As I write this article I have walked the first seven days of the Camino Mozárabe (Grapevine deadline 15th of the month) and as you read it on or after publication day on 1 May I will have walked for over three weeks of the six to seven week journey that spans 1,200 - 1,300 km, depending on whether I make it beyond Santiago de Compostela to Finisterre.
The Mozárabe has starting points in Almeria, Granada, Jaén and Málaga which converge just before Córdoba and continue to Mérida where it joins the Via de la Plata, the route from Seville. From here the camino continues to northern Spain in the city of Santiago de Compostela - the end point of a network of many ancient pilgrimage routes from all over Europe and the resting place of the remains of the apostle St James.
This is my third Camino de Santiago and they are all very different. The Camino Mozárabe is much less travelled and so far I have not encountered any other pilgrims (other than my walking companion). I have been very well catered for by the Amigos (volunteers) of the camino who have painted sufficient yellow arrows to guide my way and organised the towns and villages en route to provide basic accommodation.
On leaving Málaga at the church of Santiago, it was a long trek through the city and the suburbs to the village of Junta de Los Caminos, after which point the route passed entirely through the beautiful countryside. Day 2 was also entirely off road, and day 3 took me over El Torcal and into Antequera. Since then I have been walking through vast areas of olive groves and am now two days away from Córdoba and hoping that since the various routes of the Mozárabe have converged (in Baena), I might meet some other pilgrims.
I have walked through a variety of weather conditions including lovely sunshine, not so lovely rain and very eerie deep mist up and over El Torcal. The rain brought sticky mud, so horrendous that I could hardly walk uphill due to the weight of my boots and the lack of traction that had me sliding backwards almost as far as I stepped forward.
I have walked an average of 27 km per day over the last seven days, carrying everything I need on my back. This being my third camino, I have refined my packing list to a tried and tested minimum. My pack weighs around 8 kilos plus water supplies and (other than hoisting it on) I am not really that aware of it. I have built a lot of 'muscle memory' over the last couple of years and my body now knows what is expected of it. I have to say though, that I am glad I've had the opportunity to take practice hikes in the mountains around Cómpeta and Canillas de Albaida because I am coping much better with the serious elevations and descents we are encountering than my urban trekker companion. I am very happy to have a walking partner as this would be a lonely route for a solo walker. To be honest, we don't actually walk together very often, as we each have our own pace, but it is nice to have someone to touch base with in the evenings.
While I am walking my partner David Wolfe is collecting sponsorship money in aid of CUDECA Cancer Hospice. I know this coincides with the 'Walk for Life' event, also raising funds for the same good cause, but hopefully the very generous people of Cómpeta and Canillas (and even further afield) will find it in their hearts to donate in support of my efforts. (All funds raised will be handed to CUDECA - I am totally funding the walk myself.)
I am posting to my blog each day with lots of photos of the countryside and wild flowers. If you would like to join me on my journey, take a look at my blog, and if you would like to receive an email whenever I make a new post, just sign up at the top of the right margin - I will be glad of your company!