Day 13, Oct 11: Bercianos to Leon, 26.8mi

It began to rain yesterday evening, a soft pattering outside that made the lively group dinner all the more cozy.  I liked the sound outside the window as I put my earplugs in to go to sleep (kind of common practice now; don’t wait to hear the snoring, just put the earplugs in!)  I knew, though, that the rain going to continue into the next day.

I awoke to rustling of sleeping bags and people getting up and ready, around 6:30am.  I heard the rain, and was completely unmotivated. I rolled over in my bag and put my earplugs back in.  Around 7:05, I knew I had to get up and going.  I seriously considered taking a bus today.  Then I thought, wait, all these other Pilgrims are putting their rain gear on and just dealing with it.  Just because I’m tired and want to get to the big city and into a hotel for a break doesn’t mean I can’t participate today.  If it’s terrible, and I get out there and just really don’t want to be there, then yes I can take a bus.  There is no penalty!  I thought of my friends Christy and Cary; when they did the Camino it was April/May, and spring is really rainy.  They had to deal with rain quite a bit, and they did it.  I never heard them speak poorly of it or complain (maybe they did, but not to me!), and it’s just part of it.  I bought a poncho for a reason, not just to carry it around, haha!

So I got out there.  The low motivation was apparent in all the straggling pilgrims getting out the door around 8:15, 8:30…me too…on the road and yes it was a pain to walk with rain gear on and a poncho.  It wasn’t raining hard, but it was steady and certainly walking for miles in it gets you wet.  The poncho and backback cover helped a lot.  Then I got sweaty because everything waterproof is basically made of plastic!  Oh the material I had to complain about!  One foot in front of the other, one pole ahead of the next…and you get there.  The rain did let up, though the clouds stayed low pretty much all day.  I stopped for lunch (exciting canned lentil soup and peas today!) and checked my guidebook.  I was on time to be able to walk all the way to Leon today, which I really wanted to do if I could.  There I would get a hotel and have a rest day, especially if it was raining the next day- this was very appealing to me.

I met a couple on the road; they were pushing an off-road stroller with a child in it.  I couldn’t believe it – people do this with a kid???  I said Buen Camino, which is a very common greeting out here on the route, and began to pass, then I slowed and asked them if they spoke Engligh (they did not look Spanish).  They did; they were from Germany.  Matias and Katherine, and their almost-3-yr-old daughter Mara.  They were such nice people, I really enjoyed talking with them and admired their positive and down-to-earth attitudes.  They had walked the second half the Camino several years ago, before they had Mara.  Now they are walking parts they didn’t do before, and taking her with them.  I asked if they stayed in albergues; I couldn’t imagine how that works with a 3 year old.  They said usually they do, if they can find one with a smaller setting and sometimes pay for a private room.  They said it’s a challenge, but really meaningful to do this as a family and “usually quite fun”  :)  Matias gave me some info and his opinion about walking into Santiago and possibly Finnisterre, even taking a bus for part of it if time calls for it; he said it’s really worth going to “the end of the earth”.

Leaving my last big stop around 1:50pm, I knew I had about 10-11 miles to walk into Leon.  It was going to be tough at the end,  knew it, but the thought of waking up in my own room at whatever time I wanted and then having a day off to be a tourist or whatever I wanted to do or not do…led me on!

I merged paths with a man about my age named Adrian.  He was from France and had very good English.  We had a very similar pace, and chatted a little.  When I learned he was going to Leon, too, I felt better about the miles that were left.  He was kind, and it always feels a little safer and better to me to finish a long day with at least someone in sight (not necessarily  walking with me, but…around), and it’s helpful leading into the bigger cities to have two sets of eyes to look for the arrows.

He talked a lot.  Traveling is a lifestyle for this young man, it was for his parents as well.  He’s been on the to for the past 7 years at least, sometimes staying up to a year in a place and finding work.  Very interesting lifestyle, and so different from what I know and what I am comfortable with.  I really enjoyed hearing about it.  I think as the hours passed, we were both beginning to deal with our physical discomforts – he by talking even more, and me by becoming more and more quiet, just listening.  His English was very good, but his accent was strong and I did have a hard time understanding him quite often.  I found myself feeling irritable.  I appreciated his company, and he did help keep me going, but my fatigue and sore feet were causing me to have little energy to pay attention and try to follow his accent.  I noticed this; instead of judging myself and feeling guilty for kind of wanting him to stop talking and go away (!!), I realized that it was just my fatigue and what I really wanted was to not feel so tired and sore and I wanted to stop walking. It was my physical discomfort, not anything having to do with him.  This is not earth-shattering, but is pretty freeing when you can actually realize it and not wrestle with your emotions or mental state.  I focused on my footsteps, politely commented to him when I could, and let his stories pull me along.  We did stop for a break about an hour outside of town, which helped us both regain some energy.

We parted ways once in Leon, politely shook  hands, and he went to an Albergue and I searched for a hotel.

Come to find out, it was a festival weekend in Leon, so the place was packed!  One hotel and one hostal I tried were both full.  I found another hotel I was very pleased with that had a room for a decent rate (57 euros).  I collapsed on my bed and checked my email, not having energy for a shower yet!  I finally showered, then went to dinner which was so much fun.  The street outside my hotel was bustling with people – singles, couples, families, young and old.  Apparently there had been a parade and other events earlier in the day.  Now people were out eating, drinking, and altogether enjoying life and enjoying each other.  And it was raining.  So everyone’s umbrella was up.  It was a great scene!

I had a salad, an ox-meat burger(deeelicious), and later I went to a chocolate shop where they served the richest hot chocolate ever (like, thinned-out pudding, not like watery or even milk-based hot chocolate like I’ve had before).

Small, clean room to myself and two pillows.  Dreamy!

Rainy morning.  Notice the backpack covers on the pilgrims up ahead.

Rainy morning. Notice the backpack covers on the pilgrims up ahead.


A bridge over a river with beautiful fall trees and a cloudy-sky backdrop.

A bridge over a river with beautiful fall trees and a cloudy-sky backdrop.


Passed this "Residencia de Ancianos" on the outskirts of Leon.  It is a Retirement Home.

Passed this “Residencia de Ancianos” on the outskirts of Leon. It is a Retirement Home.


Many people and their umbrellas out during a Festival (of a patron saint that I can't remember..sorry!) evening.

Many people and their umbrellas out during a Festival (of a patron saint San Froilan) Day, Sunday evening.


Catedral Pulchra Leonia takes up the whole east side of Plaza Regal; it was beautiful in the rainy night!

Catedral Pulchra Leonia takes up the whole east side of Plaza Regal; it was beautiful in the rainy night!


Spanish hot chocolate:  worth every calorie!

Spanish hot chocolate: worth every calorie!



One Response to “Day 13, Oct 11: Bercianos to Leon, 26.8mi”

  1. Molly Briggs says:

    beautiful journal Whit!
    Love that chocolate shot! and the cathedral, wowee!!
    I am so glad you are having such an amazing experience!!
    Miss you, but am so glad for you,

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