Cowhide leather boots were in the stirrups again, covered in white dust, oiled by horse sweat, and trainers filled with sand as the walkers sank into the powdery path. The camino took us through fields of sweet smelling strawberry plantations in huge white poly-tunnels.
Wooden walking sticks were bound with twigs of rosemary*, in small bouquets. High-waisted riding skirts in sky blue or buttermilk looked so elegant and somewhat Edwardian on these side saddled girls with flowers in their hair. Proud and handsome men wore navy and white polka dot silk sashes, and sombreros “a la ancha” – which quite simply translates as ‘wide hats’ in earthy colours of felt. This was the most civilised of walks. It was a truly glamorous occasion. It was old-fashioned horsy glamour at its sunniest!
We kept going till the sun was high in the sky, and then stopped for a 2- hour lunch break in a clearing under the dappled shade of pines.
A cooling bottle of San Miguel was thrust into one hand and the crunchiest, juiciest quarter of lettuce was passed to the other. Steve and I decided that this was the very best way to eat a lettuce: sliced through the heart lengthways at right angles, and dressed in olive oil and salt.
We were invited to sit at the Hermano Mayor’s trestle (top) table for gazpacho, then macarrones “a la Catalana”, heated on giant spiraled gas rings, and then albondigas. We were hungry!
Black coffee was poured onto the largest ice cubes, for 1000 peregrines, and in the dappled light of the Donana, on the soft sandy ground, we took a 20 minute siesta, using a cardboard box as a pillow. The giant open-air affair became quiet in respect for the after lunch kip.
* History in the name: Rosemary (English) or Romero (Spanish) means: 1. A person on a religious journey or pilgrimage (originally to Rome). 2. The pungent botanical herb of rosemary symbolises remembrance and fidelity.