I was in no hurry to start walking towards León – I had my room booked and it looked to be a slightly cooler and more comfortable walking day. I had a good breakfast, chatted to some French cyclists in French-Spanglish and then off I went.
Mansilla isn’t big, and soon I was at the other end with a better view of the old city walls.
Then another return to senda… With more scribblings on the signs along the way. Admirable sentiments and all that, but who packs a permanent marker when they go on a pilgrimage? What is the point?
4 kms into the day I arrived at Villamoros, or Yellow Dot Town as I know it, but the bar was closed and there didn’t seem to be anything else open either. So I carried on to the larger town of Villarente, where I had a stop and an Aquarius for a boost for the hour’s walk to Arcahueja. This tiny town has a bar tucked away in a side street just off the trail, and the tortilla was freshly made – so fresh it was still giving off steam when he cut into it!
Another benefit of stopping there was that I would shake off not one, but two ladies of a certain age who had failed to check behind them before they dropped their knickers for a wilderness wee right by the track. I didn’t need to pass them again and see their embarrassed faces, better to hang back and pretend it never happened. But please – if you need to go, check the guidebook for the next town/bar/café and try to make it to an actual toilet (this lady walked in front of me, straight past at least 5 open places), always remembering that just like on a plane, the nearest one could be behind you. If your need is so great that you can’t avoid it, at the very least look to see if someone is approaching, and get off the trail! That’s three ladybums I had seen so far.
Then I was on the last stretch to León, over first a wooden bridge and then the infamous blue pedestrian one, which must be twinned with the green one leading into Astorga. Basically pilgrim hamster wheels, but safe.
Then after following a long street into town, I was indeed in León!
When I got to the sqare in front of the cathedral, I sat down to have an ankerbier in the sun before checking into the hostel upstairs. No sooner had I ordered one and sat down, so I could remove my mask and put glasses back on, than I spotted Laura and Ohio two tables further down. They were surprised to see me, as they had just wondered where I was when I popped up! I checked in, dumped my pack, dug out a fresh top, and then Laura and I went to find something to eat. Just up the side street was a place with vegan food for her and also zamburiñas for me, and we shared a bottle of albariño, her first but certainly not the last.
We then went back to the first café for a large piece of cake she had had her eye on before dinner, and to marvel at the cathedral. Laura was moving on the next morning, so she had to get back to her albergue for shower and laundry. As seems to be my habit, I just stayed outside the place where I was sleeping, and because everyone passes the cathedral sooner or later, I got to see everyone. At one point all the promised rain from the last week, that never happened, came down by the bucketload. We managed to stay under the marquee – just – and didn’t let it deter us from having another drink. Most of them were moving on towards Hospital de Órbigo in the morning, while I was going to have another stab at a rest day in beautiful León.