Our first day on the Via de la Plata, from Salamanca to Cañedino was charged with energy and excitement, despite the relatively boring landscape as we walked out of the city and into the countryside.
“What drains your spirit drains your body. What fuels your spirit fuels your body.” ~ Caroline Myss, Author, Intuitive and Spiritual Teacher
We chose to make this first day an easier one, from the standard 36.5 kilometer stage to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino. In fact the first two standard stages from Salamanca to Zamora total 68 kilometers. Our group's plan, with two Camino newbies, was to take three days for this distance.
Here is a Google interactive map for the day, created from my GPS tracks. I have placed essential services on the map for your planning. There are plenty of services in each town as you can see, but no accommodations until Calzada de Valdunciel, about 16 kilometers into the stage. However, it is always advisable to carry water in this hot, dry region, as well as snacks.
If you try to look up the name, "Cañedino" the destination for this stage, you will not find it on any map. My Wikiloc application gave my stopping point this name, referring to the Rivera Cañedino, or the Cañedino Riverbank that you cross just before the end (see description farther below).
In actuality, the area where the Albergue Casa Saso resides, our destination for the day, is called El Chinarral Urbanizatión. This is not actually a town, but an urban area.
The elevation profile for the day is shown below, and it looks like some ups and downs, but the change in elevation is less than 100 meters (328 feet), so looks are deceiving. The entire stage feels almost entirely flat. It is an easy walk, and if this is not your first stage, most likely, you could easily go farther. The remaining 14 kilometers to El Cubo de Tierra del Vino is also essentially flat.
We got an early start, at daybreak, which in Spain in October is not until 8:00 in the morning. The start is at the cathedral of Salamanca and here is a photo of it from the night before. It was not lit in the morning we were there. The municipal Albergue Casa la Calera is just behind the cathedral (check the interactive map), if this is where you are starting your day.
Just beyond the cathedral, about 100 meters, is the large, lit scallop shell, by the House of Shells, the Casa de las Conchas. I am calling this the "official" start of the Camino Fonseca, that is the historic route of Don Alonso de Fonseca y Acevedo III, a 16th century Archbishop of Santiago de Compostela (see intro). This Camino goes between Salamanca and Santiago. Below is a photo of Rich and I at the shell.
We walked through the lit and silent streets about another 200 meters along the Calle Mayor, until reaching the Iglesia de San Martín de Tours at a T-intersection, not pictured. The Way is not well-marked here, but essentially, you go straight on towards a small plaza and to the left side of the church.
You then walk through the small Plaza de Corrillo, lined with restaurants. Follow the street around the side of the church and see the archway ahead leading you into the Main Plaza, the Plaza Mayor, an enclosed 18th century Baroque marvel.
Walk northward across the main plaza, also shown below. The plaza is not quite 1/2 kilometer from the cathedral. The Way goes through this pictured archway, on the north and central end of the plaza. There is a scallop shell on the pavement as it points to the Calle Zamora (Street to Zamora), the street you will be walking on next.
The shell waymarks on the pavement are sparse in the center of town, which is why I am giving you a detailed description of the route through the city.
Once you pass the Plaza Mayor, just outside of the center, tourist area, there are many, many open cafe bars for breakfast if you need. We had a full, cooked breakfast in our Apartamento Gran Vía so we did not need to stop.
Walk along the Calle Zamora for another 1/2 kilometer and past the backside of this landmark church, the Iglesia de San Marcos.
By the church is your first large roundabout, where Zamora Street ends and you join the N-630. It is essentially a straight shot northward through the rest of Salamanca from here.
It is the easiest to circumnavigate the roundabout to the right (east) side.
Continue northward along the N-630 for another 1/3 kilometer to the next, smaller roundabout with a white, spherical metal sculpture. Pass again on the east side.
Continue along the highway that is not so bad here, as there is a wide pedestrian way to the far right of the street, just discernible in the photo below, on the right side. This sort of pedestrian frontage way shelters you nicely from the busy street.
Pay attention in the next 1/3 kilometer, as there will be a Y-intersection coming up with another large roundabout with a bull sculpture in the center, shown below. It is at this roundabout where you must walk left to stay on the N-630, following the signs to Zamora. I did not see any Camino waymarks before the intersection.
There is a shell here on the pavement, but only after you turn left at the roundabout. The shell now confirms the turn, but you must anticipate it.
Follow the N-630 for another 300 meters or so after the bull sculpture until you see a large Repsol gas station just before yet another big roundabout. Just after the roundabout, cross to the right side if you aren't already there to pick up a green bike path with a lovely accompanying paved walking path.
The Camino takes this bike/walking path, shown below, past the first large Camino de Santiago sign to assure you that you are on the correct path. The signage will be more frequent from here.
There is a large Carrefour supermarket just ahead a few meters on the left (west) side, if you haven't yet stocked up your pack for the day, or you need a few last minute items. It should be open by 9:00 a.m.
Within about 1/2 kilometer more, you see the sign below, letting you know that you have now left the city proper. At this juncture, we had logged about 3.0 kilometers into our day on the Vía de la Plata from Salamanca to Cañedino. The road is wide open from here.
Continue on the N-630 northward for another 2.5 kilometers, walking through many roundabouts along the way, the first of which we spied our first yellow arrow painted on a post! One of the roundabouts is through the large interchange with the A-62. It is always easiest to pass through these roundabouts on the right (east) side. On the way, walk through industrial areas and finally the buildings and the sidewalks end.
After the sidewalk ends you can walk safely on the left shoulder of the road, until you come to this intersection, below. Here you are directed with a yellow arrow to turn left onto the dirt road. You have walked about 5.5 kilometers into your day at this intersection.
In a few meters, after cresting a small hill, you can see the next town of Aldeaseca de la Armuña ahead.
Enter the town after about one kilometer from the turn-off. First pass by the park, then enter into the center. Keep heading straight until you can see the church on your left, the dominant feature in the town's landscape. Head left toward this church, the Iglesia Parroquial de Santa Cruz. At the church it was about 6.9 kilometers from Salamanca to Cañedino on the Vía de la Plata.
As you walk toward the church, you will pass several bars. Just after 9:00 a.m., they were not open, as far as I could tell, and besides, at only about seven kilometers into the day, were not interested in stopping.
Pass the church on the north side to pick up the Calle Iglesia, and take it a few hundred meters westward and out of town. You will encounter a yellow arrow telling you to turn right onto a secondary paved road.
Take this road onward and through the overpass of the A-66, 1/2 kilometer later, shown below.
The road turns to dirt after the bridge and is wide open as it travels westward. If you look over your right shoulder to the north, you can see your next destination, the town of Castellanos de Villiquera, and it's church and water towers rising prominently, three kilometers away.
In yet about another 3/4 kilometer, at this 5-point intersection, take a hard right, following the yellow arrow.
The road from Aldeaseca de la Armuña to the next town of Castellanos de Villiquera, has some undulating hills. With light hearts and feet, here is our friend Norm and my husband Rich negotiating the first rise.
And on the other side, here I am negotiating the downslope toward one of the few stands of trees we would pass on the first day of the Vía de la Plata from Salamanca to Cañedino.
At the next rise, we could clearly see Castellanos de Villiquera in the distance. I validated to myself that indeed we could see the bell tower of the church and the water tower rising prominently, almost since leaving Aldeaseca de la Armuña.
Someone left this smiley face for us pilgrims, as we passed by a sunflower field. It also fueled our spirits!
After about 3.0 kilometers on the lonely Camino de Castellanos, you come to an athletic field, at the left side of the road. The road now turns to pavement, and you take a left turn towards town.
Next comes a basketball court and a clump of trees harboring a nice picnic area, just south of town, a perfect spot for a break if needed.
At the southern tip of town, about 400 meters after the picnic area, the building just below the large, open, covered shed shown below, is painted brightly, depicting women washing clothes in the traditional way, in the town fountain. I love these types of artwork along the Way. More fuel for the spirit!
The Camino turns to the left at the painted building, shown below.
The center of Castellanos de Villiquera, is about 12 kilometers from Salamanca towards Cañedino on the Vía de la Plata.
We were ready for a break and were looking for a café bar. When I inquired of a townsperson, I was told there was none in town, only 4 kilometers down the road in the next town of Calzada de Valdunciel.
Since we passed the picnic area, we thought we'd head to the town church to sit and have a break. The church, it appeared, was no longer being used as a church. But we sat down on the curb to pull out snacks from our packs.
Lo, and behold, as we sat there, I spied a little tienda, just across the street from the church, the Alimentación Victoria, not marked on my map! We went in to have a look and found cold, bottled lattes! Wonderful! Almost as good as fresh cafés con leche! I placed this tienda on my interactive map above, so you can locate it if needed!
Returning to the Camino from the church, the signage is good through town, and we followed it once again to the hot open terrain. You will see these waymarks, below, for multiple trail systems, including the "Ruta Vía de la Plata," from Salamanca to Cañedino.
A common sight along this high meseta, was the tractors. The farmer waved to us as we shared the road!
Once again, the next town's church tower is visible long before the town itself. But from the vantage point in this photo below, more buildings were in sight.
By a bit less than 16 kilometers, we arrived at the outskirts of town, after crossing over the DSA-510 paved road, shown below. (You can figure the center of town to be about 16 kilometers).
There are several accommodations in Calzada de Valdunciel, but we were still interested in finding a café con leche. As we walked through the main street, we passed the Casa Rural Maricarmen (+34 923 31 01 01).
After passing the town hall, another Casa Rural, La Casa del Molinero was next. Both places looked like fabulous accommodations, when we peered into their courtyards.
The town is not very big, so very shortly we arrived at the north end and realized that we had not seen a bar. I checked the map, and there was a restaurant, the Hostal Restaurante El Pozo, about 1/2 kilometer off Camino, back toward the town hall. This place also provides reasonably priced accommodation.
No one wanted to go back. Instead, the Plaza de los Miliarios, with the historic Roman milestones was a nice place for a picnic. These stones were used as stepping stones and were pulled out of the Vega Arroyo, just to the north among the trees in the photo!
Immediately to the right of the Plaza de los Miliarios, down the street a few meters to the east, is the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos de Calzada de Valdunciel. This would be a reasonable place to stop, at about 16.3 kilometers for the day.
We all chose to carry on 6.0 kilometers more to El Chinarral Urbanizatión. I called the private Albergue Casa Saso there to ensure that we would have accommodations. After securing our places, we walked on.
A few meters north of town, we noticed this lovely look-out of sort, below. Rich decided to hike up there, a few meters off-road. It turned out to be a wildlife preserve, with a viewing platform for birding. Just beyond this mirador, or look-out is a small lake that had very little water in it when we passed by.
It was a long, boring, open and hot road onward after Calzada de Valdunciel. About 1.2 kilometers from town the Camino turns to the right at this Y-intersection, shown below, with Nadine, Norm and Rich plodding along.
I put my head down and did double time. I got ahead of the group. By 1.6 kilometers later, the farm road had become a tractor lane which had dwindled down to a path as it came to a bend with the fence line shown below. I looked back at the group and whooped at the sign on the fence ahead.
The sign ahead on the fence, shown below, was for the Albergue Casa Saso, and below the orange arrow it says, "4 KM." A good reason to whoop!
At the fenceline, the path bends to the East and toward the highway, the A-66. The Vía de la Plata then picks up another tractor lane northward as it parallels the highway, shown below.
The Camino continues to follow the tractor lane paralleling the highway for 2.9 kilometers, until it comes to this overpass. You are at about kilometer 21.4 into the day.
The path takes you underneath the A-66 and once there, you will see this most interesting direction on the bridge pylon. It says, "Sin Agua, Without Water," and an arrow to the left. "Con Agua, With Water," and an arrow to the right!
Essentially what this means, is that if there is high water under the bridge, and you will be able to figure that out, you must go to the right, double back to pick up the N-630, turn left (northward) until you reach the bridge crossing the River Cañedino, then pick up the dirt road on the other side to double back under the bridge on the other side. Please see the interactive map for details of this detour shown in orange.
We were lucky as there were only a few puddles under the bridge and we were able to pass straight through. The detour will add over 1/2 kilometer to your day, if you need to take it.
The good news is even though you might have to take the detour, this is the famed Rivera de Cañedino, the Cañedino River, the name of the ending location that Wikiloc gave me. The end is near! Below is the final one-kilometer home stretch after the river crossing.
And here is Norm, Rich and Nadine, posing for me at the turn-off, where I turned off my GPS at 22.7 kilometers into the day. The private Albergue Casa Saso is only a few meters off-Camino from here.
There is one other accommodation in El Chinarral Urbanizatión area, the very expensive Casa Rural, the Finca Europa. You would have to take the first paved road left, after the river crossing, after about 1/2 kilometer and follow the road for about another kilometer to find it.
And 2.2 kilometers farther along the Camino and well-signed at the turn by the first overpass (see day two) and another 2.5 kilometers off-Camino is the Castillo del Buen Amor. This is a 1000 year old and fantastically renovated castle where you can stay the night, for just under 100 Euros for a double. If I had known about it, I may have made the choice to stay here! Where else could you stay in a castle for only 100 Euros??
Alberto and Carmen at the Albergue Casa Saso were kind, accommodating and extremely helpful. The surrounding gardens are lovely, with a pool when in season. The whole place is set-up like pods. There is a pod with two double rooms and one shared bathroom, a pod for the albergue, a pod for the dining area and a pod for the showers/bathrooms. Pilgrims have full range of the extensive grounds.
We finished our day with celebrations of beers, delicious showers and a lovely full-course dinner for 10 Euros, provided by our hosts. We would highly recommend this place!
All-in-all this day went without a glitch. Our winged spirits carried us onward with wings on our feet. Indeed, when the spirit is high, the body follows. We had no reason to complain. We were ready to go the distance.
May your own Vía de la Plata from Salamanca to Cañedino find your spirits fueled and your body fueled, so that your heart has wings! Ultreia!
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