If you are contemplating walking a portion, or the whole Camino, and you are thinking of stopping in St. Juan de Ortega, give your head a shake. Stay here if you are wanting the authentic experience only, and enjoy nature up close and personal. Spending the night in this monastery should be enough to earn a credential as a devoted pilgrim, and a small medal at the very least. This Albergue, as do many, depend on Pilgrim donations to stay open. I am very sure the donations do not pay the expenses needed to run and repair this facility. The repairs alone would require many hundreds of thousands of Euros.
Moths, flies and all manner of winged insects are the permanent residents, pilgrims are of course the transients. My bunk, as are 50% of the beds are uppers, but there are no ladders. This makes life very interesting, especially if you would like to pee at night. The noise this Albergue was intolerable. Snoring, flatulence (especially one performance is to be described as simply resounding), and shuffling noises were in abundance. One man is dealing with a suspect serious illness and has an awful croupe. It sounded like he was vomiting in the night. (Editors note: we discovered in Burgos this man was walking the Camino with Cystic Firbosis……..)
It all added to the charming ambiance of the place…….
The rain and lighting forecast for earlier in the day finally arrived at 10PM. This provided quite a dramatic light show….just when we were trying to go to sleep. Susan chose an upper near the window….I decided to be a bit further into the main room. Neither location afforded much sleep apparently.
The following morning we decided to get on the trail by 6:30. Getting up, packing and preparing was all done in the dark. Unfortunately this type of situation precipitates errors, especially in my case. Yup, I left my hat, and my microfibre towel somewhere. We also decided to have our bags transferred to Burgos to lighten our load, once again sparing my hip and Susan’s knee. Bene had no excuse…..Bene tagged her bag anyway. (smart lady this Bene)
Just 3.6 km down the road from the monastery we came across a charming, tiny town with at least 3 beautiful private Albergues. So much for the guide book almost everyone uses on the trail. What cruel mind would suggest staying in the monastery knowing this oasis is within a stone throw. (In all fairness I could have ready about this place in my lost and returned guide)
It was a rather long day and progress was slow. Wind was at times providing substantial resistance, and never seems to be at our backs…..funny how this happens. We ran into Rafael, our Brazilian friend, at a small sandwich/breakfast station along the way an he reported his knee was so much better. We would run into Rafael later in the day as well….really such nice and positive person.
One note: Wind turbines have become a common sight on many of the ridges. I suppose the wind is somewhat consistent in this area. The Spanish government has obviously invested very heavily in this technology. Something to remember….
There is also something rather comforting having these enormous white statues looking down on you constantly as you walk. In my case they have taken on a type of personality on the trail, certainly have become more than mechanical monuments of energy. They and share a common character trait, almost always are turning slowly, and almost always in the distance. It’s as if they are patiently watching over your progress.
After winding around the airport on our approach to Burgos we finally arrived on the edge of the city. There is an alternate trail into the city but we easily missed it….as it isn’t marked. The path we followed lead us straight into an industrial area and all of the trucks, traffic, and chemical smells associated with a manufacturing area. Our progress felt even slower trudging through this depressing zone.
Finally we entered the residential fringe of the city but were unable to get our bearings. Finally I capitulated and agreed to take the bus. Let’s just agree to say this common sense suggestion had been on the table since entering the industrial park. (Maybe 30 minutes needed to convince me)
The ride on the bus turned out to be less than 5 minutes and we had reached the city centre. Our Albergue for the evening is located very close to the cathedral and we walked through a large and beautiful square, narrow side streets with restaurants and bars, and finally found our home for the night.
The alternate route would have taken us beside a river into Burgos…..reported to be very, very nice. Alas….we got to see the airport and industrial area.
Finally we made it into Burgos and made our way to a really modern Albergue.
This is where the wheels came off the cart……
As we tried to check in at the Albergue and it appeared our bags had not yet arrived. Susan’s passport along with her pilgrim credentials were in her pack. This, after Bene has already checked in. Just to add a further complication, the company transporting our bags does not deliver to this Albergue……. Where are our bags? The Albergue steadfast refused to allow Susan to check in without our credentials.
I decide not to check in until I find my bag, as well as Bene and Susan’s. This upsets Susan. She wants me to get a bed and she will deal with this by herself somehow. I continued to refused to check in and Susan got so mad at me and took off down the street……
Things cool down after a short time and we decide to sit in a bar across the street from the Albergue to wait for the bags to arrive. (?) A phone call to the transport company is useless and provides no information.
Our friends Mark and Zeb happen to walk by and sat down to enjoy a reunion. They had arrived the day before and loved the city so much they decided to stay and extra day. They had just checked out of private hostel, and noticed extra bags there…but were not sure if ours were in amongst the small pile. Fred from Seattle was sitting with us while his wife Sue was attending to their laundry (hold your knees from jerking, it was her turn) offered go there with me to see if our bags had been delivered there.
To say the least we returned triumphant. Fred and I marched back up the narrow, cobble stoned streets to a fanfare trumpets, flags waving, and a 21 gun salute. OK…. so Bene and Susan were happy to see their bags,…. I may have exaggerated.
We went out for dinner with Mark, and Zeb, Kier & Vaila. (an absolutely delightful couple from Scotland) Our Camino family continues to grow even more.
After dinner we head back to the Albergue and collapse for a good night sleep……at least some of us do.
I don’t think I need this much excitement every day……