Stage 20 – Reliegos to León
Total Distance – 6 km walking + 18.6 km = 24.6 km
Adjusted for Climb – N/A
High Point: N/A
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Brierly’s A Pilgrim’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago (Camino Guides, Scotland), gave the following warning about today’s stage:
While it is only 18.6 km into León we have been on remote paths over the past few days so prepare for the slog into the city centre along the busy N-601. There is a possibility to avoid the busy (and dangerous) main road into (and out of León) by taking the bus from Mansilla direct to the city centre. Both the route into León alongside the N-601 and out along the N-120 can be wearisome.
I took Brierly’s advice to heart on this stage because I absolutely hated walking right alongside busy roads. For me, instead of “wearisome” they were “worrisome” (if such a word exists). My decision however was not taken lightly nor was it without guilt on my part. As a Catholic I’m used to guilt but this guilt led me even to a trans-atlantic consultation with my wife on this course of action. This was the first and only time that I did not walk a portion of the route and I was racked by guilt (sounds stupid doesn’t it?) but nonetheless I felt like I was cheating. Was I cheating though? I reasoned that Peregrinos of old often took advantage of a horse-drawn carriage ride into town and that this was no different. This reasoning plus my wife’s enthusiastic endorsement (she liked the safety aspect of it) clinched my decision. Anyway, I also realized that I had walked far more than 18.6 km in just looking for a place to eat or sightseeing after completing my regular stages on the Camino so why should I feel guilty?
Before I describe my journey that day I must comment on both Reliegos and Mansilla de las Mulas. My research on the village of Reliegos (pop. 200) yielded very little of interest to me other than:
* Neolithic Bronze era hatchets have been found in the surrounding area
*this town was where 3 Roman military roads met and a tablet with the inscription Legio VII was found there. Of significance is the name of the neighboring town Valdearcos. It derives from the latin “Vallis-arcuum” meaning “Valley of the Arches” and alluding to a Roman bridge that the Legions had to traverse somewhere in this area
* The name of the town is from the Roman verbs “relinquo” (“remain”) and “relego-is” (“regrouping”) and refers to the Roman legal practice, adopted by the conquering Visigoths, of unowned lands belonging to the state and how these lands were repopulated by being offered to groups of settlers that would work the land and defend it
*On the 28th of December, 1947 a meteorite fell on the Calle Real at 8:30 a.m. This meteorite weighed 8.9 kilos and is displayed in the National Museum of Science
It was raining the morning that Heather and me set out from Reliegos but luckily for us there were no meteorites to be seen. We soon arrived in the much larger town of Mansilla de las Mulas (pop. 1922).
The name of Mansilla de las Mulas (Mansilla comes from Mano en silla and de las mulas means of the mules. The name probably refers to the town in the past being a livestock market. Unlike Reliegos, this town was an important pilgrim stop (with 5 churches at one time) and is still protected by a massive (14 meters high and 3 meters wide) 12th Century Medieval wall. The town is where La Calzada Romana and the Pilgrim Road intersect and meet. I did not see this old part of town because I went to the bus station to catch a bus into town while Heather had decided to walk into León.
It was a rainy drive into León and I was grateful that I did not have to walk in the rain. While not as heavy as it was during my walk into Burgos I did not regret my decision to take the bus this once and only time.