Day 21 – Belorado to Villafranca Montes de Oca

Walked today: 7.9 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 146.5 miles

We walked almost a mile before leaving the streets of Belorado, then crossed a wooden footbridge, parallel to a stone bridge, attributed to San Juan de Ortega, a disciple of Santo Domingo de la Calzada.

The trail today was almost entirely on earthen paths, passing through frequent villages.

We were crossing through the remote Oca hills, infamous in medieval times as a dangerous route rife with thieves and ne’er-do-wells. Legend credits San Juan de Ortega, with clearing this path through what was then, a thick oak and pine forest with its dense undergrowth.

As we passed through the village of Tosantos (pop. 53) we looked for a place for breakfast but nothing was open, but to our right, as we left the village, we saw the Ermita Virgen de la Peña (” Our Lady of the Cliff”), built into the rock face above the town.

Legend has it an 8th-century statue of the child Jesus was hidden in this cave under a bell to protect it from invading Muslims.

At the next village, Villambista (pop. 47), we stopped for breakfast, having our usual and resting our feet, before continuing.

We can’t help but include photos like the one above. The scenery all around us on the Camino is a constant distraction for any discomforts experienced during a day’s walking experience. We’re sorry that these photos, being two dimensional, fail to capture the three dimensional texture of what we see and savor.

As we approached Villafranca in the distance, we recognized from two prior visits, the Iglesia de Santiago and our hotel, the San Antón Abad (74€), restored from the original Hospital de la Reina, which hosted up to 18,000 pilgrims per year during the 17th century.

Church in center, our hotel to the right of it

We walked the remaining mile or so into Villafrance Montes de Oca (pop. 147) and sipped a glass of zuma naranja (freshly squeezed orange juice) in the hotel bar until our room was ready.

San Antón Abad bar
Hotel lobby
our double room with a bath
The view from our room window

The rest of the day was occupied with washing clothes, hanging them out on the albergue clothes line (they were bone dry in one hour!), having lunch in the bar and blogging, reading and resting until the pilgrim dinner at 7:00.

Our pilgrim dinner was in the hotel dining room. Nice variety of food, good service and interesting conversation with a lady from Kansas and two ladies from Germany, from Munich and Dusseldorf. Both of the German ladies were between jobs, a common time for young folks to walk the Camino. They had both struggled finding places to stay on the Camino de Nord, so had recently switched to the Camino Frances in hopes of having an easier time of it.

We wished each other well and returned to our rooms. We were all staying in the hotel, not the adjacent albergue.

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