Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Slogging Across the Meseta to Mansilla

(October 19, 2009 – posted October 20, 2009) The flatlands west of Sahagun earn no mention in the early medieval histories. In the Seventeenth Century, the diarist Domenico Laffi reported of this area only, “We came across a dead pilgrim. Two wolves had begun to eat his body, so we chased them off and continued towards El Burgo Ranero.”
No wolves today, but otherwise things seem not much better. The village church in El Burgo Ranero is guarded by a dead tree with its limbs hacked off. That’s the high point of the town, and the following countryside.
Perhaps that’s why signs for bus and taxi service into Leon – the next oasis, of culture and food and internet access – increase in size and urgency as one approaches Mansillas de las Mulas (so named for its famed mule market). Even John Brierley, otherwise an enthusiast for the pilgrim way of life in his guide to the Camino, urges consideration of hopping an express bus to cover this stretch: “If this suggestion seems like heresy it might be useful to ask yourself – why not? . . . The ego and its obsessive behavioral patterns cam just as limiting as a laissez faire attitude and indifference. As in all things we endeavor to bring mindfulness to our actions.”
I’m as committed to mindfulness and tranquilidad as the next pilgrim, but despite these siren calls, I’m still committed to “ebi” (every blessed inch, as the better class of pilgrim refers to this program).