Our day four on the Camino Teresiano grew very hot as we continued to walk through the wide open countryside of the northern sub-plateau of Castillo y León, otherwise known in Spain as the Meseta! It was to challenge our understanding of this special route, taking us on a real pilgrimage and a true adventure.
“The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too.” ~ St. Teresa de Jesús
Here is our interactive Google map of this stage with the few services available placed on it. There is nothing between Narros del Castillo and Mancera de Abajo, not even water. There is a fountain south of the Duruelo churches, about halfway into this stage, but it is 1/2 kilometer off-Camino.
As I discussed, we actually combined our day three with this stage for a total of 27.3 kilometers. If you stopped in Narros del Castillo, you can also extend this stage to the next town of Macotera, 7.5 kilometers from Mancera de Abajo for a total of 21.6 kilometers. This tactic would greatly decrease the final stage from Mancera de Abajo to Alba de Tormes, which we logged in at 31.8 kilometers.
The other aspect to know, is that if you were doing the Northern route, the two routes separate in Mancera de Abajo, the end of our day four.
There is an elevation gain of almost 100 meters (328 feet) in the first part of the day, and in the heat, this can feel strenuous. The climb is followed by a descent to the Río Almar in Duruelo. There is a final up/down gain at the end of the day of about 40 meters (130 feet) that seemed more strenuous to us than it is, due to the open heat of the road and the final kilometers of the day.
Our journey on day four continues at the Iglesia Parroquial de San Juan Bautista in the center of Narros del Castillo. Make sure you stop in to see this 13th century church, its special interior ceiling carvings and its surrounding fortifications.
Right in front of the church is the Bar Nieto, which was closed on the Sunday morning when we walked by.
From the Bar Nieto, walk along the main road, the AV-P-627, for about 250 meters, passing the grocery store called the Auto Servicio El Progreso along the way. Come to this Y-intersection shown below and stay to the right, leaving the main road and taking the Calle Sequera.
You walk on the Calle Sequera for 350 meters until the next Y-intersection, shown below. This time you take a left turn here onto a dirt lane, just past the town limits of Narros del Castillo on day four of the Ruta Teresiana.
Continue onward on the dirt lane, not quite a kilometer, as you pass this farm and stay straight on at the crossroads ahead.
In a few more meters after the farm, arrive at these regal evergreen oaks, and continue straight on at this intersection shown.
The open climb on the meandering dirt lane can be seen ahead.
Begin the mild climb towards the trees in the distance and in another 1.3 kilometers, come to this intersection. Walk straight on, continuing the climb.
Just shy of one more kilometer, you come to the top close to the trees in this photo below, a total of about 3.8 kilometers into day four where the Camino Teresiano ahead is open and visible.
My husband, Rich, says he sees a pilgrim here in the tree on the left, with arms outstretched, celebrating the top. The pilgrim is wearing a goofy hat, and can you see his backpack?
At the top you can see the T-intersection in the photo below, where you will make a left-hand turn in a few more meters, and follow the bend in the long road you see ahead.
As you walk along the area of this hilltop, the Central Mountain Range of Spain once again is in view to the south, and a lovely treed-valley below, on day four of the Ruta Teresiana. The cut to your immediate left (south) is that of the Arroyo Valdelosojos.
Soon we begin the descent along this prominent fenceline, bordering the Arroyo Valdelosojos, and once again we are heading toward the comfort and shade of the trees.
In about 1.1 kilometers from the hilltop, come to a T-intersection, where you turn left onto this gravel lane. In less than 100 meters, ignore the path to the right and continue on the gravel lane. Just ahead you can now see the heavily-treed area, a sure signal of available water and the Río Almar, our next destination.
It is almost exactly 2.0 kilometers later when you reach the Río Almar, not much of a river, and you cross it on this bridge below. It is a total of 7.3 kilometers from the start of day four on the Ruta Teresiana.
Just beyond the bridge, the Camino Teresiano takes a right turn, not visible in the photo and the Convento de Duruelo is the cluster of buildings ahead.
If you were to turn left after the river, you would arrive at the historic San Juan de la Cruz fountain in about 1/2 kilometer, your only public source of water on this stage. We did not walk to the fountain.
Just before the right hand turn by the river, there is a nice information board describing the area. This board did not tell of the Ermita de San Juan de la Cruz, which I knew to be present nearby. What I didn't realize at the time is that within the high walls of the convent in front of us, just to the left of the information board was the Ermita. There were absolutely no signs indicating its presence as I walked around by the wall. It felt too conspicuous if I went poking my nose around a living convent, so sadly, we walked onward until we came to the sign below, in about another 300 meters, announcing the Convento de Duruelo.
We wandered down the lane and heard activity within. We met several lay ladies outside and I asked if it was OK to visit the convent chapel shown in the photo below. She wasn't sure, but told me to go ahead. So we did. The chapel was open, and according to the information board we had just seen, it is usually open for those who wish to pray inside.
The convent chapel is simple, but very precious and has two lovely carved statues on each side of the Mary and Jesus altarpiece that caught my attention. It was San Juan de la Cruz on the left and Santa Teresa de Jesús on the right.
We sat for a while in the chapel in prayer and contemplation.
The hermitage and the convent (restored from the remnants of buildings from the 17th century) are all of the 20th century, built in 1947, as well as this convent church in which we were sitting. However, it is in Duruelo where San Juan de la Cruz and Fray Antonio de Jesús, under the direction of Santa Teresa, founded the first convent of barefoot Carmelites. Even though the actual buildings are not that old, the spirit of the place is! Eventually it was to Mancera de Abajo, where that first foundation of friars moved.
When we arose from the chapel, a kindly priest outside inquired of us, were we pilgrims and from where? All the usual introductory stuff. His demeanor immediately changed when I told him we were on the Ruta Teresiana. He was such a gentle and welcoming soul! I appreciated his spirit enormously. He even asked if I was a monja (nun)! Ha! First time that has ever been asked of me. Perhaps he felt the presence of God on our journey with us, through me? Or perhaps the spirit of St. Teresa was shining on me?
The priest also told us that if we wished for a place to stay for the night we could inquire of the nuns in the convent. We thanked him, but said we would be traveling onward to Mancera. What a friendly offer! I wish we had the time to stay! (We were meeting friends in two days in Salamanca to start the Via de la Plata so we needed to push onward).
In hindsight, what I wished I would have asked him, is if we could see the Ermita de San Juan de la Cruz. Or asked of the nuns. Much later when I looked it up, and as I finally translated what I had seen on the information board, it says this according to the Google translation: "The claimants of the convent (their house is a little before reaching the door of the church) have the key to the hermitage that is next to the old convent. You can open it for groups that wish to hold a celebration." Or perhaps they would open it to pilgrims all the way from the USA?
Alas, due to a lack of homework, we did not see it. The best I can offer you, fellow pilgrimage travelers, is my lesson learned and this reference from Google maps, local guides where we can all see what we missed: Ermita de San Juan de la Cruz. It would have been lovely to see it!
After a nice 20-minute repose with water and snacks at a nice picnic table under a large shade tree outside the convent church, we carried on, holding the peace and welcoming we had received from the visit in our hearts. Yes indeed, the feeling was certainly there that God was on our journey with us.
As we continued along the Río Almar, the land is now one of pastures in place of the high wheat fields of the plateau, as you can see in the photo below.
The Camino Teresiano through this section on day four is relatively flat. Within about 1.5 kilometers from the convent, or 10.1 km into the day, a large building that appeared to be a church could be seen ahead.
It was definitely a place that now raised cows. Google maps does not identify this place, so I am calling it an estate. The buildings of the estate are in a nice bend of the Río Almar, which we had been following to the north.
We stayed to the left, passing the entrance to the estate, that was unsigned and unnamed.
In about another 800 meters we walked by this entrance that says "Bercimuelle Pasture." I didn't know if this was another estate or a continuation of the same one.We stayed straight on at this intersection.
Alas, our nice treed area was gone after the Bercimuelle Pasture entrance. It was nothing but hot, open road in the middle of the afternoon as we could see the climb ahead. It felt like a forever road.
After about another 800 meters we came to what appeared like the top of the climb. It was not to be so.
After cresting the false summit, there was more climbing in the hot sun in front of us. At least we had a strong breeze to help cool us. I cannot imagine what it would have been like without it on day four of this Ruta Teresiana.
In 400 meters we came to the next rise in the road which also appeared to be the top. This time it was!
But we were hoping to be able to see Mancera from the top of the rise, but indeed, we did not. We slogged onward.
During this hot and boring stretch, I voice journaled about the difficulties of traveling this remote route, especially if I were alone. I was grateful to Rich, and so very proud of him that on this difficult Camino he was right in there with me. He was not shy, never backing off, but in there with me, being part of the adventure! He engaged folks with his rudimentary Spanish whenever he could, and was alive and present to me and my desire to experience this, and walk every step. He never once became despondent.
1.5 kilometers later, we spied this white building off in the distance. Could this finally be Mancera?
Indeed, as we got closer to that white building, we could see Mancera, in the valley below, nestled by the Río Zamprón.
The long lane ends here at this rest and information area at the edge of town. Finally, on day four, we crossed over the paved road into town, following the Camino Teresiano.
Almost immediately, the Albergue de Peregrinos de Santa Teresa comes into view on your left, in an old schoolhouse with the playground still intact. On the side of the building it says "Refugio de Peregrinos" along with a stylized image of St. Teresa and her walking staff.
I knew that we had to retrieve the keys to the albergue at the Bar Cielito Lindo, so we walked onward into town in the direction of the church.
In less than 200 meters from the albergue we arrived at the church, the 16th century Iglesia Parroquial de Nuestra Señora del Rosario. There is a nice placard by the front of the church, explaining its history and construction. Mass is held here every day at 11:00 and 11:30 on holidays. We were unable to see inside as it was closed. There is a photo of the altar on the information board.
We were eager to get on into the center of town for refreshments after the hot journey in the sun. Just beyond the church, at the next T-intersection, we turned right and almost immediately came to the town center, with the town hall on the left at a total of 14.1 kilometers for this stage. The Bar Cielito Lindo is only a few more meters ahead across from the park in the town square.
It was a Sunday when we were here, and the bar was in full regalia. It was packed with locals, and the pinchos, once again were abundant and delicious. Yes please, I'll take one of each!
The young woman behind the bar, for me, was very difficult to understand. Not as friendly as some, when I asked her about the keys to the albergue. She assisted me with a perfunctory type of demeanor, and when I asked her to please speak more slowly, I swear she talked faster instead! But I was still aglow from St. Teresa, so I smiled sweetly and asked her to repeat herself several times!
To make things sweeter for us, Rich befriended an older gentleman at the bar. He took over where the barmaid left off, and explained what each and every pincho was, in a very proud introduction to his Spain! We learned that he lived in Ávila but had a weekend home in Mancera. His friendliness and helpfulness was so welcomed!
We ate and drank our fill. A shower was next high on our list, so we set off back up the hill to the albergue.
Just across from the town hall, with its distinctive flags flying, the Camino heads out to the west. There is a very nice information board here with a map showing the choice of the two routes, the Northern and the Southern.
Underneath the information board are the directional signs, showing the direction to go for each route. When we asked at the bar which is the more beautiful route, the barmaid said that it was the southern one. This was our first choice anyway, since it is shorter.
Back up at the albergue, we quickly settled in for a shower and to wash our clothes. Unfortunately, the showers were cold! Rich looked around for a turn-on switch for the hot water heater, but couldn't find one. So, we showered quickly with the cold.
Then, about 1/2 hour after we showered, along came a village man to turn on the hot water! Ha ha. The turn-on switch was outside, and somehow Rich had missed it.
The albergue is a donativo, with the donation box outside the door. Please donate generously! It has 18 beds, no kitchen, but the showers are nice and the place, though simple, is clean.
Aside from the Bar Cielito Lindo there is nowhere to get food. The bar is not open for breakfast, so you must bring your own, or buy something at the bar to eat in the morning. There is not even an electric pot here to heat up water.
I was very grateful to have this place anyway! It was a clean and comfortable ending to our day four on St. Teresa's Way. There was evidence of her everywhere as you can see from the posters on the walls. Besides, nothing could shake the glow I had received on this day, from Santa Teresa!
After showering, washing our clothes and resting a bit, we went to see the town sights. There is an outdoor museum, just south of the town square. Nice information boards describe the ruined buildings that abound, but as usual, it is all in Spanish.
First of note, is the 15th century old mill, "Los Rodeznos" in the photo below.
Next of note is the remains of the 15th century Palacio de los Señores de Mancera.
And finally is the convent, the Convento Reverendas Madres Carmelitas. We did not go inside as it looked as if an activity was going on and we didn't want to interfere.
I could find very little information on the web regarding these sights, in English, so if you visit, bring your translator to decipher what is on the information boards.
This section of our Camino Teresiano was a true adventure, deep in the province of Castillo y León. Because of its solitude, it's welcoming people and yes, even the heat, Presence was felt on the journey, as it had not been on the other sections. We both rose to the challenge of the day and managed to maintain our positive and grateful hearts. We had to rely on ourselves, our Spanish and our wits like never before on a Camino.
It was a blessing to walk this day, knowing that God was on the journey with us. Thank-you, St. Teresa!
May your own day four on the Camino Teresiano be filled with the feeling, that God is with you on your journey too! Ultreia!
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