Gibraltar to Ronda and Ponferrada to Santiago Read more
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  • Day 1

    Travel Day

    April 11 in the United States ⋅ 🌬 10 °C

    So the day started out great. I was up at 3:30 after 7 1/2 hours of sleep, rested and ready to go. The Uber came at 4:45, and I was at the airport by 5:00. When I went to check in, the agent was surprised to see that I gave her Joe’s passport to check in. Talk about panic moments. Long story short, I was extremely lucky that Steve had his phone on. He raced down to pick me up, took me back home to get my passport, and delivered me back at the airport about a half hour before departure . Thankfully, I know everyone at this tiny airport, and with the help of the wonderful people at TSA and American Airlines, I got through and got on the plane. To say I am filled with gratitude would be a gross understatement.

    The one problem was that I was too late to check my bag, which was filled with food for my Spanish friends. They let it through and gate checked it, but I had to go out of security in Chicago to check the bag as checked baggage all the way to Málaga. Small price to pay.

    I am now in Charlotte—I chose this flight to Madrid because of its extremely early arrival time. If all goes well, I will make the 7:40 flight to Málaga and have plenty of time to do all the pre-Camino errands and mail my box of food.

    Now that I have had a couple of hours in Charlotte to eat lunch, talk to family, and calm down, I am finally sensing that wave of camino peacefulness. It’s the sameness of it all, with lots of newness sprinkled in. I have my dirty, old and frayed backpack and my 25 year old green fleece that I’ve worn on every camino and couldn’t do without. Ready to go and hoping that my travel crises are over.
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  • Day 2

    Second Travel Day

    April 12 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    I am in La Linea de La Concepción, about 130 kms and a two hour bus ride from Málaga. La Linea is on the border with Gibraltar, a vestige of the British empire. This year’s Camino, which is called the Via Serrana, starts there and finishes in Sevilla. If I had more time, I would love to continue from Sevilla on the Via de la Plata, which I really love. But because of my time constraints, I hope to hop on the train in Sevilla and start walking again in Ponferrada, where the Camino Del Invierno begins. Since I haven’t been to Gibraltar since 1970, I decided to take tomorrow to walk up to the top of the rock. Then on Sunday, Claire and I will start our Camino!

    I arrived in Málaga at 8:30 this morning, but unfortunately my duffel bag didn’t make it. Iberia told me they couldn’t get it to me before Monday in the best of circumstances, because there are no deliveries of lost bags out in the province on weekends. The best plan B I could come up with was for them to just send the duffel bag up to Santiago. That meant that I had to buy a new pair of hiking poles, but I can easily mail all the food to Paco and Olga from Santiago.

    I got my poles in the Corte Inglés, and then walked through the historic center for a while. Then over to the Roman theater and to visit the castle as well as the Alcazaba, the Moorish fortress. I had been there a few years ago with Joe, but I can never resist the opportunity to climb up to and around a castle, or in this case, two castles! The Alcazaba is a poor stepchild to the Alhambra but has many of the same features. I loved it.

    Then it was time to get going. On the way to the bus station, I picked up fruit and yogurt for the next couple of days of walking. So my errands are done.

    La Linea is not much of a place to visit, but I’ve got a room in a hotel on the water with a view of the Rock of Gibraltar, and I am looking forward to a good sleep. Clare arrived in a few hours but I don’t think I’ll make it.
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  • Day 3

    Visiting Gibraltar and walking 36 km

    April 13 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 17 °C

    My plan for today was to walk up the Mediterranean steps, view St. Michael’s cave, visit the tunnels and the Moorish castles. That was 22 km of beautiful views, interesting historical facts, monkeys, and walking across an active airport runway. From La Linea, it’s an easy walk to the border, and from there up to the rock is very pleasant and interesting.

    I got back to my hotel room at about 3:30, and heard from Clare that she was going up the cable car in Gibraltar. She had already walked the first 8 km of tomorrow’s route, and was going to spend some time over in great Britain. I decided I would also walk those first 8 km, which would make tomorrow’s day an easy 20. Note to self: do not start walking on a Camino at four in the afternoon.

    Wikiloc tells me me my total was 32, but that’s not the whole story. My phone died as I was doing this last segment, and my visual memory of the trail was that it kept going straight instead of turning left on the road. Down down down I went and when about 12 dogs came bounding out barking at me, I had a moment. Luckily, I heard a woman’s voice and called out to her. It turns out I had gone the wrong way, and I would have to retrace my steps for another kilometer or so up, and then have a 3 km roadside walk into San Roque. I was beat when I got there and very happy to find a cab to take me back to La Linea.

    Clare was at dinner when I got back to the hotel, but she waited at the restaurant for me so we could finally see each other! Had a really good dinner thanks to Claire’s Google searching, and we finally got to catch up. I am not a foodie, but it was an excellent salad.

    Tomorrow we only have 20 K and since Clare is still very jetlagged, I’m just going to wait till she calls me. I’m so glad I walked that first segment today, even though it took a lot out of me, because now Clare and I have a walk in the park tomorrow!

    I am recording my tracks on Wikiloc for those of you who use it, and you can find them under my username of peregrina2000.…
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  • Day 4

    To San Martín del Tesorillo (20.7 km)

    April 14 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 22 °C

    Sounds like a short day but it wasn’t. But it was beautiful and a lot of fun. A few kms on asphalt at the beginning and at the end, but in between all off road and through springtime countryside.

    We took a cab to the place we walked to yesterday, and after Clare got a coffee, off we went.

    Lots of wildflowers, cork trees, Holms oaks. No cattle today (unlike the many big groups I navigated yesterday). We had four or five ups and downs and then one large descent over caked mud that had been stampeded over by herds of some animal. That wasn’t fun.

    We knew there was a river crossing, and that there were two options. One is to go check out the level of the water at one point and wade across if it’s navigable, and the other is to walk on a rickety swinging wooden bridge. Since I just recently got up my courage to go on a zip line, I assumed the bridge would be fine. It was a little scary as it swayed back and forth, but we both survived.

    We arrived at our pensión Ochomín a little after 2. By 3 we were down in the restaurant next door. By 4 we had given them our order. One of the staff is home ill, and the owner was rushing around taking orders. He recommended a fresh fish with vegetables and a nice green salad. He told us we would remember this meal. Let’s see if he’s right.
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  • Day 5

    To Jimena de la Frontera (25 km)

    April 15 in Spain ⋅ 🌙 12 °C

    Yesterday’s meal was good- the sea bass was freshly caught (we are only 10 km from the ocean after all) and grilled. And they served a really delicious and unusual entrada, which was a salad of sorts —avocado, oranges, onions in a tangy sauce. Since we’ve walked through many avocado and orange groves (with the incredibly sweet scent of the blossoms all around), it seems like an excellent way to show off local produce.

    Today’s walk had about a 300 m ascent up to the ridge of windmills. From there, the views were just gorgeous. Everything was green, lots of wildflowers, valleys, and hills and mountains. It was beautiful. After the descent, the rest of the walk was kind of a slog, a lot of it on asphalt. We had heard from many people on the forum that there was a virtually impassible brambly segment that we could avoid by taking a minor road. That meant about an extra kilometer and some more ascent but hey, we’re here to walk.

    Somehow, I managed to pick the Casa Rural (la Posada Grande) fue that is about as high as you can get in this town. At the end of the day, it was hard. But we are right in the centro histórico and the place itself is very comfy.

    What luck to find that this town keeps their castle open even on a Monday. After a late lunch, I spent about an hour climbing around the castle and am now having an icy agua con gas on a shady terrace looking out over the countryside.

    I have read that 2-3 years ago they discovered a pit with skeletons of some of Franco’s victims. That led to the opening of a little museum in town, which I would very much like to see, but it’s closed on Mondays.
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  • Day 6

    To El Colmenar

    April 16 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    It’s hard to believe that this was only 21 km, because we did not arrive until nearly 3 PM. We started early, but our first challenge was to figure out whether to climb over a fence or not. There had been a lot of discussion about this on the forum, and our GPS tracks are not micro level enough to tell us which side of the fence we should be on. So we decided to climb over. After a few minutes of shoulder-high brush, we decided we should in fact be on the other side of the fence. So over we went again. It was not terribly complicated, but not simple. Then we had to figure out how to get safely by a small horse who was tethered in a pathway that was only about 8 feet wide between fences. It seemed really skittish, so we were afraid it might jump on us, but we made it unscathed.

    Our next potential challenge was the Cortijo Los Lirios . This is a huge private ranch, but it also has a Cañada Real passing through it, which means that the public has the right to walk through. A couple of forum members had found the gate closed, which causes big logistical problems. But lucky for us, the gate was wide open.

    From that point on there was an almost continuous ascent through the ranch. Fortunately, a lot of it was nicely shaded. Wikiloc tells me there were only 600 m of elevation gain, but it sure felt like a lot more. Must be the aging process.

    Our Rural hotel is charming, and now that we’re showered and have clean clothes, I think we’ll go soak our feet in the swimming pool. Today was our hottest day by far (86 F/30C), but we were sensible. We took good, long rests, drank a lot of water, and ate oranges.
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  • Day 7

    To Jimera de Libar (26 km and 860 m)

    April 17 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

    Long and hard, but most of all beautiful and exhilarating. One of those days that leaves you tired but grateful and feeling full. A few kms after leaving El Colmenar, we saw the hydroelectric plant and Clare was able to explain what is to most people a long fat pipe, but which she calls a penstock. Then came the gorge, with a lot of rocky ascents and beautiful views. The trail was very well maintained with a wooden bridge or two, a tunnel through some of the rock face, and railings to hang on to at exactly the right points.

    After the gorge there’s a little hamlet where I bought a cold Aquarius in a shop. Then came a much less strenuous ascent through fields filled with wildflowers everywhere and the Serranía de Ronda (name of the mountains) circling the meadows. Lots of jagged peaks all around.

    Claire and I went at our own pace today. I would have stopped to wait if there had been any dicey spots like last year’s canyon walk, but it all seemed manageable.

    I got to our Casa Rural in Jimera with time to take a quick shower, throw my clothes in the washing machine and get a ride from a neighbor up to the Cueva de la Pileta, a privately owned cave with amazing formations and paintings dating to 40,000 years ago. The newer ones are only 3000 years old. I don’t really know anything about prehistory, but it was pretty amazing to lay my eyes on paintings that had been drawn such an inconceivably long time ago. There were skeletons down at the bottom of a pit, an unsolved mystery of whether they were accidents, sacrifices, or maybe even a burial place. All of the rooms where the paintings were had evidence of smoke, so the inhabitants must have built fires inside. No photos allowed, so I bought a few postcards of these amazing drawings — a horse, a fish that had swallowed a seal, and some stick figures were my favorites.

    The only restaurant in town is closed tonight, but thankfully there is a little grocery store where we got sandwich fixings. We’re in a Casa Rural with a pool and magnificent views.. Our tomato, cheese, and jamón Serrano sandwiches were more than enough!
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  • Day 8

    To Ronda!!! 21 km and 850 m

    April 18 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    Lots of up and down today, but it was a short distance in terms of kilometers so it was all very manageable. I started out in a not so great way – walking down to the train station with Clare (she took a train for a few kilometers and then walked on), I realized that I had left my hat in the Casa Rural. Anyone who walks on a Camino knows that you cannot walk without a hat, so I had to trudge back up the hill and retrieve it. I think it only added about 800 m to my day, so not really a big deal.

    The walk had two very distinctive parts. The first part, to Benaoján, was along a river with the craggy mountains in the background all the time. From there to Ronda was up and then down through a beautiful valley, up to another high point and then into Ronda.

    The wildflowers were just spectacular today. And now we know why – it rained nonstop for the entire week before Easter. That was terrible for all the people traveling that week, but the benefit for us is pretty incredible. I have always seen wild irises on my Caminos, but I have never seen an entire field of gorgeous purple irises. Then there were red, pink, white and yellow flowers all over the place. It was truly gorgeous.

    Ronda is in a beautiful spot. It’s hard to describe, but I’ll attach some pictures.
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  • Day 8

    Afternoon in Ronda

    April 18 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 20 °C

    One of the real advantages of having a relatively short day into a very nice place is that the afternoon is just there waiting for you to explore. Since we were both in our hotel rooms by a little after one, we met for lunch at two.

    After lunch, we walked down to the Moorish baths, which my Wikiloc guide (Island Walker) tells us are repurposed Roman baths. They are well preserved and very atmospheric. From the bottom, where the baths are, we had to go back up to the top, over to the other side, and then down, to get to the newly opened path down to the bottom of the Puente Nuevo. This is a very safe and easy to navigate path, which they call the Desfiladero (gorge). There is another phase planned, so stay tuned.

    I went to the church of Santa Maria La Mayor, got a stamp in my credencial, and walked up onto the roof. Good views. Clare had already been up there, so she waited down below and had a beer. Time for bed for this Peregrina!
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  • Day 9

    Ronda-Acenipo-Sentenil-28 km 750 m upu

    April 19 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 21 °C

    We decided to take a slight detour to the Roman ruins at Acinipo and then continue on to Setenil. It added a few km, and it probably had more road walking than the camino route, but it was worth it. The weather was very cool, sunny, and extremely windy. Though we didn’t walk in any mountains today, they were never out of sight. Lots of Olive Groves (the first I’ve seen on this walk) and fields of bright emerald green. With the wind blowing at such high speeds, you could see waves in the fields as the grass blew around. It reminded me of the meseta on the Camino Frontis.

    Acinipo once had a population of about 2,000 in the 2-3 C. All that remains are the ruins of the baths, ruins of the domus (noble house), and the theater. The setting is high on a hill, with clear views in all directions. The theater, with its circular seating carved directly out of the granite rock face, was the most imposing and interesting.

    We got to Sentenil, designated as one of the prettiest Pueblos in Spain, and I think it is a worthy designation. We’re in a very cute Casa Rural with a stunning view over this town below. We have walked around a little bit, climbing up and down, and looking at the two “cave streets”, one on each side of the river. The river is now very small, but over the millennia it carved out these long promenades. It’s pretty impressive. Touristy, but not too much.

    The one snafu of the day was that I woke up to find that my power bank was not charging. This is a problem, because my phone is old and only holds a charge for four hours or so. There seemed to be two options — one, to stay in Ronda till everything opened, or two, just walk as normal to Setenil and hope that the little computer/phone/technology store in town has them. No way was I going to sit in Ronda till stores opened, so on we went. I was able to speak with the owner of the store in Setenil, from the Roman ruins, and he told me he had power banks and that he would be open in the afternoon at five. I got to the store at six, and it is closed. Still waiting with fingers crossed that I will be able to get a new bank.

    Update: I sat waiting on the stoop for 45 minutes with a very chatty young man who was also waiting. He kept me entertained with many stories about his children, his job, the weather, the Virgen de Los Remedios in tomorrow’s town. But I got a new power bank! It’s much heavier than my old one, but I am HAPPY to have it!
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