Day #19 El Camino
Sunday 1st October
Leon > Valverde de la Virgen
Distance walked 11km
The AirBNB was no match for my hangover. Although it would have been no doubt a hell of a lot worse waking up in a dormitory of 100 people at 6am. I had mixed my drinks (rookie error) wine, cerveza, cider and sangria while enjoying the festivities of the city until the wee hours. I don’t remember where I was, it was all a blur, but I bar hopped and had an amazing time. It felt like a New Years Eve street party. Everyone seemed so friendly. Or I was just a happy drunk.
The reason for the celebration I’m not so sure, but today it continued with a flag waving parade. All of the towns in the province were represented. Kind of like watching the opening ceremony of the Olympics, except that it is all just about the flag bearer. The flag pole is anywhere between 3 and 10 metres in height and about 15cm thick made of I guess wood. It looked heavy. The teams I suppose you could call them walk along with a harness on the chest and take turns holding them upright, every now and then they impress the crowd by balancing the pole with one hand or lift it higher, one guy even shimmied his way up a pole to a generous round of applause, but for the most part, they just try not to drop it and kill the crowd members. The flags are huge too and likely have the town emblem/crest on them. Musicians follow along, crowds lined the streets taking photos and confused Pilgrims wandering into the town for the first time had no idea where to go. Imagine having just walked 25km and you enter a carnival. The streets are blocked off and all you want to do is find a bed. This was the case for some. I was however just being a tourist with no bag on my back. It was blissful. There was a parade about to begin too. Folk dressed in traditional costume, some in medieval outfits, chain link armour, pretty dresses, others accompanied the wagons being pulled by horses or some varied breed of cow or bull. I wandered by all the floats while they were waiting to get things started and luckily saw enough not to have to wait for them to do their parade. To escape the crowds I had an easy exit walking the route of the parade just before it started. This was like parting the sea. No police stopping me and it felt like I was the first float with all the people lined up either side of the road watching the parade of the Pilgrim. Finally getting the appreciation I’d deserved for all my hard-earned walking! They did not clap. Heartless.
All good things must come to an end though and as I was just starting to get some anxiety thanks to the masses, I returned to the AirBNB to collect my bag and escape the city. It could have easily been another night of fiestas but the decision to leave was a great one. My hangover wouldn’t go away, no matter how many pastries and coffees I had. I had to walk it off and took an ugly, but nice relaxing 11km walk in the late afternoon to the next Albergue. Entering and leaving the big cities is the worst. There’s no pretty way in or out. They’re all suburbs and industrial so best you do it in the dark. My Albergue was booked for the night so there was no need to rush to find a bed. It’s the first Albergue I’d booked in the trip, not sure it was necessary but it felt good to have the security of knowing a bed was waiting.
I’d only wish I’d left earlier in the day, this place was brand new and the staff went out of their way to get good feedback. Free drink upon arrival, a nice big communal dinner and a garden full of hammocks and sunlounge chairs. There was a large group of Japanese staying and they treated us to an impromptu choir singalong. With Japanese, it was hard to tell if they were professional singers or drunk. Either way it was lovely. The staff insisted everyone joined in a group photo post dinner. It’s a tradition they said to put on Facebook. A brand spanking new accommodation has a tradition for social media? Not quite as traditional as the medieval ceremonies I was watching earlier in the day, but good on them!