Day 22 – Villafranca to Burgos

Walked today: 7.9 miles

Walked Camino 2019: 154.2 miles

From Villafranca to the village of San Juan de Ortega is about a 6 mile stretch of difficult terrain including a three mile logging road infested with biting flies. We endured this in 2014 and 2017, but decided to take a pass this time. So a taxi picked us up at the hotel this morning at 7:00 and dropped us off at San Juan de Ortega, where we began our walk.

San Juan de Ortega or Juan Velásquez, was a young priest and disciple of Santo Domingo who was born near Burgos. San Juan helped Santo Domingo in the construction of bridges in Logroño, Santo Domingo and Nájera.

After Domingo’s death, Juan went on pilgrimage to Jerusalem. On the journey, he was caught up in a shipwreck and prayed to San Nicolás de Bari to save him. When he survived, he returned to the Burgos area determined to serve pilgrims in the notoriously dangerous and difficult Oca mountains.

He is attributed with developing the road from Villafranca to Burgos (from which he took his name de Ortega, “of the nettles”) as well as a hospice and monastery in the wilderness. Along with being considered the patron saint of innkeepers, San Juan also became known as the saint of fertility. Legend says that when his tomb was opened, the air was fragrant and a swarm of white bees flew out. Queen Isabel la Católica was perhaps the most famous barren woman to pray at his tomb, which is inside the Iglesia de San Juan de Ortega. She visited twice and conceived two children, named Juan and Juana.

San Juan de Ortega was quiet and already abandoned by the pilgrims at the albergue when we arrived at 7:12.m.
We took off, literally, to keep warm in the 49F cool breeze

The initial mile or so was surrounded by forests, not nearly as dense as in San Juan’s day, but we couldn’t help ourselves, listening for possible bandits wanting to do us harm.

But before long, we emerged into more open spaces and saw the village of Agés (pop. 76) ahead hiding in the heavy morning mist and low hanging clouds.

We made our first stop at a “boutique” albergue, judging from the decor of the bar dining area.

picking a breakfast stop in Agés
Breakfast in style

We were soon off again, headed along the road to Atapuerca, an intriguing place known for its archeological finds. If we had the time, Jim would love to spend a day at the site to learn more about the findings here.

The earliest and most abundant evidence of humankind in Europe is to be found in the caves of the Sierra de Atapuerca.

On the outskirts of the village of Atapuerca (pop.206)

Halfway through the village we left the pavement and followed the path uphill.

leaving the pavement onto an uphill path
looking upward
Looking back
Steeper and more rocky

It became steeper and more rocky as climbed, eventually to a cross at the pinnacle, overlooking the valley ahead with Burgos in the distance.

very rocky
The cross in view
One more hurdle..,
then another hurdle
almost there
made it!
photo op at the top
then back down

The walk down was also steep, but not nearly as rocky.

overdone Camino signage

When we got near the bottom, the signage was confusing (just kidding).

One more downslope and the path leveled our and for the next mile we walked on dirt road, then back on pavement before stopping at a bar in the village of Cardeñuela de Riopico. We had a cafe con leche while waiting for a taxi to take us into Burgos.

The rest of the way to Burgos was all on pavement, then around the security fence of the Burgos airport, then through an industrial section and city streets until reaching Plaza Santa María and the Burgos Catedral. We skipped the industrial section in 2014 via taxi, walked it all in 2017 and opted to go straight to the Catedral this morning, after already walking just under 8 miles.

Our taxi driver was not a real taxi driver. We think he was maybe the owner of the Cardeñuela bar or perhaps an employee. When he showed up at the bar we didn’t understand what he was saying and he didn’t seem to know any English. So he guided Jim back into the bar, determined where we were going and then directed Jim to pay 25€ to the lady tending bar. She took Jim’s 50€ bill and gave him his 25€ change from the cash register.

The driver looked a bit like a young, muscular, tatooed, Vladimir Putin.

During the 15 minute drive into the city, Vladimir was constantly on the phone, either calling or receiving calls. Most seemed contentious and soon he began commenting after each call to Jim, over his shoulder as if Jim understood. Jim began to laugh or gesture non-verbally in support or agreement, hoping to keep things cordial.

When we got near the Catedral, Vlad gestured toward several landmarks which we acknowledged and we even pointed out some landmarks of our own that we recognized from prior walks through the old city. Vlad obviously knew his way around old Burgos and made a stop at the Castile, ovetlooking the city and gestured for Jim to get out and take a photo, which Jim did and when the taxi was still waiting when he returned, Jim thanked Vlad profusely.

With our hotel now only a few hundred yards away on narrow winding streets, Vlad turned a corner and was confronted by a large tree that had just fallen and was blocking the road.

Rather then backup, Vlad opened the door, walked up to the tree and proceeded to move it out of the way.

Our taxi driver assessing the blocking tree

Jim watched for about 15 seconds, gave Linda his camera and also exited the taxi and entered the fray not knowing whether to supervise or participate.

Jim entering the fray

Doing a little bit of both, totally with actions and not words, the two comrades began breaking limbs, pushing loose-leaning branches and making progress in clearing the way.

Everyone getting into the act!

A few other bystanders joined in and eventually Vlad determined he had enough room to get by and we both, triumphantly returned to the taxi.

Once in the vehicle, Jim offered a high five and Vlad returned it with a handshake and a smile. And we sighed in relief, as we squeezed by the remnants of the fallen tree.

We were further delayed a couple of minutes or so, having to follow a very slow-moving tour trolly but finally arrived at the Hotel Meson El Cid(133€). Vlad handed us our sack and we all exchanged a smile and a chuckle as Jim wished our new comrade a good day.

The rest of the day was less adventurous but still very pleasant as we enjoyed the Catedral views from our room and a short tour inside.

The gateway into Santa María Plaza
Santa María Plaza and the Catedral

The Catedral view from our hotel

Catedral main sanctuary
Gravesite of El Cid, Spain’s national hero
ceiling over El Cid
Statue of St James (Santiago) – Matamoros
Linda waving from our room

Jim also spent a few minutes in the Iglesia de San Nicolás, one of his favorites and right next door to our hotel.

Meson El Cid, Iglesia de San Nicolás, Catedral
Entrance to Iglesia de San Nicolás
Inside Iglesia San Nicolás

Iglesia San Nicolás altar

San Nicolás (de Bari) if you don’t already know, lived in the 4th century and is the original Santa Claus! And to all, a good night.

3 thoughts on “Day 22 – Villafranca to Burgos”

  1. Hi Jim an Linda. We love seeing your blog everyday and want to encourage you to take more pictures of the delicious meals. We opened a Spanish Rioja tonight in your honor! Really enjoying coming along on your trip. Ron an Vickie

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It sounded like you guys were a bit nervous about your security today, or maybe I’m just reading between the lines. Have other pilgrims related any horror stories about safety problems along the Camino?


    1. No problems at all, Andy. We thought the whole situation was kinda funny. With the language differences and cultural differences, its easy to laugh at ourselves and how we react to situations. That’s what I was trying to demonstrate with the story. All our experiences with taxi drivers, hotel clerks, bar keeps, servers, etc. especially are kinda funny, because casual conversations are almost impossible, so normal interaction is usually always non-verbal, and easy to misread, at best. Pilgrims are an odd lot to begin with and our support givers along the Camino must have a lot of patience and even more chuckles dealing with us daily. Bottom line, so far, with nearly 1500 miles walked on the Camino Frances, over 150 nights spent in different villages and interacting with hundreds of people, both pilgrims and supporters, we think it is the safest place on the planet, even compared to back home. And nothing has happened on Camino 2019 to change that. Sorry to cause you some concern and thanks for being concerned about us! Love you guys!


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