I had heard that Kaas was suffering from tendonitis. I had not seen him for a while so that explained his absence. He had been advised by a doctor to take several days rest which was what he was doing back along the track. I also got a message from Lorenzo. He was approaching Astorga which was quite a few kilometres ahead of me. He had been walking night and day covering an impressive number of kilometres since we last met. As I left Leon, the Way passed though the suburbs and industrial estates of the new city. Climbing slowly it was only at La Virgen del Camino that the city was left behind. Briefly I chatted to Deirdre who had stopped there for a coffee. I though that she was further ahead and it was good to catch up. After La Virgen del Camino there was a choice – to walk along the busy N120 road or to walk overland through dry grassland.
Wanting a quiet walk, I chose the slightly longer route into the hills. Shortly after I met Julie from Saint Etienne in France. For some reason she had heard about me from others on the Camino and said that she was glad to meet me at long last. She asked about all the problems I was having with my feet each day and how I coped camping outside each night. I had no unusual problems with blisters nor did I camp outside each night! Strange how stories can spread on the Camino!
Julie had started her walk from her front door five days before me and was heading all the way to Santiago de Compostela. She rarely, she said, stayed in albergues preferring instead to ‘wild camp’. She was studying languages and hoped to become a translator after university. Julie was a fast walker and after an hour or so after buying some fruit from a roadside seller, she steamed ahead and I never saw her again. An interesting person that I admired for camping each night along the Way. The true spirit of the Camino.
At Chozas de Abajo the sun had become intense. I stopped at a small bar for lunch and ate hungrily on a tortilla sandwich. It was a dusty, deserted place with the sounds of a rock radio station playing in the background. Three Australians arrived exhausted at the bar and I chatted with them for a while. I thought I had met them in Leon but I was wrong. Or was it the heat? Was I delusional about their identities?
They told me about a good albergue in Villar de Mazarife that had a pool. I had missed a swim in Boadilla del Camino so decided that this would be the goal for the day. It was not so far and I was getting lazy anyway. The heat was so intense that the thought of a cold swim was just too much to resist.
The albergue in Villar de Mazarife was fantastic. A large garden had a raised concrete pool in the middle of the large garden area. The soft damp grass under foot felt wonderful after I removed the walking boots. There were lots of chairs with umbrellas to shelter from the sun. It was a welcoming place and perfect for the tired pilgrim. I just had a good feeling about it and knew it was the place to stay for the night. I had unfortunately just missed a delicious lunch of paella. There were many familiar faces – Moritz and Ruth amongst them. The albergue had dormitories, in fact rooms, for four persons – a luxury. You could even sleep on the outside deck of the albergue for a cheaper price. I must have been tired as the bright red chairs looked very welcoming. I had seen some bright blue chairs in Roncesvalles – maybe the pilgrim is attracted to such chairs after so much walking!
In the centre of the village I bought some provisions and juggled for the kitchen facilities with a group of Italians. Later in the evening everyone sat round a large table in the garden while Pepe, a friendly local, played flamenco and Spanish music on his guitar. I finally got my swim in the late evening light before everyone walked to the outskirts of the village to sit by a pond singing and playing guitar. It was late when we got to bed but it had been a great day.
TIP: When everyone is taking one particular route it is worth considering an idea to take the alternative route. Usually it can be quieter and more interesting. Any route that stays away from a road is the best choice.