Day 18 - A Day of Ups and Downs
San Martin del Camino to Astorga
Walked 26 kilometers - About 16 miles
Long day. Lots of ups and downs.
One thing that we had taken for granted on the Meseta was the fact that there really weren't a lot of hills. Today things changed.
We had taken the advice of others and taxied out of Leon in the early morning for San Martin. The ride showed us how large Leon is. It's huge.
When we finally hit the road, we were ready for action. We had just finished a rest day in Leon and had a great time.
We were probably physically ready for the Camino today, but mentally we were still enjoying our pizza lunches and dinners on the terraces near the old square.
The walk today really looked a lot like our state of Michigan. There were lots of small groves of trees and huge plots of corn. Obviously, this region gets more rain than the Meseta. Most of this area appears much greener and very alive.
Among the historic sites we enjoyed today was a fabulous bridge at Hospital de Orbigo.
Jackie and 13th century bridge
This 13th century bridge is the longest one on the Camino at 600 feet and has 20 arches. The river that it crosses doesn’t seem to appear to warrant such a lengthy bridge, but prior to a dam being built the river was a lot wider. The bridge also carries the legend of El Paso Honroso.
El Paso Honroso was the name given to a jousting tournament of sorts undertaken by a Don Suero de Quiñones. He was smitten by a lady by the name of Doña Leonor de Tobar, who unfortunately did not feel the same way.
Feeling he was a prisoner of her love, the 15th century knight decided to wear an iron collar around his neck every Thursday as a symbol of being enslaved by his love for her.
To impress both the lady he loved and King Juan II, as well as a way of freeing himself from his enslavement, he decided to embark on a joust in the style of the knights of old. At a meeting in 1434, Don Suero proposed to the king that he would break 300 lances on the bridge over the Rio Órbigo and only when he had accomplished this would he remove his iron collar.
Many knights arrived from all over Europe.The tournament started in July 1434 and lasted a month during which time Don Suero and his 9 fellow knights defeated 68 men, killing only one and breaking nearly 200 lances. The men who were judging the contest decided that this was enough and during a ceremony removed the iron collar from Don Suero’s neck.
That is the story of the great bridge, which overlooks a field, where jousting tournaments continue to be held.
From Hospital de Orbigo there are two options to reach Astorga (our goal for the day). We chose the scenic route, which is supposedly about the same distance as the scenic route.
Scenic = Hilly
We were up and down hills for many miles as the punishment for scenic. Next time we go direct and boring.
Actually, the walking was better than in the past. We are getting much stronger and faster, keeping our lead today on a stream of Pilgrims (Jackie says they sometimes look like walking zombies) behind us.
After one tough climb, we found ourselves ready for a break at La Casa de los Dioses--a ramshackle semi-temporary donativo refreshment stand, that wouldn't survive our health department laws. We passed on the juices and fruit--just didn't appeal to us.
Finally, we could see Astorga from a high vantage point at Astorga from Crucero de Santo Toribio. We've seen this cross on several documentary about the Camino, which included a guitar playing singer at the cross. He had the day off today, or he had already earned his tip quota. He wasn't there.
Crucero de Santo Toribio
We had two interesting experiences entering Astorga.
First: to avoid Pilgrim crossing of railroad tracks, Astorga has built a "bridge path" to go over the bridge.
Just what we Pilgrims are looking for--more climbing.
Second: the final 200 yards to old Astorga requires a major climb. It was tough.
Astorga wants Pilgrims to work for their trip to the city.
In the end, we like Astorga, though. It is a nice sized town with a busy old city center. Today was market day and when we entered town it appeared that many of the sales tents that we had seen in Sahagun were set up here.
We checked in to our hotel, then headed off to lunch, before returning for a well-needed nap.
We are staying tonight at Posada Real Casa de Tepa, a former palace that included visitors including Napolean Bonaparte.
It is beyond beautiful. This place oozes style and comfort. The proprietor is cool as can be. These photos are terrible representatives for this palace.
Posada Real Casa de Tepa
We've decided to taxi back tomorrow after our walk. We love this joint.
Tomorrow's walk will be a shorter one. It is all up hill, and we intend to only put in 12 to 14 kilometers, then taxi back and start the next day from the ending point of tomorrow's walk.
(Was that confusing enough?)
So, as John Wayne used to say: Buen Camino!!