Camino Diary: Walking The Camino Francais Day Twenty Four

DAY TWENTY FOUR: 1 November 2012 from Bercianos Del Real Camino to Mansilla Los Mulas and bus to Leon
Our hosts at the Municipal Albergue are wrapping up for the season, there is a lingering leaving and the sombre day is uninviting. Wilhelmina from the Canaries whose walking boots have proved too tight is hacking a hole to create a pilgrim fix. A bullying wind jousts at my shoulder and it comes accompanied with baggy clouds, soggy with wintery rain – appropriate attire after All Hallows Eve and for the morbid Día de Muertos, All Souls Day. I slosh into El Burgo Raneros searching for morning coffee which was expertly hidden in a maze of empty, hibernating streets. Holed up in a surprisingly busy little bar I am afraid that I may not be able to engage the will to brace trudging unending flatness and bleakness into a black hole of a horizon. But I do. The wind is now sparring with me head on. It takes time to see the silver lining but it is there; Red Kites take my breathe away – they expertly rudder control on the wind, scudding clouds are having fun and wipe the smudges on the horizon so I can see the Montes of Leon. The mountains I will be climbing in only a few days time. I am reminded to embrace the flatness and this big sky country. Coming over the hill to Reliegos after 20+km of counting footsteps, trees & raindrops I am so ready for Bar La Torre, graffiti tattoed and ready to rock & roll. A beer a great idea with a slab up lunch of chorizo & cheese; the energy to take me to Mansilla de las Mulas the watershed to the urban sprawl of Leon. I remember an email from Dan, a pilgrim ahead of me, assuring me there is no shame in taking buses and most particularly to avoid the cacophony of urban sprawl. The idea of the following day being a hike through the noisy, industrial city edge into Leon was unappealing so with just a fleeting tinge of guilt I made my way to the bus station. My heart sank seeing the empty bays but delightfully the little bar was heaving and I had the good fortune to meet Nick Milton, a most accidental pilgrim who had boot excuse that was far better than mine for taking the bus! The timetable indicated that there were a couple of buses due to Leon but my confidence was not high. It did not appear that anyone in the bar was waiting for a bus but rather sitting out the Holy Day watching football. Propelled by Nick’s confidence we moved outside to the desolate, concrete waiting area. Presently a fist of raucous, spotty, skinny limbed, cool haired youths dribbled out the lurching door. My heart momentarily lifted thinking that their presence confirmed that there would be a bus but sank again as they made their way across the yard to two sagging souped up cars. But it raised again as a ragged note of song evolved into a virtuous a performance of a capella harmony. I cannot remember the tune but we were blown away by the impromptu performance, a mini flash mob that would do a nascent boy band proud. Then suddenly there were shouts of ciao and the bus arrived. To move at speed over 18km proved to be soul jarring; to leave the slow absorption of the minutae of nature and crash myself into the garish world of action & activity, consumption and construction left me juddering. Arriving at the Benedictine Nunnery was a poor salve.

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