Iris had an allergic reaction in the morning: hives, itching, sweats, and redness. It was something she ate in that past hour and might have been from aspartame in the yogurt or a banana or apple that was not washed enough.
We checked out but had to delay our departure from the lobby because Iris had to use the bathroom multiple times. Once more, the proprietress was very empathetic and helpful.
About 9:30, after a short walk to the edge of the village, we chose to take the shorter, more direct route along the major highway instead of the trail through the fields. It was not that much shorter, but the fact that we chose the more boring walk to save a kilometer or two shows how tired we were.
The walk along a busy roadway was tedious. There were no potty break opportunities because of the lack of cover and constant traffic. Despite this we sang and enjoyed the beautiful green fields with the snow capped mountains on the horizon.
After about five kilometers we came to Revenga de Campos. There were lots of pilgrims lounging in the yard of an albergue. It looked like a roadside stand. We took a bathroom break and got coke and coffee.
After another five kilometers we had lunch on a lawn outside a hostel with a nasty woman on duty to prevent pilgrims from using the bathroom facilities. This was Villalcazar de Sirga, a small crossroads with some vehicle activity.
More singing and walking along the highway until we arrived at a fairly large city, Carrion de los Condes. We did our same routine – desperately needing a bathroom, not knowing where anything was, walking slowly and not finding anything.
There was a guy outside the city hawking his albergue and handed us a map showing where it was just a few blocks away – of course we could not find it. We did find a supermarket and started buying groceries and searching for a bathroom, but a bag boy who said they were just closing for the mid-day threw us out.
We found an albergue off the main town square. It had just filled up with the person who walked in before us so Iris used the bathroom, much against the rules, and we got directions to a pension nearby. It was a group of rooms around a nice little courtyard hidden behind a restaurant. We took a room with a bath, dumped our packs and walked around town just to take a mental break. It was mid-afternoon and nothing was open. I could tell that Iris was in great pain and wasn’t telling me.
We had walked 14.5 kilometers that day in five hours.
Back in the room we washed our clothes and put them out around the atrium like all the other hikers were doing. There was one guy, a biker, I think, who was completely obsessive compulsive about his clothes placement and put on quite a performance. He came out of his room every ten minutes to turn his t-shirt or move his sox to a better situation because the sun had moved.
After 5:00 we went back to the supermarket and bought food. We made a salad in the room and ate in the atrium amongst the drying clothing.
At the end of the street a bar doubled as the bus depot. I purchased two tickets to Leon tomorrow at 12:45. That was the first bus that left for Leon in the morning. Buying a bus ticket in Spanish was not too much of a problem. I had written a couple of phrases down and knew where I wanted to go and knew the words for “where” and “tomorrow” and “how much.”
I’m not sure why we decided to take the bus. Iris was still having many health issues and was in great pain. The last four days hiking we had hiked over flat terrain at a brisk pace and had only made about 75 kilometers – not even 20 a day in good weather over flat ground. We had about 20 more days to go and 415 more kilometers to Santiago so we had to average 20 kilometers/day and I think we thought we could not do that. Taking the bus to Leon (and there was good bus service between here and Leon) would place us 319 kilometers from Santiago with 19 days to go. Maybe we thought that was do-able.
Also, we had heard that the trail after Carrion was a long, boring stretch with few towns and few supplies and not much to see. Now that I think about it, that was the description of the trail before Carrion, too.
In the evening, after we ate, we again walked around town. There was much more activity with the shops and the restaurants open. We shopped a little without buying anything and found the other two albergues. One, a monastery, had three enormous stork nests in the belfries. I took great photos of the stork nests, none of which I “saved”.
Around each square was the mad drag racing of the house martins – 15 to 20 martins racing around the square about 40 feet in the air: around and around.
Before we retired for the night Iris had another allergic reaction to something – I cannot imagine what since we have been very careful about what we are eating, but because of the timing, it had to be something at dinner. I’m glad I haven’t had to stick her with the epi-pen, yet.
While we were walking the past few days, one of the few songs that we could sing because we both knew the words and the music was “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.” It seemed appropriate at times.
This morning, while we were getting packed, Iris had the TV on to a Spanish music station. In the midst of playing a lot of European and Spanish pop songs they played, BJ Thomas singing “Raindrops.” We both felt it was a weird coincidence and must have some significance.
Iris had a great backpack. It was well built and had lots of external pockets and features. One of her compartments zipped off to make a small daypack that she could wear while walking around the town at night. This zipper had broken days ago and we were constantly trying to attach it to the pack, usually with pins.
We checked out and walked to the café that doubled as the bus station in the late morning. We didn’t feel the need to buy anything there since we were learning that just sitting down at a café and not buying anything wasn’t frowned upon in Spain. There were two guys sitting outdoors at the table next to us. Iris, who had been fretting over her backpack problem, turned to them and asked if they might have a pair of pliers.
I was embarrassed for her. What a dumb thing to do. What made her think that two pilgrim backpackers would be carrying pliers or, for that matter, even speak English? But they were very friendly and they did speak English and one of them did, indeed, have a pair of pliers and either Iris or he used the pliers to fix her zip-on pack.
This is a good example of how the universe sends help to Iris. It was also a good example of how I should keep my thoughts positive – things usually work out.
We also struck up a conversation with a Frenchman who was sitting at another table. I’m not sure if this is the first time we ran into him, or if we had seen him before, but we talked to him quite a lot along the trail. He was a businessman, about 40 or 50 years old, who was born in France but married a Spanish woman and had lived in Spain for most of his adult life. He spoke very good English as well as French and Spanish, of course, and German and a little Italian and some other languages. He had hurt is leg or foot and was taking the bus to a small town where his wife would pick him up for a few days rest before he continued.
The bus ride was uneventful. Iris used the bathroom at the café before we left but was nauseous on the bus.
The Frenchman said his wife was picking him up in a small town but where he got off was literally a cow pen and nothing else in sight to the horizon. We could not imagine why taking a bus to here to rendezvous with his wife was of any benefit.
We arrived in Leon about 2:30 and, because our guidebook had a good map of the city we found the albergue at Monasterio de las Benedictinas without too much difficulty. In was in an old monastery and looked pretty big and busy. There were two or three desks checking people in. Iris went to look at the accommodations but there were only top bunks available and we decided to look elsewhere. We got good instructions in English to a third floor pension from one of the managers at the albergue and decided to stay there for 35 Euros.
The room was “sin bano” (no bath) but a nice corner room overlooking Plaza San Francisco, a busy plaza intersection in the city. There were two balconies and tall windows that opened to the plaza and the two baths down the hall were sufficient. The pension was very clean, bright, colorful, and open.
We had seen some brochures of Leon and there looked like a lot of sites to see in the town, but, of course, we had not carried any of the brochures with us because of the weight. We looked for the tourist bureau, which we found marked on a street map, but could not, for all the walking we did, find it where it was supposed to be. We found it the next day, and, as all tourist bureaus in Spain, it was open only a few hours on a few specific days of the week, never the ones that we were there.
Back to the pension, we washed clothes and hung them on the balcony just like everyone else and we wandered around the town again. This was a mistake because we were tired, but we wanted to see some sights, needed an ATM for cash, and Iris wanted to find a t-shirt. We found only the ATM and Iris became overly tired, depressed, and somewhat delirious. I don’t know whether it was from low blood sugar or the cold or just fatigue but it was scary.
We finally stopped and ate a meal for 23 Euros (way too much for eggs and fries) and then returned to the pension. Our clothes were not dry, the sun was going down, and we did not decide what we were going to do tomorrow. Iris was not well, we wanted a rest day, wanted to see some sights, but we also felt we needed to continue.
On one of our trips up the three flights of stairs in the dark stairway, Iris missed her step and fell, hurting her arm.