The stars still lit the night sky at 6:45 am as we slipped thru the silent streets of Calzadilla de Los Hermanillos. It took us a while to find the “yellow arrow” which would tell us that we were on the right track. We had to follow the road for quite a while before we joined the Roman road. There were four of us as we headed toward Mansilla de las Mulas. Kay from Austin, Texas walked with us for the day and will accompany us to Leon. Both Chris and Kay had head lamps which helped to find the way markers and keep us on track. We had reached the bridge over the Arroyo de Valdelcasa as the sun poked its face over the horizon.
Once the sun was up it was much easier to find the way markers and navigate over the rough stones of the Roman road. At one point, because the road was so rough we walked through the fields that had stubble waiting to be tilled. This made for easier walking until we ran out of field and had to navigate a ditch to make our way back to the stone filled road. The next 15 kms were boring and as one pelegrino said, “this is where we can reflect on the mundane aspects of life.” There was no place to rest or sit. You just had to keep on walking, changing from one side of the road to the other to whatever side offered the easiest track to follow. The landscape was flat. All around were fields that had been baled and were waiting to be tilled. Occasionally, the express train would race down the train track about a half mile away. It was 10:30 when we reached the village of Reliefos where we could rest our tired feet and have the first cafe con leche of the day. As we were entering this village we saw these strange looking hovels built into the hillside.
We learned that these structures were bodegas where wine is stored at the correct temperature. The last 6 kms was along the road but on a pathway that provided a better cushion for the feet. This last part of the trek was not too bad because it was tree lined and there was a breeze blowing. We had reserved four beds at the Albergue El Jardin del Camino in the town of Mansilla de las Mulas. Mansilla is derived from the Spanish for “hand” and “saddle” and Mulas refers for the town’s mule market. The town’s crest depicts a hand resting on a saddle.
After being refreshed by a shower and a siesta, the four of us set out to tour the town. It was still the middle of siesta. The shops were closed and the bars and cafes were the only places where any activity was happening. There are ruins of Roman walls that surround much of the town with three watch towers and one that you could climb up.