Day 15 – Leon to Astorga (49.8km)

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You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have – Unknown.

As we departed the beautiful city of Leon at 06h00 this morning we were met by hundreds of young people making their way home from their previous evening of partying.

It’s amazing how quickly one forgets that you were that age some time ago where life was carefree and responsibilities minimal. Myself and Odette both laughed and it was a great way to start our very long day.

Leon really has a very beautiful Church and yet another Spanish city rich in culture and architecture.

We really battled to get going as our previous day’s walk really impacted on our bodies. We had walked 45km yesterday and we had another 50km on the cards for today. Our pace was very slow for the first 20km but praying, cracking jokes and just chatting about random issues fueled our minds to carry on.

We had long walks in between villages with the sun once again showing off his face. We were alone for most of the walk and the trails were fairly level. The birds were out in full chorus, singing beautiful melodies. Flies and bugs were fighting it out to become our friends. Odette at one stage asked me if I wasn’t hungry and I replied that I wasn’t really as I had swallowed about 10 bugs!

16h30 and 32km later we arrived at our lunch destination, Hospital. We both laughed when we entered the town as we probably could’ve done with a hospital.

We left the mystical town of Hospital at 17h15 and prepared ourselves for the remaining 18km.

With the sun out in full force, we really battled and struggled to keep our spirits high. The trails were long, very rocky and shade minimal. We had added weight on our backs as we carried an extra 3 litres of water. Breaks every 30 minutes were taken.

The last 8km to our final destination, Astorga, was very mountainous and this added significantly to an already tough day. It was just after 21h00 and we were 4km away from Astorga, descending the mountain when I spotted a beautiful cross with roses on the outskirts. I cannot explain the image we saw with the cross and the sun behind, it was just surreal.

There was an elderly gentleman on his knees turning the rose beds. As we walked pass we greeted him and he literally scurried across to chat to us. He asked us where we from, asked if we were married and what our religion was. On my response to his questions he grabs us and says that he’s been waiting for us the whole day, with teary eyes. He says that he is a retired priest, Padre Jose Garcia.

Now, he doesn’t know how far we have walked and how tired we are. He immediately grabs our heads and puts his against ours and gives us a blessing proceeded by the Our Father and Hail Mary. He reacts to us as if he’s known us forever. This was an exceptionally overwhelming moment. Odette broke down in tears and I was just in awe counting our blessings.

Padre Jose insists to pay for our accomadation for the evening and wants to take us there in his car. We refuse the lift as we still have 4km to walk but will meet him in Astorga. Padre Jose is like an excited child and says that he can’t wait to meet us at Astorga. He leaves in his car and we continue our walk.

The last 4km was tough and slow. We arrived in Astorga at 23h00 and walked around looking for the Padre Jose.  There was no sign of him and sad as we were, we booked into a nearby hotel.

As Odette and myself prepared ourselves to go sleep, we briefly mentioned the meeting of Padre Jose and both concluded with a smile at each other.

God bless

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