Belorado to San Juan De Ortega

san juan de ortega monastery on the camino de santiago

San Juan de Ortega Monastery: Image courtesy of Joan Grífols

Route segment: 12

Saturday 7th October 2000

I start off today with Carlos, Olga, Geordie and Lisa. Olga has problems with her knee. Initially the walk takes us past many
fields that have been burned and the stink is horrendous. There is quite a climb today after we reach “Villafranca Montes De Oca” on the main road. There is a truck stop place but we do not go in. The last time I went to a place like that it was not too pleasant. Olga and Carlos decide to get the bus to “San Juan De Ortega” but we do not realise that the bus will only drop them off on the main road and they end up having a 6 KM walk anyway.

Geordie and Lisa are so fast that they quickly leave me behind. It is going to be another day, or at least afternoon, on my own. There are a few other walkers stopped by the path having lunch. I do not remember what lunch was but probably whatever I brought, so probably a banana, pastry and something else.

The walk today is through thick forest which centuries ago were notorious for wolves and bandits. The monastery at “San Juan De Ortega” was built to help pilgrims half way through the forest, which stretches from here close to “Burgos”. As yesterday, I start to meditate on the nature of love. At the summit of the walk there is a set of GSM antenna masts and a long climb down.

It eventually dawns on me that some of the difficulties I have had have been because metaphorically, my heart is enclosed in a sealed strong box to which I lost the combination as a young man and I cannot unlock it myself. I understand and accept that, for me, the love of a woman is only ever going to happen by chance. That she will need to possess the right combination to free my heart from its bonds. I cannot realistically expect to find such a woman and should not spend my life looking for one. It is a realisation, which ought to trouble me but it does not. I accept it as a fact. Of course anyyone who has read the introduction page, now knows that I finally met my “heart” love, Antje on my second Camino in 2001. She is a miracle to me still.

I find the forest very much like the “New Forest” in Dorset, England and start to have strange feelings that I am no longer in Spain but back in England. There are no signs whatsoever to tell me I am in a foreign country. The track is wide and seems to go on and on further than I want to walk. I eventually reach “San Juan De Ortega” and find that I was only half an hour behind Geordie and Lisa.

I meet up with Carlos and Olga again and discover their unfortunate extra walk. I sympathise. We all go for a meal together in the only place to eat here, a bar. The meal is good and looks and tastes remarkably like Scottish Haggis. I am told that the ingredients are similar except that it is pig based instead of sheep based.

This monastery is a very cold place indeed, colder than “Belorado”. Both places were heavy stone buildings. I am so cold that I get into my sleeping bag and notice that several others have done the same. There is no hot water here for a nice shower and no toilet paper! A huge team of cyclists turn up. I will be kept awake at night by their flashlights and female laughter from outside.