The evening before my Camino began, some new friends and I had dinner in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port with a woman who had walked 12 days before an injury ended her Camino. Twelve days! A veteran. We plied her with questions. Now I don’t remember anything she said.
I’m a big believer in spontaneity on the Camino—if you’re planning too much, you’re doing it wrong. Advice kind of implies planning, but I would like to give some very minimal advice without too many specifics. Advice without spoilers, if you will.
After a week in Norway, I went to Spain where I would attend Spanish language classes on the Atlantic Coast, hike in the Sierra de Grazalema, visit friends in Barcelona, and walk the Camino Francés route of the Camino de Santiago.
These are photos from the first leg of my Spanish journey: Andalusia, wherein I visited the legendary cities of Cádiz, Ronda, and Granada.
Hike from Grazalema to Benaocaz
I was accosted by these three donkeys on a hike from the village of Grazalema to the village of Benaocaz.
Once they spotted me, they wasted no time coming down the hill and getting “all up in my grill,” as they say.
(September 15, 2013 at Sierra de Grazalema, Andalusia, Spain)
On Saturdays, the bus from Cádiz only takes you as far as El Bosque on the edge of the Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. I was aiming for the town of Grazalema, one of the famous White Villages of Andalusia, though not among the most famous, probably because it doesn’t have an old castle.
I got some maps in the park’s visitor center in El Bosque then walked up to the bus station where I called my hotel in Grazalema and arranged for them to send a driver. There was some kind of road bike race going on so I sat on a wall, ate a snack, and watched them.
More time passed than I expected, and eventually a man came running around the side of the bus stop waving a cell phone. The driver had called a nearby restaurant and asked this guy to track me down. The bike race had closed the main road between El Bosque and Grazalema so he had to take a one hour detour.
I had a good conversation in Spanish the guy from the hotel on the way to Grazalema. I was happy to put my Spanish skills to use after a week at the language school in Cádiz. It went well because he spoke clearly and simply, somehow seeming to know which Spanish words I understood. (Later, in Nepal, I would develop my own speak-clearly-for-non-native-speakers habit. One Nepali asked if I were a professor because of this.)
The hotel guy looked to be in his mid to late 40s. He asked me a lot about the Indians in the US—the “American Indians” or “Native Americans.” (An instructor at the language school had also wanted to talk about the Indians, so I guess it’s a topic of interest outside the US.) He asked if were true that they’re all drunk and/or running casinos. My Spanish wasn’t good enough to expound upon the regrettable discrepancy between a peoples’ reputation and the reality (especially since the difference between the two is one of my favorite topics), but I confirmed that many are in the casino business.
After settling in at the hotel in Grazalema, I walked up the hill and shot this photo overlooking the town.
I would do some hiking in the mountains over the next couple days.