No matter how many days you walk, its amazing how each day has its flavour, its atmosphere, its weather. Today was not hot nor cold, not wet nor dry, just different. The way out of Reliegos followed a road to Mansilla de las Mulas. There was no traffic apart from a couple of tractors.
In Mansilla de las Mulas there was a market getting ready to open. Stall holders were busily setting up their stalls. It was a Tuesday which I though strange for a market day. I found a small cafe and had breakfast. A group of cyclists was getting ready to leave their lodging and continue on their way to Santiago. There was much activity with a support van and over thirty young cyclists obviously on the adventure of a lifetime.
More long stretches followed beside a main road. If it wasn’t for the heavy traffic, it would have been a wonderful walk. The edge of the way was alive with brilliantly coloured flowers and insects. The noise of the road however was too much of a distraction from the beauty. The cyclists soon sped past me waving and shouting ‘hello’.
As I approached Villamoros de Mansilla, the traffic became unbearable. It was like they had forgotten to make a path for the pilgrims. The Way became narrower and on one bridge across a large river it was positively dangerous. Huge trucks trundled past with only inches separating them from the walkers. Its a wonder that more pilgrims weren’t killed each year. I later discovered that over twenty five pilgrims died in Spain each year. I was sure this section was the cause of some of those deaths.
Luckily the Way moved back into the countryside after passing through another road building project. It made me reflect on the stupidity of road building. More roads means more traffic. In Switzerland in 1996 they decided not to build any more major roads. The result – better public transport, less busy roads, and a happier place. There is my political thought for the day! The idea of a future overrun by traffic was overwhelming and contrasted greatly with the simplicity of the Camino. I became very tired at the though of such a lack of progress.
Another eight kilometres later I was relieved to arrive in Leon. This was a significant stop and the end of the eighth part Aymery Picaud’s guide. I still had a few kilometres through the industrial and high-rise suburbs before reaching the walls of the old town. I took a diversion to the youth hostel on the way but felt it was not a true albergue – I wanted to be closer to the ancient history of this fine city. It was now hot and the walking was becoming laboured. In the middle of the old town somewhere was the Monasterio Santa Maria de Carvajal. The only problem was I could not find it. I spent over an hour asking locals where the monasterio was, each time obtaining totally different directions. Finally three old locals gave me detailed directions. They told me never to believe anything anyone says in Leon as ‘they are all stupid’!
The Monasterio was large and very much in keeping with the tradition of the Camino. It was set just off a wonderful old square. I wandered around the town and, after again getting lost a few times, finally decided that I really liked the place. The atmosphere was fantastic as everyone waited for the start of the Spain versus Portugal World Cup match. Each bar and cafe was buzzing with life and served their own free Tapas! Crowds sat outside most bars and cafes in the warm evening air. I spent some time at the magnificent cathedral photographing it’s exterior and interior. The town itself had many interesting old shops and small streets and was an endless source of fascination.
I did watch the World Cup game before going to bed in the hot windowless dormitory of the Monasterio. There were many snorers that night!