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.
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.
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.
On the outskirts of the village of Atapuerca (pop.206)
Halfway through the village we left the pavement and followed the path uphill.
It became steeper and more rocky as climbed, eventually to a cross at the pinnacle, overlooking the valley ahead with Burgos in the distance.
The walk down was also steep, but not nearly as rocky.
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.
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.
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.
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 Catedral view from our hotel
Jim also spent a few minutes in the Iglesia de San Nicolás, one of his favorites and right next door to our hotel.
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.