Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning
Day 1 Leon to Astorga
Hard first day on the Camino. Morning was ok, but afternoon was brutal. Riding in the burning hot afternoon sun with gravel to large stone roads while going uphill was tough.
We started the day leaving the hotel at 10am and riding out of Leon. Almost immediately we started to see pilgrims on their way west walking on the sidewalks. Since we were on bikes we were instead on the roads. Leaving Leon was nerve wracking as there really weren’t any bicycle lanes on our path out. We had to mix in with the city traffic which thankfully was slow up until the San Marcos parador. After that, traffic started to speed up and I started to really look forward to when we got off road. Leaving the city there were some pretty steep up hills that in retrospect were not too bad at all.
Right before we got completely off the roads shared with cars we stopped at a modern church on the side of the road. This church is the Basilica of La Virgen del Camino. I had read about the church in my research for the trip and so decided to step inside. While the outside (1957) was very modern, the retablo (from the 18th century) inside was not. I much prefer the older architecture and art, but I gained an appreciation for the modern from this visit. Inside I met a very nice man who worked in the church (I think he was a priest, but I’m not sure). He offered all of us water and use of their restrooms. We also got our second stamp of the day from him (the first from the hotel). He told us the history of the church and how the current church replaced a much older church.
Once we go off road, my stress level dropped but the real hard work of the Camino began. Hills started to become steeper and the gravel didn’t make things easier. This dirt path we took is an alternate path and we saw very few pilgrims on this road.