10.06.2011 - 10.06.2011
Today I am walking on a stony old Roman Road, which is v. romantic but irritatingly hard on my feet. I'm sure it was amazingly smooth however many hundred years ago but right now it's rocky – architecture and engineering are only half the battle, what happened to maintenance? Come on Romans! You should have foreseen this.
I struggle along my morning without towns, blisters hurting, singing songs to myself. Look out for lizards in the shrubs, especially on the outskirts of towns (when you finally get there). There are huge ones, elbow-to-fingertip type big, brilliant lizard-green with yellow and black spots on their backs. When you get to Leon they are everywhere. The other cool thing about Leon is the albergue; it's run by nuns in an old monastery. I didn't stay here but the bars and night-life are apparently great. La Cocina has the best tostadas ever and there's an ice-cream place called Holy Cow where they'll stamp your pilgrim passport with a little pink cow. Wow, I say, eating my first ever Spanish ice-cream, “la vie, c'est mieux avec la glace.” Life is better with ice-cream. My French friend laughs; “Charlie, si tu n'existais pas, ça serait nécessaire de t'inventer”. If you didn't exist, it would be necessary to invent you.
Remember, if there's anything important you want to see in Spain everything has a siesta. Even churches and cathedrals because God too needs an afternoon nap. I missed out on the cathedral of Leon because of this. The Spanish siesta can be anywhere from 12.00 – 6.00 and usually last about two hours. So, supermarkets, pharmacies, in fact all shops, many bars and cafés, will be closed. Cerrado means closed and abierto means open.
I find out, walking along to Mansilla, that the Spanish cucumbers are now part of a Europe wide ecoli epidemic, and that several more people have died. Apparently though, (the Spanish assure me), the outbreak wasn't in Spain but occurred afterwards, in Germany, while the cucumbers were being processed and transported.
Another impressive place to stay on the Camino is the ruins of San Anton. It's an old monastery on top of a hill, where you sleep in the open air surrounded by old rocks. It is a historic stop for pellegrinos. I stop here to eat an orange and look up at the ruins, and I spot a little book perched high up on a ledge. I reach up and get it, “book crossing” it says on the front, “pick me up.” It's a copy of Graham Green's The Power and the Glory which has been left by someone on the Camino as part of a worldwide free-book-circulation-library-type thing. You take the book, read it, log it's code onto a website and review it, then leave it somewhere for somebody else. This is so cool! I look around for someone to show it to but I'm surrounded by Germans who look at me really strangely, because I'm standing there waving a book at them babbling something they don't understand. OK Charlie – it's cool, just tell someone at the next albergue.
I learn the word manzana at the supermarket in Mansilla, which is Spanish for apple. Remember – 'z' and 'c' are pronounced 'th'. I stop at the albergue and check in, “where are you from?” asks the hospitalero. “Australia” I say, “Ah! Australia” he says “Koalas, no?” and starts hopping around behind the desk. Well, that's a new interpretation, I think.