Day 7 – Mazarife to Astorga (30.1 km)
At 6:30 in the morning I was on my way once more and it was as dark and unbelievably cold as it had been the morning prior to reaching Leon. This time, however, I was prepared: I wore a jersey, a coat with the hood pulled up and my wide-brimmed hat strapped over the hood. In spite of being lucky enough to have a warm body by nature, I certainly did not want a repeat of what I had experienced between Mansilla de las Mulas and León when my fingers became stiff and useless. I was glad to have Uta’s gloves with me which from now on were always in easy reach.
My body was still itching from my bug bites and when I found a pharmacy in Hospital de Orbigo, the lady attendant confirmed that, with so many people from around the world using albergues, bugs were not uncommon. She suggested that, in case of further bites, I would need to fumigate my clothes and for this purpose she offered an aerosol bug killer and a large plastic bag. She also prescribed a tight fitting medical sock to aid blood circulation and reduce the swelling of my leg
Down the road from the pharmacy the Belgian couple I had previously met on a few occasions had their lunch. She was a particularly petite woman and I had always admired her strength and stamina. Her husband had started his walk all the way back in Belgium, she had joined him near Bordeaux in France. We got talking about my last days’ experiences and I explained my predicament. This made her confess that she also had been badly bitten by bugs and was suffering in a similar way. The condition was even more stressful for her than it was to me and on my recommendation she returned to the pharmacy a little way back. Unfortunately this was the last time I saw both of them: I hope they did not have to abandon their pilgrimage.
Before reaching the pharmacy, I had crossed an impressively long bridge with 19 arches in Hospital de Orbigo and as it has an interesting story to tell, I copy the details from my guidebook.
‘Puente de Orbigo, one if the longest and oldest medieval bridges in Spain dating from the 13th century and built over an earlier Roman bridge, formed one of the greatest historical landmarks on the Camino. Its myriad arches span across the River Orbigo and make up the passage of honour, Paso Honroso, so called because of the famous jousting tournament that took place here in the holy year 1434.
A noble knight from León with the handsome name of Don Suero de Quinones, scorned by a beautiful lady, threw down the gauntlet to any knight who dared to pass as he undertook to defend the bridge (and presumably his honour) against all men who dared to cross it.
Knights from all over Europe took up the challenge. Don Suero successfully defended the bridge until his required 300 lances had been broken.
Together with his trusted comrades he then proceeded to Santiago to offer thanks for his ‘freedom from the bonds of love and for his honour, now restored.’
This certainly was a different era to the one we are living in now