Day 16: Villafranca Montes De Oca to Agés.


Early morning mists in the valleys.


sunrise on the Montes De Ocas.

Distance to go: 535.5 Kms

Yesterday afternoon we had the great fortune to meet up with Damian. He is an ex fire chief from Ireland and we last saw him in Roncesvalles. Here he was again in the same albergue as we were. We thought he would be miles ahead of us by now. He was with his two friends, a Spanish lady called Pinar and an Irish lady called Lorraine. They were both real darlings. Pinar had walked the camino before and suggested we all send our backpacks ahead to Agés to avoid lugging them over the climb ahead. So we joined them. She booked us into the San Rafael albergue in Agés and organised our backpacks to be sent there. We had never met this lady before but we trusted her. She was a real treasure.

So we set of straight into a climb on a cool and slightly damp morning. The views from the hilltops was staggering and we saw the sun rise over the peaks to our east. It was misty among the trees. We were glad we had sent our packs ahead. We would give our knees a rest today. 


Morning mist hike.

Up at around 1000 metres above sea level we came across a monument to the Spanish Civil War, the Monumento a los Caídos and paused for a while taking a light breakfast. It was really chilly at this altitude but the sun was doing its very best to drive away the low cloud and mist.


Spanish Civil War monument

6 Kms further on after a gentle descent we arrived in the small hamlet of St Juan de Ortega, passing three lovely donkeys in a field lazing in the morning sun. This place is tiny but has a magnificent Monastery and an equally magnificent cafe close by where the purveyor of hot tea and sticky buns resides. We relieved him of both before setting off for the 4 Kms walk to our stop for the day, Agés.


It is a hard life.

As soon as we entered the village I loved it. It had a well kept and quiet feel about the place. Who should be sitting at the cafe but Damien, Lorraine and Pilar. We sat and had an ice cream. Not 10 feet away a large stone watering trough was being emptied by a local man to clean it. As the water drained we saw it had some goldfish in it which the man rescued before emptying the trough to remove the sediment and algae. We watched and chatted while Pilar translated for us.


Building regs do not apply here.


St Juan de Ortega monastery in the morning sun.

Pilar then organised a wonderful lunch at the local cafe, El Alquinista. Antonio and his wife Poppy prepared bread and his own cheese to start and then cooked an amazing soup followed by a salad, meat and sweet peppers and home made fries, ice cream and coffee. All the ingredients came from their own farm. It was the best meal we have had so far. All for 12 euros a head. I tell you it was fare fit for a king and pilgrims alike. If ever you are this way I recommend a stop at this village of Ages. It is to me what the Camino is all about. So many pilgrims walked straight passed us and they have no idea what they missed. The man that cleaned the trough is going to give us a guided tour of the village tonight and point out the history going back to the year 994. Pilar has been such a gem of a find for us and has such a heart. I will miss her when we part.


Cleaning the watering trough. Pilar, Lorraine, Debbie and Damien give it a good looking at!


Lunch with new friends at a 400 year old cafe.


The owners pooch.

Distance walked today: 17 Kms

 © Mark Dexter 2015