Day ten: 100 km, 1000 pilgrims

Benavente to León

I’m in a bit of a rubbish mood. The last ten days have pretty much been one big good mood, so I guess this was inevitable.

It wasn’t the riding – that was great. It is perhaps too much sun though, along with the common frustration at my lack of Spanish, a failure with the Spanish hours again and massive sun burn.

The day started well. My route was indirect, leaving the main road and ambling along through Spanish countryside. It was the definition of a cycling “false flat”; though it felt flat the whole day, when I looked at the gradient, I had in fact (very gradually) been gaining height. The majority of the way was really quiet – no cars, cyclists or even pilgrims. I went through countless quiet villages, with some pretty painted houses, wild flowers and more Romanesque churches.

Into the woods
Road kill (and how I feel now)

That all changed 30km outside of León as I came to my busiest road yet. Lorries whizzed past; a bit of a shock to the system when I’m used to having the road all to myself. It wasn’t just the lorries, it was loads of pilgrims! All walking along with their backpacks and sticks, on this crazy busy road.

Pilgrims ahead

So far on this trip, these pilgrims have all been grey haired hippy types, but today, they were of all ages and from all over the world. Walking in the blazing sunshine, like lemmings. León it turn out, is one of the major attractions and stops along the Camino de Santiago.

Arriving in León and in my Airbnb, Maria, my host, seems very unimpressed with me and my lack of Spanish. I’m trying but no one can understand my shoddy English accent and she didn’t seem to appreciate me trying to use google translate either.

After doing my washing (the big subject of confusion with Maria), I walked into town and became a victim once again of Spanish hours. I had had a tuna sandwich on the ride but by 4.30pm, was totally starving and nowhere was serving food. It was also boiling hot (35 degrees according to the sign). This is when my mood turned savage.

It lifted slightly when I went to the beautiful gothic cathedral. The cathedral is not only magnificent to look at, with its stained glass windows streaming light in, it was also a cool oasis from the sweltering heat outside. I got an audio guide to try and educate myself on its architecture and the religious stories its art depicts.

Inside the 13th century gothic cathedral with its 1,800m of stained glass windows

I then mooched around the old town and finally got some tapas with a beer.

It’s scorching hot today – I’m tired and stupid me didn’t put on suncream so my arms are burnt with ridiculous cycling tan lines. Tomorrow the forecast is for storms and as I will attempt to ride up to my first pass, I’m kinda wishing for a big trampoline to just bounce me right over. As I climb up tomorrow, hopefully my mood will do the same and lift me out of this gloom!