TREKKING — DAY 21

LEON to MAZARIFE — 14 miles

During the middle of the night I was so cold even though I was under a warm down comforter.  My body was warm on the outside but it felt so cold inside.  Finally about 3am I took an Ibuprofen and was able to go back to sleep.  

When I was ready to leave I wasn’t sure how to get back on the Camino.  So when we checked out of the hotel I asked the desk clerk where the Camino was.  He said, “Do you want the long way or the direct way?”  And I told him I wanted the direct way.  He then got out a map and showed me both routes.  The regular route (how it showed to go in Brierley’s book) went North, circled around, then wound through little streets before heading West.  The direct route headed directly West.  That was a no brainier.  We had cafe con leche and a pastry and I headed off, passing this beautiful Parador (the one where Martin Sheen stayed in the movie “The Way).

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The path was not well marked and I was walking through the busy streets of Leon, with lots of noise and traffic.  So I decided to slow down, not pass anyone and just follow the other Trekkers.  We were walking single file along the sidewalk.

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I ran into that guy who pulled his things in a cart.  He was stopped on a street corner and was explaining to other curious Trekkers how the cart was attached to the harness around his waist.

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It was 2 or 3 miles of a gradual incline and several hills before we were able to get away from the sounds of the city.

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This area had a bunch of dwellings or cave like structures dug into the side of the hill.  

Just as I thought I was out of Leon I entered another town.  I was walking by a cute sidewalk cafe when I spotted Brian and Lesley.

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They were just finishing their coffee so we all walked together until Lesley spotted this unusual looking building with huge bronze statues across the front facade.  It was actually a church, and the shrine of the “Virgin of the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela.”

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The facade represents the mysteries of the Rosary.  The statues below are to the left of the door and have an actual rosary hanging around their necks.  And next to the building is one of the tallest crosses I’ve ever seen.

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We went into the church and it was beautiful with stained glass windows and a stunning alter area.  There was also a priest inside who stamped our pilgrim passports.  

Back on the Camino we came to a choice — walk along the highway to Villadangos or through the countryside to Mazarife.  We chose Mazarife.  The terrain took us up and down hills, by beautiful fields and through mud, muck and water.  In one spot my left foot got fully emmersed in water because there was no place else to step.  When Brian spotted other Pilgrims he wanted to have his picture taken with all of them.

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A little farther up the road Dick was waiting for me so we could have coffee but nothing was open in what seemed like a little ghost town.  Once again Brian (Mr. Congeniality) called to every Trekker passing by to come have their photo taken with us.  Dick was the photographer and every person there handed their camera or cell phone to him to get a picture of their own.

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I decided I’d split from Lesley and Brian because I just wanted to walk, not stop to take so many photos, and I was good with walking alone.  The terrain went up and down with quite a few hills and crops of barley and the yellow plant that canola oil is made from.

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I was hot and sweaty by the time I reached the town that I thought was Mazarife.  It seemed like a big enough place but as usual did not have any signs saying which town it was.  It was really old and had some historic looking buildings.

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I was wondering where Dick was, he usually would come to meet me but I couldn’t find him anywhere.  I walked through town on the Camino path then got off the path and searched everywhere for him.  No Dick!  So I texted him and said, “Where am I???”  I was so deflated when he told me I was 3 miles away.  So I kept walking, and walking and got farther out of town but there were no Camino signs.  Then I came to a fork in the road — no Camino signs.  So I retraced my steps and found someone who told me the Camino was way back where I had first come into town.  So back I went, got on the right path and walked 3 more miles until I saw Dick walking towards me.  

Once we were at the hostel I flopped down on a lounge chair on the front lawn and stayed there for the next hour.  Dick had bought me a liter bottle of Nestea so I asked the manager for ice and a glass.  Well, all she heard was ice because a few minutes later she brought me a huge block of ice wrapped in a towel.   I started laughing and told her “ice in a glass.”  So she went back, chipped some off the huge slab and brought it in a glass.  After I had downed 4 glasses of Nestea I went in and showered and came back out to sit some more.

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Walking around and exploring this little village we spotted some stork nests on top of the church tower.

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We went into a bar to have a drink and spotted Brian and the 2 Brits on the patio.  Leslie showed up later and we all agreed to meet back at 7pm for dinner.  In the meantime we toured the inside of the 16th century church, gave a donation and a sweet lady tried to explain things to us in very broken English.

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At 7pm we all met back at the bar for the “Menu Del Dia.”  We were joined by Rod from Sacramento and Carol from Australia, who was 75 years old and walking the Camino alone.  There were 9 of us in all and as we sat  in a covered part of the patio it started to rain.  None of us had brought rain gear to the bar.  Then out of the blue Brians eyes lit up and he said “Let’s photo bomb the bar!”  So we all got up and went in the restaurant part — made the people in there get up and we got this fabulous photo.

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And here’s how we finished our get-together.  Leslie had borrowed my hat today because her ears were getting sunburned.  She loved the hat and said she needed to buy one like it.  Well I knew she wouldn’t be able to because we were in a bunch of small towns and they wouldn’t be selling that kind of hat.  Then Dick told me when he checked in they gave him some kind of package and he didn’t know what was in it.  So I went back in the room and opened it and there were 3 things inside.  A lanyard — no need for that.  A plastic case to put a passport in — too small, the passport won’t fit into it — no need for that.  And a hat — just like the one Leslie had borrowed from me.  OMG — I gave the hat to Lesley at dinner and she was thrilled.  She kept holding the hat and stroking it like it was the best gift anyone had ever given to her.  

There is a saying here that people use over and over again and that is:  “The Camino Always Provides,” and this was yet another example of that happening.  

Dick, Carol and I were delighted as we ran the 4 blocks back to our hostel in the pouring rain.

 

 

TREKKING — DAY 20

MANSILLA to LEON — 12 miles

Today started off with a little mishap.  After I got up and ready to go I picked up my backpack from the floor and found that the water bottle was still attached to it and had been leaking all night.  The backpack was sitting in a pool of water and was soaking wet on the backside — which went against my back, and the shoulder straps were also dripping with water.  There was no way I could wear it today.  So I had to switch to my day pack, where nothing was accessible.  My fingernails were ragged and kept catching on my clothes, I couldn’t find the plastic bag for my pajamas, even though it was right there, I should have washed my hair 3 days ago and Dick didn’t offer to get me any coffee this morning.  All of this added up to put me in a funk.  The good news was that Dick was able to take my backpack with him in the car.

It was after 8am by the time I left and after a half a block the first person I passed was Matt who was sitting on the sidewalk having a smoke.  I found the Camino trail and quickly proceeded out of town.  Immediately the Camino put me right next to a busy highway.

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The diesel fumes and noise of the traffic just added to my irritation.  However, there was one pretty part.

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And it lasted all of 2 blocks.  Then I was back by the highway with noise and fumes.  I listened to my MP3 player to try and block out the noise but it didn’t.  And then it died because I hadn’t charged the batteries.  I tried to switch to music on my phone but didn’t know how to do it so I had to text Dick.  He got me all straightened out.  Then the path ended and we were up on the highway walking alongside the cars and trucks.  

After about 6 miles of easy but noisy walking I decided to stop for a break.  I wanted an outside cafe because the weather was so beautiful but there were none.  I passed up a Cafe with pastries in the window and then turned around and went back to it because I wasn’t sure there would be another.  When I got inside, who was there but Leslie and Brian and his buddie.  They were just finishing their break so I had a little coffee with them and told them to go on ahead.  I took my time drinking and resting, not in any hurry to leave.  

Back on the road the traffic continued and the terrain started to get hilly.  I felt like a slakker pilgrim in my day pack as everyone else had their full packs.  I passed Carol and Leah but didn’t stop to talk as they were trudging up the hill in their full packs.

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There were a couple of cute parts like this donkey with “Buen Camino” painted on it’s side.

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Then the path continued alongside the highway again.  Dick kept texting me that he would meet me for coffee at some point but there was never a place to do it.

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Finally off in the distance I saw a big city and couldn’t believe it was Leon.

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It was another 3 miles of noisy highway before I entered town and met Dick outside the hotel.  There was no place to park so I carried his backpack, my wet backpack and my daypack into the hotel while he looked for a place to park.  The hotel was called the Conde Luna and was a big American type hotel with a view of the Leon Cathedral off in the distance.

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I wasn’t tired after the 12 mile walk so we went out to see the sights of Leon and have a bite to eat.

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We walked around for ages before we found a place to eat.  There were lots of “Bars,” “Cafeterias” and ice cream and dessert places but when we looked at the posted menus we couldn’t understand what any of the food was.  The words were so different from the Spanish I knew.  We finally found one that had an English menu.

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Calamari and Croquettes

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“Little pocket filled with mushrooms, prawns and tomato”

We had planned to stay in Leon for 2 days of rest and relaxation but even though it was beautiful here neither of us felt comfortable being in the big city with the noise, traffic and all the congestion.  And besides that, the whole time we were out walking around we didn’t see one person we knew!