From Villafranca Montes de Oca to Atapuerca
Day 11, Tuesday 3 September 2013
Distance to Santiago: 552,8 km
The road to Atapuerca was uphill and we encountered a few mountains, highest point just over 1000 m.
The town of San Juan de Ortega is a traditional gateway on the Camino. The monastery and its accompanying church were built in the early 12th century. The site area was much feared by medieval pilgrims as a haven for bandits and consequently regarded as one of the most dangerous stretches of the entire medieval route.
The small hospice and monastery with church provided a safe and welcome halt for pilgrims making the long and dangerous crossing through the area. Despite its isolation, the monastery attracted the attention of nobles, kings and popes alike. The monastery church contains the crypt where San Juan de Ortega is buried.
Ages is a small village just before Atapuerta. When reached, according to the signpost, about one third of the journey from St Jean is completed.
The prehistoric caves of Atapuerca were declared a Unesco World Heritage site on account that the earliest human remains were discovered dating back over 900,000 years. Several remains of the Homo heidelbergensis were found, the predecessor to the Neanderthal. There are several caves inhabited during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages. Its people left paintings and engravings in the cave walls. The sites in this area were found during the construction of a railway. Scientific exploration started in 1964. Pilgrims can have the guided tour free.
We stayed in Albergue El Peregrino that was modern, clean and we had a private room. It is a very nice place and we used the kitchen to cook a homemade meal.
We walked about 18,5 km for the day.