El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

Western Meseta

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From Sahagún to Mansilla de las Mulas

30 May 1993 and 16/17 June 2002

This is another long stage which, in 1993, I completed in one day but was forced to stop part way through in 2002 because of the heat. Soon after leaving Sahagún the Camino follows the hard shoulder of the N120 for a couple of kilometres before turning off onto the meseta. There is a purpose made dirt track for most of the way to Mansilla which can be very boring but there are picnic tables at regular intervals and the shading should improve when the recently planted trees reach maturity.

1993. I walked the first section as far as Bercianos with Joe from Malta and Juan from Madrid. They were both in their late sixties and taking things at a leisurely pace. I had met Joe two weeks earlier at Zubiri but his then companion had been forced to give up with damaged feet. He had now found someone he could walk and talk with and they seemed to be getting on really well.

On the straight section towards El Burgo Ranero I passed one of our gang, Tomas, who was limping badly. His shins had begun hurting the previous day and now he was proceeding very slowly with frequent stops. He eventually managed to shake off his injuries and keep up with us all the way to Santiago.

El Burgo was my siesta stop and I made use of a bed in the refugio. This is new but built in the old style using adobe (dried clay and straw) bricks. The washing lines were also used for my clothes which had not dried overnight. I could also talk with Toni from Amsterdam who was taking short stages so she could meet up with her husband in Sarria for the last week of her Camino.

Mansilla

I had a drink and chat with Joe and Juan in the bar opposite the refugio then set off again on the straight track. Tomas was still struggling so I stayed with him for a while to make sure he could continue and arrived at the refugio in Mansilla about 5.45pm. The rest of the gang were already well established here but I was so tired I just dumped my rucksack on a bunk and headed to a bar for burger and beer.

2002. We had already been walking for three hours before breakfast in Sahagún so it was already very hot when we picked our way through the drunks and broken glass left over from the fiesta. Another pilgrim, Tony from Gloucester, told us later that the refugio allowed a late pass for the celebrations and the temperature was 29C at midnight.

At the turn off from the N120 we rested in the shade of a bus shelter and watched the Guardia Civil breathalysing motorists as they left the fiesta. They all seemed to be let off with a stern warning.

We found a little shade in some trees just before Bercianos but after that the last few kilometres into El Burgo were walked in a daze. At 1.45pm the refugio was already full with people trying to find free space on the floor. We headed straight to the nearest bar and managed to get a room before they were all taken.

After a quick shower I tried to be as neutral as possible during a football match between Spain and Ireland then after lunch tried to walk around the village. It was still too hot at 7.30 so I had a siesta with a wet towel over my head.

A fairly large group of pilgrims had been talking about getting a bus into León next morning and this gave us hope of finding places in the refugio of Mansilla next day.

The bar was open for coffee in the morning and, after this, it was a relatively easy walk to Reliegos for fruit juice and on to Mansilla by 11.15am. We waited in a nearby bar for the refugio to open so we could claim our bunks before going for lunch.

After lunch and another football match, I walked around the town which still has much of its defensive walls standing, but the heat was such that I retreated to my bunk with a wet towel by 4pm.