34 kilometers, 7 hours. Passed through the city of Mérida. Followed highway most of way to Mérida, and then took the bicycle path out to the lake near the town of Proserpina, crossed over its ancient Roman-built dam, and continued beyond. Finally, the path turned off to the north on dirt track to Aljucén.
It had rained during the night and looked very threatening as I left the albergue, off in search of breakfast and coffee. At the same place we had dinner the previous night, I met José, Fran, and Fernando. Shortly after, Eric entered. We were five.
After a café con leche and toast, we said our goodbyes to the proprietor and headed out. They knew I planned on another long day. The four planned to stop in Mérida. We started out, and I felt them settle into a slow pace as we took the main street out of town. They had no need to hurry. I wanted to gain my normal quick pace and started to pull away, not wanting to say goodbye. Emotions rose up.
Suddenly, José rushed up and told me that the normal dirt path would be very muddy and difficult. I asked if they would stick to the road. Fran said yes. We made quick goodbyes and shook hands, and I moved off. I will always remember these men.
I stayed to the road and then took a shortcut to a Burger King near the proper Camino, in Mérida. I stopped for a burger and then headed back toward the Camino. At the intersection, I came up on Eric, Fran, and José. They had taken the dirt path, suffered from the mud, and met me where the two routes joined, at the very same moment! Freaky, that. Fernando had left his camera and returned to Torremejía after four kilometers. Ugh! We were four.
I decided to walk with them until they reached their albergue for the night. We crossed the Rio Guadiana on the ancient Roman bridge and then turned north along the river until we found their place. We said our goodbyes again, after talking about my plan to meet up with Fran and José in Ourense where they lived. I planned to pass through Ourense on my way to Santiago.
Off again. I was one.
In the tiny town of Aljucén, I found the Albergue Annalena. I only went there because it was in the information I had and because it was heavily advertised as I came into town. There were others not mentioned anywhere. One looked quite inviting just as I entered the small village, but I was on a mission, as I too often am.
I showered and organized my bunk and then went for a beer at Bar Sergio. Later, I returned to the albergue to call my wife and do some work. Two Spaniards, brothers who were on their first day on Camino (starting in Merida), joined me at the albergue. Juan, who spoke good English, and Javier. They were originally from Madrid; Juan lived in Valencia, Javier still lived in Madrid.
Anna arrived later to check us in and stamp our credentials. She told us where we could eat in town and invited us to her house, a casa rural (a guest house), where she would make us dinner for five euros. We took her up on the offer and settled on a time.
She fixed us an excellent pasta dish and mixed salad. She included a bottle of a local vino tinto (red wine), pineapple slices for dessert, and a shot of bellota liquor, a local delicacy. All for five euros.
Costs: €10 for the albergue, €8 for lunch, and €5 for dinner. Oh, and €1 for a beer.