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Day 7: 23 kms

Today’s reflection: A fantastic day, but all the same, don’t forget to pay attention to the body

This day I awake to the vista of a snow capped Sierra Nevada and perky blue winter skies, partially shrouded with clouds. After a very northern European breakfast of bread, cheese, yoghurt, and coffee, Marion drives me back into town so I can pick up where I left off yesterday.

Following the now familiar arrows, the view of the snowy mountains accompanies me as I walk, giving me something majestic to contemplate. They are there, holding the space for me, framing my thoughts and emotions. The mountain is most definitely a useful metaphor for thinking about this undertaking!

On the way to Jerez de la Marquesada, I wander down and cross the space that once contained the river Guadix, but which now trickles and tinkles gently with a rushing stream. Coming up the other side I find myself walking through more forest, vibrating with autumn colours. Again that fresh, damp smell. Again, the mountains off in the distance. So very beautiful.

More forest awaits after Jerez and eventually I walk past a dam. The sun is a constant now and I honestly couldnt be happier. Off to the right, I can see Cogollos de Guadix in the distance. Now, footsteps are fuelled by the colours and the decision that I will stop for second breakfast in that town. I havent had too many opportunities to enjoy second breakfast on this camino, so I am looking forward to it. I head in to the main plaza. There are three bars, but there are only people moving in and out of one of them, so I follow the flow and wander in. As usual, it is packed with old guys, young guys. The only woman in the joint is the woman in the kitchen, who is the mother of the guy working behind the bar. This guy is so very obliging. He whips out a stamp to put in my credential and merrily takes my order for cafe con leche y tostada con tomate y jamon serrano. The TV is tuned to a Spanish talk show, the kind that really gives me the shits. So-called “journalists” who deconstruct and propagate gossip, shout over each other as they engage in circular, pointless “conversation” about someone famous. I tune out, but quickly tune back in when a cooking segment begins. There are two twin male chefs making a cocido. I am literally salivating watching succulent pieces of pork slowly being braised in a stock made from chicken and almonds. Jaysus! These people know how to eat.

What remains after my brief sojourn in Cogollos is about another 13 kms to Guadix along “el camino de los aceiteros” and another rambla along a dried riverbed. A couple of kilometres in, both my knees really start giving me grief, in unison with the devil blister by the name of “dolores” who just doesnt want to die. Oh, why didn’t I take care of her two days ago when she first showed her face? I havent taken any ibuprofen in a couple of days, and my knees are really starting to become insistent. Even though there is pain, the cool landscape doesnt escape me. I am beginning to walk past large clay coloured mountains, pockmarked with openings. ah yes, these are the cave dwellings that are typical of this region. Guadix is a very significant place, layered with Moorish and Christian architecture- and after the massive cleanout at the hands of the Christians in the late 16th century, it is said that these cave dwellings were the clandestine houses of those who didn’t want to follow the flow of other Moors who had been evacuated to areas further north, like Extremadura and La Mancha. Others say that these dwellings belonged to the poorer Christians in the region. Either way, I find these cave houses fascinating, dug into the sides of clay mountains. They look like hummingbird homes. In fact, as I walk into Guadix, I walk past a community of cave houses, protected by a gate- Las Cuevas de Abuelo Ventura. Very cool.

Holy shit my knees are hurting. And that dolores…..well……her days are numbered. I am going to fix her right up the first chance I get. Rather than follow the arrows in to the cathedral, I even forego the search for a bar and sustenance, in favour of getting to the albergue so I can drug myself with anti-inflammatory medication and get these shoes off.

Home for the evening does not disappoint. It is a fully renovated 16th century “palacete”, owned and loved by a local sculptor who offers beds to pilgrims for a donation. Maria Angeles is a fascinating woman, and she takes me on a tour of the house which makes my jaw drop. Three floors. 569 squared metres. An olive press from 2000 bc. An impeccably restored central patio with a fountain fed by an ancient subterranean system of canals. Original tiles printed with Moorish geometrical designs……and so on………truly stunning.

After I have sent dolores packing to blister heaven, I rug up and go in search of food. Damned cold! And there I am in my 2€ thongs that I bought with Guy the Australian pilgrim in Cee near finesterre.  Stripey Japanese toe socks are the only thing between my feet and the Guadix winter nightime temperatures- no laughing matter. I pray that people will assume that I am a pilgrim and not just someone who has their taste in clothing “en el culo”……I dont have the heart to wander far and so I wind up in a bar eating un bocadillo caliente-I begrudgingly admit to myself at this point, as I chew on the five thousandth bocadillo de jamon serrano in the last two weeks, that I am kind of over bocadillos right about now. Mmmmmmmmm thinking about that cocido from the cooking segment on TV earlier-not helping!

Back to the “albergue” and there is nothing to do but get into a warm bed (with doonah and fresh, white sheets). I listen to music, talk with Jose on the phone, then drift off into sweet sleep. Maria Angeles has put the heating on in this massive house, and tomorow is going to be a short day walking. Drifting off, I marvel once again at where this day has brought me………..

 

 

 

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