The last day of walking, according to plan. I was supposed to fly back on the 17th, after a whole day in León – or not, if I decided to dawdle – and with my extra efforts yesterday I am now ahead of schedule. Always a good thing!
Rain, however, is not so good. And there’s more of it to come. All day.
So when I wake up in Reliegos and hear that wet drumming on the window again, I grab my long tights, my long sleeve merino top, my guidebook, and a large café con leche in the little bar/communal room. I need to weigh up my options. (One of which being to have another coffee and a piece of tortilla, so I do.) I could spend all day in Reliegos? No, I have spent enough time locked in/out of establishments in Reliegos to know that the novelty will wear off pretty quickly. And Reliegos isn’t exactly a major transport hub so no easy access to buses or trains, which would be tempting. I am sick of the weather, but not of walking, or pilgrims, so the solution is clear: I’ll simply Not Not Go to León! I hit the booking.com app and after a few taps I have a new plan. Then it’s time to reluctantly go.
Yet again I am one of the last pilgrims on the trail, but that’s OK. I pass a few soaked and miserable fellow travellers on the 6 km to Mansilla de las Mulas, and I bet the albergues there are full already. The statue in town seems to be as fitting in the rain as it is in the heat.
I stop for a nice big coffee and a massive lomo sandwich with tomato which really hits the spot. On days like this, merino really comes into its own – yes, I am damp from top to toe, but don’t really feel cold, even while drying out in the lovely brown bar full of wet travellers. There is an odd atmosphere: most I chat to are heading for León, but not excited about it, not now. Some of them will have a rest day there, some will return home from there, some will walk right through. I have an appointment to meet my previous camino family at a bar overlooking the cathedral, either tonight or tomorrow night. It will be tomorrow night now.
Just as I am getting dry again it’s time to move on. Another 6+ kms of not very interesting walking in the heavy rain, and I am done for the day.
I am stopping in Villarente, where I have booked a bed for the night in the San Pelayo, and will hole up and wait out the rain. Finally I cross the bridge and pass the first albergue, with a massive outdoor pool which makes me laugh. That would have looked sooo tempting on any other day, like tomorrow. Because tomorrow the rain is supposed to stop, and I will be taking a short 13 km morning stroll into León in the sunshine. I will still have plenty of time to shower, change and enjoy the delights of the big city, and still have a rest day there before I fly back home. A great plan, if I must say so myself.
As I arrive at the albergue, I just peel everything off and jump straight in a warm shower. Then I put all the wet clothes, including the insoles of my shoes, into a mesh bag which can go straight in the washing machine, and hand it to the lovely hospitalera, who will wash it and pop it in the dryer for me. In the meantime I put on everything else I’ve got to get warm, and even consider crawling into my sleeping bag … but then I’ll be asleep in a minute so best not. I go into the communal rooms, which are nice and warm, and make myself a cup of tea in the kitchen. There are few others there – I suppose most people just want to get to León or have stopped in Mansilla – but soon a small group of us decide to go for a wander to a bar and grill where there might be ribs, so we do, and there are, and we end up eating there and sharing some wine to get warm, and then it’s back to the Pelayo for an early night and an early start tomorrow morning.