Via de la Plata

Last days in Extremadura

 

After breakfast, Laura and I walked together out of town and then separated – she was a much faster walker and wanted to reach a town father away than my goal was for the day.

 

Laura on her way to Baños de Montemayor

 

Her departure made me sad. Walking a camino means a constant saying “good bye”.  I continued my walk on my own through pasture land. It was peaceful and relaxing.

 

 

 

A difficult journey

Raindrops on sagging bush clover

trodden upon

                                                                                                          Buson

 

However, I was soon disturbed by a grandiose farm with an entrance normally indicating a palace. Strong metal fences closed off the pastures, where branded cattle were grazing.

 

 

 

Grandiose entrance to the farm with the head of a bull on each pillar

 

 

 

During my entire walk so far, the calves stayed with the mother cow. Here, they were separated and each calf was marked with 4 large, round brands. I was wondering if this was a farm raising bulls for bull fights.

 

Only several hundred meter after I was on the marked path of the Via de la Plata, I walked through a Roman gateway, the last large remnant of the Roman town Cáparra, founded by emperor Vespasian in 74 AD. Excavations to the right, enclosed by a fence, showed the foundation of buildings of this once impressive town.

 

 

Arco de Cáparra

 

After walking through this impressive reminder of impermanence, I walked for hours beside a street and twice crossed the Highway through underpasses. The sky got darker and darker and heavy rainclouds were hanging above me, still holding back the rain. My soul felt, for the first time, really alone.

 

 

 

A dead tree agains the dark sky and a beige-white cow, bony and emaciated, standing alone in a small fenced in area, reminded me of my own mood – exhausted, tired and alone.This feeling was enhanced by a dead bird placed by somebody on a granite stone marker. It still had beautiful feathers and showed no sign of deterioration. Who put it there? Does it have meaning for me? Years ago, I saw a dead young barn owl on a grave stone during my pilgrimage on the Voi de Vezelay. I asked my Zen teacher about a possible meaning and he said: “Impermanence!”

 

 

 

 

“To consider the place where we are right now as our temple” was the sentence of the day. Yes, I had to take impermanence, my swollen, hurting feet, and my loneliness into my temple and let it transform by walking one step at a time. After a while, my mood changed.

 

 

 

Beautiful little creek

 

 

 

Typical crossing of a wet area and the first mountains in the distance

 

 

At 6 pm I arrived in Aldeanueva del Camino, after having walked “only” 27 km. I was exhausted.

 

 

The town was founded by the Romans. A roman milestone is witness to this history

 

 

 

Aldeanueva is a long stretched town. After I crossed this old bridge, I arrived at my Albergue. Again, I was the only pilgrim staying there that night.

 

 

 

Iglesia de Nuestra Señora del Olmo (16th century)  in Aldeanoeva del Camino

 

A restaurant a bit outside of town was recommended for dinner. The person recommending it was eating outside and saw me limping into the restaurant. He spoke English and offered to take me to the next town, where I planned to stay and rest a bit. I appreciated his offer, but declined.  I only had to walk about 10 km the next day to Baños de Montemayor

 

 

 

When I left the next morning, the sky became darker and darker. After about 30 minutes, the sky broke open and a heavy rain  poured over me with a force I never before had experienced. I had just arrived in front of a gas station with a hotel and restaurant and escaped, ordered hot chocolate and a croissant and waited for the rain to stop, but it did not. Then I decided to order a taxi, but there was no taxi. However, the lady at the reception desk suggested that I go to the spa town Hervás and stay there in a spa hotel.  I agreed and was very relieved. I saw a photo of the hotel, it looked very nice. She organised a ride.  I was so much looking forward to a day of rest in a spa like in Austria – thermal water, sauna, resting areas, and massages. 

When I arrived at the hotel, I was shocked. The hotel looked like a box similar to a 1960 hospital. The lady at the reception desk told me that I could only stay in the spa for 60 minutes. Also, there was no area to be nude and I did not take a bathing suite with me. The smell was unbearable and nothing looked inviting. Although the town would have had an interesting historic Jewish district with old, narrow streets, I decided to walk to Baños. My daughter Anna-Sophie had downloaded an app of the Via de la Plata showing the pilgrimage route and I found the way back to the official path. I arrived in the town in the early afternoon.

 

 

The way to Baños

 

 

Chapel at the side of the street

 

 

 

Old cross in front of the chapel

 

 

 

Baños de Montemayor

 

I booked a nice hotel and decided to go to the public spa (a former Roman thermal bath), hoping that the thermal water, good for rheumatism and other ailments, would also be good for my feet and legs. The spa opened in the evening. Although the lady at the reception desk did not speak English, we managed to communicate. I rented a towel, swimming suit, slippers, a bath robe and a shower cap.

The Roman bath was in a basement with ancient, high vaulted ceilings spanning above two separated pools. A lifeguard was expecting me. He knew my name and the exact time I started to step into the water. I was only allowed to stay for 60 minutes.

After about 5 minutes in the water, my leg started to tingle and itch. The water was far too cold for me for just resting and I started to massage my leg. I was freezing. A nearby sauna and warm room would have helped to warm me up, but I was not allowed to go in – only guests who paid where allowed to visit the sauna for a short, strictly defined period of time. So, I massaged and massaged and forced myself to stay in the healing water despite feeling very uncomfortable. Exactly after one hour, my name was called and I had to leave.

Back in the hotel, the leg was still itching. However, nearly my entire left leg had purple spots and lines. I was quite concerned – what does this mean? I could not do anything about it, but after while, I fell asleep. The next morning, the purple spots were gone and the swelling had nearly disappeared. I was on my way to healing.

 

 

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gwwien
gwwienhttps://simplyjustwalking.com
Born and raised in a village along the Danube in Austria, Traude Wild soon ventured out into the world. After a two-year program for tourism in Klesheim/Salzburg, she spent nearly a year in South Africa and Namibia. By returning back to Austria, she acquired a Master of Economics at the University of Vienna. After moving to the United States with her four children, she studied Art History at Arizona State University and stayed in the United States for fourteen years. Here, she was teaching Art History in several Universities like Webster University and University of Missouri-St. Louis. Now, she lives partially in Arizona and Vienna and works together with her husband for the University of South-Carolina, Moore School of business as Adjunct Professor organising and leading Study tours in Central Europe. She also teaches at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. Since 1999, she is practicing Zen meditation in the lineage of Katagiri Roshi. She loves to hike and to write and is a student of Natalie Goldberg. During her often many weeks long hikes she brings her awareness into the Here and Now, describing her experiences in an authentic way. She loves to walk pilgrimages. The longest hike so far was the 1,400 km long 88 Temple pilgrimage in Shikoku, Japan in 2016.

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