We are in Leon - one of the largest cities along the camino (there are only four) and we have booked into a hotel so that we can see the lights being switched on in the cathedral at midnight. They switch all the lights off in the square and all the lights on in the cathedral. Leon cathedral has the most magnificent stained glass windows - reputed to be the best in Europe - so it should be a magnificent sight.
Last night we made our own supper in the kitchen at the refuge - salad with a bottle of mixed veggies added, cheese and tomato and fresh bread. It was delicious. We had a good sleep and found the 20km walk to Leon quite un-inspiring - a bit like walking through Pinetown into Durban, with lots of panel beaters, scrap yards and heavy morning traffic most of the way. For the past week we have been walking through the Meseta, the high open food plains. Some people skip this section because it is flat and can be monotonous. I think it is beautiful in Spring when the winds ripple the waist high wheat fields that spread from horizon to horizon. This time the wheat has been harvested and huge acres of bristly blond stalks remain with the occasional ochre, ploughed fields breaking the blond. We have passed a few cornfields but they too are ready for harvesting and soon the Meseta will look like a wasteland with no cereals or corns to break the landscape. It is quite disconcerting to leave the fields and walk next to highways and the usual conglomeration of civilisation on the outskirts of cities.
The Hotel Albany is very close to the cathedral and it was bliss to find beds! Real beds! With sheets! And with pillows! And - an en suite bathroom with a private loo and a large shower. And - guess what? Little soaps and shower gels and even a comb each! When you wash hair, body and clothes with the same soap, little things like a small body soap mean a lot!!
We unpacked and took stock of our backpacks, not something you can do very easily in a crowded dorm with no space to spare. Marion and I walked into the new town to find the main Post Office where I collected the painting of Tomas the Templar Sandi Beukes did for me before we left. I had posted it onto myself from Pamplona rather than carry it the last 450kms. They had a bit of a search but eventually found it and I have managed to get it into my backpack and will carry it for the next 4 days until we reach Tomas's refuge at Manjarin in the Irago mountains. I also have a brag book of photos to give to Tomas so hope that he is there when we get there. Tomas was a businessman in Madrid until 20 years ago when he had a dream that the Archangel Michael visited him and told him that he was the last of the Knight Templars and that he should be caring for pilgrims on the camino. He left his job, moved onto the camino (500kms north of Madrid) and set up a ramshackle refuge close to the abandoned village of Foncebadon and the Cruz de Ferro (the Iron Cross) in the Irago mountains. He has been offering love, Gregorian chants and care to pilgrims ever since. He is one of the few precious personalities on the camino and his refuge has no running water, electricity or toilets and pilgrims sleep on the floor - I can´t wait!!
We have about 320kms left to walk. We passed the halfway mark a few days ago when we walked through Ledigos. It was quite daunting to think that you have walked over 380kms and have to start all over again! Anneliese´s blisters on her heels are quite painful. Mine keeps filling up even though I drain it each night so we are both walking on our toes on our left foot! Marion has a tiny blister on her heel so she has now joined the club!
It is the same time in Spain as in South Africa so at 17h45 we are ready to start looking for somewhere to have dinner. It will only get dark at about 20h30 so we can do some window shopping and then we wait for the cathedral lights.
Thank you to those of you who have posted comments on the Blog (http://ama-walker-walker.theboys.co.za/) or who have sent messages. It is great to hear from home.
Love to all,
S A M