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With an accent of 466m we reached 1364m above sea level, the highest point of the Via de la Plata. 

Our route to the top brought us close  to the wind turbines  that we first saw from a far 3 days ago before we descended 431m to the small town of Lubin our final destination.

Covering just 10.6m miles today our overall distance for the week grew to 120miles – somehow Tony‘s tracker had clocked up an extra 4 miles as occasionally he liked to take his own ‘special’ route.

This was the end of 2019 Camino, still 10 days walking until we reach Santiago so back again next year for what is likely to be the penultimate leg.

Now for the long journey home , a 30 minute taxi + 4 hour bus to Madrid + 2.5 hour flight to Gatwick, then car journey home.

Buen Camino !

A 7am start on a very chilly morning kicked off our penultimate day with 27Km trekking ahead of us. As dawn broke we  were soon blessed with blue skies and warm sunshine once again.

Some spectacular scenery today which included rolling moorland type hills- in places carpeted with a patchwork of rainbow coloured heathers,also, a riverside walk with fast flowing crystals clear mountain water and finally a beautiful  woodland glade with soft green liken dripping from every branch. 

Approaching the town of Requejo we were joined by more  horses , cows grazing on fresh pasture and a black Spanish bull which , thankfully as it turns out was more scared of us then we were of him.

Pathfinder Dr John (on a rest day) had  taxied ahead and booked a 12 euro private Albergue which provided real sheets and duvets , bravely taking the initiative but defying the 5 euro a night budget imposed by Richard….heads will roll.

Keen to recover this significant loss, Richard true to form press ganged Mark to join him for a walk half an hour up the road to check out a restaurant that reportedly was offering a bargain 7.50 euros pilgrims menu.Needless to say it was a wasted journey as the smell of Rancid chip  fat hit them square on  the second they entered the deserted and very tired  looking eatery.

Our new found Camino pilgrim friends French Jaques, Hungarian Annette and Ameena from England joined us for a 12 euro Pilgrims supper in the restaurant adjoining our Albergue and good evening was had  by all.

From our bunk bedded accommodation we could see the mountains ahead. There was also a smattering of wildlife which included a couple of Ostriches and a small yappy dog with a death wish who set chase after passing cars.

Our final days walk ahead, the snow capped mountains beckon – tommorow at dawn our tired legs must somehow carry us up another 300m to reach one of the highest points of the Camino.

We have somehow walked 110miles so far this week (equivalent to walking from central London to Birmingham) we all agree it has been a fantastic week so far and  last years Rain and Salmonella experience is just a distant memory.

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Today the Camino trail took us to the town of Asturianos, a gentle incline for most of the day with a longish hilly section for the last 3 Km.

All in all a quite uneventful day other than Mark getting stung by a be and Liverpool loosing 3-0 to Barcelona in the champions League.

There was a very grumpy couple in the first bar we went to , they had plonked a large Octapus on the counter – not quite sure why. We soon found a second bar nearby with a super friendly host.

We slept in a sports hall, most of us on thin mattresses  on the floor – it was quite cold.

Another early start delivered cool fresh conditions as our Camino track meandered it’s way through a beautiful woodland stretch for the first hour or so.

Our 30Km trek brought us close to a small river, a man made canal and a beautiful lake created by a hydroelectric dam which we crossed in the latter part of the day.

En route we rested in a tiny village of just four inhabitants, one of which was a friendly South African missionary who had rebuilt a small dwelling and converted  it into a 4 bed Albergue because God told him to.

 We arrived at Rionegro del Puente, a small but very well kept village with all a Pilgrim could ask for – a Bar, a Restaurant and and an Albergue.

The restaurant named  ‘Me Gusta Comer’ (we love  to eat) was described in the guide book as serving Gastronomic fare – so our expectations were high.

On arrival we were warmly welcomed by the chef who ushered us to a table laid out with a wide array of cutlery and glasses.

Within  full view of the open kitchen we watched the charismatic chef carefully prepare each dish. He served every course with a unique sense of personal pride. This was no ordinary pilgrims menu, as each delicious plate of food was consumed we began to regret not asking how much this gastronomic menu would cost. 

With our wine carafe automatically topped up, bread basket replenished when empty and the meal culminating with coffee served with a choice of free flowing liquors – surely this was going to be expensive.

But no – when the bill came it was just 10 euros ahead. We all agreed this was by far the best pilgrims menu on the Camino.

Buen Camino

After our 07:00 am breakfast we set off for the town of Santa Croya de Terra.

The pressure of so many pilgrims chasing  so few beds demanded a slightly faster walking pace than usual…at the end of the day it was a perfect storm of tired bodies and tired brains, resulting in more forced errors than usual.

Error number 1 – Having sent pathfinder Dr John ahead in a taxi to check out the bed situation, Richard and Mark arrived after a 4.5 hour frogmarch – confident they were early enough to secure a bed each. They then spent the next hour or so aimlessly wandering around in circles looking for John , finally realising they were in the wrong village.

Error number 2 – Mark , tired and weary – jumped in the shower room first.Head still spinning and dried off after the shock of the freezing cold water –  he tried to open the bathroom door only to find the lock was stuck and the door wouldn’t move (where is locksmith Geoff when you need him) 

After a rather embarrassing cry of “help I’m stuck” the problem was soon sorted when he discovered it was actually a sliding door.

Error number 3 – Davin , having finished showering next door went to grab the mop and bucket as any good Pilgrim would do, however his usual razor sharp reactions  failed him as he proceeded to knock over the entire bucket of dirty water – what a plonker.

Error number 4 – well not so much of an error, more like “unexpected underwear in the washing area”…John and Mark were quietly washing their  smalls in the outdoor sinks and noticed an elderly Belgium Pilgrim hovering right  behind them . “Dix minutes” said Mark politely with a smile “non – cinque minute” said the Belgium guy. Both shocked at this unusual Pilgrim rudeness,  Mark and John just looked at each other and carried on. A second later without so much as a  “by your leave” the Belgium chap shoved himself between the two  of them and plonked his dirty washing in Johns bowl – then began to slosh it all about. He finally grabbed a handful of wet undies and proceeded to hang them out to dry – To cut a long story short , John just about managed to retain his composure, remain calm and refrain from knocking his block off.

Error number 5 – We all arrived at the local bar and asked for the lunchtime ‘menu del dai’, soon discovering a menu was unnecessary as it was Hobson’s choice of Ham egg and chips….and very  delicious it was too. Until that was Mark decided half way through his meal to knock a full glass of Vino tinto over , half of it landing in his plate and the other half in his lap…what a mess. The gracious and very smiley waitress provided a replacement meal within minutes.

We rounded off our rather eventful day with a super of Chick pea and tomatoes ‘a la Richard’ then all turned in early exhausted by our days escapades. 

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Another day of wall to wall sunshine as we  trekked 25Km to the town of Tabara.

The Camino trail took us along a physically demanding riverside section which included a significant amount of rock scrambling. Our efforts were rewarded with spectacular views. Sunlight glinting across the water, flanked by rugged granite cliffs. Dr John back with us today and in good shape, choosing to take his favoured roadside route which avoided the need for crampons.

Mark arrived first at the town of Tabara and made his way to the Municipal Albergue up a hill on the far side of town , only to find it was full. So back down he went to the centre of town to find the others relaxing in the sunshine already half way through their first beer having already staked out the nearby private Albergue. 

 The town of Tábara is a municipality located in the province of Zamora, Castile and León, Spain. It has a population of around 1000 inhabitants.

Our Albergue ‘El Robel’ cost us 16 euros which included a three course Pilgrims dinner. 

Cloths washing facilities at this privately owned  Albegue  were not obviously accessible. After much searching high and low, Mark dragged the busy owner away from her chores  back to the accommodation only to have the large ‘Laundry’ sign pointed out to him on the adjoining door – much eye rolling and muttering followed…’stupid Englishman’ no doubt.

Translation of the dinner Menu proved difficult, the waitress miming a wild animal with horns – some of us who will remain  nameless convinced she meant Goat meat and missed out on a delicious bowl of Venison stew. Also on the menu  was Paella “freshly cooked this morning” according to the waitress – unbelievably Richard and Davin both ordered this for their first course despite last years salmonella episode.

We were joined at dinner by a group of  lovely fellow Pilgrims we met on the way which included Hermut , a German who generously shared access to his beautiful  photos. Monique from Quebec and a very friendly Dutch couple.

Tomorrow the options for accommodation appear to be  very limited. With lots of fellow Pilgrims all aiming for the same 12 bedded Albergue at 25Km or another 6 beds at 35Km.

At the end of the day we may well be completely exhausted and  sleeping under the stars – who knows. Either way we all agreed to just let serendipty prevail and  see what happens.

 

Our breakfast of Tomato Tostadas, Orange juIce and Coffee set us up for what was going to be  a quite eventful day.

Blue sky and  sunshine along with a gentle breeze created the perfect conditions for walking the Camino – we all agreed it really doesn’t get much better than this.

Mark patted his pockets making final pre walk checks, then followed those worrying three words “where’s my wallet”?

Disaster averted , he went back to the Albergue and recovered said item from under his pillow where it had been safely stashed the night before….how lucky was that!

On our way now the route took us once again through some truly beautiful Spanish scenery. Rolling hills of  freshly ploughed red soil with the back drop of powder blue sky’s made every step of today’s trek a delight …well almost!

Having walked together for much of the day, the four of us gradually spread out and walked alone for the last few Kilometres. 

Ahead of the others by  some distance for a change, Mark was first to reach the crest of the final hill , our destination appeared like an oasis from nowwhere   – you could almost taste that first cold beer slipping down.

A final check on the phone and there were 5 missed calls from Richard…oh dear , what’s up with Dickie? A quick call soon solved that one …nothing serious – just another  lost wallet and yes his Passport was gone too – must have dropped it on the trail somewhere.

Retracing his steps Richard began  walking the Camino in reverse (for the first time ever) in search of his wallet , Mark (the Sheperd of the group) also walking back now an hour or so behind him – no cold  beer for him any time soon.

A quick google whilst walking produced some helpful information explaining how best to replace a lost or stolen Passport – Reporting it to the local Police being the first important step …bit of a challenge really when you are in the middle of nowhere.

An hour or so later after much worrying and searching came those welcome words from Richard – “I’ve found it” …in a ditch on the side of the trail where he had unzipped his trouser legs earlier in the day – what a lucky Pilgrim.

Arriving back feeling rather exhausted after walking an unexpected extra 10Km , Mark and Richard were met by Davin on the edge of town who guided them to the Albergue.

After a quick shower we met Tony and John in the bar who by that time were both  a bit giggly and had managed to build up a rather hefty bar tab waiting for us.

Our eventful day culminated in a delicious Pilgrims super once again , yes you’ve guessed it …a bowl of Lentils, Pork and Chicken followed by Flan…