Thursday

Santo Domingo to San Juan de Ortega, 35.8 miles, 26/08/04

Santo domingo to san juan de ortega 35.8 miles 26.08.04

Left camp at 0915, cool, good weather, no sun, backwind.
Had done about 10 miles when Frank got hit by a car.
Driving on the right here, N120 towards Burgos, busy main road with a left turn to a village. I crossed for the turn off, stopped and waited, heard screeching brakes and turned just in time to see smoke from the tyres and one of Franks saddlebags flying through the air.
A small green renault, family hatch, in the middle of the road, 30´ skidmarks crossing the white line.
My mind was blank, parked up, deep breath and walked over. Bits of plastic all around, big spanish lady very upset, small spanish guy calm and slow, lorry behind put its hazard lights on and stopped the traffic, a queue backing up already. Bits of Franks gear up the road, broken scallop shell, I couldnt see the bike.
Now I'm thinking, too much, stood on the other side of the road, checking traffic (twice) before I crossed. The lady is all ´lo siento, lo siento´, the guy is putting on an orange hazard vest-high viz type thing. I still cant see the bike or Frank. Look at the lorry driver but he´s not looking at me, he's staring at the verge, oh shit!!
Looked back at the car and there's Frank, large as life, with a look of complete surprise on his face. I walked around the car and looked him over- hardly a scratch, a small graze on the left leg and thats it!
The car had swerved just enough to take off the left saddlebag and break the end of the left pedal, the only thing completely irreparable was the scallop shell (which was fastened to the bag.)
The plastic was from a broken indicator unit on the car (!) and probably from other accidents too.
A calm down for the lady, explanations from the guy, (its ok mate, I saw enough and Frank's ok), collect the gear, handshakes all around and its over, they drive off.
Frank is 68, he had a stroke a year or so ago which affected the right side of his face,he rides with an eyepatch, looked over his shoulder but didnt see the car.
Surprise surprise, this makes me nervous !!
Fix the bag, a 2 minute job and ride up to the village. Sat at a pavement cafe next to the church and exchanged emergency telephone numbers.
Serious Business.
Coffee and a doughnut, and, oh, just in case, here's my brothers phone number, he's not home on wednesdays.....
A surreal situation, made all the more strange by the arrival of 5 aussies. Camineros, who had not an inkling of what was occurring here. Sat at our table all laughs and ´bon camino´.

writing break for the bar.

Wine at E0.80 for a half pint glass, (its E0.43 a bottle in the supermarkets, and its not bad stuff) closing time 22.15 and we were the last out, pint and a half of ´vino tinto´ and I'm loosening up a little. Franks comment just now about the accident,
"I had eggs in that saddlebag, good job I boiled them this morning."
End of story.
The bar was full when we arrived, noisy friendly, no shower, no change, nobody minded. Olympics on a portable tv with bad reception. Guy in a suit, older than Frank, straight from the godfather with a BEAUTIFUL girl on his arm. Frank paying for the second round, hundreds of euros on the table and his credit cards out, people glancing over, is this guy searching for trouble today?? Out of the bar and the tents are in moonlight, chilled.
Rest of the day, N120 to Burgos, thats about it, main road lots of traffic.
Saw some caves in a shale crag on a hill, looked man made, should have gone to look but time pressing, no campsites before Burgos, saw a church built into a cave with just the facade showing. Up a huge killer hill must be 3 miles long then a right turn to St Juan de Ortega

A beatiful place in the middle of a restoration. San Juan, the guy that founded this monastery was born in 1090 and his tomb is under the church here, down some stairs and into the gloom.
It took a few minutes for my eyes to adjust (I couldnt find the lightswitch).
A huge cross on the back wall slowly became apparent, then the outline of a stone coffin, very simple very plain, sarcophagus in a crypt. Minimal but with maximum impact. This guy lived 1000 years ago and he started all this, respect.
Its been a strange day from start to end, Frank has arranged camping in the church grounds, the barmaid was panicking,
´´you must go - go refugio being locked´´
´´its ok, we´re camping on the grass next to the church´´,
she pauses, its surreal again. Yup, really, camping.

Monastery at St Juan de Ortega, camping on the right at the end of the row of benches, the bar is on the left next to the refugio, just out of picture.

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Good luck with your own journey.
Thanks for visiting,
Rob.