VIA DE LA PLATA. DAY 3: Aljucen to Carcaboso (163km)

After covering 163km the day before, I had set myself the target of 140km for today.

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Although I enjoyed periods of lovely deep sleep, if I rolled over and slept on my back, I would be immediately woken up from the sting of my sunburn. At one point in the night, I made my own ‘after sun’ by mixing some chamois cream with Germolene. It stung, but did give some relief!

Aljucen to Alcuescar (20.1km)

I was ready to wake up early, and by 6.30am, I was on the road. I wore a fleece over my jersey, plus arm warmers, but was still cold. I rather stupidly set off in one direction, only to get 5km up the road before realising I had gone in the completely wrong direction.

I turned around and began a very gradual climb up in to Alcuescar. The gradient was easy, but a strong headwind sapped morale and it felt like a slog. After just 20km, I was really ready for my café solo and a sit down while I studied the route for the day ahead.

Alcuescar to Valdesalor (25.7km / 35km with diversion)

Everywhere looked beautiful as the sun steadily rose. Long shadows from olive trees littered the gravel tracks as I passed several pilgrims on the camino.

I crossed the Roman bridge and passed a lovely village called Casas De Don Antonio. Storks had made nests on top of every steeple. I was amazed by this, but all throughout the rest of the camino, every steeple was exactly the same.

The trails were relatively straightforward until I came to a section that was flooded. The water was way too deep for a bike to ride through, and I wasn’t willing to get my feet caked in wet mud, so I turned back, hit the road, and put an extra 10km on to divert around this obstacle! It was well worth it though. There were some stunning castles and old buildings on the N-630 en route to Valdesalor.

Valdesalor to Caceres to Cesar de Caceres (22.8km / 35km due to diversion)

In Valdesalor I stopped for some junk food (chocolate doughnuts and crisps), filled up my water bottles, and enjoyed 30-minutes of rest.

During this next section, I really noticed the landscapes changing. The horizons seemed to stretch forever, and it all looked very dry and baron. I loved it. I didn’t enjoy passing through Caceres, constantly stopped by endless traffic lights. I lost sight of the camino markers, and upon existing the city I chose a road heading north, expecting to find a camino marker further up.

The sun was high now, and it was really getting hot. I rode for quite a while and there was no signs of the camino. I pulled out my little map and had absolutely no idea where I was on the map. I resorted to the Garmin to direct me to Cesar de Caceres.

I was taken down an old road the descended for what must have been 5-6km. at the foot of this valley was a bridge where I stopped to marvel at the views. Below me dozens of turtles were swimming in the water. I had never expected to see turtles during my ride! Climbing out of the valley was hot and hard.

Casar de Caceres to Canaveral (33.2km)

The first 18km of this section were sublime. Twisting and turning through sandy trails, the terrain was hard and in the hot Extremaduran midday sun, it was difficult. Nevertheless, I felt totally alone in the world. It was liberating. During this stretch there are no towns or shops of any sort, so carrying a good deal of water is essential. The camino also follows an unmarked trail and at times I had doubts whether or not I was heading in the right direction, but it proved to be OK.

At the end of the trail, due to the construction works, there were diversions away from the camino: a detour on to the road and some contradictory signage. For walkers, I suspect this part of the camino would be quite dull as the route followed a road for at least 15km.

There was a breeze around Puente Rio Almonte and I was surprisingly cold. I saw bridges being built to connect the developing rail line and old Roman bridges that had disintegrated in to the lake.

Climbing in to Canaveral was tough. I had barely eaten and could feel a distinct lack of energy in my legs. I wasted no time finding a bar for food and enjoyed a rich bean with chorizo stew, followed by pork and chips, a flan and a coffee. Staple Spanish cuisine. I recommend Bar Delfi to anybody that passes by.

During my food stop I realised my Phrase Book and one of my water bottles must have rattled out of the bike during the rugged section from Casar de Caceres.

Canaveral to Galisteo

I could have happily ordered a beer and all day in Canaveral, but I knew I had to press on. With a full stomach I laboured out of town. Again, I got lost but picked up the camino again in a wonderful little village called Grimaldo. ‘Grim’ it certainly was not.

From Grimaldo to Galisteo the Via de la Plata follows old back roads that are joyous to ride. Virtually no motor traffic and surrounded by green hills and blue sky. This leg of the journey was marred by my Alpkit Kanga (handlebar harness). One of the fiberglass poles had worn through the fabric and it kept buckling, causing my luggage to rub on the front tyre. This really slowed progress down as I spent so much time stopping to make temporary fixes and adjustments.

Approaching Galisteo I was licking my lips. The place looked incredible, like a poor man’s Carcassonne. Fortified and perched on a hill, the town was one of the most distinctive during my journey. The albergue in Galisteo is not easy to find, and having spent half an hour trying to find it, the guy in charge took one look at my bike and said the place was full.

Galisteo to Carcaboso

This stretch of the camino is very uneventful, following a road for 10km. When I arrived at the albergue of Carcaboso I was told the place was full! I was knackered and I think the little old lady who ran the place could see the disappointment in my eyes. She told me not to worry, that she’d fix me up.

She lead me upstairs and put me in a room with a retired Australian couple. Ha, they must have through they had struck gold earlier in their day when they were given a room to themselves, and how disappointed they must have been once they saw me unpacking my bags in their room.

Nevertheless, if they were disappointed, they didn’t show it.

I treated myself to cold beers and junk food from the supermarket. I sat on the balcony as the sun went down and took a stroll through the streets of town before bed.

That night, I experienced snoring that shook the walls. It was deafening. That poor Aussie woman – How had she put up with her husband snoring like that for years on end, I have no idea. And to top it off, she had me on the top bunk, talking in my sleep. The snoring combined with my discomfort from sunburn meant my sleep was abysmal.

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