Camino Day 8 - Tues 4/6/2002:
San Juan de Ortega

41 km today
262 total
My poor knees!

Some snorers, but got going after breakfast at 6:30AM. It was very overcast; typical Irish weather quite good for walking, so after yesterday's "day off" (only 22km!) I decided to "go for it".
The way was fairly easy, with the camino sometimes on the main road, sometimes a spearate path next to it, but more often an isolated track running through open countryside. I passed the Canadian priest and buddy en route, as well as the two swiss girls who told me about the poncho trick. Passed from La Rioja to the province of Burgos on the way from Grañón to Redecilla del Camino. (Note that Raju's book gets its maths wrong at this point, claiming that Grañón is 536km distant from Santiago, and that Redecilla del Camino is 538.5km distant, when you've just walked 4km towards Santiago! It gets the "distance from Le Puy" correct, and continues to do so, but from this point many of its distances to Santiago are suspect.)


next to main road (960x720, 38K)

Church and Graveyard

near Redecilla del Camino (32K)


Villafranca Montes de Oca (36K)

The view backwards

from Villafranca Montes de Oca (22K)

I stormed through the route as far as Villafranca Montes de Oca ("Town of the Franks at the foot of the Oca mountains"), some 28km. Despite the overcast, there were occasional flashes of sunshine, but the day was predominantly dark. Had a bite to eat at the El Pajero restaurant (a name I thought was a naughty word in Spanish, but evidently not). At this stage, my left shin was fairly swollen, and my left knee and hip were also nagging. I wandered around the (small) town a bit, but couldn't find the town's shop, so I gamely decided to continue the 13km to San Juan de Ortega. The route goes through woods at 1100m and is completely unpopulated, but as it was only noon, I had plenty of time, even in my decrepit condition.

It was slow going at first, but I got into it. Going downhill hurt far more than going uphill. Passed a memorial to those killed in the civil war, the Monumento de los Caidos, after which there's a very steep descent into a gorge where one can cross the river. The descent took me 10 painful minutes on account of the ould knees. Thank God for that walking stick thingy! When I reached the other side of the gorge, the going was flatter or uphill, so I was much happier. Later, when I was passing a huge group of 9 or 10 French and a few more Germans, my legs started feeling better. Psychosomatic? Or just plain psychosis? Who knows.

Monumento a los Caidos

Near Villafranca Montes de Oca (61K)

Oooh me poor knees

Just after Monumento de los Caidos (56K)

Church of San Nicolás de Bari

San Juan de Ortega (49K)

Ornate ceilings

San Juan de Ortega (38K)

Arrived finally at 2:45 in tiny hamlet of San Juan de Ortega. This disciple of Santo Domingo de la Calzada was one of the most famous architects of his time. The Romanesque church here is constructed so that at 5pm in the evening of the spring and autumn equinoxes, the rays of the setting sun fall on the capital for the scene of the Annunciation.
Alas, much of the church and monastery was closed for renovation, but the work they'd done so far looked very good indeed. I booked in, found an empty bunk bed, did my washing in a fuente lavadero (basically a horse trough), and hung it out to dry. Had a shower, took a nap, and had a bocadillo and beer in one of the hamlet's only other buildings, a pub. (And there was much rejoicing.) Met the two swiss girls again, as well as a Dutch pastor and an Austrian girl (who had left Vienna in February. Wow.) Had a Veterano "whiskey" with this gang and chatted away during a huge thunderstorm (the like of which we hardly ever get here in Ireland). My washing was being well and truly rinsed. The electricity supply went too, plus there appeared to be no running water... nothing for it but to retire to bed, which I did, after liberal application of the Hiker's Friend.