June 1, 2011 Calzadilla de los Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas

Good sleep and woke to sounds of pilgrims having breakfast. Dressed and out the door with Sebastian after wishing Martin (who uses the breviary for his morning prayers) the best. Martin is a good example that I should follow.

Walked a long distance on the old Roman road, stopping at rest area where we were joined by Korean pilgrims. Continued without Koreans until joined for the day by Jacqueline of Austria who sported a leather Australian cowboy hat. Surrounded all day by vast wheat fields with grand mountains in the distance and the more tame pilgrim road in the distance on the left. You could tell by the trees planted along that road at very precise intervals. We were passed by a train that speeded along between the two camino trails. Jacqueline and Sebastian set an aggressive pace and the walk included long quiet stretches as we all did our best to endure the round rocks underfoot, each becoming increasingly painful as the day wore on.

Arrived at Reliegos and enjoyed a very welcome bocadillo con tortilla frances con queso. This is a rather odd (for Americans) sandwich: an egg and cheese omelette inside a baguette. Still, it was very filling and a nice calorie load for the rest of the walk. We were joined by Case who shared tall cervesas. Then off with Sebastian and Jacqueline for the final miles to Mansilla de las Mulas. Final miles on senda (pathway) adjacent to country road with trees spaced at even intervals. Arrived Mansilla to the huge albergue with central courtyard and shown to bed by Mervyn. Martin arrived later and Sebastian and I found dinner with Martin, Joy, Tom and Eloise. To bed with self-conscious Martin worried about snoring loudly. We were all too tired to notice whether he did snore or not and we drifted off to sleep as soon as our heads hit the pillows.

June 11, 2008 Bercianos to Mansilla de las Mulas

As Tim, Trevor, Danni and I were leaving Bercianos, Trevor announced his plan to take a bus from Mansilla de las Mulas into León. His goal was to miss the long slog through suburbs into this beautiful, but sprawling metropolis. I worried privately that my plan to walk the whole distance would mean that I would miss them after this evening.

We walked through Moratinos and the odd underground homes between there and Reliegos. At Reliegos we stopped at a bar/cafe and there met Daniel Harman, a biker whose plan was to ride from his home in Brighton, England to the tip of South Africa. He had discovered the Camino de Santiago as he’d ridden across Spain and had decided to wander along with the flow of pilgrims for at least a few days. We described albergue life to him and he purchased a credential and stayed with us for several evenings along the way.

On the outskirts of Mansilla de las Mulas another vast flock of sheep took up the road in front of us. In town I found the main albergue which has a large courtyard where pilgrims do their washing and socializing. I said goodbye to Danni, Trevor and Tim and contented myself with  laundry, food gathering, and ATM plundering. That evening I got an SMS message from Stefan of South Africa. “When will you be in León?” he asked. “Tomorrow night,” I replied. He was in Ponferrada, was wanting to spend another great Friday night in the party-city of León, and promised to meet me there to show me how to celebrate like a true pilgrim. I went to bed with the sadness of missing one set of friends, but the joy of knowing I’d see another in a little more than a day.