16 miles, 1,300 feet ascent and descent. 7:30 am to 3:30 pm
17 miles, 1, 500 ft. ascent, 8 am to 3 pm
My feet are killing me today. I am battling large blisters, draining them with a needle every night and putting blister pads on them.
Today is my day! In spite of my feet, I am joyous.
At 10 am there are church bells in the distance.
“Good speed is your speed.” is painted on a sign, surely an encouragement to pilgrims.
This morning I dwaddled over my tea in the kitchen, as it was still dark. Wilson quickly ate his breakfast, was ready to go and asked for my email address so we can stay in touch. He was thinking would not see me again. He left.
I took my, but it was pretty dark at 7:30 am, so I took the alternate and more direct trail along the road instead of wending through the woods.
23 miles, pretty flat. On the trail at 7:10 am, wandering through Leon with Jan, in search of the trail out of town. I decided to take a detour along the river. It is pitch dark and I am so glad Jan is with me, but I do wish she would stop cursing when I lose the way!!
By the time it is light, about 8:30 am, and we are out of town, she is very slow from the huge blisters all over her feet. She tells me to go on ahead, which I do, whistling off to find some coffee in a cafe in the first village.
Meet my first Leon Mastiffs, looking down an embankment at them. Three of them are guarding a large corral of cows. They look like St. Banairds, but the coloring is like a yellow labrador. Is all their loud barking at me?
Pass fields of cut grain, corn or maze fields, beans, potatos, sugar beets and apple orchards. Bamboo grows along the irrigating ditches. A small pond near a village has two ducks floating in the middle. I stop for a closer look, then realize they are wooden and tethered. It is a funny joke on me.
My hostel tonight is in the home of a local priest, 4 euros.
The architecture has changed. All the homes are now quarried stone in old villages, which are not separate home at all. The village is lined with walls that have doors and windows. But it is impossible to tell where one home ends and the other begins. Entering the priest’s, the first place is an inner courtyard with the old water well, a nice flower garden. It is enclosed with a two-story window structure that overlooks the courtyard. The balcony overhangs, providing a sheltered area around the perimeter. The back of the courtyard opens into a small field, where they have built a dorimitory for pilgrims, a washing area, clothes lines, showers and toilets. There is a kitchen for us and a computer with DSL for free. This is very nice.
I do the usual, shower, wash my clothes, take a siesta. And who comes in but Wilson. We laugh and laugh that we keep running into each others. Dinner is communal in the garden area picnic tables with Italians, French, a Canadian, a Brazilian, and I am the only American.
17 miles, 300 feet ascent. Feel good.
“Free Leonese Country” is spray painted on advertising signs.
Yesterday I crossed the border into the Leonese region of Spain.
Fall tint of red and yellow in leaves.
Checked into the Benedictine Convent and was warmly greeted by a nun. Payment is on a donation basis. They separate the women from the men. It doesn’t matter, as I am sure the women snore as much and as loudly as the men. I have only woken myself up once snoring, so I am part of the chorus. The bathrooms are big, clean and have hot water and a washboard type sink for washing clothes, which are hung in the courtyard to dry. The metal bunk beds are all white as are the threadbare sheets on them. It looks like an olden hospital ward or lunatic asylum.
With Jan, the Canadian woman, I explored the cathedral, crypt, and a museum chock full of medieval, leather bound, vellum books. Some were open for display. It was incredible.
We happened upon a massage office and went up for a massage from a handsome Spanish man. He was in his 30’s, stocky, curly black hair and a nice big smile. Jan went first as she was having shoulder problems, thinking her backpack is too heavy, perhaps. After her 30-minute for 30 euro massage, he worked on my feet.
I told him of my blisters and that they ached at night. He said when people walk on the flat, hard surfaces, their feet spread. It is more, and was more, comfortable walking in the mountains. Plus I had walked 84 miles across England before coming to Spain. But the terrain was often soft fields and fewer miles each day. His recommendation was to soak my feet in hot water with two aspirins dissolved in it. Then he put a hand on each foot, bowed his head and God only knows what he was doing for a moment of silence over my feet. Oh well, it did feel better. Upon leaving, I thanked him and extended my hand. He came closer and kissed each cheek. I love Spain!
Dinner with Jan and Wilson in the town square.
Evening prayer with the nuns at 9:30 pm. They lock the doors at 9:30 pm, so you had better be in by then. The chapel, the nuns singing and praying was beautiful. The oldest nun prayed for us, the pilgrims, at the end and it was translated into English. It was very touching and I would never have been able to see the chapel and nuns without staying at this convent.
22 miles, flat. 8 am to 3:30 pm.
Fabulous fall day with blue sky and light breeze.
Plains of Spain are covered with yellow fields of grain stubble.
Sunflowers in the fields look at the ground, at the end of their bloom.
Mountain to the north, along the coast, are visible.
Picnic lunch of salami, cheese and bread, peach and chocolate and almond bar.
Storks nest on church steeples.
Walk on a nice dirt road, shaded by long rows of young beeches. They look planted just for giving the pilgrims shade.
Pilgrims on bicycles zip by me on the road adjacent to the nice trail. I think unpilgrim-like thoughts about them.
About 3 pm a woman on a bicycle, coming from a garden, gave me six big ripe tomatoes! I ate one immediately and shared the others at the hostal. They were delicious. Nothing like this would happen to a bicyclist. They go too fast.
Pass an open warehouse with a front loader filled with old bread loaves.
Walking in town past a bar window, I see the cyclists inside sipping beer. Unpilgrim-like thoughts return, but then I spitefully remember my fresh tomatoes and they don’t have any.
Checked into the old hostal, with charming slanting well-worn wooden floors. Hand-washed my hiking clothes, hung them to dry in the courtyard, which was enclosed. The walls and windows sported baskets of red geraniums. It was lovely. Took a short siesta, visited with a roommate, a young man from Korea who was also resting. Three English women were chatting, but left so others could doze.
Then I went out to explore the little town. Passing through the old stone walls coming in, I decided it needed further investigation. Much of the wall is left, although not intact. The stones are all round brownish-gold river rocks. The town has spread beyond the walls, which is bordered by a walking path and lit at night.
I went in a spectacular Ethnological Museum, at a special pilgrim price of 1 euro. There were no other pilgrims there. Thankfully, each display had an English version. Local traditions, farm implements, peasant clothing for dress and everyday work, musical instruments, pictures of old farm structures, videos of traditional dances and music were treated as though they were jewels, being dispayed in glass cases. My favorite part was the display and photos of the four different ethnological groups of people in northern Spain. In some villages I noticed the people looked distincly alike and it gave an explantion why and where some originated from.
Hostal 4 Euros and dinner was 10 Euros.
13 miles, fairly flat terrain. 7:30 to 11:30 am.