Camino Day 10: Fuente de Cantos to Zafra

It rained the entire evening yesterday and all last night, so we cautiously left the convent and decided to go back to the church for a better picture of the tower before heading off into the open countryside.

After snapping this image of the bell tower, we walked to a nearby cafe and sat outside sipping our coffee. Mikey commented on how cold it was and immediately realized that he wasn’t wearing his gaiters.

Following a thankfully short walk back to the convent, we retrieved the gaiters and headed out on our way. The trail was a bit hit or miss with some light spurts of rain from time to time.

The dirt tracks were definitely soggy and we had to be creative at times in our navigation, but they were fairly passable.

That is – until they were not. Fast moving creeks had formed where there were normally just small drainage ditches. Still, one positive about recent rain is that the hiker can follow the fresh footsteps of those just ahead of him and (hopefully) glean insight from their footfalls.

That’s how we found this jewel of an impromptu bridge fashioned out of shipping pallets. However, given the markers, this area probably floods regularly in winter.

Still, there were times when we had no alternate path and had to forge swiftly moving streams. “OK, so you got your feet wet,” you quip. No, these stealthy and sudden streams resulting from flash floods are actually quite dangerous. As opposed to normal creeks and even small rivers where the bed is defined and stable, these floodwaters run over unpredictable soil beds and often mask very thick mud which can trap the less cautious hiker. In this case, our protagonist found that any hesitation on one foot caused an immediate sinking of the hiking shoe and Mikey became bogged down almost to the knees while attempting to ford this particular stream.

We definitely saw a lot of vineyards along the way and figured that this region must have some decent offerings.

Although the grapes were far from ripe, it looked like asparagus was definitely in season. This farmer pulled up on a bike and sold the whole bundle to the owner of the cafe where we were relaxing just then.

Since the asparagus had just been delivered, Mikey went inside and asked if any special dishes were available. After briefly consulting with the cook (probably his wife) the owner offered an asparagus omelet if we could wait about 15 minutes. Considering the amazing culinary marvel that finally arrived, we would have waited much longer. One thing about Spanish cuisine that sets it apart from its European neighbors is the honest simplicity of its ingredients. Rarely utilizing heavy creams or complex sauces, the Iberian chef allows the ingredients shine on their own merit. Think of it as a positive version of “garbage in garbage out” wherein if one begins with good and fresh ingredients he can only produce wonderful food.

There’s a segue in here between asparagus and gas, but it’s probably too crude. So, let’s just jump into it: in case you don’t know, Mikey hasn’t owned a car since the summer of 2001. As such, the price of gasoline (and even how to pump it) is quite outside his purview. So let’s just say that his passing interest (as we were passing by this station) in this was a bit shocking, but with the current exchange rate, a gallon of 91 octane gas would set you back $5.58! Even more surprising? Mikey actually knows that the US 91 (AKI) octane gasoline is the same as 95 (RON) octane in Spain since the two countries use different systems of measurement. #uselessinfo

What would have been useful is one of these churches actually being open! It turned out that they stopped using the Colegiata de la Candelaria as a church and so it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. Grrr.

The Plaza Mayor was open and we had to use the bathroom. Funny how one has to order a drink so as to use a restroom. Mikey calls this the vicious pee cycle and often tries to order the smallest drink possible (i.e. an espresso) so as to prolong the inevitable.

Walking from the Plaza Mayor, we turned down a side street and found a castle. Yeah, how often does that happen?!

Although now a 4-star Parador hotel, this castle was known as the Palace of the Dukes of Feria and was built in the 15th-century.

We also found the town’s bullring but were more impressed with the unabashed promotion of local wine. Since arriving here, we’ve learned that Extremadura is actually the largest wine producing region in Spain, but have a little humility, guys.

And for that – we went to vespers at the local convent. If you’ve ever seen The Sound of Music (yes, we know that Mikey keeps referring to it, but he did play Kurt a lifetime ago!) then you’ll get the whole “cloistered” part of nunnery like having to stay behind the iron gates.

What you cannot see from the above are the locked iron gates on stage left of the altar. The nuns are singing the vespers service from behind these gates. We stayed for almost an hour to listen. Talk about being oddly therapeutic.

Just around the corner from the convent was La Tarama Restaurant. Although purely by chance, we had stumbled upon a spot where the eccentric owner is completely in love with the wine and food of this region.

Every wine, meat, and cheese that he serves comes from Extremadura and when talking about them, he several times pulled out his smartphone and pulled up pictures of a vineyard or forest where the acorns fell for the “little piggies” to eat and grow tasty.

Well, after tasting way too much tasty stuff and the “Cinderella hour” approaching wherein the hostel would lock its doors, we bid the wild man adieu and headed back to our lodgings. We do the same now with you, dear reader.