With just a cup of black tea and a mandarin orange to start the day, we made a fairly early start. It was beautiful to be out early and a cold but sunny morning. We were glad of toques, gloves and jackets as we started out. Our path back to the main camino was a lovely one, especially compared to yesterday’s route on the roadside. At one point the route passes through a huge finca that is famous for breeding bulls. We were glad to see the sturdiest fences we had seen on our travels. Other animals are okay to wander in with, but not so much bulls.
And then the highlight of the day, arriving at the arch of Cáparra and its connected ruins. The arch itself is the iconic symbol of much of the Vía de la Plata and so we had been following it pictorially since we left Mérida. Cáparra was an important Roman city and the two directional arch formed the crossroads between the Vía de la Plata from Augusta Emerita and the main road of the city. Arriving on foot from Mérida was one of those thrilling moments of the trip, where you are so conscious of doing something that so many people have done for 2,000 years.
The ruins of the town have only recently been excavated and still have a somewhat raw feeling to them. The friendly host at the interpretive centre offered us a map and guide and a stamp for our credential. We were also super interested in the vending machines and enjoyed a cup of coffee and a package of Oreos as well as the bathrooms before exploring the rest of the site. Since we had split the day in two, we had lots of time and were able to spend a whole hour at the site, something we couldn’t have done as part of a longer day.
As we left Cáparra behind we continued through delightful countryside, although signage was a bit more scarce and there were some road sections. In a few places there were alternative paths near the road and we took those whenever we could. For the last part of the day we climbed up a rough track which brought us to the Cañada Real, or Royal Livestock Road, declared as such by Alfonso the Wise in the 1200s. It was a lovely stretch but as it was a 26 km day—the longest we’d had in a while—we were glad when we came into Aldeanueva.
Aldeanueva was a lovely and super friendly town. The only other guests at the private albergue we stayed at were an older Australian couple who were enjoying parts of camino route by walking sections and then jumping on the bus. They seemed to be loving their experience and I enjoyed getting another glimpse into all the ways that people of all ages were making this a meaningful and memorable experience.
We’d had a drink at the bar as soon as we arrived in town and saw they did pizza so returned there for dinner. The pizzas were pre-made but surprisingly good and we loved the feel of the place which, as in so many small towns, seemed to be a real community hub. The town also had a couple of grocery stores and so we did a good stocking up so we would be provisioned for the next few days. Food was definitely getting harder than it had been at the beginning of the trip and so while we didn’t want to weigh ourselves down, a few extras seemed a good idea.