Day 23 - Leon to Astorga

Trip Start Sep 03, 2012
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24
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Trip End Oct 07, 2012


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Where I stayed
Albergue San Javier

Flag of Spain  , Castile-León,
Monday, September 24, 2012

Kms walked today: 53 kms (15km yesterday + 38km today)
Kms walked in total: 525 kms
Kms left to Santiago: 264 kms
Pains: left leg
Blisters: none.

I'm so glad I walked the first 15kms yesterday, they are potentially the most boring 15k in the World. I would rather go round in circles in a squared room.

It also allowed me to enjoy the buffet breakfast at the hotel which was included in the 40 euro price.
I took a bus up to Villadangos del Paramo which was 4 kilometres from where I stopped yesterday. At the bus station there was four japanese pilgrims who were going all the way to Astorga by bus (I know as they asked me if I was going there also). A bunch of cheats as I later saw them in my same albergue and they had not walked a centimetre. When they saw me they smiled and greeted me. I smiled back and said "que tramposos sois sonrisitas" (you are such cheats big smiles). They bowed back gracefully.

The boring scenery did not stop there...it was 11 kilometres more of unattractive path next to our friend the N-120 road. "Friend" as it seems to be the only reliable place where I can see the correct distance to Santiago.
After Santibanez the walk at least saw the arrival of shrubs and trees. I'm hoping that will keep increasing and the Meseta will end soon.

Close to the cross of San Toribio the path passes next to a mud building which was decorated with flags and all
sorts of hippy stuff. There was a young chap there with a pony tail selling drinks and snacks. Most people stopped to get the "Disney" stamp (as I call the stamps that are not from albergues.

I didn't need anything so I walk past and he shouted "sigue las senales del Camino" (follow the signs of the Camino). I thanked him and told him that the yellow arrows were all over the place so I had no problem. He replied "not the yellow ones, but the other signs...they will show you the path to life!".
I usually ignore silly remarks and those endless notes and phrases people are leaving all along the Camino (polluting the Camino), but to see a hippy living in the middle of no where in a cow dung house telling me what I shout do or not is beyond acceptable. I stopped pointed at his stall and said "El Camino murio cuando se comercializo" (The Camino died when it was commercialised)...silence followed and I continued "my Camino".
Today I walked with one sock again as it really seemed to help yesterday. Its fine until a little stone gets in the boot which tends to happen very often.

It was 2pm when I arrived at the albergue San Javier which is just a stone throw from the Cathedral. I checked in and rushed out to the restaurant "Casa Margata I". Today I was going to have one of the traditional foods of the Maragato area of Leon. As you will see later, this food is served only for lunch as its way too heavy for dinner. This restaurant actually only opens from noon to 4pm as they say clients would die if they ate the Cocido for dinner.
Funnily enough this is the town where my wife and myself ate the Cocido Maragato a few years back. There was a restaurant called "La Peseta" (which no longer exists) which did serve it for dinner. We wanted to try it and had no idea of what it was.

The main problem was that at the time we were touring in a Hyundai van, so that night we would sleep in one of the Astorga streets after dinner. When we finished we went back with our stomachs full...the grumbling and movements of the bellies started and we had to contain ourselves until we could rush to a cafe at 8am to use their facilities!

The Cocido Maragato costs 20 euros per head (that seems to be the price in all the restaurants) and consists of:
- a dish with several types of meat (chorizo, chicken, lacon, codillo, pigs ear)
- then a dish of garbanzos and repollo
- followed by a huge bowl of fideo soup
- natillas with a slice of cake
- orujo and coffee

The 20 euros include a bottle of wine and bread.
The incredible thing is that if you finish the dish they bring more of the same until you tell them to stop. I was already stuffed after the first dish, and had to push myself to try everything.
When I left I could hardly walk, but was glad to have left the restaurant as I was sweating like a piglet after all that food. I started walking around Astorga and didn't sit down for the next two hours when the digestion made some effect.

The Maragatos as supposed to be a tribe different to others of the Region. No one really knows where they came from, and how many are left. Some versions say they were moors, others visigoths...anyway as with everyone else they are trying to make a euro from all of it and there are all sorts of tacky souvenirs with the "Maragato" brand. One thing is for sure, they ate a lot!

Astorga is full of pedestrian streets and plazas to sit and "do the Don". Very friendly people and lots of shops directed at tourists, with half of them being chocolate and pastry ones. Apart from that there is a Gaudi building and gardens, which I had a walk around, and, the Cathedral. I have been to Astorga three times and the latter has never been open. I'm not sure if there is nothing inside or its too sacred...

I wanted to start early tomorrow as I would try to get to Foncebadon so went to bed to read.
The lights were already off as there was a Belgian couple trying to sleep. I used my headlamp to read and suddenly a loud noise, comparable to a wild boar during mating season, started on the bed next to me. It was a Swiss woman who had indulged too much on chocolate during the last fifty years...it was deafening and continuous.

The Belgian couple started complaining, but did nothing...just talk loudly in Flemish saying how it was impossible to sleep.

I kept reading to see if I feel asleep, but the noise just got worse and worse. I had to do something as there was no way of resting with that distortion. So I nudged her hard in the arm, she woke up with a shock and I shouted at her "stop snoring!".

She got all grumpy and started complaining that other people were making noises and walking around. She did have a point that the spaniards upstairs sounded like they were in a bingo room (shouting, jumping, etc). However she has slept through all of it so that was no excuse for her pig noises.

She then said with a swissy accent "this albergue, if you want silence you go hotel". That is the typical selfish response from someone who doesn't allow anyone else to sleep...as if she had a right to be noisy because it is an albergue. That really winded me up, as well as the fact that the mouthy belgians were not saying anything now after complaining for thirty minutes.

I directed my red headlamp at the woman and said "if I don't sleep, you are not going to sleep". I then lay down and
continued reading. She was mumbling for another ten minutes in German and I ignored her. But after that lapse she started again.

I was not going to do the dirty work for the Belgians so I moved to a top bunk bed where the noise was less and I
could actually sleep. However I was not going to let her get away with that comment.
As if that was not bad enough, when I went to the toilet before changing bed I walked into the room that had several cubicles. I had the headlamp on as it was all dark. I turned my head to the right, and there was an old man with his trousers down and sitting on the throne...with the door open and releasing all his load! Why would anyone pooh with the door open? I just don't understand these bloody pilgrims.

BONUS:
I would have normally put this in the next entry, but its directly linked with the snoring Swiss wild boar.
I woke up at 6am when people started moving around. I had actually slept quite well once I managed to shut out the snoring sound. I got dressed and then put the light on in the room. I went directly to the Swiss woman and shook her bed until she woke up with a face of utter fright. I then released the phrase I had wanted to leave with her: "Wake up! This is an albergue, not a hotel!"

I got my rucksack and left...hopefully never to see the monster again.
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