Camino Day 24 – León to Villar de Mazarife: the road (gratefully) less travelled

Monday 11 September 2023 – We’d both thoroughly enjoyed the decompression of a rest day (and two Nice Lunches) at the Colegiata, but we were nonetheless quite keen to get back on the road, so we were seated in pole position outside the breakfast buffet room ready for as swift a start as possible.

There was a little rain in the cool air as we left at 0800, but we were never troubled during the walk with a need to put on rain jackets. We passed the San Marco Convento, which was looking lovely in the morning light

and which gave me a chance to take a photo that wasn’t possible the day before because of cars parked outside the parador.

There were a lot of pilgrims on the road.

I know it’s entirely unreasonable of me, but I actually resent their presence on my Camino. I dare say they feel the same about me. Anyway, there’s not much one can do about it – I suppose we could start really early, but walking in the dark is photographically unrewarding.

Things that were worth taking photos of included: a quirkily-appointed “Colonial Bar”;

an example of the difficulties of international branding;

some bodegas, which I suppose must have been in the country once, but have now been swallowed up by the suburbs;

the base of what was once a cross offering a view over the bodegas and back towards León;

and, most interestingly, a Basilica. This one, Basilica de la Virgen del Camino, was a bit different from those we’d seen before, being modern. The present building dates from 1961 but there has been a shrine on this site since 1505.

Inside was cool and not over-ornate,

with some striking stained glass.

The stained glass was behind some very funky, Gaudi-esque statues of saints on the outside of the Basiilica,

and, for the record, here’s a close-up of St. James – the reason we’re here in the first place (to the left below, complete with scallop shells).

On we went, towards a split in the Camino.

Top right is León, bottom left is where we need to be tomorrow, blue dot is where I’m writing this. As you can see, WalkTheCamino arranged for us to take the southern route. Delightfully, the hordes of pilgrims around us decided to take the northern one, so, once we’d passed some more bodegas,

we found ourselves once again delightfully alone on the track.

The Camino signposts are, sadly, much disfigured by graffiti, but at least some of it is positive in intent.

Also, the elimination of the hated Castilla name appears to have been done with a bit more subtlety than the black spray paint we’d seen before.

We’d actually had a coffee stop just before the Basilica, but we found that this alternative route led through a small and modern village called Fresno del Camino where we noted a couple of significant things.

One was confirmation that we’re nearing the two-thirds mark; the other was invitation for more coffee, which we gladly accepted.

For the whole of the rest of the walk, we were almost entirely undisturbed by the presence of other pilgrims, which suited us nicely. The going underfoot was good, being either paved road or decent track,

and we passed through a couple of small (and quiet!) but pleasant villages: Oncina de la Valdoncina, which featured a restaurant whose speciality was reasonably obvious;

and Chozas de Abajo, which was larger and more interesting. For a start, there were rumours of a bar there, and I for one was open to the idea of more coffee and possibly even a beer; and, visible from quite a distance, it featured a bizarre object.

Outside the village there was another solar farm

and yet more bodegas.

Even as we approached the mystery object, it was entirely unclear what this strangely-shaped tower was.

It’s a water tower!

“Water storage for supply”, it says. It seems a strange design, but….whatever.

The village also has a very unusual bell tower

and a house with a very unusual rendering on it.

It’s sort of pebbledash, but writ large – boulderdash, if you like. Thank you. Thank you for reading my joke.

Oh, by the way: the bar was shut. Bugger!

The countryside hereabouts is very, very flat

but eventually, in the distance, we could see the hills that I guess we will be climbing in a few days’ time.

Some five hours after starting out we caught our first sight of Villar de Mazarife

which has a water tower the like of which I haven’t seen since I worked in Sweden, forty years ago.

Greeting the weary pilgrim is an entirely enchanting mosaic.

It’s a quiet village

home to a couple of albergues, a shop and a lion.

We found our way to our accommodation, a guest house called La Santa. We had to ring the bell, since the door was closed, but were greeted gently and courteously by Iñigo, who runs a delightful establishment.

He also cooks a delightful dinner. I guess he might have been less than entirely disinterested when describing one of the albergues in the town as bad and the other as providing an OK dinner for €15 where he could do us a nice meal for €20; but he did a great job, not only for us – there were four other guests and he single-handedly produced great food for us all. Oh, and he had gin, too.

After dinner, we went for a walk. Obviously. The sightseeing fare for the avid tourist is not vast. There’s a shop – fair play, it stocked salted almonds – a really beautifully-executed mural

and a church. And, erm, that’s it, really. The church is of unusual construction. There’s an obviously old bell tower

with A Thing beside it, which we think might be for enabling access to maintain the bells; although I suppose it could be so a chap with a hammer in his hand could go up there and beat, erm, seven bells out of them to call people to mass. The rest of the church is, I would say, not contemporaneous with the tower.

and there are a couple of statues nearby. One is of a pilgrim

and the other is of a lion, although not in quite such fine form as the Town Lion.

And so to today’s stats. Relive and Garmin Connect added some spurious kilometrage and put our distance at around 30km, but Jane’s measuring app showed a more credible 21.6km, so I’m going to use that. Our total is thus 498.5km – tantaisingly short of the 500 mark and equivalent to very nearly 310 miles.

Today has been a really nice day. Tomorrow’s destination is Hospital de Orbigo, a mere 14km down the road. This will take us over the 500km total, but leave us a little short of the 520 we need to claim two-thirds of the total covered. Because we had a (for us) late dinner, we will make a late start, but should still arrive in time for me to report back tomorrow. That’s the plan, anyway; tune in then to see if I manage it, OK?

4 thoughts on “Camino Day 24 – León to Villar de Mazarife: the road (gratefully) less travelled

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.