Total Distance – 22.9 km
Adjusted for Climb – 24.4 km (accrued ascent 300m = 1.5 km)
High Point: above Vilamayor del Río 810 m (2,657 feet)
Robert and I set off in high spirits on this stage after an enjoyable evening visiting the historic Cathedral in Santo Domingo de la Calzada. In addition, we also had a lovely meal the previous evening so we were fueled up and ready to go.
Our walk took us through the Montes de Oca with the Sierra de la Demanda to the south and the Cordillera Cantábrica to the north. Somewhere out there was the famed and snow covered Picos de Europa and doubtless I took a picture of them but I couldn’t tell you which of the snow covered mountains it was!
As we left Santo Domingo de la Calzada we crossed the bridge over the río Oja. This river gives its’ name to the entire region. We know the region (not to mention the wines!) as Rioja.
As we continued toward the town of Grañon (Population 500) we saw the Cruz de Los Valientes (the cross of the brave ones). The story behind the original cross (which was gone a long time ago) is that in the early 19th Century Martín García ( for whom the cross is dedicated to) defeated the champion of Santo Domingo de la Calzada in a contest to determine which town would own the property of Ballana. After the combat he asked the town of Grañon to pray an Our Father for him on the anniversary of the battle and this the town faithfully continued to do until 1950 even though the cross was gone a long time ago!
Robert and I stopped in Grañon for a water break and this gave me an opportunity to visit the Iglesia de San Juan de Bautista. This church dates from the 14th Century although it has a simple baptismal font with an inscription dated 1099. This font is all that remains from the original Romanesque church. The Baroque retablos are magnificent and the retablo major (1545-6) was the work of Natuera Borgoñon and Bernal Forment. Overall , it took 400 years to build this church.
As we walked along the main east-west street that is emblematic of a Roman plan town we met a lovely woman who I struck up a conversation with. We talked about how the present economic situation in Spain had forced the youth of the country to go abroad in order to work and start their careers. This woman’s son was no exception and she was concerned with her son who was soon to leave for Atlanta to study and begin a career in the hospitality trade. I did my best to reassure her that all would be well even to the extent to make a promise to her to say a prayer for her son at the next church I came upon. She promised also to pray for our safety. It was a very poignant exchange for me because I knew that thousands of Spanish families find themselves without their sons and daughters because of the harsh economic climate. May God Bless them all.
At the end of this street Robert and I encountered some incredible views of the countryside and also met Otto, a young Austrian who lived in the mountain region near Salzburg. As we continued our walk we entered the autonomous region (akin to a State) of Castilla y León. The region is named for the Kingdom of Castilla (that is famous for its’ many castles)’ and the Kingdom of León that were united in the 13th Century. The region is the largest of all Spain (95,000 km squared) but only has a population of 2.5 million. It is in this region that I was later to walk the Meseta Central, but more on that experience later.
In the pictures that follow you will see Otto, Patricia (from Alicante), the bridge I mentioned in the text, the Cruz de Los Valientes (replacement), Grañon, the Iglesia de San Juan de Bautista, the towns of Redecilla del Camino, Viloria de la Rioja (with church) and our entrance into Belorado.