At the first alto, I heard a rumble from behind and was passed by a pilgrim cyclist. He scared me, because I never heard anything until he was only a few meters behind. We exchanged greetings, and I was glad he wasn’t a bandit… Soon, young pine became more prevalent among the shrubs – one of which was heather in full bloom. The heather in the gardens back home were often dwarf, but here, some were two meters high and covered with purple and pink flowers. As I passed through the large patch of heather, the sun emerged at its brightest of the day and brought out the brilliant colors. I had never seen anything like it… From Page 87, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days. Whether heather is in the wild or in a home garden, it’s one of my favorite flowering shrubs.
Now, I’ll continue with my journey on the Camino de Santiago in Villafranca de Montes de Oca, Castilla y León. Even if you don’t have my book, you can still enjoy this post, and learn more about walking the French Way or Camino Francés (map from Wikipedia Commons). I left my last post, On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Belorado To Villafranca de Montes de Oca, just before I began my climb through the Montes de Oca.
Although the Montes de Oca are referred to as mountains, they were more like large hills. In medieval times, they were notorious for the bandits who preyed on pilgrims. I wrote in my book, “I hoped I didn’t come across any bandits, because they were also notorious for ruining a good mood.”
A memorial for a fallen pilgrim.
Only small patches of snow remained on the edge of the path. I was glad I wasn’t here a couple of days earlier. I didn’t want to walk through the slush and snow.
Ahead, I saw a splash of purple and was surprised when I arrived to…
wild heather in full bloom. I had never seen heather so tall.
I stopped to pay my respects at this memorial for men killed by Franco loyalists. Hundreds of bodies were dumped in the Montes de Oca, and other locations during the 1936 massacres.
There were two windfarms on the Montes de Oca. However, I was less excited than the first one I had seen at the Alto del Perdón, near Pamplona.
The path led to a young forest where I took a break in the sun. The mud patches in this area were huge and, at times, I resorted to walking through the edge of the forest. It was quiet during the afternoon and the only pilgrims I saw were on bikes.
This is farmland near the village of San Juan de Ortega.
Although I wouldn’t fully realize it until later the next day, the landscape was changing. Approaching San Juan de Ortega.
Metal sculpture at the entrance of San Juan de Ortega.
The Church of San Juan de Ortega. I wrote on page 88 of my book, “San Juan de Ortega was a man; the village and church were named after him. He lived in the area in the twelfth century and was important to the construction of infrastructure along the Camino; he also helped rid the Montes de Oca of bandits.”
The alabaster tomb and crypt holding San Juan de Ortega.
The facial features were realistic and haunting.
After a brief break outside the church in the cold, I was back along the pleasant path toward Agés.
An early look at Agés, where I had considered staying the night.
I wrote on page 88, “The sun disappeared, and the cold wind roared. Agés was a quaint village, and I never saw anyone until I stopped in front of the albergue. For a moment, I thought about staying, but it was still early, and I decided to continue to Atapuerca, two and a half kilometers away.”
The Puente de Agés, supposedly built by San Juan de Ortega himself.
Memorials at the edge of the village of Atapuerca signified something that I never fully understood before I had arrived. The Archaeological Site of Atapuerca is a UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) World Heritage Site. The earliest human fossils and tools known in Europe were found in the nearby caves. The site was inscribed by UNESCO in 2000.
As I walked through Atapuerca…. okay, I’ll leave that for my next post.
I hope you enjoyed this post. I was exhausted after a long day, but was happy to find a bed at the albergue. On my next post, On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Atapuerca To Burgos, I’ll leave Atapuerca on another cold morning, but as I wrote on page 89, “…sometime around midday, I would be in Burgos, the city I had looked forward to the most.” Please join me.
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