Day 40- Reliegos to Puente Villarente

  • Distance today:                     7.8 mi
  • Distance Camino 2017:   290.6 mi

The initial three miles were similar to yesterday’s walk, a straight narrow path along a local road. It was 41 degrees when we left the hotel.

Breaking the monotony was one new bridge crossed an autovia under construction that appeared to go into Leon and a second older but still modern bridge crossed a national highway and canal just before we entered the outskirts of Mansilla de las Mulas (“small estates of the mules”).

One of two medieval gates into Mansilla still standing

Once a Roman town and likely stopping point on the Via Trajana, the city was later fortified with walls in the 12th century and rebuilt in the subsequent two centuries. Today, more than half of the medieval walls remain, some as tall as 14m and as thick as 3m. It is possible to climb the stairway up into the rounded towers but climbing was not on the agenda this morning, but making an ATM stop to replenish our € supply was.

We walked past the Iglesia de Santa María which was the only church in Mansilla until 1220 when five churches were added, and Santa María has outlasted them all. A few steps later we easily found an ATM in a small plaza just before crossing a medieval bridge over the Río Esla to exit the town (pop.1950).

Immediately after we crossed the bridge, the widest Camino path so far and smooth with only a few sandal seeking pebbles paralleled the two lane, very busy N-601. Initially we had a nice barrier between us and the vehicles, than the path narrowed and got closer to the barrier, then the barrier disappeared and finally we were walking on the paved shoulder of N-601 with only a few feet between us and oncoming traffic including some REALLY BIG TRUCKS!

The Camino finally took a welcomed turn to the left, off the pavement into the woods.

A few steps later we crossed a footbridge over the Río Porma and gasped when before us appeared the Puente Villarente with its massive 20 arches, also spanning the Río Porma and still in use. Originally built by the Romans it has been restored numerous times but 4 of the arches date back to medieval times.

We walked under an arch of the bridge then up onto main street of the town, Puente Villarente, (pop.342) after a relatively easy 8 mile walk.

Our albergue is San Pelayo (40€). Our double room with private bath is comfortable and has a window looking out over the enclosed garden area.  Doing our chores was extra easy because of the access to washing and drying facilities and we had it all to ourselves until late afternoon.

Our pilgrim dinner was in the albergue dining room and our dinner companions were Rita from Sweden, Sarah from Japan and Peter from Germany. The albergue owner and our hostess for dinner spoke French, making it much easier to communicate for check in and throughout the day.

We finished dinner at 9:00 and retired for the day.


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