On my way … Day 22 … Leon to Hospital de Orbigo

Sunday, June 3, 2018 … 38km … 24 miles … Sunny 

As we woke this morning, we were moving slowly. We had to get our bodies back on schedule. Our day was not going to be long, so we decided to leave a little later. We planned to walk to Villar de Mazarife, 22 km away. Little did we know that our plans would change. 

The roads were still wet as we made our way towards the Cathedral. Not from rain but from washing. They wash the streets in the historical sections every night in these Spanish towns.

One quick stop for a photo and then we would be on our way. As you can see, Sean is walking with us this morning.  

Morning walk 

We follow the Camino markers and we weave our way out of Leon. First, we leave the historical section, then the business section, then the suburbs, and finally the industrial section. All on the pavement, and all listening to the morning rush hour.  The air was crisp and cool.

Nothing inspiring on this stretch. Our group was chatty and just enjoying each other’s company. The spirits are high this morning, the day of rest was much needed.  

We had eaten our light breakfast at the Hostel but now our goal was the 8 km ahead of us. A café will be waiting for us and the breakfast at this café is great. It’s a regular stop along my Caminos and I am looking forward to the Tortilla.  The café is located in a little town called La Virgen del Camino. 

The first part of today is mostly up hill, we are slowly leaving the Meseta and will soon be in the mountains again. The Meseta ends in Astorga, which is where we will be tomorrow. And then, Galicia is awaiting us! 


As we arrive at La Virgen del Camino, the café is packed. But it is full of all of our friends some of who we haven’t seen in a while. The Baby family (our nickname for them because they are the big family with a baby). We also saw the original four, Tim, Rodney, Tomce and Daniel and finally the two Georges from Columbia! So great to be with our friends, we all enjoyed our great breakfast.  

As we were talking, Michele (Baby family) asked if we were walking to Hospital de Orbigo today? We said, “no, why?” She said, “there is a Renaissance festival there and today is the last day”, some of her group was heading there.  

What? How cool would that be? To see a Renaissance festival and a jousting tournament in a town where it actually happened in history.  

But, wait. That means we would have to walk 14 km past our planned path. 

We started talking about it.  

We all felt good because of the rest day, but we had a late start today. Could we make it there in time? The jousting started around 7 pm.  

We all wanted to do it but we decided to walk and see how we feel when we arrive at our original resting place. Also, we will take breaks but not waste too much time in case we wanted to make it to the festival.  

So off we went. 

The Sanctuary of the Virgin 

We passed the church in the town, the sanctuary of the Virgin, La Virgen del Camino. On the front are huge bronze statues of the 12 Apostles, with St. James above the door and the Virgin floating above them all. 

One of the stories attributed to this village comes from the 16th century. It is said that during the festival of the visitation in July 1505, the Virgin Mary appeared to a local shepherd called Alvar Simón Fernández while he was tending his flock. She asked him to go to the city and get the Bishop and bring him to this place to build a shrine in her honor.

He asked the Virgin Mary how was the Bishop to know that it was she that sent him. The Virgin Mary seeing that he had a slingshot in his hand asked him to pass it to her. She picked up a small stone and put it into the slingshot. She told the shepherd that wherever this stone landed that is where she wanted her shrine to be built.

The shepherd set off to speak to the Bishop in Leon and told him of his vision. He was unconvinced until the shepherd, using his slingshot, hurled a stone which promptly became a boulder when it struck the ground. Now convinced of this miracle the Bishop went away to speak to the other ecclesiastics and people of the village about the apparition and they eventually built an Ermita to the Virgin Mary. Source: http://www.galiciaguide.com/Stage-22.html 

Quick photo and prayer. From there, the path split into two.  One path followed the main road, and the other was a slightly longer route through the scenic Paramo. We took the scenic route.

Path to Villar de Mazarife 

We had a few towns along this route. We had decided to make our way to Chozas de Abajo, 9 km, for our next break.  

With the renaissance festival on our minds, it added excitement for the day. This day was full of laughter and joy. Maybe it was also because we were over halfway to Santiago.  Our bodies were still sore but our spirits were high. 

As we were walking through the countryside, we noticed it looked like Africa. Not that any of us had been there, but it looked like the pictures we see. So of course, we started to sing. The song was “Africa”. Cale played it from his speaker and we all were dancing and singing. “I guess it rains down in Africa”  

Break time 

It never fails, the cafes appear just when we need them. Bathroom break was needed by all. It’s getting harder to use the woods because there are more pilgrims on this section. Most pilgrims walk from Leon to Santiago or Sarria to Santiago, with Sarria to Santiago being the most popular.  

As we were enjoying our break, here came Michele, Harry and Emma. They were actually looking for some of their group, so they moved on.  

Another treat on the Camino is a Coke. I never drink soft drinks, but on the Camino a Coke is so refreshing. They serve it with ice and a lime. We made a joke about it, because when you pour it on the ice it literally looks like a commercial. Coke in Spain is served in a smaller portion and is made with real sugar, so good!  

Just then Cale came running out of the café and said, “hey guys you will never guess what is playing on the radio inside?” We got up and went inside, it was playing “Africa” 

All of a sudden, we heard some people holler. It was Tim, Rodney, Tomce, and Daniel! We all cheered and enjoyed the rest of our break with them. 

I had warned everyone the next stretch was long and flat. Not interesting and boring. Sorry for that bit of information.  

Our next stop 

Villar de Mazarife, only 4 km

This was where we had originally planned on stopping. We will now be walking on a road. A long flat road.

Feeling present and enjoying every step. 

We arrived into Villar de Mazarife around 1:00. Now we needed to make a decision. We entered a café and took a break. We needed to listen to our bodies and figure out what everyone wanted to do. 

Again, because our group is so great together, we understood if some wanted to move and some wanted to stay that was okay. 

As we rested and talked, we all felt good. Sean had decided to stay, he wasn’t feeling the festival and definitely wasn’t feeling like he wanted to continue for 14 km. 

I also told them we had another town 10 km from here, Villavante. We could continue to there and then decide what to do. But, this 10 km will feel long. It’s a flat, dry stretch with nothing.  


We continued. I think just knowing you had a choice again made this section okay. It was getting late in the day; the sun was hot. We made sure we had plenty of water and just kept going. When we could find shade, we would rest and drink some water.

The long-paved road finally turns to dirt and you start to see these little water irrigation canals through the farmland.  Cool story about these.  (sorry no picture)

The legend around the system is that the father of a beautiful Arab princess would only agree to the marriage of his daughter if the waters of the Órbigo river flowed by his house. Her suitor won her hand by creating a dam to divert the waters and created the initial irrigation system of the Paramo. I must say the cement trenches surrounding the fields are both impressive and far-reaching. 

As we arrived into Villavante, we were tired. It was now 4:15. We took a quick bathroom break, which was a very odd bathroom.  

I quickly took my shoes off and drank an Aquarius. Massaging my feet as we discussed what to do. With only 4 km left, we knew we had to go on. One problem, we had no place to stay and there was a festival in town. Luca started calling and I looked on booking.com. Everything was booked.  

Just then Luca found us some rooms. They were a little pricey but we didn’t care. We actually had private rooms. Onward to Hospital de Orbigo. 

Hospital de Orbigo, a beautiful medieval village!   

We walked the last 4 km quickly and entered Hospital de Orbigo around 5, arrived to our Hostel around 5:30. Only an hour and half until the Jousting would start. We quickly showered and headed out to the Festival. 

The festival was fun! Jousting, great food and good times!  

We were all happy with our decision. We just walked 38 km … 24 miles and then walked another 2 to 3 around the festival and stood on our feet watching the jousting. Let’s just say, that bed was amazing. And tomorrow, we only had 15 km … 9 miles. All is well! 

My Journal: 

‘Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far they can go’. T. S. Eliot 

We started off fresh from our rest day. Thinking we were only going to walk 24 km but it ended up being a 38 km day due to a Renaissance festival in Hospital de Orbigo. It was a long day but we did it!!! The festival was fun, some great food! So glad we did it.  

The Camino shows you that you can accomplish anything. Just put your head down and keep going.  

Ultreia … Ultreia … go beyond! 

A little history about Hospital de Orbigo: 

The village takes its name from the hospital that the Knights of Malta (The Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of Saint John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and of Malta) founded by the river Orbigo to assist the medieval pilgrims.  

The great landmark of the village is the 13th century bridge over the river Orbigo. This long bridge has 19 arches and is really well preserved. Hospital del Orbigo’s bridge is on the old Roman route that went from Leon (Legio Septima Gemina) to Astorga, which was the Roman capital of the Roman province Asturica Augusta. 

There is a story about this bridge. In the Jacobean Holy Year of 1434, Suero de Quiñones, a prestigious knight from Leon, asked the King Juan II of Castile his permission to celebrate a special tournament on the bridge. The tournament of the Honorable Passage.  

Every knight that wanted to cross the bridge had to take part in the tournament. If they didn’t want to participate, they had to leave a glove as a sign of cowardice and cross the river wading it. 

Suero de Quiñones and his best friends were on the bridge for one whole month waiting to battle anyone who wanted to cross the bridge.  

After that month, they all made the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.

Buen Camino!

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