Camino Diary: Walking The Camino Francais Day Fourteen

DAY FOURTEEN: 22 October 2012 from Belorado to San Juan De Ortega
Oh joy the freshness of rain washed sunshine greets us as we leave Belorado and morning breaks through. Having experienced the past two days of unrelenting rain my heart is rushed with the pleasure of a day without tears, with the warmth of sun on my face and the crisp, bright coolness of an energised Autumn. This picture is taken as the sun gets into the groove of its exorable rise. At 9.30am a little early for the Bar but it is a day that inspires our little knot of pilgrims decamped from Cuatro Cantones, there are cafe stops & munchie breaks, cheery salutes and jolly encounters as we follow the Way of scallop shells and yellow arrows. Villafranca Montes De Oca defiently straddling the busy N120 offers a surprisingly respite for coffee and chat before an afternoon of robust climbing into the Montes de Oca – Goose Mountains, a wilderness notorious for bandits preying on pilgrims in times of yore its rocks whisper of old fables, the Monument de Los Caidos an incongruous reminder of fallen comrades of the Spanish Civil War. A rain ravaged scar through thick, plush logging forests I am drawn by the strains of woodland gossip on that long long walk and it is a surprise to find civilisation in the little hamlet of St Juan de Ortega as the sun starts its homeward dip. St John of The Nettle in any other place and perhaps on any other day could be discarded with in a few long strides but this is a place of repute. A place proud of its pilgrim heritage and that hosts a pilgrim mass every evening at 6pm. I was tempted by a beer at the Bar Marcela and lured by the promise of garlic soup (a custom instigated by a previous parish priest Jose Maria) and the romance of sleeping in the medieval parish hostel I decided to stay. The famous soup never did appear and the medieval hostel was just that; a draughty, crumbling place of happy ghosts, rickety, towering bunks, plastic covered mattresses, struggling pipes & taps. A piognant throwback to the conditions of real pilgrims. I wonder how long it will survive before it is dragged by the scruff into the 21st Century and the sparkly, shiny, wi-fi enabled edifices of Logrono, Santo Domingo, Burgos et al.

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