19th Day: Mansilla de Las Mulas to Leon

“You just have to put your hands over your ears. Actually you should close your eyes too. And while your at it, plug your nose.” Said Joseph, an older man from Germany, as we walked parallel to the noisy freeway along the rocky camino path. Leon signals the end of the Meseta (plataeu). The Meseta is not particularly pretty, but actually, the treks on the Meseta where easier than the up and down of Basque Country I had experience earlier at the beginning of the Camino. They (as in other Pilgrims) say, if you can make it to Leon, you will make it to Santiago. It’s more than halfway, and by that time, the novelty of the Camino has worn off, you have endured the rather boring 150 kilometers of flatlands between Burgos and Leon and you have learned to cope with the aches and pains that come along with walking 400k.

I had heard stories of pilgrims quitting their Camino 35 kilometers before Leon. Rumor has it that two days ago, two French women that had already walked 365k from St. Jean Pied de Port had called a taxi, jumped in, hightailed it to Leon and took a train back to France. They had simply turned to a pair of Dutchmen and said goodbye and told them they were done and going home. That was it. No blowup. No argument. No pleading from other pilgrims to stay.

Although it wasn’t the prettiest, as I passed by Arcajuega, the last village before the inner city of Leon, I thought today’s trek was definitely better than the flat walk into Burgos. At least I could see the cathedral 5k down from the top of a hill, all be it over a round-about and a yield sign. When I arrived in the city, a gaggle of bachelor and bachelorette parties where in full swing. Unlike Burgos, where the streets where almost devoid of pedestrians, Leon seemed to be a buzz. I passed by a market where the smell of vegetables and fruit mixed with that of cigar smoke from the capped, older Spanish men in front of me. I checked in at the Albergue early, around 1 pm, and had the rest of the day to explore the city. The Meseta is behind me, I hope that what they say is right and Santiago is almost a forgone conclusion.

Most of the way into Leon was devoid of the small cathedrals and interesting natural landscapes indicative of the Camino, so I settled for pictures of gas stations, house sculptures, shops and random clutter on the side of the Camino.

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The Urban Camino.

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Batchorlette party. The bride was dressed as a matador.

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Above the market, pigeons were circling.

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Leon city center.

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