Leon is a beautiful city, but certainly not pilgrim friendly. Progress in the form of ring roads and fly overs have pushed the pilgrims aside leaving them to risk life and limb on road side. If before the pilgrims were at risk from bandits and thieves, the main risks today must be 40tonne trucks wisking past at high speed. The days stage to Villadangos del Paramo was probably the least inspiring so far with the exception of Leon´s beautiful city centre. On the way I ran into Roland, from Berlin, who had started his walking in Leon. At Villadangos there was a pleasant Albergue with a poster on the wall "the pilgrim learns to appreciate small things".
The hospitalero by the name of Angel arrived, and on seeing I was limping straight away prepared a bowl of warm water with salt and vinegar for my aching feet. My blister was giving me problems and without a thought, he offered to drive me 15km to the local surgery where the nurse drained the blister and dressed it, giving some relief, and said it would be ok to keep walking, even though a bit painful.
The next day at last we left the main road, breaking out accross country towards Astorga. Roland accompanied me almost all the way, and it was such a relief to finally be in the countryside again listening to birds singing. But the best thing of the day was to be able to walk on grass! Soft springy, foot friendly grass. Indeed the pilgrim does learn to appreciate small things. Finally Astorga came into sight, with snow capped hills behind and my spirits soared. For the last few days I had doubted whether I would make it this far.
From Astorga there is a continual climb up to Foncebadón at 1500 m. altitude, some 26km. Santiago once again had rewarded us with a beautiful day's walking, not a cloud in the sky, a cooling breeze, with the snow capped hills in front, and the plains of Leon stretching out behind us. Foncebadon is a tiny village which had practically been abandoned, until revitalized by the flourishing pilgrim business. Tomorrow just half an hours climb away is Cruz de Hierro, the highest point of the journey, where "heaven meets the earth".