Power Angel

Barbadelo to Eirexe
Sunday 30 November

The days are getting shorter. It was still dark when I had to leave to alburgue at eight. There was no street lighting in this tiny village, so I searched for my headlamp and found my fluro reflective vest from my cycle trip. It was windy, but not cold. I needed coffee. My head was full of cotton wool, I hadn’t had the best nights sleep. Eight kilometers to coffee. I trudged on. To my surprise and delight, I saw a bar open only half an hour along the route. Coffee.

As I was leaving a Spanish couple who had been the only other guests at the alburgue arrived, they were soaking wet. It was raining. I put on my rain gear, and ventured out. It wasn’t heavy, and only lasted ten minuites before it warmed up again. I was feeling much better after something to eat. I had my day mapped out. I would stop again in an hour and a half for second breakfast, then should arrive around lunch time in Portomarine. I had decided I would have a big lunch today, as it seems to give me energy for the afternoon’s walk, and then I don’t need a big dinner. Portomarine sounded like a large town, so should have some restaurants open.

I passed a marker – only one hundred kilometers to Saintiago! It seemed too soon. I arrived in Ferreiros just as church was finishing. The bar next door was crowed with the faithful. They were all keen to wish me Buen Camino. I ordered a coffee, but they had no food. Not far further on was a small shop, they had a selection of homemade tarts. It was hard to choose. I selected an almond and apricot one and wolfed it down. Perfect.

The walk was mostly uphill today, then a steep decent to cross the Large Mino River, climbing again into Portomarine. I looked for a Resturant facing the river, and was in luck. High on the cliff, with a magnificent view, was a glassed in dining room. I ordered the Menu del dia. Steamed mussels with salsa, trout, and creme caramel. The sun shone through the window. The food was excellent, except for the dessert, which came presented in the Nestle plastic cup. They could have at least pretended it was homemade. Oh well, I had had my delicious dessert earlier.

I had planned to stay in a village called Hospital in another twelve kilometers. It was all uphill, but after my big lunch, my pace had increased. I was making good time. Soon I had caught up with a German man, the only other person I had encountered walking today. Strange, the last one hundred kilometers are supposed to get busier. He said he was trying to walk fifty kilometers today, and was feeling a bit tired. I had inspired him to continue, he called me his Power Angel. He said he needed a Coke, but I would work just as well, and help him speed up. We arrived in Hospital sooner than I had planned, and I still wanted to walk. He was continuing to Palas de Rei, but I didn’t want to walk in the dark. I said I would continue to the next open alburgue. He had done the Camino before, but came back every year to walk the last one hundred kilometers. He said he wanted to do it in three days. He told me how Germany was the best country in the world to live, as they have lots of rules. He has two young daughters, and has their careers mapped out for them. One is going to be an architect, the other a dentist. I asked was that their choice? He said no, that is what he has decided. He was very German. We walked for another five kilometers to Eirexe. The light was fading and the alburgue was open. I said I would stop for the day. Before he continued we went to the bar so he could have a Coke, a replacement for his Power Angel.

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The Wrong Path is the Right Path

Triacastela to Barbadelo
Saturday 29 November

Out of Triacastela there were two routes, one via Samos, and the other six kilometers shorter, and supposedly more rural. I had decided on the shorter route, as I had planned to walk to Ferredios which was about thirty two kilometers the shorter way. I turned right at the turn off, as instructed, but after a while was following the river. The other route follows the river. The walk was lovely, along a narrow leaf strewn muddy path. Delightfully soft underfoot. Gnarled twisted trees, covered in mosses and lichen, dappled sun through the almost bare branches. The cool clear river crisscrossing my path. I soon passed a town that I reccognised from the map that was on the other route. I was definitely on the wrong path. However it seemed right for today. I wasn’t going the turn back, via Samos it was to be. Vamos to Samos, as the graffiti read.

As I approached the town of Samos, I could see the huge Benedictine Monastery in the valley below through the mist. It looked eerie and spectacular. Yes, I had chosen the right wrong path. I continued down the steep road, entering the town. I circled the monastery, to see if I could see beyond the walls. There was a door open, and I saw a couple of pilgrims. I entered a small shop, and asked if I could go inside. There was a tour starting in ten minutes. I waited the required time, then the lady closed the shop and led me through the large double wooden doors. I was the only person on the tour, and she spoke good English. She led me through the two large cloisters, and upstairs into the church. Explaining the history, and many details. There are now only fourteen monks living here. Upstairs one elderly monk approached us and asked if I spoke Spanish. He then spoke to my guide who explained that he had been talking about the young monk in the garden below who was picking the last of the persimmons from the many trees, and doing some pruning – apparently he was ‘doing it wrong’. Young monks, like young people anywhere.

The tour finished and I went in search of coffee. Another pilgrim I had previously met was in the bar, so I joined him for a sandwich and a glass of vino. My quick stop extended to two hours, I better get a move on. The afternoon’s path continued to delight.

The fools in my head were presenting all sorts of possibilities today. I was unsure of whether to believe them, and asked for a sign. I hadn’t noticed any reference to owls for a few days, which seems to have become a totem of late, and thought that I might see one along the path. I came across a house, with all sorts of strange dolls and objects around the garden. I pulled out my camera, then noticed it right in the middle – a large cement owl staring right at me. Perhaps the wrong path is the right path.

Later I saw a flock of sheep, and a sheep dog sitting in a nearby car. Dogs don’t usually faze me, so I said hola, and he jumped out of the car. I though he was coming over for a sniff, but he circled me, then gave me a nip on the leg. I was more shocked than anything, and concerned about rabies. I pulled up my leggings, but it hadn’t really drawn blood, just scratched the surface, more like a bruise. I applied Bettadine, and will keep an eye on it.

Moving on, I thought I saw the man I had had lunch with earlier, but as I approached realised that it was not. This man had all sorts of anti abortion posters and information hanging from his pack. There was prolife graffiti all along the path today, perhaps he was responsible. I quickly moved past, not wanting to engage.

I arrived in Sarria later than expected, and I was getting tired. I didn’t want to stay in this large town of thirteen thousand. I wasn’t sure I had the energy to make it another twelve kilometers before it got dark. There was another small town about one hour away, hopefully they would have an alburgue open.

It was five o’clock by the time I arrived in Barbadelo. I walked through the town, but couldn’t find a alburgue open. I would have to trudge on for another two hours. Luckily it wasn’t raining. As I left the town, I noticed an alburgue and went to see if it was open. To my delight it was. They said they had no food, but there was a nearby Resturant that would open at seven. I settled in for the night.

A Walk in the Park

Ruitelan to Triacastela
Friday 28 November

Rain. Wetting rain as my mother would say. That constant light drizzle that wets to the bone. I walked with my American friend in the cold and wet until O’Cebreiro where she wanted to stay the night. We stopped at the historic ninth century church, then went for a hot chocolate. I said goodbye and wished her Buen Camino. I had enjoyed her company for the last few days, particularly our little detour, but I needed to be moving on a little more quickly. Unfortunately my flight back to Indonesia isn’t changeable.

I continued along the way, the drizzle cleared, and the fog moved in. Eventually the sun began to shine, and the landscape opened to rolling hills. I still can’t get over how rugged and rural this part of Spain is. I was enjoying the quicker pace, as I was feeling the lack of exercise of the last few days. It’s nice to move everyday. I feel I have gained physical strength doing the camino (and perhaps mental strength). I won’t be running any marathons soon, but walking thirty kilometers is a walk in the park. A long park.

Still wishing for snow, I was looking hopefully at the grey clouds in the distance, but to my disappointment, the temperature seemed to get warmer.

The final six kilometers into Triacastela were muddy and earthy. There was a small grader clearing the path, and the smell of freshly turned soil permeated the air. The ground was soft under foot and, although still light, the moon had risen. The path ran between green fields. I was keen to get to my destination, but slowed my pace to enjoy the surroundings, and inhale the cool earthy aroma.

I was tired and hungry when I arrived in Triacastela, so showered and headed out to a bar to eat.

Camino Family Update

Villafranca del Bierzo to Ruitelan
Thursday 27 November

The heating was turned up high overnight in our little hotel, I woke in an almost tropical sweat. Outside it wasn’t so steamy. However, it wasn’t as cold as it had been a few days previously. It seems my dreams of snow on the Camino my be thwarted.

I was pleased to be walking again today, as felt a little slothenly having had a couple of detour days. I was enjoying the company of my American friend, but her timeline is longer than mine. I was starting to feel I need to move on, but was happy to walk with her today and spend another evening together. I think tomorrow I will try and speed up a little.

The walk today followed the river out of Villafranca, twisting through a carpet of autumn leaves. It’s getting later in the season now, and most of the trees are now bare. The sun was shinning. The sky was blue. We shared anecdotes, and laughed the day away.

At our first coffee stop, we met a young American girl who had news of my Brazilian friend. She had walked with him for a few days, and was planning to meet up with him again this evening, in a town past the one we had planned to stay at. I also had had news from my older Canadian friend, unfortunately he had fallen ill, and had returned to Canada. He was recovering. My Dutch friend had stayed in the same alburgue I was in tonight the previous evening, he was now one day ahead of me. My Camino angel is two days ahead. My Irish, and Italian friends are speeding ahead, almost in Santiago more than seventy kilometers ahead of me.

I passed a sign today saying I was only 190 kilometers to Santiago. It seems too close. But I have now planned to walk on to Muxia if I have time, another day past Finisterra. This walking thing is certainly addictive.

There’s Gold in Them Thar Hills

Salas de Barrios to Villafranca del Bierzo
Wednesday 26 November

Rising from a comfortable sleep in our fifteenth century mansion alburgue, our charming and passionate host was preparing breakfast in the warm and ancient kitchen. Fruit smoothies, wholesome bread with homemade conserves, coffee. Conversation flowed, we could have stayed all day, but we had sights to see.

We first toured several small mountain villages. Our host had grown up in the area, and knew the ancient history as well as telling stories of his personal history. I was born here, my uncle lives there, a king owned this, this family is famous for that. He is an architect by trade, so could explain some of the ancient building techniques, illustrating the colourful stories from the area. Fascinating.

We ventured down to Ponferrada, walking around the twelfth century Templar castle. It looked like something Walt Disney would have dreamt up, the stuff of fairy tales. I searched for dragons. Our host pointed out a small hole and told tales of when he was a child crawling through that very hole to explore. I suddenly realised my necklace had broken, and I had lost my pendant. It’s a Balinese Hindu symbol, that I’ve had for several years, and am very fond of. I had recently added a small Camino symbol to the chain, however that had remained. I didn’t feel panicky or particularly upset, as I thought I might, but felt I would find it. We searched the surrounding area, and retraced our steps, then searched the car, but it was not to be found. I thought perhaps it had fallen off back at the alburgue. I was almost pleased that I would have an excuse or visit our host again.

We next drove to Las Medulas, the ancient Roman, UNESCO listed gold mines, and the reason for our Camino detour. We parked near a wooden platform on the edge of the cliff. Our view was obscured, until we climbed the platform. My jaw dropped. Giant red ancient anthills. A once towering mountain, now desolate, almost completely carved away. Spectacular barren landscape. We were then able to enter one of the Roman tunnels, but first we had to don hard hats. We descended into the dimly lit red passage. The first few meters were wide, but not very tall, so we had to duck. It then opened up, and we were able to stand. The shaft branched out into several tunnels, we followed one until the end, then backtracked along another. I marveled at the centuries old technology that had managed to carve out this mountain. Continuing through the tunnel system, it opened to a large abyss on the side of the mountain, through which we could view the anthill-like forms. My jaw dropped again.

It was time to go, and we were all a little hungry. We drove to Villafranca to look for a resturant. As I was getting out of the car, I saw something shinny wedged between the seats, it was my pendant! I will have to find another excuse to visit Salas de Barrios again. My American friend and I had planned to walk from near Ponferrada to Villafranca today, but as we were already there, we decided to forgo our Camino for another day it was getting late. She said the municipal Albergue would be too much of a shock for us after our luxurious mansion, so suggested a small hotel she knew. It was very reasonable and included breakfast in the price, so basically the cost of an alburgue, as we split the cost of a room.

The Magnificent Mountains

El Acebo to Salas de Barrios
Tuesday 25 November

Another very short walking day today. I was leaving the official Camino for my planned detour. My American friend and I set out early, stopping for breakfast at the end of the town, where I again saw my Dutch friend. I wished him Buen Camino, as he left. I hope we will meet again, but I get the feeling it won’t be for some days. However, we do have our planned dinner date to compensate for the dreadful meal in Astroga.

My American friend wanted to walk on the road again, while I continued along the Camino path. We had planned to meet up in Molinseca. I caught up with an English girl and her American friend, walking together for a while. We talked of arranged marriages, and the western perception of love. The Camino often presents stimulating conversation. We parted and I waited for my friend. When she arrived we stopped for a quick second breakfast before continuing to Campo, where it had been arranged that we meet the Spanish man from the previous evening who owned the alburgue.

He picked us up in his car. I couldn’t help feeling I was cheating. I haven’t been in a car for weeks. I did forgive myself, as I was officially leaving the Camino for a day. He dropped us at the alburgue, a rambling homely stone mansion full of antiques, crystal chandeliers and art. We had a choice of rooms, a simple one for ten euros, or one with a magnificent view, and an attached bathroom with bath for fifteen. A small splurge was in order.

Our host left, and said he would return later, so we went in search of lunch. There was a small Resturant under the house, a separate business, but we thought we would look around the town first to see if there was a small bar. The tour of the town took only a few minutes, and there was nothing, so we returned to the resturant. We were unprepared for the magnificent cellar room. A huge stone vault with long tables, almost medieval. We asked for something without meat, and it seemed we were going to have fried eggs and chips. I was prepared to be disappointed. The food took a very long time for such a simple dish, but soon a wonderful salad arrived with quince jelly, goats cheese and nuts. The best salad I’ve had in Spain. Then the egg and chips were presented in a casserole dish with roasted green chilies. I never knew egg and chips could be such a gourmet meal. Dessert was a layered chocolate torte. One of the better meals.

Upstairs our host had retuned, and explained our tour for the afternoon. We would leave visiting the gold mine until tomorrow, but would visit a remote monastery ruin, and some small mountain villages this afternoon. We drove up the mountain winding our way along the narrow pass, passing small stoney villages. The steep cliffs appeared inflamed by the autumn leaves. A small stream flowed by the road. The colours glowed as the late afternoon light dimmed. We climbed higher and higher, twisting and turning. We could see the huge Montes de Valdezda monastery in the distance. As the light was fading we arrived to find the structure engulfed, Angkor-like, in tree roots. I half expected to see Lara Croft. We wandered around the outside, then returned to the car for our next destination.

Climbing even further up the mountain, my ears popped and my water bottle started hissing from the pressure. We must be high. It was now dark, but we could still make out the magnificent scenery in the moonlight. We entered the next village and parked the car. The air was cold, and we could see snow not too far in the distance. The village created the impression that it had organically grown out of the ground. It was completely made of stone, the paved roads, the houses, the slate roofs. It was remote and almost deserted. Romantic in its isolation. I began to fantasize of buying one of the several houses for sale and hibernating for the winter. It would have to have good internet.

Back in the car, we climbed and climbed the fog surrounded and it was hard to make out the road. At one point we lost the road completely, we were on grass. Our host had to get out of the car to look for the road again. We began our descent, stopping at a small apple orchard. Behind the orchard was a huge old tree. Centuries old. Magnificent. We circled it three times for luck. We returned to our mansion alburgue, agreeing that it had been an incredible afternoon. Our host promised that it would be better tomorrow.

A Change of Plans

Foncebadon to El Acebo
Monday 24 November

I awoke and noticed there was no one in the next bed. I sat up, and saw that there was no one in any bed. I looked at the time – eight fourty five! I had slept in. I had had the best nights sleep on the Camino. No one had woken me to ask me to leave. I packed up, and went downstairs. There were still a couple of stragglers having breakfast, so I joined them. I was only planing on about twenty kilometers today, so no need to rush. I didn’t have to leave until eleven.

People started to arrive for coffee who had walked from the last village. The English musician arrive, and someone handed him a ukulele and he sung a lovely little ditty that he had written. I was getting ready to leave when an older American woman arrived. We chatted and I found her very interesting. She was seventy five, was an architect, had worked for UNESCO, and now ran a B & B in the Champagne region of France. She asked if I would like to walk with her for a while. I would. This was her tenth Camino. I asked if she had ever met our older Canadian friend, also on his tenth Camino, but she hadn’t. She told me that she was going to divert from the Camino for the next couple of days to visit an ancient Roman gold mine that was nearby and was a UNESCO World Heritage site. I thought that sounded interesting, and she said she would really like some company, so I agreed to join her. She was only walking to the next village today where she planned to stay the night. I was happy to shorten my planned walk to prolong my stay in this beautiful mountain area.

Today was the day we passed the Cruz de Ferro, the Iron Cross, an important landmark on the Camino. I had carefully chosen, and bought from home a small stone from Mt Batur, a holy mountainin Bail, with the intention of leaving it here, alongside many others who had done the same. The pile of stones reached several meters. Thousands of hopes, wishes, dreams, abandoned and discarded anguish, heartache and fears. I contemplated for a moment what my stone meant to me before casting it high, adding to mound.

I continued along the way chatting together with my older American friend for a while, then she pointed me in the direction along the Camino, as she found it easier to walk along the road.

I arrived at the bar we had arranged to meet, and she soon joined me. We ordered the menu del dia, and booked into the alburgue upstairs. It was warm, but the wifi was only available in the downstairs bar. So after showers and laundry, we retired there for the evening, both to write.

Not long later, my Dutch friend arrived. I was surprised to see him, and he me. He was staying in the other alburgue, but had come for a drink and dinner. He looked much happier than the last few days, and I was glad to learn he was feeling a lot better.

A couple of Spanish men and a Dutch girl arrived. My American friend chatted to the Spaniards, and the Dutch chatted. I was happily antisocial, writing. My American friend reported that one of the Spanish men owned an alburgue on our planned detour, and she had arrange that we stay there. The Dutch girl worked there doing massage. The Dutch girl and Spaniards left, and my American friend retired to bed. I stayed for a while conversing with my friend before we bid each other good night.

The Bare Necessities

Astroga to Foncebadon
Sunday 23 November

We had to leave early from the alburgue. I was hungry, and wandered the town looking for an open bar. There were not a lot of options, as it was early Sunday morning, but the first one open served churros and chocolate, which I had not yet had in Spain. It has been years since I’d eaten this, and soon remembered why… I didn’t really like it. Too sweet and greasy for breakfast. I felt a little ill.

My Dutch friend walked ahead and my Camino Angel also wanted to walk alone. I wanted to visit the Cathedral and the Gaudi Museum, but didn’t want to wait until twelve when they opened. My Camino Angel had told me about a church she had visited that had a female on the crucifix, and another pregnant virgin. I was keen to see this and wondered had it anything to do with a Mary Magdalen cult I had read about? Unfortunately the church was locked. I sat by the cathedral and contemplated where I would walk to today. A group of men I had recently met walked past, so I decided to join them and walk. One, a young German was whistling a familiar tune, Redemption Song by Bob Marley. On the essential Camino playlist. His friend, a young Israeli, said he only has two songs. That and ‘The Bear Necessities’ from the Jungle Book. The bare necessities.

I chatted to the young German. He had just left school, unsure of what to study. He was smart and charming, but worried about making the wrong decision and studding something he would be stuck doing for the rest of his life. He was interested to hear I had changed careers several times, and that I knew of several people who had successfully also changed professions, usually with better outcomes. I thought about my friends kids who are the same age. I haven’t seen most of them for a few years. I guess they too, have grown to confident young adults. We parted, as I stopped for a coffee, as he wanted to continue.

The next village I again stopped for a coffee and snack, and ran into my Dutch friend. He wasn’t having a good time. It seemed he was feeling trapped, as if he was no longer on his own journey. He wanted to reclaim his Camino. I suggested he stop for a day or two, maybe stay in some smaller towns with no one else. The bare necessities. I left continuing onto Rabanal del Camino where I had planned to spend the night.

What a wonderful walk. Fog. I love fog. I arrived in Rabanal del Camino. Indeed it was a lovely village, but I wasn’t done with walking today. I was having such a lovely time. My new shoes were comfortable and my painful blisters had started to heal. I would walk onto the next village. I was stopped by a group of three elderly women who were very interested in my journey. One had a little English, and we chatted for a while. They were from Madrid, and her son lived in Japan, sort of near Indonesia. They bid me Buen Camino, and I walked on in the fog.

The alburgue in Foncebadon had a reputation for having a wonderful atmosphere. They had food and yoga. Yoga, that would be good. I’d only done a few stretches here and there, not my usual twenty minutes a day. A class would be good. I entered the alburgue, and the hospitaliro was also an Australian. She asked did I live in Indonesia?, apparently my reputation had preceded me. The two dorms were very full, perhaps I should have stayed in the last town. There was only one shower, so I had to wait. The yoga class was starting, but I really wanted a shower, perhaps I could join later. I showered, went downstairs, but felt uncomfortable disturbing the class halfway through. I mentioned to the Australian girl that I would just go and do my own. She offered a room that I could do some yoga in, so I set up my IPad with a class, and had forty good minutes of yoga before dinner. I was sore after along days walk, but it was just what I needed.

I joined the others for dinner. A hearty paella. The wine flowed. I met new people. It was an enjoyable evening. By nine fifteen I was finding it hard to keep my eyelids from closing. I excused myself and went upstairs for an early night.

Dinner Date Disaster

Villar de Mazarife to Astroga
Saturday 22 November

After breakfast in the downstairs bar, my Dutch friend and I continued our Camino towards Astroga. We had a fairly long walk today, more than thirty kilometers. Our first coffee stop wasn’t the best, and there was no food available. We were a little peckish, but a nearby shop provided us with some very tasty homemade tuna pastry things. The landscape was improving, but the weather was not. It was rainy, but not too cool, which mean a little sweaty in our rain gear.

Our next stop was nearing lunchtime. I wanted a snack, but wasn’t that hungry. We stopped in a bar. I wanted something cold, not sweet and not alcoholic, so thought I would try the local non alcoholic beer. It wasn’t bad, and came with tapas, as drinks in this part of Spain do. A small plate of paella. Wonderful! The best paella I’d had so far. Spicy, lots of seafood, even in the tiny tapas dish, and just the right balance of flavours. I asked if I could order a whole plate. Alas, it was only available as tapas – so I ordered another drink. My Dutch friend was still sorting out his existential crisis, and wanted more space, so left me to walk alone.

Leaving the small town, an elderly gentleman stopped me in the street and asked me to wait. He went into his house, and returned with a handful of homemade biscuits for me, wishing me Buen Camino. I love the kindness I have encountered on my way.

It was still drizzling, but I was enjoying the walk. Rocky, craggy stunted trees, we were climbing in altitude, heading into more mountainous regions. A few hours later I caught up with my friend, and we walked into Astroga together.

The Municipal alburgue at the beginning of town looked nice, but again we wanted to avoid the crowds, so walked to the other end, unsure if the other alburgue was open. It was closed. We considered sharing a hotel room, and went to the Gaudi Hotel opposite the Cathedral to enquire. They had a room, the price was reasonable. We went outside to discuss. My Camino Angel was there. She said the Municipal Alburge was nice, and she was in a room with only four people. We thought that sounded fine, and we really didn’t need to spend the money on a hotel. Walking towards the alburgue, we met some other pilgrims, who we also staying there. They said they were in a room of twelve. Mmmm, not so good. We would see.

We arrived and asked if we could have a small room. We were asked if we were a couple, then we could have a room for two. We said no, but did this room have one ore two beds? It had two. We could be a couple for tonight! Please? I promised I wouldn’t touch him. The hospitaliro opened my credential, and was very impressed that I had started my Camino in Paris. I said it wasn’t as impressive as my friend who had started in Amsterdam. She was even more impressed, then led us to our room… The room with two beds! We high fived, and I did a little jig. No snorers. Well, for me anyway, my Dutch friend informed me I do snore. Just a little.

As we had saved on the temptation of a hotel room, we decided to celebrate with a nice dinner. We wandered the town in search of a resturant. There were several, but nothing appealed. I wasn’t that fussy, but my friend was getting hungry and a cranky that we hadn’t made a decision. We thought the hotel we had visited earlier may have a nice resturant, so walked in that direction. We passed another four star hotel, and settled on that. Bad decision. We had one of the worst meals, with bad service, for the highest price yet. We resolved that later in the Camino, if we meet again we would splash out on a very nice meal together.

Bursting at the Seams

Leon to Villar de Mazarife
Friday 21 November

I rose late, thanking the Franciscans for the ten o’clock check out. I needed it, I was felling a little seedy from the previous evenings indulgence. I crossed the road for breakfast and sent messages to my friends who had stayed longer in Leon, as I was looking forward to walking with someone today. My Camino Angel was already in the next town, and my Dutch friend didn’t reply. Although I would have enjoyed the company, I has happy to walk alone. As I was leaving Leon my Dutch friend sent me a message to join him for breakfast. I said I would wait for him in the next town.

I enjoyed walking out of Leon, it is a very beautiful city, even the ugly outer suburbs I found interesting. Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed with joy for seemingly no reason. I’m sure it’s some sort of brain imbalance. The endorphins were working overtime. Bursting at the seams. If I was a cartoon, flowers and hearts would be floating around my head. I noticed a heart shaped puddle on the footpath, then all the graffiti included hearts too, they jumped out at me. Busting at the seams.

My good mood had me arriving in the next town in seemingly no time at all. I visited the important church there, a sixties modern box. Impressive, but extremely cold, both in atmosphere and temperature. I quickly left to find a cafe to wait for my friend. I ordered a menu as it was getting close to lunchtime. He soon arrived and we were shortly walking again.

There was an alternative route today. We had wanted to walk the slightly longer one through the countryside, rather than alongside the highway. It was a little difficult to distinguish the correct path, and we were not sure we had arrived at the turnoff, when out of nowhere on our small deserted road a car turned up and pointed us in the right direction. The Camino magic continues. I enjoyed our conversation. I enjoyed the landscape. The weather was sunny and warm. Life is good.

We were both looking for a break from the ‘Summer Camp’ mentality, so decided we would stop in one of the smaller towns, and hopefully stay in a less crowded alburgue. Villar de Mazarife had three alburgues open, so settled on the one at the far end of town, in the hope that the other two would fill up sooner. Happily, we were the only guests. We enjoyed dinner in the bar, then settled down for a quiet night of watching comedy shows on YouTube, in our private alburgue.