El Camino Frances

The Traditional Route from France

La Rioja

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Santo Domingo de la Calzada to Belorado

23 May 1993 and 8/9 June 2002

During this stage you will soon leave La Rioja and enter the province of Burgos. You will probably not notice much difference in the countryside since the change is very gradual as the Camino gains height towards the Montes de Oca.

1993. The way out of Santo Domingo is alongside the main road N120. I was walking alone because my companions of the last few days had decided to stay in the refugio for an extra day to recover from illnesses and injuries. This allowed me to walk at my own (slow) pace and observe the wildlife and countryside. I spent some time watching a hen harrier searching a hillside opposite and the bird was cruising very low and almost gliding to a halt.

Viloria is just off the main road and is the birthplace of Santo Domingo. The village was deserted and the church locked when I passed but there is a bench in the shady church porch where I could rest.

The rest of the day’s walk was alongside the N120 but, at Villamayor, the bar/restaurant Leon was a good place to stop for coffee. I signed the very old pilgrim visitor’s book and was able to buy a very good Spanish guide book which greatly assisted me for the rest of this Camino and the one in 2002.

Belorado Church and albergue

The refugio in Belorado was in a 16C church and was staffed by Ana Maria from Holland. She had only arrived the previous evening and was busy preparing a stew for the afternoon meal. I was surprised to be the first customer because I had set out late but the others must have taken longer rests. After eating I walked around town and bought bread and cakes as my share of the running costs.

Other pilgrims came in later in the day bringing news of those left behind in Santo Domingo but they were not able to catch up with me before Santiago. The refugio filled up during the evening and from these new arrivals I found my companions for the rest of the Camino.

2002. We were already wet when we left Santo Domingo and the rain continued for the rest of the day. There is now a walking track by the side of the N120 until just before Grañón where we stopped for coffee. There is a good refugio here, built into a church tower, which has a reputation of being very hospitable. However we thought we should make more progress and set off again. The weather turned for the worse and we were subjected to heavy rain, wind and hailstones. The farm track up the hill towards Redecilla became a muddy stream and we were soaked and tired by the time we reached the refugio so we booked in here for the night.

After hanging our wet clothes out to dry we went to the local restaurant but found it closed. We had a hungry siesta and went back to the restaurant at 7pm. The bar owners were really miserable so we returned to the refugio. This is on the first floor of a renovated building and the ground floor is used by the hospitaleros as a bar. Locals had joined the pilgrims here and were having a good time. We were able to buy sandwiches and wine to satisfy ourselves then retired to the dormitory to sleep surrounded by our still wet laundry.

Next morning the weather was much better and we set off early for Belorado. The refugio in the old church was being renovated but we stopped for a chat with the Swiss hospitalera in the temporary refugio. After a late breakfast in the Plaza Major we set off again to stay the night in Villafranca.