The Road to Santiago.

October 17, 2002


San Juan de Ortega

Belorado to San Juan de Ortega

Bad night, my shoulder hurt all night long and I couldn't sleep. Also, had severe cramps in my legs. Decided to take a bus part of the way with Rudy and Inga who were also hurting. The worst part of the bus trip was waiting for the bus. We stood for over an hour (the bus was 15 minutes late) in 7° C weather (that's 44° F).  Each of us walked around in our own tight little circle to keep warm. The ride of the entire distance took only about 20 minutes which really made me realize what an effect modern transportation has on present day culture. We pilgrims have been in a time warp.

The 5 K that I walked from the highway to San Juan de Ortega made me glad that I had taken the bus for the short distance. Most of the road was up and down, up and down. I was ok when on the level ground but could feel the weight on my sore shoulder on the up grade.

The albergue was in an old monastery that is attached to a 12th century Romanesque church. The pueblo around the monastery had only a few houses. In fact, I think that there were more dogs than people. The only public accommodation was a tiny bar, which had a small side dining room where they served lunch between 2 and 4 and dinner between 7:30 and 9. It was the same menu for both time periods, a list of sandwiches or a choice of three set meals — no substitutions!

Rudy, Inga, and I got to San Juan about 11:30. The albergue didn't open until 2 so we sat in the bar having coffee and chit chatted about what we had seen during the week and what Rudy should do about his foot. Inga had been a nurse before her retirement and offered some helpful suggestions. I think Rudy is getting discouraged.

At approximately 12:30 p.m., pilgrims began arriving, singly and in small groups. Promptly at 2 p.m., the door to the monastery jerked opened and a woman let us into the anteroom. There she signed us in and stamped our credentials. Then she led us up two flights of stone stairs to what used to be the monks' dormitories. The amenities were monastic indeed. One small light hanging from the ceiling in each room. Two rooms with about ten double bunk beds in each. Modern bathrooms and showers had been installed in the past few years. But the taps had only cold water and the electric hand dryer hadn't been wired up yet. Hot water for showers was only available after the woman turned on the heater. She did it by request and then only certain times in the day.

I worked for about an hour trying to organize my notes in the bar. It was hard to focus; I kept dozing off so I finally decided to join the others back in the dormitories. It was so quiet in there I thought people were asleep but soon realized that no one was there. Went outside where I could hear the voices but couldn't find the people. Went back to the dormitories and looked through the windows into the cloisters and could just barely see the top of Rudy's head. Upon going back outside, I found the group heading into the private section of the monastery. I followed them into a kitchen where a woman was handing out big porcelain-coated tin cups to everyone. She then ladled tasty sopa de ajo (garlic soup made from stale bread, garlic, and water). It was especially welcome because the weather was quite cool and there was no heat in the monastery.

I soon realized that there was a man speaking who was the priest. He had just given a mass for the pilgrims and it is his custom to invite them into his living quarters afterward for garlic soup.

The soup was a good appetizer and all the pilgrims returned to the bar to have dinner and lively conversation, most all in German about which I hadn't a clue. Since it was a monastery with nothing else to do, almost all the pilgrims were in bed by 9:30.

But, before bed Inga rubbed salve on my shoulder. The heat went right into the joint. That, combined with a big dose of ibuprofen, made the pain bearable and I was able to sleep most of the night.

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