Day 9: Grañon – San Juan de Ortega: 24.8 miles
Sunday, September 18, 2016: Departed: 6:45am, Arrived 5:15pm
We left Grañon before daylight, and upon exiting the town we promptly donned our warmer layers and poncho in order to continue through rainy drizzle. The forecast was for more cold, overcast weather, with chances of rain. We weren’t expecting it to be wet so soon, so we braced ourselves for damp day, but once daylight emerged, the drizzle subsided; A setting full moon in front of us in the indicated that there were indeed clear skies ahead. By the time we stopped for a little lunch, the grey overcast skies actually began to change to some open blue among the white clouds, and for the first time in a while we could see our shadows! It felt great to have some sun, especially considering that the overall temps were only in the low 60’s.
While we’re trying not to be too planned, we did look ahead to when we’d be going to the highly recommended Burgos. We’d like to spend a night there, and in order to do so, based upon when the lodging options were in between, it would require us to do it in two long days (getting us on schedule), or in 3 short days (getting us behind). We decided to try to get ahead of our needed schedule, so that meant 24.8 miles for us today. We passed through more and more wheat fields, with occasional sunflower fields and the latter section went through pine and oak forests to bring us to the Albergue in San Juan de Ortega (barely a town).
We’d been walking for a long time and were among the last people to check into the albergue, but were glad to learn there were two beds available. But we went up to the large dorm rooms full of bunk beds the other pilgrims had already claimed, we could only find one that was obviously unclaimed. When I asked the proprietor about it, he walked us through a door marked private, and showed an unofficial back room library with bunk beds and gave us what amounts to a private room, while everyone else was in crowded dorms. As the town is too small to boast any alternate facilities, we took part in the pilgrims dinner after a quick shower, served buffet style, among the crowd of mostly older pilgrims. We did not hit it off with anyone in particular; just enjoyed the dinner. I had read on the historical marker by the church that this time of the year, near the autumn equinox, a special illumination occurs when rays of sunlight shine through the church window at the right angle. As we finished our dinner and wine, the sun shone bright on my seat through the little window of the dining hall, and I felt it was a sign we were worthy, as in the “last shall be first” parable, that after our long hard day, we that we should enjoy the special treatment, and we soon retreat up to our private abode for rest.