From Belorado to St. Juan de Ortega – barrenness rewarded

When Barrenness Greets You

Little did I know what the day would bring. A barren landscape was my companion on this day. Barrenness it seemed was the name of the Way today.

There weren’t many people on the Way – I passed a few and few passed me. The fields were plowed – not much on them, except for one field with forgotten sunflowers.

All these were signs of barrenness.

The Ruins of a Monastery

Just before Villafranca de Montes de Oca I passed by the 9th Century Ruins of Monasterio de San Félix de Oca. This was a Mizárabic monastery. All that remains today is this tiny structure, long forgotten. Unfortunately, some pilgrims use this refuge to relieve themselves. Imagine how important this monastery was in the past for pilgrims, today it nothing more than … Barrenness comes in many forms.

The Resting Place

The road from Villafranca to San Juan de Ortega is just over 11 km with no town, village or hamlet in sight. At least there were plenty of trees as the barren fields disappeared for awhile.

And then I reach San Juan de Ortega, a big place with a population of no less than 20! The theme of barrenness continued. At least I would get a good nights rest.

I walked to Bar Marcela where I would also pick up my key for the room and would enjoy dinner – which included blood sausage (not something I can eat) and red wine. I also had a nice chat with a couple from the States. The man was born in Puerto Rico and this was his second time walking the Camino.

Barrenness Rewarded

I also went to the pilgrim’s mass, which was at 6 that evening. Barrenness was rewarded. The priest, a fairly elderly gentleman, greeted each person. “Where are you from?” he asked. He even invited pilgrims to help with the liturgy – we heard three languages: Spanish, English, and French. The Scripture reading was from Luke, the Walk to Emmaus. His message was inspiring, that is the few words I caught here and there. He encouraged us to ask questions about life, to think about our spiritual journey, our journey with God.

After the service I was sitting outside by the church and he came over to me (I mentioned to him that I was a minister from Canada). He asked me, “How is the journey going?” I replied, “My feet hurt, a lot.” He smiled and said, “That is part of journey … it is worth it.”

It is worth it

He was right of course. The Journey was worth it. The journey of life we are on right now is also worth it … sore feet and empty fields and barren landscapes … it is worth it. Isn’t it funny, the very place my barrenness on this day was rewarded was in the House of God?

This blog post was originally written on September 25, 2017. Now, more than year ago and after a lot of reflection it has been rewritten (December 17, 2018).

To read more of Dewey’s adventures on the Camino click here.

The Clouds Coming in at San Juan de Ortega


  1. I see what you mean by being barren. Many open cultivated fields and few on the trail. The barrenness of it all, must have been made up by that wonderful service at St.Juan you attended. Thanks for faithfully posting your photos daily.

  2. A barren day gives you time to digest all you have seen, heard, and done. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey.
    Rossdhu House

  3. Nellie Kellett

    Oh Dewald, I must say the photos are amaizing – to me it does not look so barren – I suppose just because I would have loved to be there
    myself!! I so enjoy your comments every day ! Thank you and lots of love from a barren Kimberley here in South Africa !! Terry and Ous

  4. I always enjoy the photos and your thoughts. Some new photos I think, and a new sharing of a greater understanding of the depth of barrenness that can exist. That is a barrenness beyond the visual. Your chat with the priest seemed to end your experience with, barrenness that day. You were able to share what the priest said. Probably what you already knew and that pain was part of the journey. Thank you for all that Dewey.

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