The walking group in Gisela's village in Extremadura, Spain, have never walked from the town of Monesterio to visit the monastery that sits on the highest point of Badajoz Province. So, Gisela Radant Wood, the author of the guidebook to Extremadura, recently introduced them to this beautiful walk.
It was a glorious autumn morning with a bright blue sky when we started from the south-west side of Monesterio on the dirt track towards the Sierra de Tentudía. Most of us were already in T-shirts and a few of us, including me, were wearing shorts. The track was dusty after a long, hot summer, but the verges were pretty with dried seed heads. The green of pines and holm oaks contrasted with the golden fields. On the slopes of the Sierra de Tentudía deciduous oaks displayed orange and brown leaves.
The initial part of the walk was a small rise followed by a long downhill stretch. Ahead, we could see the wooded hill opposite the one on which the monastery sits. Walking with a lot of people— and there were 60 in the group — can be noisy. Small breaks form quickly and conversations flit from one subject to another with a great deal of shouting between groups. There’s not much chance of seeing wildlife but the griffon vultures that habitually circle overhead never seem to mind the din. With all the banter going on we soon covered the track and when it narrowed to become a footpath we walked in smaller groups. During the rainy season this part of the walk also acts as a stream bed, although the verges are higher on either side to ensure dry boots when it is wet.
Just as the sun was beginning to feel hot rather than warm we reached the shaded part of the walk and a tunnel of oak trees. Once out from the trees we came to a wider track, a cattle grid and a gateway. Here we waited for everyone to catch up. The route has very few signposts or waymarks but I had done the walk several times before. I gave a quick explanation of the four options between the cattle grid and the monastery so that people walking faster, or slower, would take the correct option at each point. It’s not complicated. It makes sense if a walker considers that the walk is uphill but as no one had walked here before I wanted to take no chances in groups missing a turning.
As we climbed up in earnest, the emerald green of the pine trees was intense while the deciduous oaks wore autumn-coloured leaves. The sky became that delicious shade of deep blue so common in the autumn. Arriving at a small parking area with an option to go left and walk through the edge of the woods we all paused to admire the view and regroup. The next stretch was lovely and more-or-less flat with views all over to the left side of the track. At a junction we turned right. This last 900m had a climb which started off quite steeply and ended up very steep, indeed. It was slow going but we were not in a hurry and every stop for breath was a chance to admire the view over Extremadura. One more effort and we were before the monastery.
The first thing everyone did, of course, was head for the café-restaurant, get the drinks in and take over the terrace. We sat and recovered while looking between the oaks trees for views of the reservoir below. The walk was 9.50km with the same distance back to Monesterio but, in fact, everyone felt really good. After 30 minutes we were up again for a look at the monastery. We paid our €1.00 entrance fee and explored. The views from the upper cloisters were impressive but after a while we headed off to eat sandwiches and fortify ourselves for the return. It was an excellent day of sociable walking.
More information on walking in Extremadura
This walk can be done using walk 30 in Gisela Radant Wood's guidebook to the Sierras of Extremadura.
The Sierras of Extremadura
32 half and full-day walks in western Spain's hills
Guidebook to Extremadura, one of Spain's most unspoilt regions, comprising the provinces of Caceres and Badajoz. 32 mainly circular walks (6 to 19km) explore Sierras, rolling hills and oak forests criss-crossed by thousands of kilometres of ancient paths. Includes the Jerte Valley, the hill town of Montánchez, Guadalupe and Monesterio.More information