By Eric Funk
Although it is somewhat difficult to remember each individual stage on the Camino in terms of the origin and destination of each one, there is one day that I will never forget, that being the very first. Walking from Leon to Villar de Mazarife would ultimately set the precedent for our trip, and, as I would find out later, would play a larger role in the future. The day started out like I expected it. I woke up early, or what I perceived as early, and began to pack up my things and have a small lunch. Luckily I didn’t have to worry about being quiet due to the fact that many of the other pilgrims had already woken up and were chatting in the kitchen in the next room. After grabbing my things and scalding myself with insanely hot coffee, in a glass, I met everyone else
in the common area to prepare to leave. Carlos, an incredibly nice volunteer at the Albergue in León, was there to say goodbye to us all and gave a few of us a hug that seemed to last forever, but sent the message that he hoped that, with all his heart, that we found what I was looking for on the Camino and that it be a life changing experience. Meeting people with such an abundance of kindness would come to be a common occurrence on the Camino, and I am honored to call many of them, my friends. Walking through the city would prove to be challenge, due to the concrete and asphalt,but the real Camino came out when we left León behind. All that you could hear was the sound of boots walking along a dusty dirt road, the wind blowing across the open landscape, and pilgrims occasionally talking and wishing each other “Buen Camino.” It was so serene yet exciting. We had all the time in the world to think, to listen to the sounds of the Camino, or meet people from all corners of the globe and hear their story. Close to the end of the walk for the day, me and few others stopped for a small lunch, obviously a bocadillo jamon y queso con cola. While eating we met a woman from Canada, who we had run into earlier, and few others from various countries. Funny enough, we would run into many of them time after time, and become friends with the Canadian down the road. Upon arriving at Mazarife, we quickly found our Albergue, Casa de Jesus, and found it to be incredible. Great service, wonderful people, and a nice courtyard to relax after a long day. Of course, the viking ship in the corner of the yard didn’t hurt either. I would come to absolutely love these afternoons and the entire Camino, all pain aside.