April 11, 2015
Belorado to San Juan de Ortega
24.67 km in 6 hrs 10 min
Big climb today. The first half of our journey was a gentle ascent through rolling fields with hedgerows, but after the last village of Villafranca we went straight up to heaven 220 metres of altitude in less than two kilometres, then a steep decline followed by another steep ascent. It looked as if we were even with the snow-capped peaks in the distance but instead of 1120 metres where we were they were at 2200 metres. At any rate there was no snow for me to roll in.
Wildlife sightings: a 20 cm long earthworm, a 2 cm shiny black beetle and smaller snail were making their way to Santiago. I passed them, only because that was on the earlier flatter section. Had it been when I was chugging uphill wheezing like a freight train, I am sure they would have passed me. Ants crossed the way, not interested in Santiago. Metre to three metre long chains of caterpillars were squiggling across the Camino to decimate the pine forests. Two yellow butterflies, kilometres apart, were fluttering in the opposite direction to us.
Our last twelve kilometres were lined with either pine or oak forests; so, we could not see far, but it was wonderfully peaceful, with only songbirds to cheer us along. We heard them more than we saw them.
We were happy to arrive in the tiny isolated hamlet of San Juan de Ortega: population – 30! There were no dwellings in the last fourteen kilometres. We made sure we had a good lunch and water with us. There is a tall crane hovering over the monastery here where the roof and building are undergoing major renovations. Presumably there will be more beds for pilgrims in the near future. We are staying in the more recently renovated smaller dwelling of Henera. We have a lovely room for three with private bath and balcony and a clothesline in the sunshine where we hung our freshly washed clothing. We think we are at The Ritz: 2 towels each, comfy beds and pillows with extra blankets and a bidet!
We will be dining with James and Danielle, our friends we met from Quebec. They booked the room next door and have already shared a bottle of white with us. They arrived before us and had the bottle on ice. Perfect! We dined last night with them in Belorado in an upstairs restaurant we had all to ourselves. We shared breakfast in the same albergue.
Sad news James just related: he had 700 euros stolen from his shaving kit in last night’s albergue in a locked private room!
Brian was a good Samaritan today. Using his parachute cord, he repaired James’ backpack. It was digging into his back after he fell and broke it yesterday.