July 17, 2008

Day 68: 20 June- Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

The morning started off beautifully as we left Mansilla with the moon still hanging in the sky giving out light. But before too long we found ourselves near some very busy roads.
A lot of people were planning to catch the bus to Leon, and Rebekah had actually warned me I might want to bus to Leon then Astorga.... as the next section of the Camino was not very attractive, and on busy roads. But somewhere along the way I had acquired some 'proper' ideas about walking all the way...
This photo shows us walking along a section of the main highway where we had no path for ourselves. But this wasn't actually the worst bit. At one point we had no option but to cross this busy road as the yellow arrows directed us. (I know it doesn't look busy in this photo, but believe me it was.) And we had to make this crossing in two stages. First we had to get to the median strip. At least we could see what was coming here. Then we had to cross to the other side, with a curve in the road right nearby. We had no visibility of what was coming in the two approaching lanes, and they couldn't see us trying to cross right around the bend. Eight of us took the plunge in a line all at once..... I remain incredulous that we had to cross here. In most first world countries, it would usually be illegal to even think of crossing such a road as pedestrians, let alone be forced to choose a blind bend for the crossing.....

In my next life folks, this is the section of the Camino I am unashamedly going to catch the bus for, though I have heard recently that they have opened a pedestrian bridge along here that addresses the safety problems. I hope so.....but even where there is a separate path, the road is so busy it makes for unpleasant walking.
However, we eventually arrived in the historic heart of Leon, and found sanctuary in the narrow streets.... then found sanctuary in the albergue. Here there was segregation of the sexes in two dormitories, unless you were actually married, in which case you got to go into the couples' dorm. (And they did actually query you about whether you were married if you had different surnames...)
For the rest of the day I took time to explore the wonderful city of Leon. But I don't have many photos to show. (I can't remember why really....) But Leon was vibrant and alive, and had many exquisite buildings. The cathedral had magnificent glass. My favourite place by far was San Isadora, which had treasures inside such as the library full of books laboriously transcribed by medieval monks. By the time I returned to the albergue it was much busier. It was obvious that this was where the Camino started to get far more crowded, with some 300km or so left to walk.... It was also a very busy night in Leon apparently, with the fiesta about to begin. But with my earplugs in, I was only dimly aware of the shenanigans right outside the albergue windows.....

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