Day 20 - Sahagun to Mansilla de las Mulas

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
1
21
36
Trip End Oct 07, 2012


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Flag of Spain  , Castille and León,
Friday, September 21, 2012

Distance walked today: 36 kms
Distance walked in total: 462 kms
Distance to Santiago: 352 kms (this has to be wrong! Will find out at Leon).
Pains: same pain on the left leg, but it worked well during the long walk. The more I walked without stopping the better.
Blisters: none

I woke up at 5am but decided to snooze a bit more until 5.30 am. I knew it would be a long day with plenty of kilometres in what I assumed would be more Meseta with very little entertainment for the eyes.

I applied some muscle cream and massaged the shin area and calf as well as I could. Every time I do that the leg nearly returns to a proper condition which makes me hopeful that I will be able to rebuild it for the last 300 kilometres.

I know I left Sahagun at exactly six o'clock in the morning as I was walking past its arched entrance when the church bells struck as many times. I was alone in the dark and sleepy so the first strike scared the living daylights out of me.

I didn't see much during the first couple of hours in the dark but I assume it was all wheat crops and no hills. This was a big problem after 4 kilometres when I reached a roundabout where three roads meet and a bridge crosses the motorway.

I wanted to take the classical French Camino route which was supposed to cross the road and continue on the left side of the motorway. The alternative route crossed the bridge on to the right side. There are several signs explaining the options about 50 metres before the decision point, however they are all painted over in white and the yellow arrows have obviously been tampered with.

All the arrows directed the walkers towards the right hand side option which adds about four kilometres to the day. I decided to ignore the arrows and follow what was supposed to be the old route. Luckily about ten minutes later the yellow arrows appeared again.

I was convinced that the sign vandalism must have been work of the bar and albergue owners of the village of Calzadilla de los Hermanillos. I'm sure they want to confuse as many pilgrims as possible to walk the alternative path.

My theory was confirmed when I stopped at Bercianos del Real Camino for breakfast. The Galician barman asked me if I hadn't got lost at the roundabout. He says its a constant guerilla war in between villages for business - changing yellow arrows, and painting over information signs.

One thing is for sure, I was glad to have arrived at this cafe. The owner is very friendly and made ham and cheese hot sandwiches (which I tried), apart from a delicious tuna empanada. He also had it very nicely decorated and clean, with lots of tables in the terrace and fresh, green grass which he constantly watered so walkers could stepo out of the dry path for a short rest.

By the time I finished my double breakfast and applied a new cream massage, the pilgrim train had started to arrive. There were a few 36 kilometre walkers, it seems to be a usual decision to enjoy Sahagun and then jump close to Leon. Others were spread along the smaller villages of Bercianos and Burgo Ranero (the Frog Town), but there is hardly anything in those villages or in between.

As I was walking along day dreaming, I bumped into one of those silly lines that someone had written on a Camino indication. It said "Dejate llevar por el viento" (let yourself be carried by the wind). How on earth did they know I ate fabada asturiana the previous day?

The path is no different to the previous two days, long and boring, but at least in this area trees were planted same years ago. They are every ten metres for most of the way, and after noon their shade starts covering the path. They are refreshing metres when walking and safe havens if the body temperature or exhaustion exceeds enjoyable limits.

There is also about four "merenderos" (picnic areas) and clear signs of when the next one will appear. However there are no water fountains with exception of the bars in the different villages.

At Burgo Raneros I stopped for a refreshment and had a chat with the pilgrims there. I recognised them all from albergues and walks but hadn't spoken to these previously. I guess I'm just like a gigolo who has slept with hundreds of people and doesn't know their names...I meant "slept next to"!

There was an Irish chap, a Canadian girl and a Pole with a mullet. The Canadian was looking forward to Leon to try its famous pulpo (octopuss). I jumped in to correct here error, and advised her it would be a capital sin to eat the pulpo before the Galician town of Melide. That soon derived into a long list of recommendations I made for alternative tapas in Leon.

The Polish youngster just nodded at everything and I'm assuming he doesn't speak any english. The Irish guy did have a longer chat and asked a few questions until it was time to start walking.

We walked together for a couple of kilometres but I had to leave him behind as he was struggling to walk at any sort of speed. He had suffered blisters early on during the Camino and had not treated them well. I saw his feet at the bar (as he takes his boots off at every stop), and big portions of skin were missing in different sections.

He admitted he hadn't cured them correctly at the start, and had pushed himself too hard the first few days. He was going to try to get to O'Cebreiro and would try to finish next year.

I told him I would reserve a bed for him at the albergue when I arrived, an idea that sparked relief in his eyes...that's me, a saviour in the Camino!

Belfast boy had been walking for a few days with two girls he had met, but had pushed on as one of them kept stopping to eat. He described her as "quite heavy". Funnily enough I knew who he was referring to as I saw her in Sahagun eating a pack of chocolate doughnuts when I did my shopping.

With 26 of the 36 kilometres reached, I stopped under the shade of a tree where a bench had conveniently been placed. I took out the food I had bought they day before, and proceeded to a picnic ritual, more out of desire to sit down to rest, and to release the weight of the food, than out of actual hunger.

It was a relaxing half hour rest which I ended when Belfast boy caught up. I decided to tag along with him slowly until the next village of Reliegos. We parted again when he had to stop to give his feet some oxygen, and would meet on final time at the albergue later.

With a 2pm sun hitting hard, the last six kilometres where endless. Usually it would have been and easy trot, but the dry heat just kept everyone snailing along without any great fanfare.

At the albergue a Dutch guy called me from the terrace and seemed truly happy to meet once again. He was the chap with whom I shared communal dinner the first night at Roncesvalles. The first thing I asked him was whether the was still carrying the air mattress and pump!

He was still going strong but had left behind quite a few things: the air mattress, the pump, two aluminium dishes and the corresponding knives and forks.

There was four of them walking together since Pamplona: a German woman, an English Colombian man, an English pensioner and himself.

They had also had a couple of long walking days, with their record being 53 kilometres when they had to keep walking through the night as they couldn't find any beds at Najera. They arrived at Santo Domingo de la Calzada around 4am and slept in the park until they could get into the albergue to sleep.

The German woman diverted the conversation to bed bugs as she had woken up that morning covered in bites. What I learnt was that her bites were not due to the feared bed bug as the bite pattern was not correct. Apparently bed bugs leave a nearly straight line of small bites - they start biting and continue in a line until they find a blood source.

She had also found a larger bug next to her bed in the albergue we were staying at. She had killed it and brought it down to show us and the hospitalera. I immediately saw it was a tick, and was probably on someone's clothes.

All the group had impregnated their rucksacks with anti bed bug liquid, as well as had silk linen also covered in the stuff. The English pensioner had even been having yeast tablets for a month as the insects are supposed to hate its smell.

I felt awfully under-prepared in comparison, but having said that they all had some sort of bite or sting while I was still to suffer one. Touch wood!

The town of Mansilla de las Mulas ("Hand on Chair of the Mules" - a classic name) is a very chilled out place. With an old protective wall, which is seen best from the other side of the river, its a small village with lots of pedestrian narrow streets. I found a small square in the centre where I sat calmly to read before I searched for a place to have dinner.

There is no lack of "embutido" (dried hams, chorizos, cecinas, lomos, etc) shops in the village. It must be a typical stop for tourists driving around the area.

My dinner was away from the pilgrim menus at the bar restaurant "Curiosa Casa". As its name states, the decoration is of all sorts of bits and bobs, and its menu follows the same style.

I ordered two dishes which I thought sounded delicious, "delicias de queso frito con bacon crujiente" and "huevos cabreados". The waitress warned me it was too much for one person so I stuck to the second which translates as "angry eggs". It was a very tasty and filling dish, made up very simply of fries, fried eggs, ham, and slightly spicy sauce all cooked in the oven.

I wobbled to the albergue after dinner, even though I would have happily stayed around as it was one of those fresh nights (not cold, not hot). The terraces in the pedestrian streets were packed. No surprise for a Friday evening.
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