Days 4 and 5  – Camino de Santiago

Day 4’s walk started in the dark at 6am, and ended in the dark with rain at 6pm. Lots of walking -37km worth from Carrión de los Condes to Sahagún.

Day 5’s walk started in the dark at 7am and after 39km, I reached Mansilla de las Mulas at approximately 5pm.

The spaces I walked across were large.  In many cases, I would look from horizon to horizon and all you can see is fields and the straight road.  This may not seem strange but for Spain and the Camino de Santiago, the past two days of waking crossed some of the most disheartening and intimidating streches of the Way.

The “Ambulance Run” during the hot summer months

I have since found out that many Pilgrims skip the stretch between Burgos and Leon, because it is long and monotonous.  Instead of walking it they take a bus or a train to Leon and continue the walk there.   This happens even more during the summer months when it is hot.

Also, I heard that for one particularly barren stretch of 18km (11.2 mile) directly out of Carrion de las Condes, they have an ambulance buzzing back and forth picking up distressed Pilgrims during the hottest days.  Pretty crazy.

BRIEF HISTORY

During the 1960 and 70s, a Spanish priest named Elias Valina Sampedro spent a lot of time researching and mapping the historic routes.  From what I understand, in the 1980s he petitioned the government to help him with materials to mark the caminos so Pilgrims could follow the routes and not get lost.  The highway department supplied him with left over buckets of yellow paint with which he set about marking the paths and creating what we now know as the modern Camino de Santiago.

VOLUME OF PILGRIMS

I am walking the St James Way (French Route) in the dead of winter.  There are very few Pilgrims on the trail right now.  For instances, each of the municipal albergues (bunkhouses) that I have stayed in has had only 1 section of the albergue open.  The most people I have seen in any of the albergues is nine people.  And because of this, I have been able to use the washer dryer when I want, use the kitchen stove or microwave, or take a shower at my convenience.  I have talked to several of the inn keepers about the flow of Pilgrims.  As I understand the number of Pilgrims starts to increase at the end of February, grows through March and April to the highest levels in May (which is mayhem), the numbers drop through June, July and August, but then increase substantially in September, October and November.  December is a low month but Pilgrims lodge every day, including Christmas and New Years.

When the albergues are full, there is a line of people waiting to use the stove, a line into each shower stall, and a line waiting for the washer and dryer.  Sometimes it is a race for the Pilgrims to get from one Albergue to another.  This encourages some Pilgrims to getup early and start hiking by 5am so they can be among the first to arrive at the final destination and get a bed in the albergue.

Municipal Albergue in Sahagun (created as a loft in the church)

The photo above shows how the new bunkhouses are proportioned.  Each sleeping spot has a mattress and pillow.  This albergue in Sahagun could hold approximately 118 Pilgrims.  All Pilgrims share access to approximately 6 showers, 4 toilets, 1 washer and dryer set, 1 microwave and about 2 meters of kitchen space (with a refrigerator) and two large tables to sit at.

I stayed at this albergue with a Chileno (Federico) and a French lady named Cati, who was going to catch a train the following day.  Below is a photo of an “old school” albergue (Espiritu Santo Alberge in Carrion de los Condes.

“Old School” Lots of snoring!

I will explain more in the next post.  Thanks for reading.  Steve

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