Camino de Santiago, Day 20
Reliegos to León 15 Miles
This article is the seventeenth in our series of walking 500 miles on the Camino de Santiago with my husband Scott. Some articles will be only about one day of walking, and some may include a few days of walking, for the lengths will vary. To begin with the first article click here.
Scott and I quietly made our way out of town on Day 20, just before the sun began to rise. We were so excited to get to León. Our plan was to stay at a hotel for two nights and enjoy a rest day. Our friends from home would arrive the next day to walk with us, as we continued our journey on the Camino.
Some People Walk and Some People Ride
The route into León was pretty quiet. Some pilgrims chose to take a bus into León, or a taxi, because the section is not as scenic and it’s a lot of pavement walking.
We walked with a couple from England for a while. It was fun to chat about our children, golf and hiking, which we all had in common. The couple stopped in a town before León and were spending the night with some of their friends. So, we were all alone again.
On one stretch of our walk, we were on the edge of the highway. It was awful and we felt very unsafe. It was nerve wracking, but we made quick progress.
Finding Myself on the Meseta
While walking the Meseta, we have had a lot of time to ourselves. It seems we sometimes don’t see a single person, for hours at a time. I spend a lot of time thinking. My mind is always racing and full of thoughts. I think about my life; past, present, future, my family, goals and responsibilities. My normal daily life fills my mind, yet I know I am here walking the Camino, trying to slow down and clear my mind. I try to keep my mind in the present, and enjoy everything I am experiencing.
I find similarities between Camino life and our normal life. For example, we found we needed to lighten our backpacks to make it easier on our feet and bodies. At home, we could also eliminate some things and lighten our load there.
We are taking things one day at a time and enjoying each day as it comes. I need to work on doing that at home as well. We are feeling really good and have hit our stride, here on the Meseta. I like what we have found in ourselves.
We See León!
As we got closer to León, there were a couple of good hill climbs. Scott and I raced each other up the hills sometimes. Once, I kept my mouth closed and only breathed through my nose, and I still beat him up the hill! These are the random happy little moments during a long day of walking.
Finally, we came to the edge of León. We were high above the city looking down over it. Of course, it took a good hour to get into the city and our feet were sore and tired from the hard walking.
As soon as we entered the old town of León, we went in search of a hotel. Our plan was to stay two nights in a hotel, and reserve one night for Jenn and Blythe. Unfortunately, every place we went into had no vacancy! We were so frustrated. It was a weekend, as well as the start of a week of festivities for the San Froilán Festival.
Finally, we found a hotel with a room for one night. We were so relieved. We wanted to stay somewhere nice and be able to send our laundry out to be cleaned.
After cleaning up and sending our laundry out, we went down the street for lunch. It was nice to sit and relax for a while and not have to be anywhere. We enjoyed a meat and cheese plate and some local wine. A pilgrim we had met from day one (Brenna) saw us as she was passing the cafe patio and decided to join us. She was staying the night in an albergue and would be continuing on in the morning. It was the last time we saw Brenna on the Camino.
Even though I still had a sore throat, my body felt good, so we walked the town seeing some points of interest. The Santa Maria de León Cathedral, also called the House of Light, intrigued us. We made a plan to take a tour of the cathedral the next morning.
León has many narrow streets and lots of mini town squares. There was something going on in each one; live music, farmers markets and even our favorite, an open market full of pottery, clay art and stoneware. It was so cool, too bad we couldn’t shop, as we would have had to ship it home.
Luckily for us, we found a hostel for the next night and got one big room to share with Blythe and Jenn. We were relieved and were happy with the price and location.
After resting most of the evening with our feet up, we found a great Italian Restaurant just down the street from our hotel. Scott enjoyed paella, while I had a delicious dish of lasagna. It was a nice way to end Day 20.
Blythe and Jenn
Scott and I were really looking forward to our friends from home, Blythe and Jenn, arriving the next afternoon. It would be so nice to have other people to speak English with. Sharing the Camino experience with them, will make it even better.
Blythe and Jenn will be contributing to these blog posts, and here is their introduction.
The Camino. The Way. I had first heard about the Camino from a coworker who had walked the French route twice and was longing to go back again. Once I was familiar with it, I began to think about the possibility of exploring it. So when Jaynie told me of her and Scott’s plans to walk, I knew this was probably my only opportunity and asked if I could tag along for a portion of their journey. I had never used a backpack before, and was only a casual hiker. So this was a challenge from the start! Over the next several months, I chose hiking shoes, poles, a backpack and all the other travel essentials with the guidance I found from other pilgrims on the Facebook page ‘American Pilgrims on the Camino.’ I found the wealth of information and opinions to be invaluable.
For me, the Camino was a chance to experience something out of the ordinary, different than anything I had ever done before, and to participate in a journey with a huge historical significance. This will be an opportunity to be part of something much more than a ‘walk’, a ‘hike’ or a typical vacation. I knew it was going to be physically challenging. It was going to be some much needed time alone with my thoughts, a sort of escape from real life for a while.
A hike through Spain? I’m in! I could literally hike every day, so this sounds perfect. My friends will be hiking 500 miles from France to Santiago and plan on being gone for six weeks. My husband brings me back down to earth and reminds me that I still have a child in high school that is also involved in sports, so he will only support me being gone for 2.5 weeks. Okay, fine, 200 miles will be good for my first experience. Leon to Santiago will be perfect. Booked flights, found a travel buddy, now time to train.
Already living in the foothills, it wasn’t hard to find trails to hike. Our foursome got together as much as we could. I joined the American Pilgrimage Page of Facebook to get a better perspective on my upcoming trip, I registered and had my American Pilgrimage Passport sent to me. I found the perfect sized backpack in my basement that my son used in boy scouts, added personal patches on it, and started my pile of items to pack.
My biggest worry for this trip was the decision on what shoes and socks I would be wearing. I have a severe case of plantar fasciitis and I am so worried about how my feet will hold up on this trip. Finally narrowing it down on shoes and socks, I then wondered if I should take two pairs of shoes or not. I decided on the one pair having to remind myself of the weight of the pack and only being gone for 2.5 weeks. I also went with running shoes instead of hiking boots, partly for comfort and weight.
The fact that Scott and Jaynie were already in Spain, I was able to communicate with them often and learn from them what the necessary items were to pack. Jaynie has already sent of bunch of her items home to make her pack lighter. My packing pile seemed to change daily. I tend to be an over packer so it was extremely difficult to not feel like I should pack everything.