When the going gets tough, the tough get going – Billy Ocean

the entrance to the town and you can see it, just about!
the entrance to the town and you can see it, just about!




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The bridge outside Sahagun
The bridge outside Sahagun


Our first picnic type lunch stop. The cyclist looked like one of the Wurzels today.
Our first picnic type lunch stop. The cyclist looked like one of the Wurzels today.

!!! Today I walked 22.7 miles and have done 450KM So far!!!

We knew it was going to be hot and we also knew it was going to be a long walk today. 18miles to the place first place we could stay. It wasn’t the distance that worried me, more the distance with my sore heel and the blister that was now twice the size of the previous day. So I set the alarm for 5.10am. When it went off I shut it off quickly and just lay back down. Surely it’s not time to get up already. It was but I didn’t want to move. So it was 5.30am before I got out of bed and fumbled for my clothes in the dark. As normal, the Cyclist was still lay trying to snooze as he doesn’t get up until I’m nearly ready as he doesn’t take as long, not that I take that long either. No morning cuppa to make and enjoy. No faffing with blusher, mascara and lipstick etc. but I do wash and put my eye and face moisturisers on. Some things can not be left at home. Just rucksack’s to be packed each morning after you wash, water bottles filled and the ritual putting on of your walking shoes. The Cyclist always says before we leave the room, ” enjoy this moment as it is the best you are going to feel all day”. How true that is.

We walked out the hotel at 6.23am and as usual I followed the Cyclist who seems to be able to snuff out the yellow arrows and the way, like he has a 6th sense. At the edge of the town there was a large archway which was left from some Roman ruin. Then the bridge that indicated the start of a long day. It was so nice to be out before most other people and also to begin walking before it gets too hot. We were not the first out though. We passed one or two early on and could see some others some way in front. I can understand this because if I was in an Albergue I couldn’t wait to leave it either. And the only way not to queue for a sink to wash in is to be the first up and out. Plus on Albergue’s most people sleep in what they will wear the next day so getting ready takes minutes.

Today was a day of choices in so far as the route was concerned. My Brierley guide favours off road whereas the real Camino route followed a straight line and looked at first glance like it was along a road. I had said last night that I wanted to go the road way as the road would be an unused or rural road whereas the other route was not only slightly longer but had 12km of nothing. No water, no benches to sit, no houses or any other signs of life. The real Camino went through two tine villages early on and at least had a road where you could be rescued should you need it. Such was my thought in my head about my ability to make the distance today.

At the point where you had the choice there was another female Pilgrim across the road looking for which was to go. She was beckoning me across the road and eventually I went leaving the Cyclist studying the large map billboard. She pointed to the arrows on the road her side and indicated this was the way to go. For me it was the way as my guide said that this way was the one that followed the road. I called the cyclist over and showed him the arrows plus someone had painted Real Camino Frances too. I said lets go. There was a bit of countering about going the other way etc and I reminded him of my reasons for wanting to go this way that I explained last night.

As it was, my theory was right and the supposed road was a stint path like always along an old disused road. It was as quiet as being off road and the cyclist didn’t mind it at all. We stopped for a quick coffee at the first village. This little place was a basically someone’s veranda type conservatory and it was immediately as you walked in. Consequently it was a thriving little place with walkers and cyclists alike. As we walked on some 25 metres there was another coffee bar with chairs outside but round the corner. The place was empty. It proved the ‘location location location’ theory.

One more village before the long nothing and we stopped for another coffee there too. Basically I wanted to use the facilities so a coffee is the done thing. The Cyclist was telling me about how many hours walking until we got to Relgios which was where he expected to stay as it was 18.5 miles from where we started this morning. I said I would try to go the four miles or so further to the next town but he said I wouldn’t make it. I said I wanted to try but would see how I felt when we got there.

At about the 12mark we stopped for a snack. We had been to the supermarket last night and had got provisions for the walk knowing that the majority of the day there would be no water or villages anywhere. It was our first Camino picnic. We had a little crusty bread, laughing cow triangles, cherry tomatoes, Madeleine cakes, bananas and peaches, plus he had fresh orange juice and I had decanted a can fanta topped up with vino into a small water bottle. I had water too but this was to pep me up if I needed. It gave me chance to whip my shoes and socks off to get air to my feet. Plus my socks could dry out. It was all very civilised and was a welcome break from the walk. About 6.5 miles to go to Religios. So shoes back on and off we went.

Just before Religios we came over the brow of a big hill and you could see Religios, the town of Mansilla beyond it then in the distance Leon. Well I could as though I pointed it out to the Cyclist, with his eyesight he couldn’t see it at all. I said to him that I had my eye on the prize. The prize being Mansilla. He still wasn’t sure I would make it but I told him I really didn’t want to stay in an Albergue and that’s all there was in Religos. If that’s not an incentive to go the distance them I don’t know what is.

At Religos, there was one coffee bar/pub and we sat and had a drink. I chose coke this time as it was baking hot and I wanted something cold. Once done, I said lets go. He asked if I was sure, but got up and went without any further questions. I had the iPod today and I put both earphones in so I could focus on the songs rather than the pain. It was working too. I got my head down literally and just walked at the fastest pace I could lusting to the music. At one point Love and Pride by King came on and I was making little dancing hand gestures as I walked. The chap I past must’ve thought I was mad. Especially when I threw my arms in the air when the chorus started “That’s what my heart yearns for now….. Etc.” Nowhere to run to by Martha and the Vandellas also kept me going. Any slow depressing stuff was immediately skipped.

Just outside Religos there was a small park with gym equipment as well as kids stuff. We have seen this in most towns both while walking and while cycling two years ago. It’s a great idea and we wave seen people use them too. They vary in quality of equipment depending on the size and finances of the town but still it’s good. Before today, this has been one of the discussions I have had with the Cyclist while walking along. I said I do not understand why we don’t do this in the UK. Put basic fitness equipment in our parks for people to use. Not everyone can afford gyms and this way it may encourage people to get out and use our open spaces. The Cyclist view on it was short and firm. Short sighted councils who want people to get fitter and therefore more healthy so they are not a drain on the NHS, but instead of investing to save they prefer to put up local parking charges then moan when towns die due to lack of shoppers or shops other than charity or pawn shops. (I think we hit a nerve there, but it’s a good point all the same).

That aside, as we passed he told me to go on the walking machine so he could take a picture. My protestations About having walked enough already fell on deaf ears. Tit for tat I told him to go on one, which he duly did. A couple of pilgrims walking past were chuckling at us behaving like kids. One was the chap that witnessed my hand dancing to Paul King a little further down the road so he definitely must think we are bonkers.

When we arrived in Mansilla the first place we came to was an Albergue. There was a garden in front with other pilgrims sat having a drink. The Cyclist said that it looked OK. I said definitely not. I did not kill myself walking here to stay communally I would like my own room. The first hostal was full from people who had booked and the Cyclist told me not to get my hopes up. Basically I wanted a room even if I had to beg or sleep with the two of us in a single bed. He wouldn’t like that but I wouldn’t care. I followed the Cyclist as he had seen a sign on a roof on the way into town and was heading in that direction. Aha. There was another. Decor wise it looked a bit tired/grim but after discussing if they had a room with his mother, he scraped out someone’s name on the booking sheet and said yes we could have a room. Whoever it was whose room we had, I am very sorry.

As expected it was very tired but it passed the bed bug inspection and I was just grateful to have somewhere to stay. After a squirt or five of deodorant, we headed downstairs to the garden where they were serving drinks and lunch. What a little Spanish oasis. It wasn’t plush but there was an outside bar and tables both small and large dotted about under shaded canopies. The music was traditional Spanish and it reminded me of a film I used to watch with my Angels called ‘Dance with me’. It had a Cuban guy in (very handsome) and an ex miss world whose name escapes me now, Chris Christoferson and Joan Plowright. Great film and this scene I was living now was just like a scene in tag movie I thought. So I took photos, two of which I have included here, recorded the music playing, and sent it via group iMessage to immediate family so the girls could see and hear.

If you would have asked me at that point where she was from I would have said UK. But she was obviously speaking Spanish with the guy so who knows. The reason I say this is because she saw me sat on a stool at the outside bar, smiled and came over saying something Spanish. (Now you know I’m introverted and can be shy and have to feel sociable), so I said I was sorry I’m English and I didn’t understand, thinking that would be the end of it. But no. She then said in a most definite upper class English accent that she was too. Cornered. Nowhere to hide. She introduced herself. She was Grimelda. I kid you not and I asked her to repeat it incase I hadn’t heard right. Nope. Grimelda. After asking if I was walking alone and me being able to say no, that’s my husband over there, she began to talk. A lot. And ask questions. A lot.

Trying to cut a very long story short here we go:
She is on a sabbatical from some theatre company she works with. She is walking to Santiago to raise awareness of human trafficking and especially to the UK. She was walking with another girl but she walked faster and didn’t stop for breaks so after one day that partnership ended. She is interviewing people on video and voice recordings as she goes and in the places she stays using her iPhone and iPod. She is also going into the churches and speaking with priests and nuns trying to get interviews. She speaks to people in Albergue’s she stays in asking probing questions about them and if they have a good job, senior or powerful job or knows slit about trafficking, she records them. Then she makes bites to write it up when she gets home. She got one priest to talk to her who told her what the pope is doing about trafficking.
We got into walking the Camino and its ups and downs and she said she had started on the 18May. Wow. I said she must have walked well/quickly as we started on 16may and had just got to this same point. I thought we had done. But then she said “Oh I started in Burgos in 18th”. So I pointed out again we had come from France in 16th and then the penny dropped. We had left Burgos on 28 May and was here now. Oh.

She then went on for half an hour telling me about her faith, that she was brought up in high Anglican Church, about the signs she has sent or experienced along the way, how she is being tested with her interactions with men and how she is saving herself and won’t be invoked with a man unless she is marrying him. That is the watered down version that she didn’t appear to take breath and at the end of it my mind was spinning. All I said was “wow. I have nothing to say”. I had plenty in reality but I didn’t.

I turned to the cyclist and said we should go up. Saying goodby we left her to her Spanish pronunciation of everything and went up to our kyle room that was now an oven. The Cyclist said he now knew our guide book well as he had read our final stages twice so as not to get drawn into the conversation. I knew he was sat behind me with his head down keeping quiet. He said she was a nice enough girl.

Where is the air con when you need it. It was so hot and my legs throbbing it was after midnight before I finally went to sleep.

2 Responses

  1. Good to hear about all the inspirational tunes that are keeping you going.

    Songs you might least like to hear?

    The road to hell by Chris rea?

    The long and winding road by the Beatles?

    Hole in my shoe by traffic?

  2. I had long winding road as a blog title some days ago. I thought hole in my shoe was by Neil from the Young Ones. In fact kyle boots are beginning to fall apart so you never know.