43 kilometers, 7 hours and 35 minutes. Lunch in Guillena.
The weather: Overcast morning made for cooler temps but the afternoon warmed up for the climb. Always up, fortunately never steep.
The Vía de la Plata (VDLP) route from the Catedral de Sevilla (Seville Cathedral) out of city central was not well marked, though easy enough to manage; a guide book, a map app, or some advice from a local was helpful for finding the route’s yellow arrows after you crossed the Puente de Isabel II, a bridge that led into the Triana district from the rest of the city. Next, you crossed a cycle bridge over the Guadalquivir river. This was your second crossing, as the river was split in two through the port city.
We stayed at the Hotel Ribera de Triana, which was very near to the VDLP as it passed through the working-class neighborhoods of Triana. At 8:00 a.m., with my backpack newly organized, I left the hotel and headed off for Santiago, seeking yellow arrows and scallop-shell symbols, and a much slower pace of life.
My gypsy heart slipped on the VDLP as if it were an old worn and welcome t-shirt. So very similar in markings to the Camino Francés, but with a much different vibe. I did not see one pilgrim the whole day. I did meet Peter, a hospitalero (hostel host), when entering Guillena. He was out for a walk and walked with me until we reached his albergue (hostel). He was a nice German man who helped me decide whether to press on or not. He explained the route ahead, and since it was early, I continued on.
The Easy Part: Walking to Guillena
The route was well marked but busy with noisy commute traffic at the early hour. And, disappointingly, there was a lot of trash along the river, away from towns. Owing to the route’s different vibe, it was nearly two hours before a cyclist said, “Buen Camino,” the traditional Camino greeting, to me.
I passed through Santiponce, a town where there are Roman ruins. They were closed on Mondays. Hadrian, of Hadrian’s Wall fame, was born there.
Industry gave way to vast fields of tilled-under crops: sunflower stalks, cotton, sweet potatoes, and olive trees.
The Fun Part: Walking to Castilblanco de los Arroyos
Soon after leaving Guillena, I walked the Via as it turned north into olive orchards. I followed farm tracks and began a long, slow climb toward Castilblanco. Before long, the path followed dry stream beds, becoming very rugged and rocky. During this section, I saw livestock and many more olive trees. And, as luck would have it, a group of wild boar—all young and black as coal—on the run.
Stayed at the Albergue de Peregrinos that night and had dinner at Casa Macarena, just down the street. The albergue was donativo (a donation). I dropped €12 in the slot, my donation.
Casa Macarena had excellent food, though it didn’t serve meals until after 8:00 p.m. A little hard on the stomach if you wanted to go to bed soon. Probably the best salad I ever ate, though. Perfect with lettuce, tomato, egg, olive oil, and vinegar—and loads of tuna. One of the people staying at the albergue where I stayed, Eric from Belgium, ran into me at the Macarena, and we ate our meals together. Nice guy.
Marite, hospitalera at Albergue de Peregrinos, from Holland, originally. Had lived in Marbella (Costa del Sol, the sun coast), Spain, for thirty years. She shared with me the website for a Kiwi family that blogged about the VDLP. Nice and clean albergue, and Marite ran a tight ship. In the morning, I stopped for café con leche at a bar and bought some bread for the trail before leaving town—because there was nothing until my next stop, 30 kilometers away.
A young Cuban woman, Jenny (Eric, my new friend from Belgium, liked to call her Jennita), came in after 9:00 p.m., completely knackered. The guys (fellow trekkers Eric, José, Carlos, and Fran, if memory serves) offered all the help possible, and Marite found some food for her.
Costs: €4.50 for lunch, €12 for a donation to the albergue, and €11 for dinner and beer.