Camino de Santiago, Camino Frances, pilgrimage, Spain

September 21st, Day 20: Leon to Villangos de Paramo: ‘Should I Stay, or Should I Go’

Leon’s Catedral de Santa Maria

I sleep like a baby until sunlight fills our sparse room in the albergue. It’s 8:30 before I even open my eyes, and it’s a welcomed treat after quite a few pre-dawn departures. I lay in bed and my legs feel like dead weight. I don’t want to move. We have toyed with the idea of a rest day and I look over and see that Tammy is in no hurry to get on the path either.

She had a fitfull night’s sleep and asks me if I heard all the people in the hallway and knocking on the door during the night. I didn’t, but I get the sense that there may have been something about – it’s just that kind of place.

‘Too fancy for us pilgrims’ coffee cups.

We pack up and head to the cathedral, taking a round-about way to get there. It is Saturday, market day, and squares are taken over by vendors selling fruit, vegetables, meats, flowers, antiques…anything you can imagine.

When we finally make it to the square, we ditch our packs at an outside café table and order coffees and croissants. The morning sun is warm and we watch as tourists enter and exit the cathedral. The occasional pilgrim passes by, given away by hiking boots, bandanas, day old clothes and a general look of lethargy.

As we go in to purchase our coffees, we run into Dima and Keren, who we have not seen since Burgos. They are in good spirits and we spend more time visiting with them now than we have in all previous passings. They are also debating a rest day in Leon. Moments later, we run into Brian. He is at the end of this Camino trip and is emotional about being finished and being one of the only ones who has to return home, while the rest of us continue on to Santiago. We also see Teresa and Judy from Sahagun.  It’s like a mini-reunion for us all, but still there’s no sign of Lynne, Ramon, Jennifer or Kyle.

Over our coffees, we debate about staying versus going. It is already late morning and our overall fatigue from three weeks of walking is creating a bad case of indecision. Tammy is leaning towards going, but tells me to stay, but an hour later, we are pulling our packs on and leaving town. It is 12:30 before we leave Leon, our latest start yet.

It takes as long to leave Leon as it did to enter it. It is a never-ending sprawling city. We cross to a newer section of town and begin a long, steady climb out of town. We are along a major road for most of the time, but we reference a guide book, which indicates we can take a more scenic route. After a couple of attempts to find this path, we realize we’ve missed it entirely. We are on a long stretch of road well into the afternoon.

We’re getting hungry, but our hopes of finding anything now are slim. We pass one village, during the height of siesta, and the one café we find has a note posted on the door, indicating they are closed until October.

We’re both starting to feel a bit adjitated. Maybe we should have taken the rest day in Leon? But up ahead in the distance, we see a roadside sign for a bar/café. The sandy parking lot in front looks empty, but we give it a try and are so relieved to find that it’s open. We immediately order Ale’s drink, a tinto de verano, and a couple of sandwiches. I unlace my boots and rest my feet, and Tammy and I shoot each other a look. We are both in the same state of mind: tired, slightly fed up, and wishing we could beam ourselves to the place we will rest our heads, Villangos de Paramo.

Tammy is rifling through her bag unable to find her sunglasses. We don’t think they can be far seeing as she has had them on her head all day, but they are nowhere to be found. Odd, we think. We sit and sip our tinto de veranos while we wait for our sandwiches, and I look to the dusty stretch of path leading to the road. I think I see something in the distance, something black, something that resembles a pair of sunglasses. As I squint to see, Tammy looks up too, and just then, a car turns off the main road, heading for the parking lot. With no other cars around, the driver has the ability to stay left or right, but instead, drives directly down the middle of the lot, running over the black object in the distance. Tammy and I look at each other realizing it was most likely her sunglasses we just saw fly up in the air.

The driver parks and heads into the bar, and Tammy walks down the dusty path to retrieve her sunglasses. Miraculously, the frame is intact and she is able to pop the lenses back in. The Oakleys are like new again, with just a few minor scratches. We have lunch and laugh at her luck, and then make our way.

We’ve walked through the worst of the heat, and I feel stronger on the afternoon walk than I did this morning. It’s late afternoon when we arrive in Villangos, and as we approach, we can see the albergue across the main road. It is an old school that has been turned into a large dorm room. There are kitchen facilities, and we see Georgie and her mum, Penny, cooking dinner. They invite us to join them, telling us they have plenty of leftovers, so we make a beeline to the local bodega to buy a bottle of vino to share. It’s Sunday and we catch them just before they close.

Pilgrims congregate on the picnic tables outside and we share dinner and vino as the sun sets. As it gets later, pilgrim’s drop off to read, write, or sleep. For a long time, I sit with Georgie and Penny, talking about Penny’s recent move from London. She is en route back home to Australia, the Camino a trip for her and her mum in between. We talk well into the night, discussing everything from future plans to family dynamics. Penny heads to bed and Georgie and I sit outside for at least another hour. We’re united in the fact that neither of us know what’s next, well, post-Camino. What a liberating, yet uneasy feeling, simultaneously?

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