Camino Trip Notes: Stage 22 (El Burgo Ranero to Mansilla de las Mulas)

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Distance: 17.9 km

9:34 – I’m finishing my coffee in the local bar and watching a 24 hour Spanish news channel where the Fort McMurray (Alberta) fire is the lead story. Every second or third ad is for an affiliated sports channel and one of the clips they show over and over is of Canadian Kyle Croxall winning the Red Bull Crashed Ice Championship (downhill ice skating) in Quebec City. I wasn’t quick enough to get a shot of the TV during that segment but the weather report that followed was about five minutes long and as far as I could tell, they’re calling for rain all day, every day for the foreseeable future. I think the word “ark” was mentioned.

12:40 – I made good time this morning as it rained steadily and I didn’t stop for many photos. I  also spent a lot of time on the paved shoulder of a busy road that ran adjacent to the sloppy trail.

I did stop for lunch at a remote cafe that offered warmth and shelter. What it did not offer was much in the way of food. Everyone was eating some type of rice dish out of clay bowls that looked like they could be 500 years old. The mystery lunch was too watery to be paella and too thick to be soup. I concluded that it was simply the cheapest thing they could throw together and still charge 5€ for.

I shared a table with a couple from Western Australia who were waiting for a taxi to take them to a high-end hotel in a nearby town. Robert is suffering from bronchitis and Kerri-Lynne has issues with her knees and shins. After 20 nights in municipal albergues, they’re dreaming of a hot bath and a nice bed. If they don’t feel better in the morning, they will consider changing their tickets and flying home. “We can always come back next year and finish it,” says Kerri-Lynne. We both know that’s never going to happen.

14:29 – The rain has tapered off a bit but it doesn’t matter as I’m warm and dry under my XXXL poncho (the kind that fits over the backpack). I finished one audiobook this morning and will now turn to a backlog of unplayed podcasts (Under the Influence, Spark, 99% Invisible, The House, Motley Fool Industry Focus, TED Talks, The Sunday Edition).

15:50 – It’s true, the first sign you see when you arrive in Mansilla de las Mulas is an arrow pointing to the bus depot as if to say, “There’s nothing of interest here.  Better catch a bus to Astorga.”

16:00 – Some people might find Mansilla de las Mulas a bit depressing but I tend to like towns with a bit of graffiti and the odd abandoned building.  This is a “real” town with real issues, not some Disney-esque creation that has been tarted up for the tourists. 

Oh, come on guy, living here can’t be that bad!

The first albergue in Mansilla de las Mulas was advertising beds for 5€. It looked a little dodgy and I’m willing to pay up to 10€ if they have a few of life’s luxuries such as lukewarm running water, a pillow and perhaps a window that closes. That’s not the case in all municipal albergues.

16:25 – After finding two private albergues that were closed and two more that had “full” signs in the windows, I headed back to the 5€ joint. I don’t know how I missed it on my first pass through town, but Gaia Albergue is much nicer and they too have beds for 5€. After processing my passport, the woman at the desk said: “Welcome!  My home is your home for tonight.” That’s a first on the Camino where some of the hospitaleros have clearly been doing this a bit too long. 

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