A forecast of scenery change
While we made an effort to be present and not wish away time on the Camino, we were all so ready for a change in terrain. We spied mountains in the distance and got to cool off in the shade of the occasional grove of trees. Our hearts (and feet) felt lighter.
Around 11:00, we stopped for an early lunch. Much to our delight, the place we stopped at was selling fried onion hamburgers. Double meat, double cheese, double delicious. After we washed it down with a cold beer, we were full and happy, ready to get back on the trail.
Our stop for the night was in Mansilla de Las Mulas. We checked in to our albergue, a place with a restaurant and a nice garden area out front.
We got there with enough time left in the day to hand wash some clothes and wait for them to dry on the line. The Camino made me appreciate a lot of things that I previously took for granted. One of those things was having clean clothes, even if I had to wash them by hand.
The three of us enjoyed a pilgrim dinner together, then Nicole left us to attend mass. While she was gone, we went to the market and bought some snacks and a liter box of wine to share. After mass, Nicole rejoined us and we sat in the garden, passing around the box of wine and watching funny YouTube videos.
That night there was almost a scuffle in the bunk as some of the pilgrims insisted on closing the windows and turning off the fans. The air was hot and stagnant and soon everyone was grouchy. We tried to get as comfortable as we could on top of our sleeping bags.
Sharing a living space with strangers is all part of the experience, I told myself as I tried to get comfortable enough to fall asleep. The good, the bad, and the occasionally annoying all combine to make something rich and unforgettable.
The walk into León the next day was long, though definitely not as long as the walk into Burgos. Coming into the cities was always a little stressful. The noise, the traffic flying by, the crowded sidewalks, and our bulky backpacks made us feel out of place.
Our guidebooks warned us about traffic and crossing busy highways. We heard about two pilgrim women who were hit by a car in the last week or two—one died, the other in intensive care.
I imagined the time that I was hit by a car. My quick reaction of jumping over the hood (rather than going underneath the car) probably saved my life. I wouldn’t be able to move so quickly with my heavy pack on. I shuddered at the thought.
So we cautiously made our way into the heart of León and found an albergue for the night. Then we went exploring and saw the statue of San Francisco de Asis and the Neptune fountain. We also saw “La Negrilla,” a bronze statue of a naked giant that was kind of beautiful in its own way.
Most things were closed for siesta, but Andy and I went in search of food. We found a restaurant that served a dish called “little pots”– a FULL POUND of kettle chips, 3 fried eggs, and spicy ground pork. It was just the kind of hiker fuel that we needed.
After siesta, sites reopened so we checked out the cathedral. It is known for its stained glass, and the use of warm and cool colors to highlight Old and New Testament timelines. It was beautiful, especially in the late afternoon sun.
There was so much more to see and experience in León, but we made the best of our time there and prepared to move on the next day. We were secure in our routine and moving forward is just part of the deal.
31 days of the Camino!
The day we left León, Andy and I had been on the Camino for 31 days. An entire month of waking up and walking, moving step-by-step for almost 250 miles. There was a rhythm and a simplicity in it that I loved, despite the stiff muscles and tender feet. I almost didn’t want it to end.
As we left León, our spirits were high. We were excited to leave the city and head towards those mountains we had been seeing in the distance. On the way out of the city, we passed the Church of the Virgin of the Camino. The church was such an interesting, modern change from all the cathedrals. The sculptures on the outside depict different saints and martyrs, holding the instruments of their death.
Shortly after the church, we opted for the scenic route that took us away from the highway.
The landscape changed immediately and except for the mountains in the distance, it reminded us of home. It was such a gorgeous day with an open sky and very few other pilgrims on the trail. We felt like we had it all to ourselves.
The walls of our albergue in Villar de Mazarife were covered in Camino graffiti–drawings and thoughts from pilgrims who have come before us. We entertained ourselves reading over them, savoring the ones that struck a chord. Our favorite was:
“Though I travel far from Spain, a part of me shall still remain, for you are with me night and day, over the hills and far away”
That night in the courtyard of our albergue, Nicole played guitar and sang while we all shared a bottle of wine at sunset. It was the perfect way to end our 31st day on the Camino.