Arija is probably my least favorite place on the Olvidado, but that’s just me. The original city was flooded to make the dam that created the reservoir of the Ebro. So what is there now is an “upper town,” newly created after the dam, and the “new lower town” created next to the water. A woman in the pharmacy in the upper town told me they flooded 400 houses, 8 churches, 2 chapels and a glass factory that made glass in the traditional artisanal way. Though the “upper town” is mostly newly built, I remember that the ayuntamiento seemed to be several centries old, so I am not sure whether they transported it up from below before the flooding or what the story is. The nucleus around the reservoir has the same feeling as the Embalse de Alcántara on the Vía de la Plata, though it has more commerce.
There is/was an albergue in Arija (google maps tells me it is permanently closed), but we stayed in Hotel Rural la Piedra. My notes tell me it was 46€ for both with breakfast.
There is a little grocery store down by the water. Since the hotel dining room didn’t open till 9, we went to the store to buy some food. I asked if we could get an extra plastic bag so we would have two “plates” for our meal. The little girl whispered something to her mother, then came back a few minutes later with some birthday party plates left over from her 9th birthday party.
Day 6. Arija to Olea (32.5 km)
Once you leave Arija, you have entered Cantabria and left Burgos behind. The approximately 18 kms to Villafría, which go along the reservoir, are all on the side of the road. For those who go to great lengths to avoid pavement, I was able to walk on the side on a dirt shoulder. The road is very untraveled but cars go fast between the pueblos. About 7 km along the reservoir edge, at Villanueva de las Rozas, you will see the tower of a church that was submerged to make the reservoir. There is a walkway out to the tower, and an opening that suggests you can climb the tower, but we didn’t go out. It was too forlorn looking for me.
After Villafría, I don’t think there’s any pavement at all, or very little. There were two highlights — the Roman ruins of Juliobriga, with a museum. We did not visit the museum, but enjoyed walking around and especially climbing the bell tower of the adjacent church overlooking the ruins.
From the ruins, the Camino goes up through a beech forest, about 200 m to the Peña Cutral. I remember some confusion on the top of a hill, and the GPS came to the rescue. And then there’s a descent to the spectaclar highlight of the day — the Romanesque church at Baños de Cervatos. Another Romanesque jewel, San Pedro. A good number of the capitals and corbels are erotic, though the purpose is still debated by art historians. For a sampling of the possible theories, see this article in El País. I only include G-rated pictures.
From the church to Olea is pretty straightforward, and I remember walking through some nice orchards and fields, but nothing really jumps out at me.
We stayed, as many peregrinos do, at the Casa Miguel. It’s a vacation complex of sorts, with very nicely equipped apartments. We paid 15€ each and had a very relaxing evening. The owners are generous and friendly — they and their friends insisted we sit outside with them for a few tapas and drinks. They wanted us to stay for the barbeque, but that would have kept us up way past pilgrim bedtime. They have also assured me in a recent Whatsapp exchange that they are happy to pick people up “sea donde sea” (wherever that may be).