High Plains Drifters

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May 3rd 2012
Published: May 6th 2012
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Hello again..........

Wednesday 25 April – From our campsite just out of Salmanca, we were going to cycle the 6km river path into the city today but...........too damn cold and windy (at least no rain). So instead we drove in, managing to find fairly close parking. What a bloomin’ difference the weather makes.........our memories of Salamanca was bustle, life and fabulous streets and buildings. The buildings of course were still as great but the impetus to walk around them in gale force winds, plus the lack of life on the streets – nothing out on the pavements etc – made it a less enjoyable visit than last time. We treated ourselves to a delicious typically Spanish 3 course lunch in a charming restaurant, including bread and a BOTTLE of red wine.....for 12 euros each! Amazing value and excellent food. A boring supermercardo shop completed our Salmancan visit before driving 45 miles or so south to Alba de Tormes, where we freecamped by the river. As we parked up the rain came down in torrents, which lasted all evening. We battened down the hatches and spent a cosy evening in (hoping that the river wasn’t going to flood!)

Thursday 26 April – A slow start before walking up to (these places are all on hills, resulting in one’s calf muscles being over-enlarged), in and around the village. Not particularly remarkable – lots of churches and a fine view of the river below. We bought bread from the Panaderia......typically a nondescript house door (tiny Panaderia sign above) and into their front room, with a counter displaying loaves of bread and a tin to take the money!

From there we headed for Miranda del Castanar (recommended by Ben & Ellie). Our route took us through the best countryside yet.............twisty turny little roads through hilly, rocky terrain with wildflowers, bracken and lichen covered holm oak trees, also several sighting of flocks of storks in the fields and eagles in the air. Stopping for lunch at Los Santos we reached Miranda del Castanar at about 3pm and spent a marvellous couple of hours exploring this gorgeous little walled town – which, due to the weather (had been drizzling but was clear for our walk-about) was pretty much deserted.

Finally we drove through more lovely scenery, getting higher and higher ‘til we reached La Alberca, where we have parked up in an Aires site on the edge of town. More tomorrow............

Friday 27 April - Not a lot to say about today ....wet, wet, wet. It rained all last evening, all night and until about 4pm today. We got up very late and read most of the day. By late afternoon the light drizzle made it tolerable to walk into town where the only remaining drips were from the high gutter spouts dripping onto the cobbles below. This town is certainly as good as Miranda del Castanar. It seems virtually untouched since the middle ages – a maze of narrow streets lined with ancient homes, occasionally opening up into charming plazas. Since we have forgotten to defrost tonight’s meal, we’ll be wandering back into town to partake of some local cuisine......maybe pig’s cheeks?

Saturday 28 April – Happy Birthday Lorna (where’s the grandson?!) So last night’s supper was chosen from the menu ‘Pollo something or other’ for him and ‘Suckling pig something or other’ for her both served with ‘patatas’ – which turned out to be chips. The chicken was just basic roast chicken but the suckling pig was better described as pork scratchings (crackling & fat on knobbly bits of bone! Disappointing ....but not the price which was 9.80 euros each for 3 courses and once again a whole bottle of wine included!!

Saturday morning was still wet and very cold – we were not happy. However it wasn’t raining so Baz walked into town to buy bread from the Panaderia – this time it was through the usual house door and up the stairs to a tiny room packed with locals .....and then we set off to explore another couple of villages in this terrific mountainous area........ San Martin del Castanar and Sequeros. Both had their charm though not as good as the last two. Also both had bullrings which looked centuries old but now unused. Our driving took us up and down, this way and that and finally through Bejar and up into the mountains the other side to a campsite at Candelario, overlooking the valley. The rain has returned but we’re cosy and warm with some lovely salmon steaks to cook up. ‘Til Manana.

Sunday 29 April – A bright cool day – one of us showered in the chilly, unwelcoming shower block - the other enjoyed a Hymer shower .....much better. Then driving half a mile down the hillside we stopped to look around Candelario. It was a bank holiday weekend and the Spanish were out enjoying this delightful, hilly town with views of snow capped mountains and the sound of gushing water flowing through the channels either side of the cobbled streets..............and all in glorious sunshine.

A stop in Bejar for petrol and on to the first of our list of recommended places on The Silver Route – (built by the Romans to transport minerals from Dijon to Andalusia) Banos de Montemayor – very disappointing – saw the Roman Road, drove past the spa baths built by Romans and still in use today, and that was it. Off to Hervas to be equally disappointed. We looked around the famed Jewish quarter, saw a bride entering a church and set off a number of local dogs into a barking frenzy......they were still barking when we drove away.

Third town, Aldeanuva del Camino, not lucky.....in, round & out. However the road to Caparra was wonderfully scenic......undulating green meadows filled with weird trees, rocky outcrops and dotted with vibrant yellow gorse and deep purple French lavender. We saw cows and black bulls bred for the ring grazing and several storks in the fields – including a black one, which is rare. Caparra is the site of a ruined Roman city with a famed 4 way arch..............all pleasant enough to stroll around in the sunshine but we have seen far more impressive ruins!

More country lanes to Oliva de Plasenda which we drove through, glancing at the famous palace and then onto Plasencia through the best of the scenery. The outskits/approach to the city is ghastly....ugly and modern – however we drove on to the old centre, where we had a tricky turnaround as the streets became very narrow and not far away a huge carpark with views of a place, a park and an ancient aqueduct. We just sat in van in the sun with a drink, watching The Paseo............the evening stroll – all very social.

By the time we decided to find somewhere to dine, the rain came down – so we set off with umbrellas and found a bar/cafe on the Plaza Mayor where we sat outside in the arcade inches from the splashing rain. We caught a glimpse of this interesting area before returning to sleep well, as usual.

Monday 30 April – A lovely sunny day starting with a stroll through a huge market – ok if you were looking for clothes shoes or underwear......knickers from the merest thin string to billowing bloomers! Then a walk around an amazing rocky park with masses of peacocks (both normal and white) strutting their stuff.

Finally a walk back into town to admire the various buildings and watch the little man on the clock tower strike the hour with his donger! The Plaza Mayor was packed with shoppers, a fruit & veg market and brimming cafes. We lunched on a couple of mystery dishes (the menu reader in the phrase book is somewhat lacking) but they were delicious. To conclude the day we drove 30 odd miles west to Coria. It looks big and ugly but no doubt we’ll discover its charms tomorrow. In the meantime we’re freecamping just out of town alongside a river.

Tuesday 1 May – Overcast but dry we drove a short distance further along the river ‘til we came to the old Roman bridge. We parked, walked over the bridge and up the crippling zig-zag steep path leading directly into the old town. Ho hum....usual major buildings but nothing outstanding. We did walk around an interesting old prison with a number of Roman and mediaeval artefacts, modern photo displays and original prison doors, cells and rings where the prisoners would have been chained. Early on we stopped in a Plaza for coffee, then returned to the same Plaza for a lovely Tortilla lunch.

Travelling south we took a scenic route, past supposedly a vast area of reservoirs – very low tide due to previous severe drought – hence the locals being delighted with all the rain! .....and east to Garrovillas de Alconetar (described as an ‘outstanding village’). Well once again, at first encounter, we were not in agreement. However after a brew-up whilst a shower passed, we strolled for a while and discovered an interesting, yet deserted ancient plaza, church and narrow cobbled streets.

The road from there to Alcantara was through beautiful countryside – meadows of poppies and buttercups, the same rolling rocky terrain – often thick with wild lavender – and NO traffic – AGAIN. On arrival the usual non-descript ‘outer-town’ which we drove through, in and out. Our town map showed a ring road round to the Roman bridge over the River Tajo....and there, perfectly sited by bridge, river, view of the ancient convent of San Benito – was a perfect spot to freecamp – so here we are.

Whilst we are out-of-bounds for finding internet to put all this on our blog....enough is enough for the moment, so end of BLOG 2

Since Salamanca: Alba de Tormes; Los Santos; Miranda del Castanar; La Alberca: San Martin del Castanar; Sequeros; Bejar; Candelario; Banos de Montemayor; Hervas; Aldeanuva del Camino; Caparra; Oliva de Plasenda; Plasencia; Coria; Garrovillas de Alconetar; Alcantara;

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