Vía de la Plata – Day 8: Aljucén to Aldea del Cano

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36 kilometers, 7 hours and 30 minutes. Stopped in Alcuéscar for lunch. Route also passed by the village of Casas de Don Antonio and over a couple of Roman bridges dating back nearly two thousand years.

Woke to rain that morning. Steady rain, not hard. It had rained all night, and I worried that would mean a lot of mud on the trail. My worry had no purpose.

Out of the albergue (hostel) at 8:00 a.m. Before Juan and Javier, the Spanish brothers, were up. They had planned to complete the same distance I did that day. To each his own. The rain was still coming down. I checked all the zippers and Velcro® on my rain gear, checked the cover on my backpack, headed through the small village, and passed the last street light. This would be the first day I used my headlamp. The sun didn’t come up this time of year until 8:45, and the clouds made the dark last even longer.

The rain lasted only a couple of hours, and the mud was quite manageable. Lots of puddles to navigate around, but no problem with that. Most of the day was through ranchlands of grass and oak trees. Cattle and sheep here and there.

At the end of the previous night’s dinner, Anna served a digestive called Licor de Bellota. It was a sweet liquor made from the acorns of trees with the same name, Bellota, which is known as the Blackjack Oak, as well as Emory Oak, in the States. The liquor tasted a bit like amaretto but was less repulsive—to me.

For slideshow, click on imagine.

Albergue Annalena was a nice, clean place. I found it to be very quiet and peaceful. Anna ran it from her house, a casa rural (guest house) down the street. She came by the albergue, checked you in, stamped your credential, and then left you to enjoy the place. All visitors—well, most everyone, as reports had it—cleaned up after themselves in an albergue.

I was most impressed by the albergues I’d stopped at on the Via to this point. The best one so far had been the Albergue Zaguán in Fuente de Cantos. It had a pool, beautiful courtyards, a museum of sorts, and a great atmosphere.

The albergues I stayed at were very practical arrangements; most had bunk beds, showers, a sitting area, sometimes a patio, a kitchen (a minimum of one or more), and sometimes a clothes washer. If no washer, at least a wash basin.

All had been super clean. The municipal versions were run by volunteers. Private albergues were slightly different in the way they were run and had more personal touches but were just as practical. A key feature for me was Wi-Fi. Most had Wi-Fi included, though fairly minimal bandwidth.

Costs: €6 for the albergue, €5 for lunch, and about €13 for dinner.