Time walked – 4 hours, no stopping (Ray)
Total distance walked – 14.7 miles (Ray) and 4.9 miles (Wendy)
Miles to date – 317.1 miles (Ray) and 307.3 miles (Wendy)
Weather – Cool to warm, low 60’s to 78 degrees F
Terrain – pavement, city streets, some gravel trail
The blister between my toes was painful, but not infected. The concern was that if it got infected, my Camino could be over. Ray thought it would be best if I took the bus from Mansilla de las Mulas to León like so many other pilgrims. I knew he was right, but I had a hard time admitting that I should. This pilgrimage had been my idea, my dream, my bucket-list adventure, and I wanted to share every moment of it with Ray.
The decision was made that I would ride the bus, and the justifications began. The guidebook said that this was a good day to ride the bus and spend more time enjoying the beautiful city of León. Because so much of the day would be walking on hot pavement, it would be hard on my blistered feet and could make them worse. There was no rule that said I had to walk every step until I reach the last 100 kilometers. By the time I get my daily chores done and find something to eat, I’ve walked more mileage than recorded in the guides, meaning I’ve already logged many more miles than is quoted for the stages thus far. Ray had been wanting to spend some time walking alone, and this was his chance to do so. Even though I knew taking the bus was the right thing to do and it was part of my Camino, I wrestled with my emotions even after Ray left the hostel. I wanted to smile and feel relieved like Lisa did, but instead I was fighting tears of disappointment.
Before Ray left, he and I ate breakfast together in the hostel restaurant. Our hosts graciously helped us with our questions about the bus, providing me with the bus schedule and telling me that there was a bus stop near the hostel. We calculated that it would take Ray about 4 hours to walk to León, and the bus ride would be about thirty minutes. The restaurant had a nice, local ambiance and great wifi, so I decided to spend a few minutes catching up the blog after he left. I had just started writing when I heard a familiar voice walk in for breakfast. I looked up from my iPad to see Ann removing her backpack with Steve close behind her.
I laughed out loud at the irony of Steve and Ann choosing the restaurant that I was in to have their breakfast. Mansilla de las Mulas was a larger town than most on the Camino, and the restaurant was one of the last of many restaurants to be passed. They were surprised to see me there, and I invited them to sit with me and explained what I was doing. Between my foot problems and the stress of trying to stay on schedule, I told them that Ray and I were not having fun, and I wasn’t sure if we were learning anything either. Running into them was a blessing as their words were very comforting. Steve said that I needed to remember the goal was to finish the Camino, not to finish on a schedule that wasn’t working. Those words made sense. I needed to look at changing our schedule and think about changing our return flight to Panamá.
When Steve and Ann finished their coffee, it was time for them to head another ten kilometers to Archahueja. They would not be in León until the next day, and I assured them we would see them then. Even though I had only planned one day in León, I was feeling better about spending a second day there to let my feet rest and heal. I made some updates to the blog and then headed to the bus station. Lisa had given me directions the night before, telling me to turn right a the statue we had seen when entering town. I found the statue and then easily found my way to the bus station where I waited for the next bus.
I watched as some pilgrims entered the outskirts of Mansilla de las Mules and headed straight for the bus station. They had obviously planned to follow the suggestion in the guidebook, as they didn’t bother to enter the town at all. I counted a half of a dozen other pilgrims on the bus knowing that Lisa and others had left on one of the several earlier busses. While I still didn’t like the idea of riding in a vehicle for the first time in nearly a month, it helped a little knowing that so many others had planned for this.
The ride on the bus was only about thirty minutes even with two stops to pick up and drop off other passengers. Sure enough, I saw that we went from suburb to suburb and then an industrial area. I watched the pilgrims tha were walking on the path next to the highway. I saw Julie, Glen and Jason walking together, but did not see Ray or anyone else that I recognized. I wondered if I had remembered to ask Ray to take any photos for me, and later found out that he was focused on the trail but did manage to take one. Before I thought we had gone very far, the bus stopped in León. I exited the bus and started looking for the way to Pensión Blanca, where we had our reservation.
I walked from the bus station into the bustling city of León. Not only were there more cars than I had seen in awhile, there were people walking everywhere that were not peregrinos. I used my map app to guide me to our reservation trying not to think about how my feet hurt in my sandals. While our feet are the major topic of discussion on the Camino, it was obvious that no one in León had time for such things. In the distance, I saw a McDonald’s sign reminding me that I was re-entering the modern age from the ancient pilgrimage.
I arrived at our accommodation before check-in time, but Blanca kindly gave me the key to our room. I told her that I was going to meet my husband, and we would come back later. I left the building and sent a text to Ray. If my feet would let me, I wanted to meet him as he entered León. When he answered my text, he was already on his way to the Cathedral of León.
A sister to the Burgos Cathedral, the gothic Cathedral of León stood massively alone in its own plaza. Ray stood across from the tourism office and in front of the cathedral waiting for me to arrive. He watched the other pilgrims arrive with the same dazed and awed looks on their faces. Our room was on a street that led to the Cathedral, but a kilometer away. Ray saw Yung Mi, Lisa, and Shawna before I arrived at their location. The cathedral was magnificent, and the energy around the plaza was captivating.
Ray grabbed a table at a nearby restaurant so that we could watch as more pilgrims arrived. It was time for lunch, so we ordered as we watched the crowds. The restaurant was Italian, so I ordered a duck and pâté ravioli in mango sauce entrée. I told Ray that the dish was right up there with one of my top favorite meals because it was so delicious. It was fun to be a relaxed tourist for a little while, and we had a good time catching up with Yung Mi.
Ray and I walked back to Blanca’s, passing a few shoe stores on the way. He was adamant that I start looking for new shoes again. The thought of putting my feet into new shoes was excruciating. Because there was so much to see and do in León, I told Ray that I thought we should consider staying another day or two, giving my feet a chance to heal. We also had some work to get done, paperwork on orders and freight to arrange. While I could tell that Ray would much rather be moving forward, the idea of Getty one things done while we had good wifi was very tempting.