Stage 12 – San Juan de Ortega to Burgos

Stage 12 – San Juan de Ortega to Burgos (Castilla y León)
Total Distance – 25.6 km
Adjusted for Climb – 26.6km (accrued ascent 200m = 1 km)
High Point: Sierra Atapuerca 1,080m (3,543 feet)



Boy was I feeling crappy the cold and cloudy morning Robert as I started our hike to Burgos!

I don’t like to complain but I did not enjoy my night at the albergue in San Juan de Ortega. The albergue was not in good condition and I did not sleep much at all the night before. In fact, many of my fellow peregrinos complained to me about the conditions there. Since the only bar was closed for breakfast – Robert could not believe it – we had to walk to the village of Agés (3.6 km away) for our breakfast. We had many options of what route to take to Burgos for what my guidebook called “the hard slog into the city itself” and had decided that we would take the route that first took us to the village of Villaval in order for me to see a Roman fountain (me and my Romans!!) and then walk into Burgos following the river route that would take us away from the “bedlam” of the industrial outskirts and parts of the city.

At first, as we walked in the tranquil río Vena valley we were not particularly bothered by the cold but soon we encountered something or rather someone that did bother us. We soon came upon a young Peregrina that I had prevsiuosly met at the albergue. She was an Austrian (who spoke English) that was tall, slim and always wore a small cowboy style hat – the kind of hat with a small brim. She looked very sick and feverish to us. We stopped and asked if she was ok and if we could help in some way but she refused our offer of assistance. She may have thought she was ok or she may have been so sick and disorientated that she did not understand us. Well, be that as it may, we continued on and were soon in Agés and stopped for breakfast at a very nice bar/albergue called the San Rafael right at the entrance to the village. As we were finishing up our breakfast our sick Peregrina came into the bar and sat down looking exhausted. The owner Anna – one of the kindest people I met on the Camino – went straight over to her sensing that something was amiss. Anna then came over to me and asked that I translate for her. She asked if the Peregrina was feeling well and she said she was not. Then Anna told her that she could sleep on the couch upstairs while she, after breakfast was over, prepared a bed for her. The Peregrina thankfully accepted – albergues don’t open sometimes until after 12:00 and it was about 9:00 am. – and went upstairs with Anna. Whew – Robert and I were relieved that the Peregina had gotten some help and would be resting. In retrospect, it would have been better for Robert and I to have walked the extra 3.6 kilometers and have stayed here rather than having stayed at San Juan de Ortega. Next time.

When Robert and I left the bar we noticed that the group of French senior citizens that we had run into many times in the past two days were outside the bar and to our amazement they were getting into a support van!! Well, Robert had suspected that they had a support van because the only times that we had seen them was in the mornings and now he was proved correct. In retrospect the van was a very good call for them considering the day we were to have later on.

The village of Ages in the rio Vena valley

The village of Agés in the río Vena valley

Agés (pop. 60) is located in the río Vena valley and the land is gentle and rolling. It continues to be that way until after the village of Atapuerca (pop. 200). Atapuerca has prehistoric caves that are a UNESCO World Heritage site. The human remains discovered there date back to over 900,000 years ago and are the earliest human remains ever discovered in Europe. The archaeological work going on there is ongoing, studying the human activity that took place over 1,000,000 years ago. The site is 3 km off the Camino route but there is an information center outside of the village.

Now for the hard bit. After Atapuerca you must climb the Sierra Atapuerca up to 1,080m. It is an incredibly rocky ascent – the rocks look like teeth sticking out of the ground – but you are rewarded with a cross at the top and your first views of Burgos far off into the distance. I was impressed on our ascent to see two cyclists attempting the climb and thought of the Basque cyclists that I met in Belorado.

Robert climbing the Sierra Atapuerrca

Robert climbing the Sierra Atapuerrca

As you can see from the pictures the rain was chasing us yet again! For this reason we were anxious to get to the top and see Burgos off in the distance. We made it to the top and no rain!!

Me at the top of the Sierra Atapuerca

Me at the top of the Sierra Atapuerca

Burgos, far off into the distance

Burgos, far off into the distance

Our next stop was to be the hamlet of Villaval. If Agés has a population of 60 then Villaval must of had a population of 5. It looked deserted when we got there and there were no facilities of any kind that I saw. The only thing I saw and the reason we took this route was to see the Roman fountain. It was a small one but it was still in operation for over 2,000 years!

After a brief stop in Villaval we proceeded on the side of a two lane road towards Orbaneja and immediately there began a light rain. We had finished our lunch in a bar in Orbaneja when the skies opened up in a big way and heavy hail started to descend. This effectively delayed our departure until the hail turned to heavy rain. The heavy rain was a problem because it limited our visability to the drivers along the road that we had no choice to walk along. One kilometer out of Orbaneja we were supposed to veer off on a trail to the left that would have skirted us around the Burgos Airport and taken us in the city along the scenic Río Arlanzón. This was made impossible by the heavy rain that was flooding the trail and we immediately thought better of our proposed detour and continued – against our will- on the two lane road.

Soon we were skirting the airport and the rain lessened. Right after the airport we hit a massive industrial area of the city. We must have walked what seemed to me 10 kilometers of a straight boring industrial park or precinct. It was a long and numbing walk into Burgos but we finally made it. Luckily for us we had reservations at the AC Burgos Marriot Hotel and the hotel room had a nice bathtub that soon took the cold chill out of our weary bones.


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