I started my day at 6:30 a.m. by accidentally missing a 4.9 km stretch of the Camino. I stayed in a hotel last night, La Encantada in Quintanilla del Monte, that was 1 km off the Camino from the town of Villamayor del Río. Another pilgrim staying there, Vicky, had a service to take her into town. Assuming she meant Villamayor del Río, I asked if I could share her ride into town. Suddenly, we were speeding through the town and left it before I knew what was happening. “Which town are you going to?” I asked, feeling a bit of panic. She said, “Belorado.” It all happened in about 5 minutes. I felt disappointed as I meant to walk the whole Camino, but I had no desire to backtrack at that hour of the morning in the dark. So I found the Hotel Jacobeo in Belorado, ate a chocolate croissant, a hard boiled egg, café con leche and orange juice. Then I replenished my cash, and was on my way in the dark. My right hip and the muscle along the inside of my knee were hurting, so I stopped to stretch a number of times.
Villamayor del Río to Belorado (4.9 km)
The historic town of Belorado, built in the steep valley of the río Verdeancho, has a population of about 2,100. The town has castle ruins of Roman origins that point to the town’s defensive past straddling the old border of Castile. As it was dark when I arrived, I didn’t see the castle ruins, the ancient cave dwellings that were once home to hermits, or the 14th century Church of Santa María.
The landscape was enshrouded in fog for almost the entire walk, so I attended to the haystacks, the wildflowers, and violet berries along the path.
Belorado to Tosantos (4.8 km)
I went through Tosantos (nothing there but its 60 residents), where I saw the chapel of the Virgen de la Peña (Our Lady of the Rock) clinging to a wall of rock.
Tosantos to Villambistia (2.0 km)
After a steep climb, I stopped in Villambistia (Pop. 50) at Casa de los Deseos for a mango juice, café con leche, and a bathroom break. I wasn’t really hungry as I’d had that big breakfast in Belorado, but the fog had gotten so thick, I felt like I was soaked. I wanted to dry off. I saw the adorable Québécois couple, Daniel and Rosalina. She said she’d been miserable with indigestion but was feeling better now. There I met Stella from London who told me of an app called The Camino Companion, which I could never find. I met Brian the Irishman who gave me grief for using the men’s room.
There was a pretty church, Iglesia San Roque, in Villambistia, but it was closed.
I continued on a broad, smooth, rural track through fields of sunflowers, wildflowers and violet berries.
Villambistia to Espinosa del Camino (1.6 km)
I walked through the small town of Espinosa del Camino (pop. 40) without stopping. The Albergue la Campana was a charming yellow place with a bicycle set up out front.
We climbed and climbed until we crested a hill and could see Villafranca de Montes de Oca down below. There, I met Alex and Meghan from Ontario, Oregon. Alex had hurt his knee carrying two bags (one for himself and one for Meghan who had gotten hurt going down into Zubiri).
Espinosa del Camino to Villafranca de Montes de Oca (3.6 km)
Meghan and I stopped to admire the 9th century ruins of Monasterio de San Félix de Oca, with its distinctive arch. Here, the founder of Burgos, Count Diego Porcelos, was probably interred. Meghan worried about her 21-year-old daughter, who had fallen behind to hang out with an Italian guy.
The scene became more painterly as we approached the town and the sunlight melted over the hilly farmland and sunflower fields.
Because of skipping ahead, I was in my hotel by 11 a.m. What was supposed to be a 17.3 km walk turned into an 11.8 km walk. I got an easy day without intending to!
My hotel, La Alpargateria, was the first one on the noisy main road in Villafranca de Montes de Oca; it was run by two lively sisters, Sylvia and Kristina. Their father ran the bar next door, El Pajaro, the only place to eat in town. I had a jambon sandwich and cerveza for lunch.
Villafranca de Montes de Oca historically welcomed pilgrims as early as the 9th century. This is one of several Villafrancas along the way that became home to Franks arriving as pilgrims and returning as artisans. The village is located at the foot of the Montes de Oca, formerly a wild unpopulated area notorious for bandits that preyed on pilgrims. The bandits often prayed for protection (after all, bandits needed protection too!) from the Saint himself in the safety of the 18th-century Church of Santiago or they’d find shelter in the 14th-century Hospital de San Antonio Abad, which had recently been restored. This handsome building is often referred to as the Queen’s Hospice.
Back in my room, I edited my photos and posted on Instagram and chatted for a while with Mike on Whatsapp. Darina wrote and said she was having a fabulous time in Navarette with her friends and even went to the sea in San Sebastian. She said she might be in Burgos on Monday, but I would be gone by then. She sent photos of a beautiful waterfall she went to: Monasterio de Piedra in Aragon. She said the energy of the place, the spirituality, was better 250 km to the east of Navarette: “I’m sooo blessed and happy.” She is such a joyous person. Joy emanates from her. I would love to find that kind of joy in my life and emanate it as she does.
I also heard from Claire and Matt and she found she got the job teaching English in Korea. I felt so happy for their upcoming adventure.
As small as the town was, it had a truck stop at the entrance to town and it was a busy truck corridor. The trucks barreled through town, paying little heed to the pilgrims on the skimpy sidewalks. If I hadn’t been paying attention when I walked out the door of the supermarket, I would have been flattened! I couldn’t help but wonder how many pilgrims got killed in this town each year.
Later, sitting under a shaded awning at El Pajaro, I met 27-year-old Anne from France. She was very cute, with her cropped brown hair and nose ring. She planned to camp in her sleeping bag that night because there were no rooms in town. She seemed happy to do so, and had done it before. She had been working in Paris doing animation for commercials, but she quit because she didn’t like it. She, like Darina, seemed full of joy.
Sadly, the Church of Santiago wasn’t open.
In the evening, I shared a pilgrim’s meal with the two French Canadian guys from Quebec, Richard and Paul. We had a lot of laughs. They said they’d had dinner with Vibeke, the Danish lady I’d met a couple nights earlier, in Belorado. They talked of their dismay over Trump’s appeal (they hated him), the French language vs. Québécois French, Paul’s past hikes on the Camino with his wife, and how they had a room reserved for the next day in Atapuerca. My pilgrim meal was green beans, trout with French fries, wine and pudding. It was so much fun; I drank a lot of wine, but for some reason I hardly ever felt anything from Spanish wines.
Tomorrow, I’d have to get an early start to race for a bed at the albergue at Atapuerca, where beds were known to be scarce and no reservations were taken, except for private rooms, which were all booked. The Camino was really crowded and every day people were reserving ahead to be assured of a place to sleep.
I could hear the trucks roaring past my window all night.
*Day 16: Wednesday, September 19, 2018*
*20,686 steps, or 8.77 miles: (Villamayor del Río) Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca (supposed to be 17.3 km, actually 12.0 km)*
You can find everything I’ve written so far on the Camino de Santiago here:
On Sundays, I post about hikes or walks that I have taken in my travels; I may also post on other unrelated subjects. I will use these posts to participate in Jo’s Monday Walks or any other challenges that catch my fancy.
This post is in response to Jo’s Monday Walk: Back Lane Beauty.
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