Sadly I think my camera has stopped recording photos. I think I need to reformat the memory card.
In any case.
I am in Mansillas de Las Mulas. If anyone knows what mansillas are or what the mulas are then my hat is off to you. I´m less than 20 miles east of Leon. It´s the last big city before Santiago I think.
I´m on the Meseta now and the wind has been howling. It´s gotten a little cooler and there has been some rain. Lucky for me, I have not had to cycle in it much. It´s like Camelot, it seems to rain before I get there or after I leave or at night. It´s bound to happen however that I´ll be cycling in it eventually. I picked up my mileage some because I would like to arrive in Santiago before it snows. The locals say it´s coming.
Some of the alburgues are begining to close for the winter but there are still plenty of pilgrims out on the road so they are still crowded at times. I stayed in one private hostel owned by a single family that were really kind. The dormitory actually had a lounge with couches, comfy chairs AND best of all a pellet stove. Most of the alburgues seem to lack anyhting resembling a soft place to sit or relax. I suppose they don´t want us to get too comfortable. I turned on the pellet stove immediatley and everyone was so grateful. Later, one of the sons of the family asked me when I was in the dining room if I was the one from Colorado who started the stove. I thought I was in big trouble but he patted me on the back and said (in clear but heavily accented English), "Colorado, you knew how to light the stove. Good for you. It´s because you are from Colorado that you knew how to do it...ha ha ha". "Actually" i said, "I read the directions" which were in Spanish, English and I think Dutch. Such is the Camino...They call me "Colorado" in these parts.
At this point I think this is the most difficult thing I have done. But then I say that about a lot of things. The cycling is great although I don´t recommend this ride for the novice touring cyclist. I followed the Calzada Romana (the old Roman road, a scenic route) today for 15 miles or so and it was a bone jarring experience. Huge rocks and gravel. Oy! My brain stem hurt at the end of the day. For the most part the alburgues are great but inevitably there is some old, large guy who snores like a chainsaw. I have heard stories of some of them being kicked out of the dorms. Even I have not done that yet. I´m not used to being around people this much. It´s gotten too cold to camp so I´m learning patience. I sleep later or when I´m dead. I have a great book.
I´ll be off the meseta soon and the terrain will change. Maybe I´ll get a room in a hotel in Leon.
But all in all, it´s still an amazing journey. There is something profound about this that seems to skirt the edge of my consciousness and I cannot put my finger on just yet. It´s a convincing sensation that there is something coming, transforming, I don´t know. I love the churches and cathedrals. The hermitages are especially alluring and always, my prayer each day is the same, "God, help me to find you out on the road today". When I reach the safe harbor of an alburgue at the end of the day I realize that that is exactley what has happened.
Thanks for reading this.