Our third and final leg on the Camino Mozárabe took us from Andalucía to Extremadura. We learned more about Spanish eating customs using the hangry method. The trip ended with some great Roman ruins.
Day 19 Córdoba to Cerro Muriano (19.94 km)
I wasn’t fully rested. I wanted to recover more in our comfortable in our Airbnb apartment. Also, we were a bit shocked and disappointed by the US election result. But you gotta keep moving forward.
We walked a short, uphill 12.4 miles from the city center to Cerro Muriano. We started walking late. Nick had a cold and my leg muscles were still sore. Luckily, we didn’t have any “Camino injuries” like joint pain or blisters.
However, my pace was slow. The combination of muscle soreness, bad election hangover, sickness, and uphill climbs did not help. We ascended only a total of 1,600 ft over this entire day but it felt like more.
We arrived at the hostel around 5:00 pm hungry and tired. We asked the owner, “Is it too late to have lunch now?”
“No, the kitchen is still open.” Woohoo!!!
We were so happy because the strict timing of meals in Spain has burned us before. Most kitchens and restaurants close between the hours of 4:00 pm and 9:00 pm, which is the time we usually arrive into town. Most grocery stores are also closed at this time, too. This leaves us hungry and angry (aka hangry) with some of our only options to eat being coffee, beer, or wine with a basic tapa of olives or chips.
We dropped our bags off in the room and had the typical 3-course menú lunch. I had salmorejos, a thick gazpacho-like cold soup that is very typical of the region. It is made by blending tomatoes, bread, garlic, olive oil, and vinegar together and then topped with a boiled egg and jamón serrano. After eating our second courses, dessert, wine, and coffee, siesta time was next and we rested our legs and feet before returning to the bar for a night-cap. Nick asked for a liquor that was typical of the region.
What came next was a nice surprise. The owner started placing bottle after bottle of liquor on our table with about 10 shot glasses. He explained the bottles. My favorites were the Pacharán, a cherry liquor from the north, and the acorn liquor from Extremadura. His hospitality was very welcome and we had a good night’s rest.
Day 20 Cerro Muriano to Villaharta (20.59 km)
We hiked a nice flat 12.4 miles. I don’t remember much about the terrain or scenery and it was uneventful. Most of the time I was in my “hiking trance” or “flowing.” Thoughts would just come and go.
We stayed at a family-run hostel and had a simple lunch of omelet, pork loin, salad, wine, and beer.
A couple days before we arrived, two Americans, a mother and daughter, also stayed here. The owner told us they are doing a section of the hike from Córdoba to Mérida. So far, we have only met one other pilgrim in the 20 days we have been on the Camino. This is definitely the way to do if you want long solitary walks.
Day 21 Villaharta to Alcaracejos (36.35 km)
We love having a nice warm, big meal as a reward for our hikes. Sometimes this is not possible and then we get cranky. Today started off well enough. The owner had mentioned that the café was to open at 7:30. Being very familiar with Spanish-time, we arrived at 7:45 am but even then it was still closed. Irked, we talked about our plan B: should we wait or go and pack so we don’t waste time? While talking it out, the owner arrived to open the café. We needed to have a big breakfast since there were no towns or stores for 35.2 km.
We were still in the land of olive trees and farms along with other Mediterranean plants. Also, this region is known for the “Iberico” pig: happy black pigs that eat acorns. This day, we had stumbled upon a farm with Iberico pigs and a farmer is a blue jumpsuit greeted us. He first said the usual “hello” and “where are you from?” But then, he wanted us to guess his age. Usually, when people want you to guess their age, you go super young. So, I do that.
He then said that the country air and lifestyle of a farmer make you healthier. We played the game and then finally he boasted he was 78. Apparently, he does this with all the pilgrims.
Actually, he did look really fit for his age and I can see why he is proud of it. He spoke fast. I caught that he also has a Nissan car that is very reliable and he suggests we walk on the highway because it is shorter than the hiking trail. He asked our ages and if we have kids. We say no and he also advises us we need to have kids soon. He talked about his kids, who are all working in the nearby cities, and then our comprehension of the conversation started dropping. We bid our farewells and continued on.
We arrived at our hostel, hungry. “Is there food?”
“No, the kitchen is closed.”
So we take a walk around town in search of food. The grocery stores were closed and none of the two other restaurants were serving food. It’s siesta time. I have another name for this time: old-man card playing time. At this time, we noticed that a surge of older men will come in, maybe grab a coffee or a drink, play cards, and ball-bust each other. Usually, I am the only female in the bar at this time. Nick and I wait for dinner in the café and drink some beers. It’s 6:00, only three hours until food. I write in my journal about my hunger and Nick reads his book.
At 9:00, the bartender approaches us, “you want food?”
We tried not to sound too excited. “Yes.”
The cook took our order. It was a Saturday night in the small town of Alcaracejos. People our age were showing up to the bar and we are not used to seeing younger people in these small villages. A woman, 20-something, approached us after our dinner.
“Do you want tickets to play Bingo?”
“Thanks, but no.”
Bingo was the Saturday night entertainment. The prizes were displayed next to the television: a wheel of cheese, a giant cured sausage, and a six-pack of beer. The woman started calling out numbers in a loud, screeching voice while the same number flashed on the TV screen. Nick and I gave a knowing look to each other. It was time for us to go.
Day 22 Alcaracejos to Hinojosa del Duque (20.83 km)
We had a shorter day, so we slept in. Nick still had a cold and I also started to feel some cold symptoms, too. We walk past two villages this day. In the first village, an elderly man asked us, “Is today a holiday? Why are the stores closed?”
I answered, “Today is Sunday.” As a local man, he should know this. We wondered if he is a little confused. As we leave the village, a group of older men was chatting and sees us. “Are you going to Santiago?”
Nick answers as he points north, “Yes, is it this way?”
The men then asked, “Are you French?”
“No, we are American.” They bid us “buen viaje” and we walk.
The next village was a ghost town. While we walked on a road, a car stopped, “Are you guys going to Santiago?”
We answer, “Yes.”
The driver made a face that communicated “wow!” and “you’re crazy!” at the same time. “Buen Camino!” he called.
“Gracias!” Wow, people were really talkative.
There was a big sign before town that states the next town is the last stop of the Camino Mozárabe in Andalucía. We had been in the Andalucian region for the past 22 days. The next region was Extremadura. I would say the regions are the equivalent of states in the US.
When we arrive at our hostel, we were naturally hungry. We saw people finishing their lunch, check-in, and dropped our bags off. “Is there food now?”
The waiter rolls his eyes and dismissively says, “wait.” We wait and his boss walks over to talk to us. “At this time, only cold food and sandwiches.” It is about 4:00 pm. We order some sandwiches and beer.
Afterward, we do what the Spanish do and have some siesta time before dinner at 9:00 pm. Our dinner is excellent. Nick has slow-cooked Iberico pork and I have bacalao, or salt-cod, with asparagus. Of course, we drink this all with some vino tinto and head to bed.
Day 23 Hinojosa del Duque to Monterrubio de la Serena (34.37 km)
Another long day. I now had a real cold and so did Nick. We needed to rest so we slept in. There was nothing but farms and nature in between our walk so first stop was the supermarket. We bought some wraps, fruits, and nuts.
Our pace was slow. At around 2:00 pm, we saw a farmer and he asked us where we were staying. He said Monterrubio and he warned us that it was still far away. Instead of hurrying, we had our lunch. The skies were blue with no clouds and the air was fresh. It was really nice, but we did feel the time crunch. Since we were hiking in late fall/early winter we have less daylight than most pilgrims.
That last 4 miles were on highway and pounding our feet on pavement was torture. We power-walked our way into town and made it just before dark. The sunset walking into town was beautiful. We saw pinks, purple, and dark blue streaks back-dropping the small pueblo.
We arrived at the hotel and the downstairs bartender greeted us warmly. “It’s late. I was worried about you.” He showed us our room and was the friendliest barman in Spain. He poured drinks with a smile. Our first stop in Extremadura was great.
Day 24 Monterrubio to Castuera (20.84 km)
We hiked 12.9 miles on a beautiful, cloudless day.
It was an easy day until we arrived into town. Castuera is a very small town with no hostels or hotels that we could find. The only accommodation was the municipal, or government, albergue. The ones that we stayed in previously were dirty but dirt-cheap or free. So we picked up the key at the police station and were happy that they charged us €8.00 each. A good sign of quality.
The policeman gave us directions in Spanish and we walked around the small town twice trying to find it. We had actually found the correct area, but the albergue had no sign distinguishing it from other buildings and homes on the street. We finally stumbled on it because we wandered in an alleyway and I noticed a government billboard stating that the town albergue cost the city €12,000.00 and was funded by the city, province, and European Union. Near the billboard was a gate. We tried our key in gate lock and it worked! The albergue was very clean with a modern ikea-style kitchen. We bought groceries and had a very nice dinner. (We added the albergue to google maps so others can find it).
Day 25 Castuera to Campanario (23.39 km)
Campanario is another agricultural town on the Camino Mozárabe.
Many of the towns are situated on small hills or mountains with the main church or plaza at the top. Not this one. It was flat. On the edge of town we saw a pilgrim map. It showed the albergue was a full 2 km outside of town next to the train station and the highway. Great.
Most albergues are situated near the center. So we walked into town and immediately walked out of town to the albergue. We passed a sign claiming that the dirt path we were walking on cost €40k.
We called the owner and she checked us in. Unfortunately, her next-door bar was closed that afternoon and the next day para descansar. No easy snack, no easy breakfast. We rested since it was siesta time and walking back into town would have been futile.
When we couldn’t wait any longer we decided to stroll into town at 7:00 to have a beer. It was “old-man” time at the bar (across the street from the gas station near the roundabout) and the men were playing cards and dominos. We asked the bartender, “when is food available?”
He answered, “It’s too early now. How about 8:30?”
We said ok, ordered some beer, and waited. About 15 minutes later he noticed us waiting and offered us dinner. We were elated! It is very odd for Spanish people to have dinner so early and most times the kitchen is closed at this time. Lucky for us, the bartender was also the cook. He was playing cards and dominos with the old men and left his break to cook us food. In the US, we would just expect this kind of service, but here in Spain this was a very, very kind gesture. We happily ate our dinner and then walked back to the albergue.
Day 26 Campanario to Medellín (37.97 km)
We woke up before sunrise in preparation for a long 23.5 mile hike. Today was a day for a good breakfast and coffee so we walked back into town to have it.
We hiked among flat pastures and walked past castles and a pretty village, Magacela, on a hill.
The hardest part of the day was finding lunch. First, we passed by the town of La Haba (which means green bean) but it was deserted. At about 19 miles in, we had lunch in a bigger town called Don Benito.
When we arrived in Medellín, the town greeted us with a nice sunset and a big castle. Our hostel was situated near the river and an ancient Roman bridge.
Day 27 Medellín to San Pedro de Mérida (25.88 km)
The day started off sunny and turned cloudy as we walked through damp farmland.
On our way into a town called Yelbes, a sheepherder approached us. We had a short chat with him and when we mentioned we were from the US he called Donald Trump a bastard. He also gave us some advice on the way to San Pedro because some people have gotten lost before. Fortunately, we have our GPS tracks on our phones. We did walk an extra half a kilometer or so when we missed the yellow arrow that points you out of town.
When we arrived into San Pedro we were very happy to see a reliable kind of accommodation: a “gas station hostel.” The biggest advantage of a Spanish gas station hotel-bar-restaurant: food is served all day, so no waiting until 8 or 9 pm. Usually it’s around 8-10 euros for a three-course menu and bottle of wine. We had pretty good food and great service!
Day 28 San Pedro de Mérida to Mérida (16.45 km)
We set off on the last hike of the Camino Mozárabe. Most of the way was on access roads near the highway. It was not very scenic or quiet, but it was easy.
On our way into town, we passed by a Roman aqueduct, the main plaza, and the Roman bridge.
Our Airbnb host picked us up on near the bridge and drove us to the apartment. He gave us a small tour and our eyes lit up when he said he had a clothes dryer. This was a rare appliance in these parts. I had never been so happy to wash my clothes before.
We spent the evening enjoying the weather and walking around the town. Since we had a nice kitchen we walked across the old Roman bridge to buy groceries at the supermarket.
All parts of our dinner were from Extremadura: steak, sheep’s cheese, wine, salad, bread, and a fig cake for dessert.
Day 29 Rest Day
Camino Mozárabe complete! Next up: Vía de la Plata.