Wednesday, December 9, 2015

A refreshing bit of memories: Montes de Oca

Hello, everyone.

Yesterday was very busy, with a large party for many children, and the pleasure of working with wonderful ladies! Today I find myself needing to rest a little--rest mentally, that is, with memories of one of our 2014 Camino days.

We departed from the parish albergue in Villambistia at our usual crack-of-dawn time. We walked along seeing the dew on the flowers and watching the cloudless sky change colors. The trail wasn't a completely abandoned place, but we weren't in a huge clump of people, like you may have seen in various Camino movies (like The Way when characters depart from St. Jean.) By the time you get as far as the area of Tosantos and Villambistia everyone is thinned out and less crowded. We got to Villafranca (one of the many Villafrancas, but I can't remember which one just now) about 9:30 and had coffee.

Then we started walking over the range of hills called Montes de Oca. According to the wonderful guidebook The Pilgrimage Road to Santiago: The Complete Cultural Handbook (This book is highly recommended--get it on Kindle, read it before you go and refer to it as needed on the way.) the Montes de Oca had at one point been a nest of bandits. It's not at all flat, and there's loads of cover, and when there was only horse travel, feet travel, and slow clumsy wagon travel it was probably perfect for the robbers to hide in. These days there is a marked trail which connects to some dirt roads that were put in to service windmills. There are no services between the last village before this and San Juan de Orbigo.

A waymark on the side of the road

This looks remote, but in the distance there is another little group of pilgrims.

The bridge at the bottom of the ravine. This bit is steep, both going down and coming up. Note arrows painted on bridge.

Just for pretty!

Another pretty flower
At the end of this forested bit, you come to the old monastery of San Juan. San Juan is one of the Engineer Saints of the Camino. He had been a disciple of Santo Domingo de Calzada. After Santo Domingo (another Engineer Saint) died, he came to this place and made a monastery. Santo Domingo and San Juan were responsible for getting roads and bridges built that would never have been there at all back in the middle ages. The monastery is currently being restored. We saw the casket where the saint's remains rest and the church. The monastery was listed as an albergue in various guide books, but it was too early to stop so we ate bocadillo at the little cafe and took pictures of the church and headed on down the road.

The monastery of San Juan de Orbigo