Leaving Leon in the morning meant I left before most businesses really opened. The first part was interesting walking through streets looking at shop windows and businesses, watching people heard to school and work.Then over a railway bridge, more shops and businesses then a short cut through a residential area with people walking dogs. Then reaching bodegas -wine cellars which looked a little like hobbit holes minus the round doors. At which point the camino heads off into a light industrial area- was kind of glad to catch up with a few pilgrims on this section- not that it was incredibly scary or anything but a little uncomfortable as a woman alone. But it did not take long to get into Virgen del Camino which is the end of the Leon urban build-up. Stopped at the church in the town, at the far of the town. Its a modern church, but inside is incredible dark with very few windows that were dark coloured glass. Outside the facade was decorated with modern statues of the 12 disciples and Mary, I did not exactly love them, thought they were kind of odd- but interesting the artist made James look towards Santiago de Compostella were he is supposedly buried. The church apparently replaced an earlier one that has quite a backstory. Apparently Mary appeared in a vision to a local shepherd and told him to build a church for her, and the proof for the Bishop was that he was to throw a stone and that it would become a boulder, and were it landed he should build.
At this point there are a choice of routes, the main route is along the main N120 road while there is an alternative route. I decided to take the alternative route. At the decision time there has been an obvious competition with yellow arrows- some obilerated and others repainted to try. But I knew to take the track to the left- but it was waterlogged and in the first few minutes of trying to avoid stepping in huge puddles or deep mud, I was starting to wonder was it all going to be like that and should I chose the senda- the path beside the main road. But I decided to keep going. Then came the bit that meant I was crossing one bridge over one autopista, that is a motorway, and then dropping down to go under another motorway- which meant there was lots of graffiti on the walls. After this came a small village of Fresno del Camino- and again someone had painted yellow arrows directly to the right to take you back to the N-120- competing businesses seem to be the cause. There was a small bar here and decided it was time for cafe con leche, but there was a creepy guy behind the bar so I did not hang around. Opposite was a water fountain to top up my water bottle. I started up the hill on the road, and my boots did not seem quite comfortable so I stopped to adjust them. It was through pleasant countryside on a quiet country road, so that in a few kilometres I saw two cars, with flowers growing on the roadside. At the next tiny village, the camino shifts onto a track through farmland, and I saw no-one. And I heard a cuckoo, the first one I had heard this year- although a few days later I was sick listening to cuckoo-cuckoo-cuckoo, but at this point it was exciting. I had planned to stop at the next village for a break, but the track came up and down several rises and no sight of a village, but I knew I needed a rest. So I saw a row of small oak trees beside the track with some shade from the hot sun, and decided to attack some of the food I had in my rucksack. I heard this roar and watched a plane soar over head as it took off from Leon airport just a few miles back at Virgen del Camino. That was kind of an odd feeling knowing that I was going to be walking for the next 2 weeks and no other forms of transport, moving at just 4 to 5km/hr. After a rest, I climbed the next rise and I could see the village, kind of kicked myself. Small village- I stopped at the water fountain and filled my water bottle and sat on the bench beside it. There was a bar in the village but I decided it was not too far to the next village were I was planning to stay. But it was now walking again on a quiet country road, among agricultural fields. But the heat of the day was building and the sun was beaming down. I stopped in the shade of a tree to cool down for a few minutes, took my boots off. But I knew I had to continue, but round the next corner I could see signs of habitation ahead...I knew I was getting close. But then I learnt a camino lesson- things are always further away than they look.
But I reached it. There was a nice rest area with picnic tables and a water fountain just before the town. Then came a mosaic style sign welcoming to Villar de Mazarife. There were three albergues to chose from- but the first one I came to looked so nice with a garden with sun loungers I decided I was home for the night. So I paid by money and chose a bunk in the far corner. Hot and sticky next was a hot shower and then hand washing clothes to get them try in the sun. After which I went and chilled in the garden in the semi-shade.
Villar de Mazarife was a small town, so no really sights to see. There was a church in the top square, with a few palm trees and olive trees. Its bell tower has stork nests in it, while under the roof there were swallows nesting and it was fascinating to watch them swoop in and out to feed the chicks in the nests. Also still on the tower were Christmas lights declaring Feliz Navidad. But the church was locked tight. After a wander about the final stop was at the small grocery shop to buy some food for lunch tomorrow.
Then back to lazying around before dinner. The albergue served dinner- salad, pumpkin soup, paella and a crepe with bread, wine and water- pretty tasty. There were 10 of us staying but only four in the dorm as the couples had taken the private rooms. So it was a really quiet night- we slept in the four corners of the room. Next morning there was breakfast which is always a nice start to the day. I think I picked the quietest of the three albergues as the others had proper bars, but it was nice just to chill after the busyness of Leon. Glad I picked the alternative route, it was nice to be away from a main road especially after Leon.