cervantes' classic, set in the US. His quixotic searcher, brain addled by daytime TV, is driving across America, a Chevy for his Rocinante, to find his Dulcinea (the hostess of a popular daytime TV show), accompanied by his imaginary and future son, Sancho. If it's half as good as the original, or indeed Midnight's Children, it will be a great companion on this walk.

As a coda to these eight days of walking I'm intending to make a detour to Esquivias before returning to Madrid to catch my flight home. Esquivias was, albeit fairly briefly, Miguel de Cervantes' matrimonial home. Fairly briefly, because although Cervantes was married to Catalina de Salazar y Palacios for the best part of 32 years and until his death, he wasn't a stay-at-home kind of a guy.

4I arrived in Almansa mid-afternoon by bus. This gave me time, and the energy, to do a little background research on the Battle of the Almansa Corridor and to visit the castle that dominates the town. Both of which I had only paid cursory attention to on my previous visit.

The castle is certainly worth the short climb up from the town centre. At 3.00 euros it won't bust any pilgrim's budget and the views from the ramparts are spectacular. Across to the Sierra de Mugron (tomorrow's walk) in one direction, over the battlefield in an other and to the surrounding hills all around.

The Interpretation Centre of The Battle of the Almansa Corridor is in the basement of the Tourist Office, on the way up to the castle. It's all in Spanish but even I got the gist. It's worth a half hour of anyone's time and it's f.o.c.

One of the, oft quoted, oddities of the Battle of the Almansa Corridor is that the French troops were commanded by a Briton (James Fitz James, Duke of Berwick, the bastard son of James II and Arabella Churchill) and the British troops by a Frenchman (Henri Massué, Earl of Galway, a French Protestant). In fact both sides were made up of odd and unholy alliances. The Two Crowns (of Spain and France) on Team Bourbon in one corner, though no Spaniards actually went in to bat for this team at Almansa. Austria, England and Holland for Team Habsburg in the other corner. Even that is a simplification, ten different nationalities were involved. Patriotism and defending ones own wasn't the issue. It was a case of dynasties and who should inherit the Spanish throne after Charles II had died without an heir. Louis XIV, Le Roi Soleil, wanted his nephew and his family, the Bourbons, on the throne, most of the rest of Europe favoured the second son of Emperor Leopold, a Habsburg cousin of the last Spanish king. But don't look too closely because they were all inter-related and inbred anyway - the root cause of the problem in the first place. Marriage was the way to enlarge and safeguard borders. England was anti-French, Holland anti-Spanish, etc.... neither wanted to end up speaking French. Oddly when Leopold and his older son both died and the Habsburg pretender inherited the Austrian crown rather than the Spanish crown and the War of Spanish Succession was thus settled, at least outside of Spain, both England and Holland realised that they didn't actually want to speak German either! Le plus ça change, cher Boris. It could almost be amusing if 5000 hadn't died in this one battle (the war went on for 14 years) and very few of the contestants made it back home.

What I also learnt today is the significance of the Corridor. From time immemorial there had only ever been two trade and military routes between the coast at Valencia and Alicante inland to Madrid. The Almansa Corridor and the route via Cuenca. Controlling both, therefore vital to a crowned head in Madrid. And here am I setting off from Almansa, after a brief stay in Alicante, to Cuenca to reach Madrid. Cervantes and Rushdie might have found this amusing.

Those staying in the Convent of the Slaves of Mary should note that Calle Campo 2 is the postal address. Entrance for we pilgrims is via the backdoor at Calle Miguel de Cervantes 7.

Alfín del Asfalto.
 
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C clearly

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Camino Frances (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016). Seville-Astorga (Mar 2017). Mozarabe (Apr-May 2018)
I'm a sucker for a detour for anything that pertains to Cervantes or Don Quijote.
On my phone, I have the recorded Edith Grossman translation of Don Quixote, for listening when I walk. I am on about Chapter 50 of 129 - I confess I could never read the book. The translation is wonderful English, suggesting that the original was similarly wonderful complex and colourful Spanish. I am finding some of it to be boring repetitive slapstick style of comedy, and other parts to be engrossing tales of love and suspense, with interesting historical context. Only 79 Chapters to go!

I will definitely look into Rushdie's book.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
I liked the Almansa battlefield very much both times I walked across it, with a few useful information panels at some of the key spots. I was especially interested as the English commander of the French troups was my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-uncle. Other nationalities represented in the battle included some Irish wild geese, a couple of whom Fitzjames got to pretend to desert to the English/Austria-Hungarian/Portuguese/Dutch/Italian and claim that the Duke of Orleans was on his way to Almansa with huge reinforcements for Fitzjames. Which conned de Ruvigny into attacking earlier than he'd planned, with disastrous results. Two days later d'Orléans did indeed arrive, with an entourage of 12.

News the battle, fatal for Valencian, Aragonese and Catalan loyalists, spread so quickly that it lead to a common saying "cuando el mal viene de Almansa, a todos alcanza."

There's quite a good battle museum by the tourist office in Almansa, with a reproduction of Balaca's huge panoramic painting of the conflict.
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
I am finding some of it to be boring repetitive slapstick style of comedy, and other parts to be engrossing tales of love and suspense, with interesting historical context. Only 79 Chapters to go!

[/QUOTE]

Sounds very much like the Camino ;-)

Remember there are two books published ten years apart. You can always put it down after the first book and come back to it later. Cervantes did.
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Almansa to Alpera (Day One).

I had hoped to walk over the Sierra de Mugron rather than around it on this occasion. My IGN map clearly has a graded track of some kind indicated on it. I'd done a little forward planning - to no success. Internet and various Google maps were of no help. Nor was the Tourist Office in Almansa (the Sierra de Mugron is in a different municipality and that closed the question - prestamente). Hombre, I was only looking for some advise from someone who presumably knows the surrounding area well.

None of which put me off, even if the Sierra did look like a steep cliff from the castle ramparts! In fact the Sierra de Mugron, from the half distance of Almansa is like a breaking tsunami wave. Once clear of the motorway instead of following the signs left for the Camino I paddled straight ahead. The saddle between the two ends of the wave looked the most promising break. I followed my nose with the various aerials on the crest as a pointer. I spent a good couple of hours looking for the route indicated on my IGN map. There was no sign of it. And it's not as though any path would be hidden in the trees, there aren't any, or behind a hidden facade. What you see is what you get with a cliff face. I must have walked half the length of the Sierra when I got fed up. Before I knew it I'd rejoined the yellow markers and the Civil War bunkers. Bit of a waste of a morning? Not really. I'd avoided walking along the motorway and the railway line. But I was really thrown when later that afternoon, sometime around El Carrascal, looking back I could clearly see a route working its way down from the aerials on the saddle! Of course looking back on the Sierra de Mugron from Alpera is an all together different scene. The trough between the waves familiar to any surfer.

All of which meant that I didn't make it to the Ayuntamiento till after 15:00. I didn't have a mobile number for the hospitaleros that everyone talks so highly of and inspite of the barmaid at the bar in front of the Ayuntamiento's best efforts we couldn't raise anyone. I've had to settle for the pricier Hostal Cazador. Pretty sure something could have been worked out but I needed a shower, a sherbert and a siesta.

I've been surprised by how green the countryside is. Green shoots everywhere. More like spring than the parched autumn scenery I was expecting. I know there were very heavy downfalls and flash floodings in this part of Spain earlier in the month. Still I am surprised. Pools and puddles of water not infrequent on the route. In fact so much humidity in the ground that the Almansa bowl was mist covered until near enough midday today.

Alfín del Asfalto

Postscript - I hear later that the Sierra de Mugron is private property, whatever that means. There is a Bronze Age (?) archaeological site up there somewhere and because it is on private property it is only required to be open four (4) days a year. The pictures on Google looking amazing.
 
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Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Alpera to Alatoz (Day Two)

It's been said before but this really is a beautiful and relaxing stretch. I should imagine that for those who have set off from Alicante and are on Day 6 it is almost a day of respite. The gradient is mostly flat and the well graded trail a joy to walk on. So peaceful and quiet. The only sounds: birdsong, the rustling of the breeze in the trees, that sounds so similar to a slow running stream cascading over a few bolders, and the wooshing of the aeolians. Some may take exception to these blots on the landscape and in truth there are an awful lot of them, pretty much on every hilltop and crest, but I guess needs must.

Leaving Alpera through the 'huertas' and allotments was a joy. Apples, melons, pumpkins, tomatoes, grapes and blackberries everywhere. Walnuts and almonds too. I even got to see one old boy harvesting his almonds the old fashioned way - beating his trees with a pole. Many years ago, when my other half and I were genuine 'transeuntes', we worked for a few weeks on an almond farm in California. We were surprised by the American way of harvesting the nut. After laying down a ground sheet, a machine would grasp the trunk of the tree and shake the 'l' out of the almond tree. Boom, boom. Who says Americans don't have a sense of humor?

Later on I noticed another old boy picking 'setas' in the forest. I wondered whether he might be a little too early in the season. He told me they were small but very tasty.

Two hour hiatus here in Alatoz as I try to write this and follow the football back in Blighty - first Pilar, then Erika buy me beers in one of the three bars in the village. Mis hermanas de Alatoz. I try to explain the concept of long distance walking and the attraction of walking alone in the heat and the sun and moving on each day. Their English is amazing. Can't believe that anywhere in England in a village of a similar size anyone would speak such good Spanish. Viva España y viva Europa.

Leaving Alpera this morning I noticed that the town council prides itself with agricultural and industrial production, as well as production of 'shark'! Yep, no idea what that might be. Perhaps a too literal translation for a grape distillation infused with local herbs? Any ideas, anyone?

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
...
Leaving Alpera this morning I noticed that the town council prides itself with agricultural and industrial production, as well as production of 'shark'! Yep, no idea what that might be. Perhaps a too literal translation for a grape distillation infused with local herbs? Any ideas, anyone?

Alfín del Asfalto
Maybe it's just a brand or coloquial name. My US friend called orujo blanco "white lightning". I guess that was the naming because of the effect :D
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Alatoz to Alcala de Jucar (Day Three)

Well as it happens KinkyOne I was on that stuff this morning at breakfast. Satur, the hospitalero, wouldn't let me leave his bar until we had raised a glass to the Camino. I felt all Spanish for a short moment, propping up the bar with my chupito amongst all the other early morning risers. Then I realized that I really didn't cut it at all with my café con leche (grande) and my tostadas (con mermelada). White Lightening, I don't know, but it's certainly a sharpener that early in the day!

It didn't spoil a nice morning's walk. Once again very quiet and relaxing. Oddly I haven't seen any other walkers (wasn't expecting to see any Peregrinos really), anyone even walking a dog, a cyclist or a jogger since I started - and it's the weekend. A squadron of half a dozen big motorbikes did surprise me when I hit the carretera. The blighters came up behind me, out of the sun.

Waymarking has been great so far. Many and very clear. Some so fresh that only the blue background has been painted and they await the yellow superimposition.

I find it odd that Alcala de Jucar is not a designated stop. It's a short (17 kms) walk from Alatoz, which then allows you to wander around Alcala de Jucar for the rest of the day. It may be a bit touristy for some and there is no albergue but I still don't understand why anybody would not want to overnight here. Even for a Sunday it wasn't too busy. A little crazy in that Spanish, Sunday afternoon, postprandial way - actually very enjoyable. Once you've dropped off your pack (it's ffffing steep) you can wander freely, swim in the river, sit around and drink beer in very pleasant surroundings. Plus the Castillo is beautifully lit after dark.

For those that haven't been, Alcala de Jucar is located on a bend in the river with steep cliffs on either side. Almost everything is built into and onto the cliff-face with a reconstructed Roman bridge spanning the Rio Jucar at the bottom of the gorge. It's about as picturesque as it gets. There are a couple of man-made Cuevas to visit. These are really tunnels that also served as homes. The tunnels go horizontally through the cliff also overlooking the river on the other side and vertically, so that you can exit further up or further down than from where you entered. Both are well lit and extremely safe. I did both because they were fun, cheap (3.00 euros) and included a complimentary beer. Both also try to act as local museums - I guess competition is fierce and they need a USP. Cueva del Diablo has an odd mix of unrelated rural brick-a-brack, masquerading as antiques and hundreds of photos on the walls of the owner (El Diablo with his Dali-esque moustache) either appearing on daytime TV (how Rushdie would chuckle) or with an array of (Spanish) celebrities. I could only recognise Andrēs Iniesta. Cuevas de Masago/Cuevas de Duende seem to specialise in fossils, old coins, gramophones and some stuffed animals. No sign of a cult of personality here. Both are equally quirky, cool in the heat (18C) and a trifle musty. The latter has the added bonus of a stream running through it with a Trevi Fountain-like treasure trove of coins at the bottom. If you only do one, maybe do the latter? The Castillo (2.50 euros) also does a cueva-lite experience included in the price. This one is a Casa Cueva, rather than a tunnel, furnished in traditional style. The Castillo itself, impressive as it is atop the cliff, doesn't offer much inside - and there's no complimentary beer! From there there is, however, an excellent view down onto the local bullring. There's something Dali-esque about that too. Melting, like the watches, down the hillside. It reminds me of something I might have knocked-up on a potter's wheel as a schoolboy.

Off now to have one more look at the lit-up Castillo before turning in. Tomorrow the serious walking begins. More or less 40 kms to Villarta. I might need some of that aguardiente, KinkyOne!

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Wonderful information, thanks so much. I received an urgent message from my walking buddy last month, insisting that next year on the Lana we have to stop in Alcalá del Júcar. I am happy to oblige. He had seen this Guardian article, and the picture is quite stunning.

 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Alcala de Jucar to Villarta (Day Four)

Near enough 40 kms today, so a bit head down and left right, left right. Once out of the gorge at Alcala de Jucar (another good reason to overnight there is to tackle the ascent with fresh legs and in the cool of morning) it's as flat as a pancake and almost as straight as a die. Having remarked just yesterday how good the waymarking was, I have to agree with Kevin O'Brien that today it was pretty sketchy. However most of the way is pretty obvious. The towns are visible ahead and most of the time it's about keeping the road either 200 or 300 metres to your left or to your right. Pretty self-evident, really.

Most of the route was through vineyards and today was the first sign of any 'vendange' activity. Up till now I'd not seen any sign of the plump grapes having been picked. When I queried this a couple of days ago I was told the picking was late this year because of the lack of rain. Presumably this meant the lack of the right amount of rain at the appropriate time, because there are still barely dried deep tractor trails all over the place, cracking dried mud, smooth surfaces where water has washed all before it. Today action was well and truly underway. Mostly manual picking but a handful of those great harvesting beasts making their slow but deliberate mechanical progress up and down the rows. And everywhere tractors dragging trailers stacked beyond the gunwales to the Coopérativas for crushing. You could the smell the start of the vinification process as you approached each of the towns (Casas Ibañes, Villamalea, El Herrumblar and Villarta).

The local variety of grape is very sweet and tasty. I can testify. I helped myself when the blood sugars began running low. When challenged I simply said I was a bad pilgrim. Only kidding BP - I'm very discreet in my filching!

On the subject of El Herrumblar, if like me you get there when the two bars are closed - just at that time of day when bars should really be open! - seek out the Hogar del Pensionista just around the corner. I followed the sound of excitable voices and the clacking of domino on formica. The pensioners were the only ones in the village not taking a nap and only too happy to serve a cold drink.

I also caught sight of my first shepherd and flock on this walk today. Strangely, lagging behind the flock were three young mules! The sheepdog was having difficulty getting them to keep up.

It was a day of firsts because I finally got to see someone else on the Camino - a dog walker! Rather worryingly the huge animal was muzzled.

There's not a lot happening in Villarta on a Monday night. Even Pension Los Tubos was closed. But they've opened up for me and the bar in town has rustled up some cold meats and cheese to feed the hungry traveller.

Alfn del Asfalto
 
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Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Wonderful information, thanks so much. I received an urgent message from my walking buddy last month, insisting that next year on the Lana we have to stop in Alcalá del Júcar. I am happy to oblige. He had seen this Guardian article, and the picture is quite stunning.


Thanks for the article, Pegerina2000. Very interesting. Perhaps Spain's Little Canyon would be more accurate, but it is stunning. The leading photo is a little misleading. Through some sort of fish-eye lense? It makes it look as though church and Castillo are at a similar elevation. The other photos give a much better idea. I can absolutely recommend a stop-over here.
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Thanks for the article, Pegerina2000. Very interesting. Perhaps Spain's Little Canyon would be more accurate, but it is stunning. The leading photo is a little misleading. Through some sort of fish-eye lense? It makes it look as though church and Castillo are at a similar elevation. The other photos give a much better idea. I can absolutely recommend a stop-over here.
Having looked at the photo again. Maybe it's Jorquera rather Alcala de Jucar? The other photos are certainly Alcala de Jucar.
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Villarta to Campillo de Altobuey (Day Five)

Another longish but very pleasant day's walk. Until Granja de Iniesta it's vineyards all the way. Beyond Granja the vineyards slowly give way first to fields of wheat and cereal, empty at this time of year but beautifully ploughed, then pine and oak scrub. It's pretty flat for most of the way and on a nice level track, then the penultimate stage rises steadily and finally plunges down into Campillo (as the locals call it - far easier to remember and pronounce!). Waymarking back to being very good on this stage.

Before Granja de Iniesta I stopped to talk with some of the grape-pickers. I was told that most of the grapes were of the bobal, macabeo and tempranillo variety (must admit I've never heard of the first two) and that the local wine is a mixture of several varieties. Bobal rosado was strongly recommended to me. So when I reached Granja de Iniesta I made a halt at the rather uninspiring Hostal Restaurante Pepe (it's a cross between a motel and a motorway stop) and ordered a local bobal rosado. It was most enjoyable on the sun drenched terrace and the bar staff told me I should therefore try the local white. It was very nice too. Pleasant, chilled and cheap. All this beer drinker, without a wine pallet, would say is, perhaps, try the white first. I was then told I couldn't leave without trying the local tinto. The sun soaked motel terrace was all of a sudden the only place in the universe for me. My butt was seemingly glued to the chair and there was nowhere else I wanted to be but I had another 20 kms to go. By some force of will (I've no idea where it came from) I managed to remove my backside from the chair, pay for my wine, swing my pack onto my back and set off. The decisions one has to make in life! And I'm kind of disappointed to admit I took the sensible one. I'd try the tinto at some later stage. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: walking, the curse of the drinking man.

I'm in the Polideportivo here in Campillo. It's a little bit of a comedown after all the previous accommodation but it's free, so there's no point in complaining. I got a hot shower, got to wash my clothes and I've fashioned a bed out of the changing room benches, yoga mats and blankets provided. I await the ghost with bated breath.

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Villarta to Campillo de Altobuey (Day Five)

Another longish but very pleasant day's walk. Until Granja de Iniesta it's vineyards all the way. Beyond Granja the vineyards slowly give way first to fields of wheat and cereal, empty at this time of year but beautifully ploughed, then pine and oak scrub. It's pretty flat for most of the way and on a nice level track, then the penultimate stage rises steadily and finally plunges down into Campillo (as the locals call it - far easier to remember and pronounce!). Waymarking back to being very good on this stage.

Before Granja de Iniesta I stopped to talk with some of the grape-pickers. I was told that most of the grapes were of the bobal, macabeo and tempranillo variety (must admit I've never heard of the first two) and that the local wine is a mixture of several varieties. Bobal rosado was strongly recommended to me. So when I reached Granja de Iniesta I made a halt at the rather uninspiring Hostal Restaurante Pepe (it's a cross between a motel and a motorway stop) and ordered a local bobal rosado. It was most enjoyable on the sun drenched terrace and the bar staff told me I should therefore try the local white. It was very nice too. Pleasant, chilled and cheap. All this beer drinker, without a wine pallet, would say is, perhaps, try the white first. I was then told I couldn't leave without trying the local tinto. The sun soaked motel terrace was all of a sudden the only place in the universe for me. My butt was seemingly glued to the chair and there was nowhere else I wanted to be but I had another 20 kms to go. By some force of will (I've no idea where it came from) I managed to move my butt from the chair, pay for my wine, swing my pack onto my back and set off. The decisions one has to make in life! And I'm kind of disappointed to admit I took the sensible one. I'd try the tinto at some later stage. To paraphrase Oscar Wilde: walking, the curse of the drinking man.

I'm in the Polideportivo here in Campillo. It's a little bit of a come down after all the previous accommodation but it's free, so there's no point in complaining. I got a hot shower, got to wash my clothes and I've fashioned a bed out of the changing room benches, yoga mats and blankets provided. I await the ghost with bated breath.

Alfín del Asfalto
My back hurts just by thinking about the yoga mats…! :Oo
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Campillo de Altobuey to Monteaguado de las Salinas (Day Six)

Disappointed to say that there was no ghost. What self-respecting ghost would haunt a Polideportivo anyway? Some odd and persistent noises but I put those down to a large building cooling down and contracting throughout the night. I woke up a couple of times but that was a result rather of my makeshift bed and yoga mats.

Last night after a couple of sharpener in the Hogar del Pensionista I crossed the square to the bar/comedor to get something to eat. I was button-holed by Jorge who thought I might be 'aleman' (well I am in one way but not in the way he was thinking). Once I had explained that I was, in fact 'ingles' he wanted to know my views on Brexit and climate change. These are pretty spiky subjects at the best of times and not ones I'd care to broach with anyone who had imbibed quite as much as Jorge clearly had. Luckily his grasp of English was no better than my tenuous understanding of Spanish and we were able to skate around the subjects without creating any discord. I may be being unfair to Jorge but I got the distinct impression that he might be a Vox voter. Anyway and away from any delicate subjects he told me he was a winegrower and was harvesting yet another variety of grape that I had not hear of. He had also recently planted a pistachio plantation. This year he had had to water the trees on six occasions. I've no idea how much and how often a pistachio tree needs watering but I'd never noticed any sort of pipes or irrigation when I had walked past pistachio plantations. I'd assumed that local precipitation is normally enough. Oh dear. It's got to be a something of a worry that this vast expanse of cultivated land might, in the not too distant future, return to a pre-Arab arid scrubland.

It was only once I had set off from Altobuey that I realised I hadn't been to take a look at the Baptistry/bullring and it was too late to turn back. Sounds rather unique. Did I miss anything I shouldn't have?

Today's was another great walk, though for the first time it was chilly in the morning. Higher up and eastern sky cloudy. I had to wear a thin jacket until 09:30 it didn't get really hot all day because of quite a strong wind. And still the locals tell me: que calor! I'm told they would normally be wearing a jacket or coat in October. Being a late riser I've never set off in the dark like some peregrinos. It's light by 08:00 and usually warming up by then, and that's early enough for me.

The first third of the way this morning to Paracuellos was through ploughed fields and some vineyards either side of the Camino. I saw and heard a few more shepherds with their tintinnabulating flock. Well it is The Ruta de la Lana after all. The next stretch into Paracuellos is all on road. A quiet road (I counted five cars in a couple of hours) but tarmac nevertheless. The road climbs gently and steadily mostly through pines.

There wasn't much going on in Paracuellos but the bar was open and a few locals were drinking some yellow tinted hootch. I ordered a vino tinto. The one I missed out on yesterday. It was harsh and no amount of refrigeration could make it palatable. I ordered a second just to make sure, you understand, that my initial opinion was correct. It got a little better but not by much.

On the way out of Paracuello is the Castillo. The Camino goes right past it. I'd recommend to anyone to leave their pack at the foot of the Castillo and make a quick visit. In 20 minutes you can be up there, around, back down and on your way. For those that are self-sufficient you could even spend the night up there. There are no doors or gates and it has been sufficient well restored to be safe. And you'd be almost guaranteed to see a ghost there!

After the Castillo you wander through the canyon for a little while. I was surprised to see between 12 and 20 birds of prey hovering over me. Cheeky blighters. Not so fast, there's still life in the old dog yet.

From them on you're in pine forest pretty much all the way to Monteaguado de las Salinas. A perfect walk.

El Rincon de Sandra is a lovely and very comfortable place to stay but be warned eating options are .... nil. You'll need to do your own cooking. There's a tienda with a few basics. The owner lives above the shop, so if it's closed you just ring the doorbell. There's also a bar but it was closed - and no amount of ringing would open that door. Probably not much call for it in this small village.

Alfín del Asfalto
 

Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Campillo de Altobuey to Monteaguado de las Salinas (Day Six)

Disappointed to say that there was no ghost. What self-respecting ghost would haunt a Polideportivo anyway? Some odd and persistent noises but I put those down to a large building cooling down and contracting throughout the night. I woke up a couple of times but that was a result rather of my makeshift bed and yoga mats.

Last night after a couple of sharpener in the Hogar del Pensionista I crossed the square to the bar/comedor to get something to eat. I was button-holed by Jorge who thought I might be 'aleman' (well I am in one way but not in the way he was thinking). Once I had explained that I was, in fact 'ingles' he wanted to know my views on Brexit and climate change. These are pretty spiky subjects at the best of times and not ones I'd care to broach with anyone who had imbibed quite as much as Jorge clearly had. Luckily his grasp of English was no better than my tenuous understanding of Spanish and we were able to skate around the subjects without creating any discord. I may be being unfair to Jorge but I got the distinct impression that he might be a Vox voter. Anyway and away from any delicate subjects he told me he was a winegrower and was harvesting yet another variety of grape that I had not hear of. He had also recently planted a pistachio plantation. This year he had had to water the trees on six occasions. I've no idea how much and how often a pistachio tree needs watering but I'd never noticed any sort of pipes or irrigation when I had walked past pistachio plantations. I'd assumed that local precipitation is normally enough. Oh dear. It's got to be a something of a worry that this vast expanse of cultivated land might, in the not too distant future, return to a pre-Arab arid scrubland.

It was only once I had set off from Altobuey that I realised I hadn't been to take a look at the Baptistry/bullring and it was too late to turn back. Sounds rather unique. Did I miss anything I shouldn't have?

Today's was another great walk, though for the first time it was chilly in the morning. Higher up and eastern sky cloudy. I had to wear a thin jacket until 09:30 it didn't get really hot all day because of quite a strong wind. And still the locals tell me: que calor! I'm told they would normally be wearing a jacket or coat in October. Being a late riser I've never set off in the dark like some peregrinos. It's light by 08:00 and usually warming up by then, and that's early enough for me.

The first third of the way this morning to Paracuellos was through ploughed fields and some vineyards either side of the Camino. I saw and heard a few more shepherds with their tintinnabulating flock. Well it is The Ruta de la Lana after all. The next stretch into Paracuellos is all on road. A quiet road (I counted five cars in a couple of hours) but tarmac nevertheless. The road climbs gently and steadily mostly through pines.

There wasn't much going on in Paracuellos but the bar was open and a few locals were drinking some yellow tinted hootch. I ordered a vino tinto. The one I missed out on yesterday. It was harsh and no amount of refrigeration could make it palatable. I ordered a second just to make sure, you understand, that my initial opinion was correct. It got a little better but not by much.

On the way out of Paracuello is the Castillo. The Camino goes right past it. I'd recommend to anyone to leave their pack at the foot of the Castillo and make a quick visit. In 20 minutes you can be up there, around, back down and on your way. For those that are self-sufficient you could even spend the night up there. There are no doors or gates and it has been sufficient well restored to be safe. And you'd be almost guaranteed to see a ghost there!

After the Castillo you wander through the canyon for a little while. I was surprised to see between 12 and 20 birds of prey hovering over me. Cheeky blighters. Not so fast, there's still life in the old dog yet.

From them on you're in pine forest pretty much all the way to Monteaguado de las Salinas. A perfect walk.

El Rincon de Sandra is a lovely and very comfortable place to stay but be warned eating options are .... nil. You'll need to do your own cooking. There's a tienda with a few basics. The owner lives above the shop, so if it's closed you just ring the doorbell. There's also a bar but it was closed - and no amount of ringing would open that door. Probably not much call for it in this small village.

Alfín del Asfalto
OK,

But do you mean the bar outside the village (about 100 meters away; downhill) was closed? Cause I saw another bar in the village itself, that must have been closed since the 1960's... Just so you don't miss the real bar.

/BP
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
OK,

But do you mean the bar outside the village (about 100 meters away; downhill) was closed? Cause I saw another bar in the village itself, that must have been closed since the 1960's... Just so you don't miss the real bar.

/BP
This reminds me of I and @Charrito discuss the Invierno. Bars mostly :D
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
OK,

But do you mean the bar outside the village (about 100 meters away; downhill) was closed? Cause I saw another bar in the village itself, that must have been closed since the 1960's... Just so you don't miss the real bar.

/BP

There was evidence of three bars in the village. One down at the bottom (Abuela?), one in the middle of the village, which as you say looked closed since the Sixties, and one on the road. Sandra told me some days it's open, some days it's closed. It wasn't my lucky day. But the shop had all the basics - cold beers!
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Monteagudo de las Salinas to Fuentes (Day Seven)

The Castillo at Monteagudo de las Salinas is only a few hundred metres further on from El Rincon de Sandra. But in truth it is far more impressive from a distance than close at hand. All that remain are the outer walls and they are in a rather parlous state. There is, however, a spectacular 360 degree panorama from there and it's a good spot to watch the sun disappearing behind the surrounding hills.

It would appear that the Camino/Ruta/Via (?) de Requena joins the Ruta de la Lana here. I know nothing about this route, others here will know more, except that it seems to start in Valencia some 200 kms away.

No sign of any 'salinas' in Monteagudo de Salinas.

Today's itinerary announced the possibility of some animal wildlife. Pretty sure I heard the bellowing of a stag away in the trees in the semi-distance and I did see three perros sueltos as I set off from Monteagudo. They were heading 'into town', doubtless looking for some scraps on the farms or in the bins. They were surprisingly fearful and watchful, not allowing me to get anywhere near them. More timorous beasties, you could hardly imagine. But apart from that, nada, until I reached Fuentes and came face to face with my first titanosaurus. It was the size of a bus and on the prowl for tucker, it's long neck reaching up into a tree but it was clearly more frightened of me and quickly turned to stone.

Today's short walk was mostly through pine and oak forest. A nice change from the intense agriculture up till now. It's mostly up and down but along a well graded track. Somewhere along the way you reach an altitude of 1170 m above sea level. The culminating point between Valencia and Cuenca. No wonder it is chilly in the mornings and gets cold as soon as the sun goes in. I'm now setting off no earlier than 09:00 a.m. After you've crossed the high-speed railway line it's a very pleasant descent into Fuentes. You're back in agricultural countryside here, mostly sunflowers. Unfortunately, at this time of year, just before harvesting, they are not at their most colourful best. Hunched, penitent and very somber. A Semana Santa procession in the fields?

I'm staying in the albergue here, part of the Ermita. It has a bunk bed, shower, toilet and wash hand basin. Nothing else. If you don't mind peeling plaster and a naked light bulb, it's perfectly OK. I got a warmish shower and clean sheets. It's free and I never look a gift horse in the mouth. The Pension Restaurante Los Cazadores is full anyway with seasonal workers. More worryingly, since food was scarce last night and there was nothing between Monteaguado and here, their comedor doesn't open until 21:00!

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Fuentes to Cuenca (Day Eight)

Just as you leave Fuentes, on your left amongst the trees you may spot the titanosaurus if you are lucky. It's quite shy but it's a magnificent specimen.

I gather many bones of the cretaceous age have been found in this part of Spain.

Two or three kilometres further on are the Laguna Negra and the Laguna de los Cedazos. Both paradoxically, and rather mysteriously, have refilled themselves from bone dry in the 1990s. I spotted a heron at the former fishing for some frogs, newts or lizards. I doubt there'd be any fish in there, it smelt a little sulphurous (rotten eggs).

Another really pleasant stage to walk. Initially along a wide valley (could this be that other Corridor that leads from the coast to Madrid?) with agricultural fields on either side of the Camino and far enough away from the road for the latter to be only a murmur. Then through oak and pine forests. I'm not a big fan of too much forest. Ipso facto there are no vistas and to this sun junkie the dappled forest sunlight is like 'the pills that mother gives you' (go ask Alice). The forest was short and sweet.

On the subject of music. Most mornings, as this is the Ruta de la Lana and when I've had wifi, I've been playing the Incredible String Band's El Wool Suite as I pack up my belongings. A wonderful start to the day and for my money a better wake up than any orujo.

There were a couple of villages on the way but nothing much in Mohorte so I sat on a bench and ate some of the fruit (pear, plums, greengages and tangerines) that the itinerant fruit and veg man in Fuentes, presumably taking some sort of pity on me, had tried to give me. Seeing as he needed dental care far more than I did, we settled on one euro for 'un botellin'. And very tasty the fruit was too.

The second village (Melgosa) did have a bar/restaurant and it was open. I mention this, not because I was lured in, I wasn't, but because all other blogs say it's closed 'por descanso'. I can vouch that the owner does work at least one day a year. I think he's got his priorities right.

And then bang. The ultra modern suburbs of Cuenca. What a surprise. Whatever I'd expected it wasn't that. After a bit of a wild goose chase around the suburbs following the yellow arrows I made it to the albergue. And what a place it is. Clean and comfortable and an hospitalero (thank you Andrès) who even interrupted his lunch break to sign me in. I've never seen so many Camino posters and maps, so much info. Looking at one map, I see it is possible to join the Ruta de la Lana from Javea, Valencia (Requena), Gallur as well as Alicante. The albergue registry is a thing of beauty. Every pilgrim neatly inscribed followed by a wax crayon flag of their country of origin. It is a piece of art. Maybe in a few hundred years it will be in a museum much as some codices are nowadays. Of course I was curious (nosy) enough to look up some of the peregrinos on this forum who have passed through here recently. I couldn't find Bad Pilgrim but checking his thread I saw that he had stayed in a Pension rather than the albergue. Magwood was here on the 18th April. Fear not Maggie I will not reveal your age. But I can confirm that your copper-plate hand-written note to Louis (Luis?) was received and has been pasted into the visitors' book.

What can I say about Cuenca that hasn't already been said before? For me it is up there with Toledo. Many years ago when I was a student, someone in Madrid, probably in a bar, told me you had to see Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Alcala de Henares, Avila, Aranjuez, El Escorial and Cuenca before you died. I don't want to jack it in just yet but as of today I've seen them all, and I think I might, just, put Cuenca foremost amongst them all. The old town and it's location is simply stunning and without any pretention. Peregrina 2000, if Alcala de Jucar is the Little Canyon then Cuenca is the Grand Canyon of Spain.

Cuenca is my jump off point on this Camino. I'll resume here next September as far as Burgos. But as they say on daytime TV: 'A word from our sponsors. Don't switch over. We'll be back. In the last part of the programme we look at Esquivias and the Casa Cervantes.'

It's a dirty word but we all have a budget and some prices have changed.
* Convento de las Esclavas de Maria in Almansa remains at 7.00 euros
* El Cazador in Alpera is, as Brucie might have said, higher at 25.00 euros
* the Albergue in Alatoz remains donativo
* in Alcala de Jucar I stayed in Hostal Jucar, which cost me 34.00 euros but included a very decent breakfast
* Hostal Los Tubos in Villarta, the audience shouts out, is higher at 20.00 euros
* the albergue/polideportivo in Altobuey de Campillos remains free
* El Rincon de Sandra in Monteaguado de las Salinas is lower, lower at 20.00 euros
* the albergue in Fuentes remains free
* the albergue in Cuenca is donativo
Every single one was excellent value.

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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Bad Pilgrim

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Far too many...
Thanks for the updates. I wish I could walk the Lana right now - the sports hall in Campillo must extra spooky-cozy in autumn! Yum yum!

Did you take any photos?

/BP
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Thanks for the updates. I wish I could walk the Lana right now - the sports hall in Campillo must extra spooky-cozy in autumn! Yum yum!

Did you take any photos?

/BP
Yes I did BP but I'm old school. With a camera as I don't have a mobile phone with such sorcery. When I get home I'll upload the best ones to Flickr. If you send me your email address I'll make sure you get an invite, but it'll be at least a couple ok weeks.

Alfín del Camino
 

Bachibouzouk

Member
Camino(s) past & future
Voie de Soulac, Frances, De La Plata, Sureste/Levante, Manchego, Ruta del Argar.
Esquivias

Read no further if Cervantes or Don Quijote aren't your bag, I've developed a rather trainspotter-ish trait on the subject since setting out on the Sureste a few years ago.

Firstly Esquivias is the devil of a place to reach by public transport on a weekend. The best I could do was catch a train from Atocha to Illescas and walk the 8 kms to Esquvias. The first part to Yeles along a pleasant enough Ruta Quijote. At Yeles either the Ruta runs out or I lost it and had to walk the last 2-3 kms along the carretera. No big deal for a peregrino, except that it all takes time. By the time I got here, having spent a few more hours in Cuenca, the Casa Cervantes had closed for the day. I figured this would happen so I'd booked an hostal for the night (Hostel Dulcinea, natch). I spent the rest of the afternoon and early evening ticking off Cervantes related street names (titles, characters and place names from his novels, real people who influenced those characters). I even came across a Calle Marquesa, the name of the frigate that took Cervantes to the Battle of Lepanto. There's the de rigueur statue of Cervantes in town (not a particularly good one) and a quite brilliant one of Don Quijote made of scrap metal (disused agricultural implements). The parish church in which they were married. And of course there's a statue to Catalina de Salazar y Palacio, Cervantes' wife. Quite right too, it's her pueblo after all and Cervantes seems to have washed up here almost by chance. Three months after arriving (22 September 1584) he was married (12 December 1584). They never had any children so there's no whiff of any impropriety but it was very shortly after the birth of his illegitimate daughter Isabella by Ana de Villafranca in April 1584. Cervantes may have been on the run from a jealous husband? There's even a rumour here in Esquivias that Isabella was the daughter of one of Cervantes' flighty sisters. Whichever way you look at it, Cervantes, impecunious in 1584 and with no real prospects, was no catch for Catalina, daughter of a landed and wealthy family#. Tell me, how did ya do it, Miguel?

In truth I wasn't expecting too much from the Casa Cervantes - a museum with a few items similar to those that the Cervantes may have used in their day? But blow me, this is the actual house they lived in. It belonged to the Quijada family, distant relatives of Catalina's. Alonso Quisada was the blue print for Don Quijote. The two guides were amazing, unlike the young kids in the Casa Cervantes in Alcala de Henares, who had no interest in the subject matter beyond registering the name and nationality of each visitor. I was, in truth, the only visitor apart from a group of Spaniards who breezed through in under 30 minutes, and maybe the guides were happy to have something to do. Whatever the case, they patiently answered all my questions (and there were many), clarified many grey areas and put me straight on several assumptions I had made. Muchas, muchas gracias. There's a place in heaven for every passionate guide.

Some corrected misapprehensions:
1) Cervantes didn't hang out much with his wife.
He spent 3 years here initially. He did disappear to Andalusia for 12 years as a tax collector and briefly into jail* in Cordoba and Sevilla for debt/tax/embezzlement fraud. Perhaps he needed to make a name or a fortune for himself or at least stand on his own two legs? In any case he returned to Esquivias and Catalina, possibly with his tail between those own two legs, for 6 years. There were then stays in Valladolid and Madrid until his death. Catalina went with him to both these cities and one of the guides told me that Catalina had looked after him and nursed him into old age and death+. There is no evidence, she told me, except for the Andalucian years, that Cervantes kept Catalina at arms length.
2) Ana de Villafranca.
Very recently I walked through Villafranca de los Caballeros on the Ruta del Argar. Of course, they claim Ana as one of their own there. What they don't make clear, and I had no informative guides there to clarify it, is that Ana de Villafranca was in fact the innkeeper's wife (or the oldest profession in the world, if you like) in the bohemian district of ... Madrid, when she met Cervantes.
3) Esquivias as the back of beyond.
Because I'd always found it difficult to get here, I had assumed that Esquivias was in the boondocks. In fact, I was told, it was 4 hours away by horse and cart or mule from the Corte in Madrid. By getting up early, business in Madrid could be conducted in a day. Cervantes found Esquivias to be a relaxing place to write away from the hurlyburly of cosmopolitan life. Furrthermore, it was a place with plenty of characters to furnish his novels.

(I hope you are keeping up as I'm now on my third glass of the local vino tinto, first one with a fine plate of migas, second one with a tapa of paella, and sitting in the sun of the, you've guessed it, Meson Cervantes in the Plaza de España).

In the Casa de Cervantes you can see copies of the birth certificates of real people who populated Cervantes' fiction. Amongst which, Sanson Carasco, Diego Ricote, the son of the Biscayan, Sancho, Sancho's wife Teresa, ...

You can also see the library window (see Chapter 6 of Don Quijote) through which the priest and the barber throw out Don Quojote's books to be burnt in the fire below. This just knocked me sideways.

There's the balcony on which Cervantes wrote a great deal of his works. In those days he could look out over the surrounding countryside. Personally, I'd level all those houses that have spoiled the view, but then I'm not the mayor of Esquivias.

On the walls are some sketches by Francisco Blanes of the various characters in Don Quijote for, I believe, a twentieth century edition of the novel. Sancho Panza has a striking similarity to John Prescott and the comedian Johnny Vegas!

Apart from the various rooms with their original beams, a hidden staircase, grilled windows and doors with iron fittings there are also stables, the cobbled patio, the winemaking cellar in which each huge clay jar has a well-known quote from Cervantes inscribed on it. Deep below this level is another level of cuevas, initially built by the Moors, to store the wine. I don't think any of items within the house are original but the house itself most certainly is the real deal.

Oddly, apart from the Casa Cervantes, the statues and the street names, there is no cult of Cervantes here (perhaps it is in the boondocks after all). There are a few souvenirs for sale in the Casa Cervantes but other than that nothing and, unusually, I was itching to buy something to remind me of this magic place. I am like a kid in Disneyland here.

Above the doorway to another of the Quijada properties is their coat of arms, to the left of which the cross of St John and to the right the cross of Santiago.

# Wines from Esquivias, following a Royal Bill of 1530, were reserved for the Royal Family, nobleman and for medicinal use with a prescription. That probably didn't hinder the family's fortune.
* Cervantes was no stranger to imprisonment. He spent 5 years, on his way back to Spain from the naval battle of Lepanto, as a galley slave of the Barbary pirates in Algiers.
+ Cervantes probably died as a result of complications of diabetes. There was an 18 year age difference between Miguel and Catalina, not particularly unusual in that age of marriages of convenience.

Must go. Got to catch that train back to Madrid 8 kms away. The wondrous thing is that I can say that I too have now written some words in 'un lugar de la Mancha'. Not sure that Salman Rushdie can say the same. Then again I haven't quite finished Quichotte and Anything-Can-Happen.

Alfín del Asfalto
 
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