Day Twenty-One: Mansilla de las Mulas to Leon

We meet Eva in Leon

We were happy to leave the albergue and its cigarette butt stained yard behind, leaving before sunrise again. “Tomorrow I am sleeping in,” Inga proclaimed, as we walked the first five kilometers to Villarente for breakfast.

Arriving there, we could not find an open cafe and had to, grumbling tummies ahead, continue on towards Arcahueja. It was nine when we arrived, and we had half of the day’s leg done when we ordered breakfast at a small food truck outside town. The coffee was instant and the sandwiches stale, but both tasted well enough to go down. We finalized our meal with Calippo ice cream and were back on the road before ten.

It felt good to walk at our own paces, and so we soon split apart, Inga spending more time looking at things while my mind mulled the last days and the ones to come. She was right in one thing: this was the midpoint, and that felt shitty, it was a reminder of one’s own journey having an endpoint, a memento mori to the Camino itself.

I waited in Puente Castro, right outside town, following a Finnish’ pilgrim’s advice to eat there, rather than heading into town and being charged tourist prices. “And, remember, traffic lights,” he smiled. I didn’t understand what he meant.

Lunch was much better than breakfast, we raised a glass of red wine to the Camino so far, and walked the final hour into Leon. On my way in, I was almost hit by cars thrice. Traffic lights… not used to them, anymore.

Eva waited for us, the biggest grin on her face, at a café right outside the Cathedral. “Shall we go see our hotel rooms?” I asked. “No need, you’re standing in front of it,” Eva replied.

Our room was massive, two beds, a bathroom with shower and a dedicated clothes drying rack, a washer and dryer, a kitchen, and a huge flat screen TV. “No bathtub,” Inga complained. Eva smacked her behind.

We showered, the girls changed into their town clothes and I, once again, was the hobo looking dude pacing behind someone dressed much better than him.

Our afternoon and evening was filled with shopping food to cook in our own kitchen, finding scented shower gel for Inga, buying a walking stick for Eva, and drinking vast amounts of cafe con leche.

The latter explains why, even after a days’ walk, neither Eva, nor Inga, nor I were in a rush to go to sleep. We curled into the bigger of the two beds, found the US channel showing documentaries, watched an hour of Shark Week, another hour of Most Dangerous Animals of Australia, and finally two hours of Earthquakes that changed the World.

Tomorrow’s Zero made it easy to overstay our bedtime, and even after we’d turned off the TV we didn’t really want to go to sleep, the pile of bodies felt warm, protective, and familiar. Our conversations drifted off when Inga announced “I did get some things from the vending machine.” “Me, too” Eva replied.

We didn’t sleep for a long time.