Day 4

Villalcázar to La Virgen del Camino.

Today started out grand. Dry, fast, a little late and needed breakfast so stopped for coffee and a sellos. then spotted an open supermarket so food bought for the meseta.

This made us very late but not worried so we started to pick up speed then bang. First puncture. Glens bike. Tube changed, bang, my pump blew a seal. Different pump, bang, spare tube blew its valve. Another new tube, started riding, Glen noticed a wobble on the wheel, worse than before. Then the sidewall of the tire split.

To be fair Glen noticed some problems a short while before this and we knew that some of the larger towns we’d be passing through would have a bike shop but passing through at that all important “Spanish opening hours” seemed to be a challenge. So we put some hope in Sahagun. The terrain had flattened out and knowing the Maseta (the plains) were on their way I was also hoping this is where we’d be making up our distance if we’d not done so well over the first few days. We had done ok, but a few wrong turns and road signs to Santiago with distances that seemed to flick the “v’s” meant I’m sure we could do better. So with daily average to 150km it looked now like we’d struggle a little and we still had no idea of where that would leave us every night.

Passing through Da Carrion (which would be the butt of all jokes for a while after, “which way?” “We carry on.” “No we’ve already passed there…” Etc. etc. we entered Sahagun. Finding the bike shop Glen went in and emerged with two new semi-slick tires for 20 euros. Myles asked for a produce shop for fruit and veg and was given directions and I asked for a spoke key (was kicking myself for somehow forgetting it) and was met with a blank face. Tires were changed and dog poo stood in and we were off.

At this point we trusted more to the sign posts than the mapping. The trails we used were too minor to be on my road map (strapped to the front on the handlebars) and the GPS wasn’t showing any roads built after the 60’s (and later on it appeared to show roads it thought might be built in the future as well as incomplete roman roads…)

The villages got smaller and the links between them more obvious. Each village shouting in its own way it’s connection with the Camino, from wall freezes to catholic monuments and the route clearly defined by those well loved yellow arrows. Though it has to be said, the arrows pointed at all the cafes, shops and other businesses as well as the church on the way through.

So, we suddenly realised that the only hills were man made motorway bridges in the distance. The pylons could be counted until they were tiny dots and the Camino pathway still ran by the road which must really irritate the walkers. Infact, I noticed at this point that if you wished a pilgrim “Buen Camino” some would come up with a snotty “thanks” instead of returning the acknowledgement. Could it be that they didn’t see cyclists as real pilgrims? Weirdos….

We stopped dead centre of this flat plain at a shelter with a man sat with his shoes off eating pineapple chunks from a tin. Turns out he was Dutch and started his pilgrimage from home in July averaging 25km a day. He started to talk about the nationalities that do the Camino and the differences between them. He mentioned the Americans and I quickly added that we had “found one” and pointed to Myles, who at this point was laughing to himself whilst listening to a podcast. I did this as I thought he was about to slag them off.

The man then approached him and produced a book. He was doing a survey of the Americans and would ask them their first name, place in America they had come from and take a photograph of their face. He walked over to Myles and reeled a few off. He then said Myles couldn’t be in his survey because he wasn’t a real pilgrim. Closed his book and walked back to his seat. Myles said smiling at him that he couldn’t have a photograph of him anyway. I asked the man how he was planning to get home. “Oh by train or the Airport”, so I told him that if he was a real pilgrim like in the olden days he would be walking back again and we rode off.

We passed through a number of tiny Camino villages which are obviously catering for the pilgrims very well. I remembered the Dutch man also saying that a lot of the Americans caught the train from Burgos to Leon as they’d read it was boring! So I told Myles that if he attached the middle sized plough from a field to his bike and dragged it to Leon he’d be a true pilgrim. We joked that we could just take the larger one on the train. He then told me the story about when he passed from France to Spain. He stopped at the border and p#**#d back into France! Oooh you ‘mericans!!!!

It was dark by the time we got into Leon. Some cities just look brilliant in the dark though. My GPS took us around the pilgrim route because Leon likes to hide it (it could just be because it was dark!) and we turned the corner to the magnificent cathedral. Myles was talking to a man who then came over to Glen and I and asked us for money. I told him to Feck off and Glen reinforced this. I then realised Myles had been quite polite and wondered if I’d just been cursed for my abruptness. Still, by getting a clear “no” from me it left him with more time to pursue other people. I’d done him a favour.

We cycled on. GPS did good this time and we landed at Virgen del Camino on the outskirts of the city. Very late and all the albergues were closed. Myles negotiated a room in a hostel and the bikes stayed in the boiler room. Nice and warm with our remaining wet clothes hung on the bikes we ate at the local cafe and went to bed.

Total distance 523km.

Glen’s Journal:

Day 4-october 28th 2012 Vila del Cazar – leon and the town beyond 120km covered today 620km completed in 4 days 50 percent of our time used at the start of the morning.. realising just 3 full days of cycling left.. We had 445km to cycle… sounds achievable but there were two more mountain ranges to climb..  and the first mountain range to be hit was the highest climb of the journey… the trip to the ironcross….

We started off little late today bout 8.45am but we had sun… it was dry… I was happy…. we set out to the firat tow  Carrion… cycling in the sun I was so happy…. my back wheel still giving me grief… we pulled up at a coffee shop and we had two massive chocolate croissants… with coffee… I love these things they were so nice…. scrumptiously delicious… fantastically soft and perfect with coffee…. I was happy… this is were we saw a dog with a coat o  that sad ‘addidog’ in the addidas logo… Thought it was cool..

We carried on past carrion a joke Myles made at the bar the night before.. we pulled into a petrol station as Myles said my rear wheel looked a bit low… air went cycled bout 20 meters away……Boom!!!!!!  I thought bugger!!!! New inner tube in….glad I brought 5 spares….  cycled a short distance away and again BANG… 2 innertubes in the space of 5 meters my heart sank… thinking it was the tyre causing the innertubes to pop… so  we padded the worn bead and 2nd new innertube in… 2nd innertube had a dodgy valve….  on we cycled on…back wheel still causing an issue…. tyres were absolutely rubbish I had on…

Onwards we cycled to a town called Saghun… it was sunny now.. roads undulating but fun.. we stopped just after a bend near some road railings for some food… I looked at my back tyre and a hole in the sidewall.. tyres not going to last much longer I thought… panic attack… yikes I need a new tyre quick…

I wrote in my notes that night “I thought shit how am I going to make it to Santiago let alone Saghun..”

Tony really was my calming influence. .. 15km to Saghun will it last?? Will it pop before we get there?? Will I crash,  what will we do if the tyre goes. WILL THERE BE A CYCLE SHOP WITH TYRES IN SAGHUN? ?..Tony equalled CALM…

We made it to Saghun…. and we found the Chainsaw shop…. Myles called it that… it was a bike shop that sold tyres and chain saws.. 2 new tyres and bikes fixed… 2 new tyres cost 20 euros best buy yet.. Bike ran true without any wobbles I had a new bike… the tyres were a no brand make but they worked!!! I was over the moon…

After tyre shop we found  a super market…. food purchased… a little thing I found in spain chocolate nutella spread delicious and so good when cycling long distances…. we had lost time but we gained two new tyres and food…. The distance we set out 150km looked a distance to far…. The roads opened up after food… initially slow ups but then flat long roads .. the planes of spain…

We met a man from Belgium who was recording all the Americans he met on the pilgrimage in his book… Myles an american who he wouldnt put in his book as according to him he was not a true pilgrim.. as he was not walking it but cycling it… Tony made a good point… the man from Belgium was not a true pilgrim if he was not walking it back after he made it as he was opting for the train…

We left the rather rude Belgium I thought to myself we would be much further than him tonight… leon we head… I was saying on my way the sun is shining in leon…  by truth it was dark by the time we got to leon…. but Leon is a massive city it appeared much larger than Burgos and Logrono. . .

The buildings were all lit up, the cathedral lit up almost gold like…. Myles put his bike in front and walked away to take a picture… I thought hes mad and iv chained it to the floor before letting go of it… saw a lad on a groovy bike wheels and frame in an illuminous colour thought funky….

Leon wasnt the place to stay… no albergues just hotels at premium not in our budget…we cycled to an albergue out of the city…. CLOSED…GUTTED…we found a hostel… Myles bargained with the owner 58 euro for accommodation we had no other choice it was late we were hungry…

Bikes stored in the boiler room clothes left to warm up..  food at the owners restaurant. ..10 euros each for three courses… Soup..Chicken and desert Activia yoghurt it made me laugh the owner served it on a plate and looked well made up… I laughed to myself as I usually take it out of the fridge…

120km covered…. not 150km but new tyres grocery shopping done good distance considering….. me and Tony tomoz we leave Myles as he head backs to Leon…his time span on his journey much longer than ours… to be fair we pushed him hard we trained for this trip and to do it at some speed… as we cycled to leon we waited for Myles a few times me and Tony knew we had to push on…. but his companionship and friendship on the two days was great… an american flyer…..

Worked out between 298km to 360km left to cover in two days…. lot of cycling to go…I was hoping the first distance….

Taught me a lot these few days of perseverance and I accept I panic when in the unknown…. I need control this. …

Worked out I had bout 50 euros left…. 25 euros a day…. mmmnnn might need a bank…

Time to sleep early start in the morning heading to astorga!!!!

This blog: Tony Hemans and Glen Eccles cycled the Camino Frances from St jean Pied de Port in France to Santiago de Compostela covering 845km in 6 days in October 2012. If you are trying to get fit, planning an adventure, long distance cyclist or just curious about my mid-life crisis then subscribe and share!

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