Camino de Santiago – Week 3

Day 15

Light snoring last night. Highlights of the day started with a solid breakfast of cafe au lait, OJ, unlimited whole wheat toast (3 pieces) and granola (3 bowls), plus yogurt we already had. Soon after setting forth, we had a 400-ft climb to the top of a meseta with fine views of the countryside. We passed the San Nicholas albergue located next to a pilgrim hospital founded in the 1200’s. After crossing Rio Pisuerga, we encountered sprinklers irrigating alfalfa fields, a new sight for our trip. We enjoyed our short walk through the river’s cottonwood forest. Onward past irrigated grain fields for 7 miles to the Canal de Castillo, full of water to irrigate crops. The 2-mile walk along to the canal to Fromista provided shade and lots of bird sightings. We found the Estrella albergue in town and settled in. One of our pilgrim friends suggested a nearby restaurant for dinner. Wonderful food conversation with Hans and his wife from Germany. In bed at 9 pm.

Day 16

No snoring last night! Betsy attributed that to the preponderance of women in our 14-person room. In spite of the heat wave (not much of a heat wave to us), the mornings are cool such that we wear gloves. Today’s official route followed a highway for 12.5 miles to Carrion de los Condes. We opted for the alternate route along Rio Ucieza, which featured a dense cottonwood riparian forest loaded with singing birds. Betsy used her Merlin cell phone app to identify some of them by their songs. Back on a road then along the highway to Carrion de Los Condes. Oddly, most pilgrims walked along the highway all day instead of the more delightful alternate route. In town, we found our quarters after some searching. A British video shooter, Chris, escorted us to the front door of a large building (formerly a school), which now houses retired nuns and hikers. The nun wanted to put us in separate rooms but was willing to give us separate adjoining rooms. No hanky panky. Betsy’s left knee bothered her today even with our 12.5-mile day. She got a cold pack from the nuns and took pain meds. We’ll see how tomorrow goes.

Day 17

A longer day ahead. Quiet last night except for loud singing from a Eurasian collared dove outside my window. I shut the window and slept. Up at 6 and breakfast at 6:30 of coffee, milk, banana, and our granola and yogurt. In this way, we get enough calories to start our day. We headed out crossing Rio Carrion then into the countryside. Walking was easy for 3 miles on a flat, smooth gravel path flanked by grain fields. Then on a former Roman road 1,000 years old. Hard to believe the road has been in the same place for all that time. We stopped for a sit-down at a food operation in a refurbished shipping container. Back on the road, easy walking continued often with trees and shrubs that provided some shade. Lots of bird-watching opportunities. We ran into our friend Guillermo at a picnic site. He offered to share a hotel room with us in Leon. Several miles later, we ate lunch sitting beside the path as a steady stream of hikers passed by. The last few miles of the day followed Hwy N-120 but separated by a tall shrubby hedge that almost eliminated car noise. At 1:40, we reached Ledigos and El Palomar albergue just as it opened. We got a bunk then Betsy went in search of food, while I showered. After journal writing, I took a nap. We’re looking forward to the communal dinner at 7. Another fine sunny, delightful day.

Day 18

A long day that turned out to be longer than expected. Betsy and I left at 6:30 minus breakfast. We had coffee in San Nicholas after 3 miles and polished off our dry granola sitting on a bench. Onward under cool, blue skies to Sahagun along Hwy N-120. Happily, tall shrubs lined our path most of the way. A brief detour past the Virgin de Puente church next to Rio Valeraduey. Into Sahagun, past the train station, to a grocery store. We ate lunch on a bench at San Tirso church and the San Benito arch with a stork nest on top. Out of town across Rio Cea (lots of clear water) and along Hwy N-120 screened by a line of shrubs. We reached the municipal albergue in Bercianos and found a line of about 20 pilgrims snaking out the front door and along the building. We moved to the end of the line and waited. And waited. And waited some more. After an hour we hadn’t entered the building. The two guys in charge came outside to announce that we would all get beds. The came out later to say that some of us wouldn’t get beds. What a mess. After another hour, we all got beds. As compensation, the communal dinner prepared mostly by a group of pilgrims was a big hit. The day ended with an opportunity for pilgrims to speak about their experiences on the Camino. Wonderful.

Day 19

Two of my roommates snored steadily most of the night. But I think I’m getting used tongue noise. Up at 6, packed, and downstairs for breakfast. I supplemented the coffee, fruit, and yogurt with leftover spaghetti from last night. at 7 we got going, passing by a pond and weekend at the west end of town. Today’s walk followed a lightly used paved road often under the canopies of sycamore trees. Many irrigated grain fields. After 4 miles, we stopped briefly in El Burgo Romero. Over the next 8 miles, forested arroyos provided mist of the visual interest. In one arroyo with a dense understory shrub layer the birds treated us to an avian concert. Back on the route light rain fell for a few minutes then stopped. As I walked, I wondered if I could get a bed in Mansilla. As we walked into Reliegos, a woman at an outside table at a bar asked if I was Alan Carpenter. When I said I was , she told me that New Zealand friend, Grant who had just left, found me a bed at had Gaia albergue in Mansilla. Yes! Betsy and i walked 3 mikes to Mansilla. I checked into Gaia, while Betsy walked to the nearby bus station to ride to Leon. She’ll stay in Leon tonight with Guillermo and rest tomorrow. I will walk to Leon tomorrow. A fine day.

Day 20

Quiet last night with only 8 of us in the room. Up at 6:30, packed, and at the breakfast table for coffee, hot milk, and muffins. On the path through Mansilla, across Rio Elsa, then along busy Hwy N-601. Easy but cool walking (gloves) under blue skies. Fortunately, I walked on a gravel path separated from the highway. Just under 4 miles, I crossed the wide Rio Parma at Puente Villarente on a beautiful, old stone bridge. About 6 miles on the day, as I chatted with Ed from Alaska, we ascended a hill and gazed at the eastern outskirts of Leon. Downhill into the city passing by warehouses and car dealerships. Not very charming. I kept wondering how I would find the hostel where Betsy and Guermo were staying. My cellphone doesn’t work unless I have Wi-Fi. Fortunately, I passed by a table of Camino volunteers who gave me a map and showed me where generally where the hostel was located. With the help of a priest and two guys in a bar, I found the hostel. Betsy showed up soon. She’d been to see a physical therapist and got help for her ankle. We spent a while lining up places to stay for the following week. We strolled to the cathedral for a look. Judging from the variety of features, the cathedral seemed to have been built over a long period by a succession of designers and artisans. We ate dinner in the hostel kitchen.

Day 21

Guermo left about 6, and we followed st 7. No hurry today with only 13.2 miles to walk. We ate breakfast downstairs with food from yesterday. It turned out that Guermo left his stuffed sleeping bag in the room. He and Betsy exchanged messages as to what to do with it. In the end, we left it in the hostel with a note explaining the situation. Out the door at 7:30 to see the cathedral again in the morning light. We walked through the older parts of the city past an exquisitely and ornately designed official looking building (see photo) then through residential and commercial areas. At length we left the city. The route followed busy and noisy (lots of trucks) Hwy N-120 without much visual appeal. A small coffee stand in San Miguel provided a rest stop. Onward along the highway past areas of paramo with dense bunch grasses some of which were our Stipa (needle grass) friends. At Villadangos, we found the municipal albergue, a school that burned then was redirected as an albergue. It’s modern, clean, and tidy, with a fully equipped kitchen, and donativo. Happily, Betsy’s sore knee worked better today. Not the greatest scenery today, but we’re pleased to be here.

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