8-10 October, 2015
Once outside Zafra, the route climbed steadily to a ridge overlooking Los Santos de Maimona. From the summit, one could see the plain stretching to distant mountains. Mérida lies 65 km to the north of Zafra and takes three days of walking, spending the nights in Villafranca de Los Barros and Torremejía. Once again, between the overnight villages, there was nothing but occasional farmland and bush.
The land was parched. It looked as if it had not seen rain for a long time. At one time, after Santos de Maimona, we came across of a flock of sheep. The shepherd walked ahead, seemingly oblivious of what was following him. Four sheep dogs raced around, rounding up the stragglers and keeping the flock moving in the general direction of their master. It was not the first time that I have witnessed the shepherd-to-dog relationship, and I have never ceased to be impressed.
From Villafranca de los Barros to Torremejía the path was straight, following the old Roman road. There is absolutely no shade, just grape vines and occasional olive groves as far as the eye can see. In one part, the road was being resurfaced, and for several kilometres we had to trudge through a thick layer of uncompressed dust.
On a long straight path, with no bordering trees or bushes, one’s progress across the landscape is barely perceptible. The goal is there on the horizon, but on the horizon is where it seems to remain.
But eventually one arrives.
The next day was relatively easy and, in the early afternoon, we arrived at the Puente Romano, that leads across the river Guadiana to Mérida.
At 790 m, it is the longest surviving Roman bridge.