Walking from Carrion de los Condes to Leon with our Camino Family.
It was really a memorable experience here at the Santa Maria convent in Carrion de los Condes. We were unfortunately all woken up very early by some idiot who turned on the room light to pack his bag “because I don’t have a head lamp”.
We had raved so much about the pastry triangles that a number of the usual early walkers did not get up and go until after 7 when the bakery opened! Christine was kind enough to treat us to some triangles for breakfast. Today none of us was looking forward to the 16 km first leg on the flat meseta that is also without any civilization.
The prescribed route from here is to Sahagun in 37.3 km, which is again totally crazy. We are headed to Terradillos de Templarios at 24.7 km, which is for us s quite far enough.
Leaving thru the city of Carrion in the dark we were following a guy who was about 200 m ahead of us and 2 sticking at a brisk pace. He suddenly took a sharp left turn and kept walking. We got to the spot where he turned and we stopped. We saw the arrows pointing straight ahead of us and clearly not in the direction he was going. He had followed the highway sign that marks the Way for drivers, but does not “point the route of the way”. This was one of many times we had to redirect people mistaking the signs. This was very common in Galicia since a lot of the bars and Albergues use yellow, green and blue arrows to get you to divert their place of business.
This longish day, however is easy going and almost all flat. The few ups and downs of the Camino today are not steep or hard going. The only issues you need to confront are that there is no ATM for 2 days and no water or civilization for the first 16 km until Calzadilla de la Cueza. Luckily we ate our yummy triangle for breakfast and had coffee before we left.
The 12/13km stretch between Villotilla and Calzadilla is along an old Roman Road, the Via Traiana, which linked Astorga back to Bordeaux.
This was the longest 16 km of the whole trip as it is on a flat and completely straight road. There are a few rest stops to take a seat along the way. We were happy to get a break in Calzadilla for a well deserved coffee and snack.
The day continued in the same vein. Arriving to Templarios there was one albergue about 500 meters for the “town” and as usual we kept going to see what is “better in the center”. We hoped for a mercado and some choices for food and accommodation. Well it did not get any better. There is one other spot to stay, but we were there now and it did have the only bar.
We arrived just after a group that had pre-booked an entire room for their “group”. Just ahead of us was a single girl Judy from Egypt and she got the first bed in the next room. Just behind us arrived the dreaded Spanish snorer! I leaned into the lady at the desk and whispered to her that i would be very grateful if she did not put the two guys behind us in our room since they are terrible snorers. She laughed and said no problem. We did however have quite a small room with 4 tightly spaced bunks in it, but everyone was very quiet especially the 2 Croatian guys who slipped out like ninjas before sunrise.
We also shared the room with a very nice man from France Emmanuel. We teased him later sine I met him first in the Jack and Jill bathroom earlier that evening, when I was brushing my teeth. He was shy as he did not speak English well, but said “are you from Canada? I’ve been to Canada, maybe we could all meet for a dinner and talk about Canada?” I said “ok” Ha ha that said we did become great friends and traveled with him in our “family” for the next 2 weeks. He began walking in Arles France and so his Camino will be 1700 km to our mere 900 plus.
We left Templarios before sunrise as well as we wanted to see the stars here where there is so little light pollution and also to see the sun rise. It was also pretty brisk this morning! We met another French guy who was walking wrapped in a silver emergency blanket! Wow that makes quite a racket when your moving that fast.
Today we walked along on and off with Emmanuel the 23.3 km to Bercianos del Real Camino. After the first 3.1 km in Moratinos there was a bar for a coffee and croissant, but this guy unlike very few others along the route was gouging the pilgrims. He wanted 4 euros for a serving (not a jar) of nutella. Two coffee and croissants was 8 Euros!
At one point in the dark the gravel road came to a paved road and it took us all several minutes to find a yellow and very faded arrow marking which direction to go. You went about 300 m to the left and then went back on the dirt track. We also had a few of the “cool kids” Ali and Claus join us today.
Walking towards Sahagun after 12.6 km we are glad we did not come here yesterday. It is just a big and not very nice city. We skirted around the major development. Many of the buildings in Sahagun were built in the Mudejar style, which is strongly influenced by Moors with towers of elaborate and geometric design.
It is now another 12.7 km to Bercianos del Real Camino and with only one small village at the half way point. In Bercianos there are 2 Albergues and a pension, but not that many beds in total. This is a dusty and very small village. The Municipal did not open until 1330 and so we had over 90 minutes to kill. We went into the small shop, which actually had a surprising amount of stuff in it. We bought some meat and cheese and fruit and half a loaf of fresh bread (can you imagine at home asking them to cut you half a loaf?).
We then thought we would picnic and after check into the Albergue. We continued to the end of the town. By the time we got there we felt we really did not want to stay here and that it was worth the 7.3 km to get to the next town El Burgo Ranero. This would make a pretty big day for us at 30.6 km total. But resting here for an hour or so should be enough to get us thru it. This also puts us back on track to “the traditional stages”.
At the end of the village was a small picnic area and lo and behold Emmanuel was sitting there having his lunch. We joined him and found he was of the same opinion as us and planned to move on. We shared some treats and some Spanglish/Frenglish conversation. We really bonded with him over the next few days.
In the town of Ranero Emmanuel decided to go to the municipal and we to a private Albergue with a very large garden full of delicious grapes to eat and a private room with a bathroom! We did meet him later for dinner. We decided on the usually huge menu of the day as we felt we deserved it today. This included a massive appy, main, dessert, and a bottle of wine each (which you can take to go!). It is just one more day and we will be meeting Gillian. She arrived to Leon this evening and will bus out to Mansilla, which is where we will walk to tomorrow.
It was another good nights sleep that spurred us on for today’s 18.6 km to Mansilla de las Mulas. The walking is easy today on small country lanes.
The area is for wheat growing during the summer month and to winter the sheep. The route is generally very flat with a few gullies, but nothing that is challenging. Mansilla was a Roman settlement and town, on the banks of the River Esla.
“The link to mules is a misnomer as it was known for its cattle and horse markets from the 10th century.”
Here we stayed in a large private Albergue just as you enter the town. We had pre chosen this spot so Gillian would know where to meet us. She had had a good night in her hotel in Leon. Her original plan was to walk to Mulas to meet us and then walk back the next day with us. Luckily she took our advice and slept in and then took the bus out to meet us.
We were swayed to go in to the albergue by their big garden, but in the end it was a bad choice since it was basically one big room full of bunks. This made for a challenging night. There was a group of German men who got up at 5 am and proceeded to talk very loudly.
Today Gillian she had 18.2 km as an easy first day. The Camino leads out of Mansilla by way of a medieval bridge over the River Elsa and then onto a dirt track that once again runs alongside the N120 until Leon.
We left just after sunrise and walked the 4.1 km to Vilamoros before we could find a place for the daily cafe and croissant.
The walking today is easy with only one small rise and fall between Arcahueja and Leon.
As the day passes it will become more obvious that you are closing on a major city. This is the last big city until Santiago, athough Ponferrada is a very large town.
The ever present stork nests!
Shortly after Valdefuente you pass through an industrial area and weave under and around the highway before entering Puente Castro on the outskirts of Leon. From here to the center the walk is interesting unlike the slog into Burgos. There are lots of shops and restaurants.
Approaching the main part of the old walled city you are greeted by a welcome team at a park on the route. They offered advice, a tourist map of the city, and directions to your destination in the city. They gave us all a city stamp and some sweets.
Here we decided to stay at the Monastery Albergue de Peregrinos de las Benedictinas. This is a very basic Albergue. Technically it is run by the nuns, but practically it is run by French hospitalaries. They separate the single men and women into separate dorms with their own baths. The married people were stuck at one end of the men’s dorm and the wives expected to share the bath with the men. We settled in, but got worried when the man in the bunk next to us proceeded to snore unbelievably loudly during his afternoon nap. We are now seasoned and smart Pilgrims however and later that night we made our move. There was an entire empty room near the single women’s dorm and Daniel, Gillian, and I snuck in there with another woman and slept well all night. We heard from the married group that they had had a very bad night upstairs! Dogged a bullet.
“Leon was Founded as the military encampment of the Legio VI Victrix around 29 BC.”
The old city is a lovely maze of stone streets.
Emmanuel had caught up with us again today and we planned to tour the city and meet him for dinner.
The Gothic Cathedral here has unbelievable stained glass windows.
Pilgrims get a discounted entry that includes the audio tour.