Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Villafranca to Agés via St. Juan de Ortega

I slept like a log, in spite of my long nap yesterday, and woke up a bit before 7 AM. Amazingly, nobody had made noise or turned the light on this morning! We had caught a wave of really, really considerate pilgrims as we were moving westwards, it seemed!
After a muesli bar we headed out into the fog to start our long trek of 12 km to St. Juan de Ortega, and then on to Agés from there. Soon we were on the path leading over the mountains, and we climbed the first 2 hills which gives us some warmth in the cool, foggy and damp morning air. We made a quick stop to eat our bread and cheese which Dorte bought the night before in the Panaderia (bakery), while we see pilgrims emerge out of the thick fog in the forest like ghosts. At a point we pass a memorial for a group of Spanish executed by the Franco regime during the Spanish Civil War - a somber place.
As we move on the wind started blowing from behind, and suddenly the fog started clearing, and we saw the first patches of blue sky as we spotted the bell tower of St. Juan appear over the hilltop, much sooner than anticipated.
First we didn't believe we had reached it, but as we approached, we realized it was indeed the monastery! We had made really good time, as it was not even 11:30 AM.
We got the longed-for café con leche, and then took a few photos of the famous monastery situated up here in the remote forested hills far from everything. The church of San Nicolás was open, so we looked in before we went to the bar. This was the very day - September 22nd - where the sunlight would hit the Statue of the Madonna at 5 PM - but we would have long moved on, as we did not plan on staying here.

The last 3.7 km went gently downhill through oak forest, and we soon four ourselves in Agés, where we choose our albergue - the municipal, which looked fine, above the one and only bar/restaurant in this little village. - We were the first in, again, and chose our bottom bunks, then showered and did laundry as the next pilgrims started to come in. - I slept like a log again, no doubt the antihistamine was doing a bit to help me along, and the next morning I felt good, ready for the long hike in to the city of Burgos.

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