On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Villafranca de Montes de Oca to Atapuerca

February 20, 2012 — 6 Comments

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.”

Photo of Clouds, gravel road, trees, Villafranca de Montes de Oca, Spain



A memorial for a fallen pilgrim.

Photo of Memorial, trees, grass, clouds, flowers, stones, Montes de Oca, Spain



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.

Photo of Snow, trees, grass, dark clouds, Montes de Oca, Spain



Ahead, I saw a splash of purple and was surprised when I arrived to…

Photo of Clouds, trees, pine, gravel road, Heather,Montes de Oca, Spain



wild heather in full bloom. I had never seen heather so tall.

Photo of Heather, pine, gray skies, Montes de Oca, Spain



Photo of Heather, pink flowers, gray skies, trees, Montes de Oca, Spain



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.

Photo of dark clouds, gravel path, grass, trees, Franco, Montes de Oca, Spain



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.

Photo of Dark clouds, gravel path, grass, trees, windmills, Montes de Oca, Spain



The Camino wound through the hills for many kilometers ahead. Photo of Clouds, road, gravel, trees, highway, cars, hills, Montes de Oca, Spain



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.

Photo of mud,, trees, dark clouds, Montes de Oca, Spain



This is farmland near the village of San Juan de Ortega.

Photo of clouds, grass, farmland, trees, San Juan de Ortega, Spain



Although I wouldn’t fully realize it until later the next day, the landscape was changing. Approaching San Juan de Ortega.

Photo of Dark clouds, gravel road, farmland, trees, village, San Juan de Ortega, Spain





Metal sculpture at the entrance of San Juan de Ortega.

Photo of Metal sculpture, cement base, trees, clouds, grass, San Juan de Ortega, Spain



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.”

Photo of Church, stone, doors, bell Gable, Church of San Juan de Ortega, Spain



Photo of Rusted iron gate, stone, sculpture, Church of San Juan de Ortega, Spain



The alabaster tomb and crypt holding San Juan de Ortega.

Photo of Alabaster tomb, carvings, sculpure, Church of San Juan de Ortega, Spain



The facial features were realistic and haunting.

Photo of Alabaster tomb, carvings, sculpture, gate, church, an Juan de Ortega, Spain



After a brief break outside the church in the cold, I was back along the pleasant path toward Agés.

Photo of Road, trees, grass, clouds, forest, San Juan de Ortega, Spain



An early look at Agés, where I had considered staying the night.

Photo of Clouds, farmland, trees, village, Agés, Spain



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.” Photo of Clouds, trees, rocks, picnic table, grass, Agés, Spain



The Puente de Agés, supposedly built by San Juan de Ortega himself.

Photo of Stone bridge, dark clouds, trees, grass, River, Puente de Agés, Spain



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.

Photo of Farmland, grass, stone monuments, 3, plaques, Atapuerca, Spain



Photo of Stone monuments, plaques, Farmland, grass, dark clouds, Atapuerca, Spain

Photo of Stone monument, farmland, dark clouds, Atapuerca, Spain



As I walked through Atapuerca…. okay, I’ll leave that for my next post.

Photo of Sign clouds Village grass Road, Atapuerca, Spain

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.

If you have my book, Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, or have ordered it, I really appreciate your support. It’s also out on Kindle and Kobo. My Goodreads and Amazon pages have reviews and more information. Please share this post, and thanks for your time.

About Randall St. Germain

Randall St. Germain, author of Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, is a middle-aged Canadian Boy who is passionate about nature, photography, hiking, music, and self-improvement. After the death of his mother, he chose to walk the famous pilgrimage, the Camino de Santiago, across the north of Spain, despite knowing little about it. He certainly didn’t plan to write a book until the latter days of his Camino. Similar to walking the Camino, writing and publishing a book was a learning experience. It was also very rewarding, and part of his ongoing journey. Please join him as he takes you along on his journey in Camino de Santiago In 20 Days, and on his blog Camino My Way.


6 responses to On The Camino de Santiago in Spain, Villafranca de Montes de Oca to Atapuerca

  1. Randall – I’m so enjoying these stories of your trip and feel as if I’m walking right along with you.

    Thank you for the link on the heather in Scotland. I guess there is a difference. Now, I’m more curious than ever — don’t you want to smell it? I commented on that site and included your link here (http://www.ehow.com/info_8744126_do-heather-flowers-smell-like.html).

    • Thanks again Pat. I have to be honest, I was shocked to see lavender the same height as I am. A few days later, I was also surprised to see Spanish lavender in Spain (you have my book, right). I’m glad you enjoyed the post and please keep following this blog 🙂

  2. Hi Randall,
    I am living the landscape from Villafranca de Montes de Oca to Atapuerca on the Camino Frances by virtue of your lovely photos–the nature scenes, the scapes, villages, architecture, notable landmarks, and historical points of interest. My husband walks this very path today 22nd September, 2013 and I can experience it vividly through your pictures and commentary even though home in Australia. As well as church interiors, crypts, reliefs, stone work and village history I have learnt of the sad events of Montes de Oca and of the early European remains found at Atapuerca now a UNESCO site. Also about the remarkable man, San Juan de Ortega and his achievements still visible 1100 years later.
    We live next to a mountain worth climbing; rather it’s a hill for a Canadian. My condolences to you. I lost my mother this year. We each have our own Camino and draw inspiration from yours. Thank you for sharing it.


    • Miri, thanks so much for your personal comment. My condolences for your loss of your mom. It has been over three years since my mom has passed away but I know she watches over me. I’m glad you are enjoying my blog. I have only touched on the history of the Camino. There is so much more to learn and understand. I wish you the best on your journey. Buen Camino.

      • Mary-Anne McLaughlin March 14, 2014 at 7:40 am

        Randall, thanks for your response. It will be one year on 19th March, since my Mum passed away. It is some years since my dad left this earth. However, I think of him whenever the green and red king parrots flash through the eucalypt forest here late of an afternoon after feasting on our native flowering bushes. I think they are his totem.

        I hope to travel to Assisi in Italy this May to take part in a healing workshop being given by renowned teacher, mystic and New York Times best-selling author, Dr Caroline Myss. We will visit surrounding villages and walk part of the Camino pilgrimage taken by St. Francis of Assisi on his way to Santiago, Spain in the early thirteenth century. It will be more of an inner journey enabled by the spirit of place than a hike through rugged terrain.

        This time I have enjoyed your photos of the Camino del Norte which my husband Paul has in mind for the future. Some sections of that track look very muddy and heavy going indeed. What is a good month to set out on this journey?
        I have also read with interest your notes on Leonardo da Vinci in the garden at Amboise and his little known scientific /horticultural observations about plant growth and sunshine and about the geological age of the earth.
        In 1981, a complete bicycle novice, I cycled with a companion along the Loire River in France from Cosne-Cours-sur-Loire to Nantes on the coast. We pedalled through Tours, Chambord, Amboise, Samur and Anjou with all their splendid chateaux and every village in between. It was about 550 kilometres in all averaging 55 k per day, cooking on a tiny gas canister stove, eating beans, cheese and fresh bread from the saddle bags with cheap red wine, camping not sleeping once on the railway station steps in the cold making tea to keep warm.
        Your photos with their stonework, distinctive light, green fields and wild flowers complement a narrative humbly told.
        Alors, a la prochaine et bon voyage!

  3. Miri, thanks for you beautifully written comment. Sorry, to take so long as I’m behind catching up here. I’m sorry to hear about your Mom passing away. It’s been a few years now since my Mom passed away but I think of her often. Like your Dad, my Mom loved birds and as I wrote in my book, she said she would return as a bird.
    Regarding the Camino del Norte (I hope you’re not mixing it up with the Camino Francés), I am far behind in my blogging. With that route, I wouldn’t want to go during rainy season but you need to balance with the heat of the summer. I had difficulty walking for hours in August on some of the open stretches. Regarding the Camino Francés, you can follow my posts from St. Jean to Santiago. I walked in the Spring and hit rainy weather but it depends on the year. The Spring flowers along the early part of the Camino are something I’ll never forget.
    I loved the Loire Valley but regret that I had little time before my flight left from Tours. You had a much better tour than I had but I hope to visit again soon. I’ll have more posts from Tours one day. I’ll never forget all the stained glass in the cathedral.
    Thanks for stopping by and pleasant journeys to you 🙂

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