Day 1 León to Villar de Mazarife


Photo by Katie MacDonald

First day on the Camino and our group has proven to be Hokie fuerte! At 7:15 a.m. today we met in the foyer of the Hospedaria, the beautiful monastery on León where we stayed last night, to eat a meager breakfast before heading out on our very first day as Peregrinos. We walked four miles before stopping for second breakfast, one of many excellent Camino traditions. After drinking yet another cafe con leche, we trudged through 13 miles of cold, blustery winds with smiles on everyone’s faces. By 1:30 p.m. we reached the Albergue de Jesus. We threw down our packs and sunbathed in the grass until comida was served, a hot paella made just for us. The journey to Santiago is off to an auspicious start!

Hokie Pilgrim: Jessica Mueller

Los Ancianos

Today we began our Camino. For those of us who didn’t enjoy the café con leche, the blustery wind tunnels created by the sand colored buildings of León did the job. After a quick photo-op by the cathedral we were on our way. We walked as a group through most of the city, clogging up the pathways for the locals. I’m sure there used to seeing 3 or 4 peregrinos on there walk to work but I’m guessing an excitedly babbling group of 16 college students is not the norm. That being said, I decided to hang around the back of the pack where it was quieter and had a bit more space to move around.

What I found so far is that our group draws people’s curiosity but its size does keep them at bay. What I mean by that is within the first five minutes of hanging back from the pack, I was approached by a man asking, “What are you?” I figured out he was referring to our entire group and informed him of our affiliation with Virginia Tech and how we planned to walk the Camino and then study language in Santiago.

His name was Ehr (or at least that’s what it sounded like). He is a retired doctor with a wife, 4 children and 10 grandchildren from Northern France. It was his second time walking from San Jean. We talked for a kilometer or so until we stopped for second breakfast. It was at the Cafe where I met Jorge, an 82 year old Norwegian headmaster who has walked the Camino 6 times.
I had many questions for him and he had many things to share with me. We walked together for a while until I returned to our group. The trend continued. On the trail I kept stumbling upon these older folks and chatting with them. We would talk for a bit and once the conversation had run its course, I would move on. I met a food inspector from Belgium and her two friends from Holland. The three woman were very kind and very concerned about the condition of our feet. They wished us well on our trip.

The thing that I am beginning to realize on the Camino is that when you say “Buen Camino” to somebody, the equivalent to goodbye on the trail, it’s not really a goodbye. Nearly all these people I met on the trail I saw again when we arrived in Villar de Mazarife and the conversations picked up where we left off.

The older people I have met on the Camino have really embodied the role of mentors. They love to share what they know and love to hear all about our aspirations and plans. I look forward to seeing my new found friends along the trail and picking up new ones along the way.

At the end of the first day I am looking forward to the next.

Hokie Pilgrim: Bryan Boeing

Kassidy Arriving at Villar de Mazarife
Kassidy Arriving at Villar de Mazarife

The Path

As we set out of Leon this morning and became true Peregrinos, we all had one thing on our mind…The path of The Camino. We knew that 21.5 km lay ahead of us but we did not know what they were to include. It was all a mystery. We first found the path in front of a breathtaking Cathedral in Leon. This was a very fitting beginning of our pilgrimage. The path continued to take us through the middle of town. It took us by underground houses, through the industrial side, and across bridges. It eventually spit us out, 6 km later, on the other side of Leon. Here our journey continued. We trekked across fields, through farmlands, through mud, and down roads. We met other Peregrinos from all over the world, all of which continued on their personal journeys. We walked and bonded, while continuing our journey on The Camino. Finally, after around 1 pm, we arrived in Villar de Mazarife. Our walk on the path of The Camino had ended for the day, and we all welcomed a beautiful afternoon to rest.

Hokie Pilgrim: Lindley Sytz

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