Saturday, July 2, 2011

Camino De Santiago: Day 16 Calzadilla de los Hermanillos to Mansilla de las Mulas

It was cold and windy leaving Calzadilla and I can't say that I was all that sad to say good bye to the place. The best part about the morning though, was that the sun came out! It had stormed virtually every day during Semana Santa and even gotten a bit cold, so it was nice to finally see some sunshine. 

Leaving Calzadilla

Day 16 was a continuation of the previous split in the Camino. The route that I had chosen took you along the Calzada Romana, or the old Roman road. It was full of wide open fields and I only saw a grand total of 2 other pilgrims until the end of the day.

Sign telling you it's prohibited to bathe in the water because it's contaminated (as if you needed to be told not to swim in that...)

Oh yeah, and the Calzada Romana was also full of mud. 

Nonetheless, it was beautiful. It was always exciting when you could really see the landscape start to change--the mountains were starting to appear in the distance. 

Alongside the trail were all of these irrigation ditches. Because of all the heavy rainfall they were overflowing and all you could hear was the sound of rushing water. That might sound atmospheric, but it was exasperating a problem--I needed to pee. There were no towns at all along the trail for day 16 which meant no coffee and no bathrooms. This might not sound like a big problem to you, but I am not a pee-in-the-woods kind of girl. And did you see the picture above? There were no trees for miles. On top of that, the Madrid railway was running alongside the trail. I knew as soon as I broke down a train would come racing through. 

But you know what? I broke down. I couldn't take the sound of all that water. I peed in "the woods" (on the plain is more like it...) for the very first time. And, thankfully, there was no train!

A little bit further along the mud just started getting ridiculous. I was wading through it, hopping along in a futile attempt to choose the less muddy patches of mud, when almost falling over I just started laughing--in the middle of the Meseta, covered in mud, all by myself. The whole thing was ridiculous--peeing out in the middle of a wide open field hoping a train doesn't race by, wincing with pain every other step (it was suggested in Calzadilla that I see a doctor), and now falling over as I tried to avoid the avoidable mud. 

After having a good laugh about it all I was in much better spirits. It was actually a turning point for me. And, now that I was ready to appreciate it, the rest of the trail held some truly spectacular vistas. 

Helped perhaps by the solitude you could really feel the history of the place as you walked over it. Thousands of people have continually walked this very path since Roman times or before. 

OK...and there was still a lot more mud. I found this arrow to be amusing...I had to be very creative to get around this pond. 

At some points things even started to look a bit like Asian rice paddies. I found the reflections of the clouds to be particularly spectacular.  

Finally a few trees!

Not only can you watch the landscapes change as you walk across the regions of Spain, you can also tell  where you are by watching the change in graffiti indicating which region of Spain is upset or wants to succeed. Up until then I didn't even know that Leon had a beef with the system. 

Ah, and finally Mansilla! I walked in the last bit with my friends from Valencia after spotting the husbands (next picture) rolling cigarettes and waiting by the side of the road. 

They left me there because my plans were to catch a bus the rest of the way into Leon. My guidebook had said that the entrance to Leon from Mansilla was the worst of the entire Camino including a dangerous bridge. After the unpleasant experience walking in through the industrial waste and suburbs of Burgos, I was seriously contemplating the "frequent buses" that left from Mansilla straight to Leon. 

Also, as stubborn as I am, I was willing to concede that my swollen ankle was not looking good. I actually went to the doctor's office in Mansilla where I was told they treated pilgrims for free (even though I knew they would just tell me to ice it and stop walking 20 miles a day on it...) but it was closed. When I made it to the bus station it turned out that "frequent" was a bit of a stretch--there were no more buses for the day.

I walked to the hostel, still unsure of what to do. I could take a taxi into Leon straight away that afternoon--so I would already be in Leon to see the Easter morning processions the next morning, or I could take a taxi the next day, Easter morning, into Leon...or, my stubbornness kicking in, I could just suck it up (or...drug it up) and walk in the brief hike the next day.

Decision making is not my strenght when I am at my best, but by the end of the long day I really couldn't make up my mind. I was polling my friends at the albergue, and decided I would go ask the volunteer running the hostel what she thought. By that point I was leaning towards staying for the night but unsure whether to walk or taxi the next day. As I went to the reception area the door of the hostel opened and almost hit me. I couldn't believe who it was! It was my retired Sevillan friend Juanma. I hadn't seen them since Burgos when I left for Cantabria. I thought they would be days ahead of me, but walking so fast, I had caught them. I saw him and his wife Maica, and it sealed the deal for me--I would stay the night.

Right after that I saw my friend Sylvia from Germany (whom I also hadn't seen for days) from the window and knew that with so many friends here it was the right choice to stay. On top of that Sylvia offered me a place in their shared taxi for the next morning to Leon--we would split the cost and be there in time to see all of the Easter morning activities.

Almost sold, but still feeling like maybe I should walk (which looking back seems ridiculous!), my friend Maica told me--I think your year long sabbatical deserves a day of sabbatical. I was sold!

Next stop--Leon!

(Ha, and it was also at this albergue where I met a Spanish guy who, when I introduced myself, said, Ooooh, you're the Texan! I'm still confused as to what and how he heard about me!)

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