The Via de La Plata is one of the many ‘Way of St James’ Camino pilgrimage routes that have become extremely popular in recent years.
This particular route is the longest of the pilgrim routes in Spain, starting from Seville in Andalucia, and running northwards through the provinces of Extremadura and Castilla y Leon to Salamanca and Zamora.
I’ve been walking the route in sections and I thought it was about time I got on with it. Details of my route so far are here, starting off from Caceres in 2012.
Monday 16th April 2018: Manchester to Puebla de Sanabria
I didn't get to bed until stupid o'clock that night.... it was actually the following morning. I was quite nicely knackered. I had to be up and out of the door for just after 4am to walk to Manchester Airport for 4.30am check-in and my 6.30am flight to Madrid.
Rob, who had foolishly agreed to come along (he believed my tales of dancing girls, cheap food and free beer) was already at the airport, he lives further away and walking really wasn't a sensible option for him - he travelled by taxi.
The Ryanair flight was uneventful and after an interesting journey on Madrid's tram system we hopped onto the very comfortable high speed train from Chamartin to Puebla de Sanabria - the point at which I'd left the Camino in September 2014.
We were surprised that all baggage going onto the train had to go through airport - type security checking. A sad sign of the times..... one that is unlikely to change any time soon.
We spent the night in dormitory accommodation at the Albergue Casa Luz, €12 a night. It was good, I didn't snore once... which is more that can said for the other occupants. <koff>
Tuesday 17th April
Puebla de Sanabria to Lubian
Next morning was cold, frost had formed overnight and I was glad of my Velez, although this was the only time I got to wear it on the trip.
We left Puebla de Sanabria at around 9am (=8am in real money) and wandered off westwards... ish. Much of the Camino had been diverted along this section due to railway works, we were forced to follow a lot of tarmac. This wasn't as bad as it sounds, there was very little traffic to contend with. We met up with a good number of peregrinos, all headed towards Santiago de Compostela.
It soon warmed up, a strong sun and very little wind had us, er, perspiring. Just a little.
We lunched in a small roadside cafe / bar in the tiny village of Requejo de Sanabria. Bocadillo tortilla was the order of the day. They're very nice and all that, but the bread crust is hard as blazes....they probably contribute significantly to keeping Spanish dentists in business.
The distance between Puebla de Sanabria and Lubian via the Camino is reckoned to be 29km. With all the route closures and diversions it was getting on for 37-38km. At least the walking was fairly easy. The route is hardly high altitude but there's a goodly amount of up and downery, today we hit the highest part of the entire route, around 4,500 ft. There was still a lot of snow around although we managed to avoid walking through it...mostly. Not many snowballs were hurt in following this route. Not many at all.
Lubian, our overnight stop, has a small Albergue, at €3 a night it's certainly cheap enough. It's well hidden down a little street but was fairly easily found. It had all that a pair of British chaps needed whilst exploring these far-flung foreign lands....apart from damned kettle. It seems that kettles are not popular here. This raises the question: how on earth do they make a decent cup of Yorkshire Tea? The answer, dear reader, is that they don't.
I ended up boiling water in the Albergue's microwave oven. Hardly satisfactory. Still, beggars can't be choosers. A Plan will need to be planned for the next planned visit. Obviously.
The night was hot. Very hot. I hardly slept. Everybody else hardly slept either. It was just too hot.
Rob bailed out of the dormitory around 3am to sleep outside. This option seemed to work well until the local doggies found him and started sniffing around him. He ended up sleeping in the kitchen / dining room where there was a vacant bunk.
It was a kitchen, after all.
Wednesday 18th April
Lubian to A Gudina
Doggy eyeing up Rob’s brekky
Next morning, after an early breakfast of bocadillo and coffee, the dazed and quite knackered not very dynamic duo of peregrinos continued their journey westwards, A Gudina being our next overnight stop.
This was another hot day. A call to Lubian's Pharmacia was needed in order to stock up on Factor 50 'crema solar'. My forearms were burning from the previous day so protection was desperately needed.
That was so very well.... except that the local Pharmacia didn't open its doors until 10.30am. This was 9am in rural Spain.
An ingenious plan involving a buff provided protection for my left arm. My right arm was mostly shaded by my rather ample torso, long trousers protected my legs and my trusty Tilley Hat did the rest.
Some more tarmac followed….but there were nice views too.
This was the day we entered Galicia.
At A Gudina we couldn’t face the idea of another night in a hot and sweaty Albergue – the last night’s sleep didn’t involve much rest. Hostal A Madrilena came to the rescue: a twin room was €35 a night – so we booked two nights. There was a good reason for this.
The local gym
A Gudina’s Pharmacia was open so I was able to buy myself a tube of Factor 50 – bloody expensive at €15 for 50ml.
A pleasant evening in the local bar ‘Bar Peregrino’ ensured we were suitably relaxed and very well fed for not very much money at all.
Thursday 19th April
A Gudina to Campobecerros
Back to Bar Peregrino for a good breakfast of lots of coffee and a strange sort of pie (filled with fishy bits, tomatoes and other stuff) set us up for the day.
This was another day with tarmac, but this was real country lane stuff, cars were few and far between.
A few miles out of town, and in a very localised area, we came across ‘caravans’ of caterpillars crossing the road. These may well be the dreaded processionary critters.
The views and terrain were very easy on the eye.
The area was sparsely populated which meant there was very little in the way of shops – as the day wore on we became quite peckish and we ended up breaking into my emergency supply of Alpen bars. Washed down with lashings of Corporation Pop we lasted as far as Campobecerros…just.
Get your ferrets here
The first cafe / bar we came to wasn’t a cafe, just a bar – we were starving by now. After a wander throught the ‘strangely mediaeval centre’ we came upon Casa Nunez, good food (and lots of it) although some of the staff seem to have other things on their minds.
After a damned good feed the very helpful man behind the bar (he may have been the owner) called a taxi for us and we were transported back to A Gudina’s Hostal Madrilena…and a shower.
This was to be our last night ‘on the trail’ – the next day we were whisked back to Madrid on the Renfe very fast and very comfortable train. My GPS displayed our maximum speed of 257kmph…around 160mph.
Such was the smoothness of the ride I’d have guessed we were travelling at maybe 80mph. The fares were cheap too – very cheap indeed. Rail travel in Spain is affordable.
One more night in Spain, this time at a very strange AirBnB, supposedly owned by an attractive young(ish) lady. Not too sure about that – but it was somewhere to lay our heads before flying home next day.
‘Twas a good trip, one that I certainly needed. Rob seemed to enjoy it…well he didn’t complain (too much), but he’s one of the good guys and is polite. The next stage on the Camino will hopefully see us finishing in Santiago de Compostela in September. The route’s going to be rather busier then, not only because of the time of the year, but because we’ll be getting to the points where other Caminos join the to make it one busy trail. Accommodation may be a problem.
The next stage on the Camino will hopefully see us finishing in Santiago de Compostela in September. The route’s going to be rather busier then, not only because of the time of the year, but because we’ll be getting to the points where other Caminos join the to make it one busy trail. Accommodation may be a problem.
One whinge: I took cheap walking poles, Rob took rather pricier examples. No problem getting them on the plane in Manchester, no problem getting them off the plane in Spain.
The return journey was a different matter: our poles were confiscated as we went through security at Madrid airport. We were both a bit miffed.
20 minute delay from Madrid – not too bad
Oh, and another whinge: Ryanair is a bit of a cattle waggon transport system, but it’s cheap and they do what they say: provide cheap air transport.
Madrid airport however….has the most disgusting toilets in the whole wide world. And I’ve been to India and Rob’s been to Pakistan so we know about these things.