In bleak and difficult times you must always keep something beautiful in your heart. -Pascal
As we prepared to leave Leon, we had a look at the map. We had come 425 km from Pamplona. We were about 60% of the way to Santiago in 17 days. We had 12 days more and 325 km to go. Up and at it, we started walking out of Leon at 9 after a great breakfast in the cafeteria..
We walked through the Plaza Isidoro and by the San Isidoro church. Beautiful. We kept walking and walking and walking and still we were immersed in the city with its noises and busy streets. We felt conspicuous in our grubby clothes but the city goers must have been used to seeing such pilgrims on a daily basis and paid us no attention.
Regarding our reception by the locals, there are 2 stories I would like to relate. The first one, would take place tonight. We arrived in the alburgue by 3 PM and were napping in the dorm at about 4, as was our habit. A loud group of Spanish speaking younger men arrive and proceed to make a loud racket joking and talking so that I and everyone else napping were suddenly awoken. Impulsive me yells out “Hey quiet, can’t you see that we are sleeping.” One guy responded angrily that they had every right to make all the noise they want at 4 PM or something like that. The very next day Marie and I were hiking along and suddenly I see the loud man stopped on the path in front of us. I think oh, oh I am going to get punched out now. I pause, he looks at me, says no offence and then gives me a hug. Hey I said, “I am sorry I yelled at you yesterday.” We then went on our separate ways in peace and forgiveness.
Another time, Marie and I were making our way through a busy city. There were a couple of tough looking guys we had to pass within a foot of on the narrow sidewalk. Here we go, we are going to be mugged I thought. As we pass he looks in my eyes and says in English “Welcome to my country.” with a smile. Wow I thought! How receptive would people in Canada be to hundreds of vagabond people trapesing through their city everyday. Such is the beauty of Spain – social traditions, acceptance and respect run deep here.
Finally we made it out of Leon. It took 2 hours. When we got back to the country side, we sighed in relief. For perhaps the first time in my life, I realized that I did not like big cities as much anymore. They can be impersonal, polluted, noisy, confusing, overwhelming, dangerous. Both I and I think Marie realized that we could be happy living in the country side or at least in a much smaller town someday. Camino lesson, rant over.
We continued for about 21 km today walking beside a busy highway as it was shorter than the inland route. One advantage was we scored some delicious Spanish chorizo sausage for lunch with fresh baguette. Yum!
We spent the night at the 85 bed municipal alburgue in Villadangos del Paramo, with the aforementioned nap disruption. We were halfway from Leon to Astorga.