DAY 19: September 11 Villafranca Montes de Oca (20km)
The dear concierge sent us on our way by showing us an easier route out of town. (Sometimes it is good to be some of the oldest people on the Camino:-)
Somehow the word “montes” meaning mountains did not clue us in and the first hour of climbing came as an unwelcome surprise. Actually, we are pretty good going up.Mutti’ s knee has given her problems on descents. She has several methods of getting down the mountains now that work for her without too much pain. First, If the path is wide enough she traverses it—slow but sure. Next, if the path is narrow. Mutti crouches down and descends. This only works if she is not holding others up. Finally on steep hills that have no rough areas or loose gravel, Mutti maneuvers down backwards with Dad guiding her. We have noticed others with knee problems trying these techniques now, too.
Much of today’s walk was through a forested area–pine, beech, and gnarly oak trees. The undergrowth on the shady side was tall fern and on the sunnier opposite side great swaths of purple heather blooming. A cooling breeze carried the refreshing scent of pine to us—a lovely treat after yesterday’s manure odour. We have been walking through areas of drought for several days now. Our path has been graded wide for a fire break as everything is so very dry.
There is selective logging in these forests and a few of the towns manufacture furniture. These forests are also said to be home to wild boar, deer, wild cats,otters, foxes, badgers, and wolves. We are disappointed to see no wildlife. This has been common throughout our entire trek so far.
We stop for a break at San Juan de Ortega and visit the monastery built by him and Santo Domingo for the Santiago pilgrims. Despite renovations going in it is a peaceful place.
Onward towards Atapuerca as we hope to get there in time to visit the UNESCO world heritage site 3 km.from the town.
We follow signs to a tourist centre specifically for the archeological site. It is a huge structure but closed for siesta which should end in ten minutes. Exactly on time a young woman appears to open the building. She speaks English very well and tells us there are only tours in Spanish and no written translations in any other language.Her advice is to save our money (30 Euros each) and see the display when we get to Burgos. We are disappointed as this is where the caves, tools, drawings and fossils of the earliest Europeans from 1.2 million years ago were found, but we heed her advice.
Our abode tonight is a casa rural in a very small village. It is an ancient building with a congenial host so who cares if the doors fit poorly and allow spy holes? Also, the supper was simple but very tasty. As Grandma Sword used to say, “Hunger is a savory sauce.”