Day 6

O’cebreiro to Santiago.

School boy errors. I put my bike next to Glens and we locked them together because we are paranoid. We slid bins up to the corner to block out some wind and I put my poncho on. I sat cross legged and tried to eat the sandwich. I’d definitely chose the wrong meat. I sat a short while and realised if I dropped off I’d literally drop off the stone ledge. So I lay. Glen had gone straight to trying to sleep but I was struggling. I kind of saw this as temporary. We’d be off again soon. An hour went by and we definitely wouldn’t be going soon. The wind picked up and was flowing under the bins. I looked through all my cameras pictures (I’d left the ones of the kids on, Lucy’s birthday too) and I tried to learn a little more Spanish with my iPhone. I lay down and at this point thought it best to pull out the stops and make it comfy. Only took two hours to realise this!

Out came Mr Sleeping bag. Off came Mr Pannier who turned into Mr Pillow. Out from the bin came clean bits of cardboard to sleep on top of (Mr Mattress?) Off came my shoes and I took out the books to plan tomorrows ride with the bike torch. I’m not sure when I drifted off but I know I was having to stick my head through a gap in the poncho to stop condensation.

Then Glens alarm went off. He set an alarm? On a mountain top? Because he was afraid of sleeping in?

Anyway we slept in. Awoken abruptly by a walker using the tap. He was as shocked to see us as us him. It was still dark. I pee’d in someone’s garden (surreal this isn’t it? I assure you all this was on a mountain top.) and we packed up and set off. It was about 7am. We carried on up hill and to a stream of walkers being kicked out for the morning reached the top at 1396m Triacastela. Pushing down to Samos then on to Sarria we reached the point were most pilgrims start their journey. Traffic links here are good and you must walk the last 100km in order to qualify for your Compostela. 200km if you are a cyclist, (because its so easy.)

Sarria isn’t all that bad. I grappled with my back wheel again and we polished off a couple of doughnuts and cafe-con-lache and we were fine. The town is like the outskirts of other towns, but all the way through. We hit a major climb going out the other side and realised we were into roller coaster Galicia. Woo hoo!

We followed the walkers through the villages, the drainage channel through the middle of the road was smoother than the sides. Some very nice Albergues and rest stops along here. The rain started and it lashed down (technical term) I stopped under a car port and put my neoprene overshoes and extra waterproof jacket on. The walkers were getting drenched. It stopped a little so we plodded on. Moving away from the small side road where the walkers spread right out across the road and where the arrows seem to divert you to local businesses. One I’m sure even pointed towards a titty bar and was going the wrong way. A German took it against Glens better judgement.

This is my take on riding Galicia. To go up hill, you ride two up and one down. To go down hill, you ride two down and one up. Get me? It’s roller coaster country and you can make super fast time if you can power up those hills. If you hadn’t been feeling a little fatigued, for any reason.

So before long it was our turn for a down hill into Portomarin. The town of Portomarin is intriguing as its been moved. Up and out of the valley flooded by the construction of a reservoir. The church stands high on the hill and as the water was very low, the old buildings could be seen protruding the water below, they must have forgotten some. We descended with two other cyclists. I stopped outside the town and waited for Glen as the other two zipped by. When we got to the bottom I thought one was telling me off for not wearing my helmet. I had sweat rash on sweat rash so I just shrugged him off. Glen told me he was shouting that I rode “crazy”. I did that thing that either Cavendish or Froome did where you tuck your bum infront of your seat post right down against the top tube. Stops my jacket flapping about on the descent. As we got to the bottom a strange set of steps climb up from the middle of the roundabout into the village. A number of walkers were here waiting to cross. Then it was our turn for an uphill. Monster climb that took frequent breathers of levelling off, then up again. This continued until…. Forever. I stopped looking at the map and zoomed out the GPS to show the remainder of the route. The bike was getting hard to pedal as the back wheel was floating on its spokes again. As soon as I knew the distance left I just started to count down and use the direction of the road on the GPS to see where it would cut over the next hill. There was on average less than a kilometre down and less than a kilometre up. So sixty hills became forty, became twenty. We then hit the mother of all hills climbing up to the airport. Long and slow. I was watching the time. I knew the pilgrims office in Santiago closed at 9pm. I also knew from memory the last few kilometres were down hill. It was 7:45pm on that hill. Passing the airport. 9km to go. More uphill, down hill, up…..

Finally the decent started. The outskirts became the city and I zoomed in the GPS to show the waymarkers I had placed at each junction. We had to stop to put the bike lights on again. Join the traffic and through the modern part of the city in which they must see thousands of pilgrims on the last mad rush. The road became cobble and the cobbles became full of pedestrians. We had to walk. The surfaces were slippy and my back end nearly overtook my front as I tried to ride up a kerb.

We turned into the square in front of the cathedral of St James and across the full length stopping to shake hands. Into the office the rain was starting and I went up first. No queuing and obviously getting late for those behind the desk. They took my pilgrims passport off me and asked me to fill in a form. My right hand has been numb for days through the lack of blood supply. It didn’t improve my handwriting…..

They completed the passport with the final stamp of the cathedral. Dating it the 24th October 2012. I had completed the pilgrimage from France to the burial place of St James the greater in 133 hours and 30 minutes. Total climbed around 9600 metres. I was handed my Compostela which detailed my name in Latin and I asked where I could stay. I was told where the tourist information was on the same street. I phoned home whilst Glen went up to get his Compostela.

The tourist information office gave us a few addresses. All the Albergues in Santiago de Compostela are privately run so we just chose the nearest and walked the bikes down the street. 16 euros for a bed. Quick change. 8 euros for a pilgrims meal at the cafe round the corner. It was here we were treated like royalty. So humbling.

Bed time, we’ll go and meet the boss tomorrow (St James!)

Glen’s Journal:

Day 6 -ocerbrero to Santiago – Final Push

Distance to cover 162km but from setting off we didnt know what distance was left….

Alarm clock sounding it was 7am….. a walker goes to the fountain and finds me and Tony in sleeping bags with me saying  “morning”…

Half asleep, half awake.. tired but it was the final push…. up out of the sleeping bags, items packed away and off we went… it was still dark as we left our little camp.. pushing the biked for a tiny distance before cycling on… we thought I ocerbrero was the only top… two more mountain peaks to hit before the descent. ….. but they were about the same height as Ocerbrero so it wasnt too bad..cereal bar eaten for breakfast…

The sunlight was coming over the mountain tops a truly gorgeous morning…. sahria our first target town that morning…. (tony got some great photos)

The first descent… fast steep bending… words to describe I wany to do it again…. the roads weaved in s bends as we descended… there was one thing on this descent. ..wind .. almost stopping me as I turned into it but belting me down the hill once t behind… the descent lasted ages I was like Saharia in no time…. it was further than I thought to Saharia…. 40km there about to reach it…

I was so glad we stopped at Ocerbrero that night cause that descent in the middle of the nights with no lights down during this stage with the possibility of falling off the edge a thing that was possible..mmmmmnnn… good idea.. plus in the daylight it was fun….

We pushed and arrived in the village of Saharia. . Tony explained that for many walkers this was the start as a compestella could be achieved from this distance… we were aiming for Santiago that night…

We pulled into a coffee shop.. yes more great coffee with 2 doughnuts.. I needed the sugar and calories… tony sat outside trying to tighten up his spokes as he rear wheel was really loose… theres me complaining of a dodgy back tyre… his wheel must have shook him left and right rotten.. he managed tighten them up.. and onwards we pushed.  Saharia a town…when we turned up it was grey overcast and just starting to rain as we left..

We climbed out of Saharia for what felt like 5km…. I expected flat and uphills but what came next was a fun surprise…more mega descents… these roads were fun…. weaving again and so much smoother than English Roads ..we gained massive speeds and knocked the kms down quickly… down this descent tony took his helmet off due to an irritation on his forehead. . When we reached the bottom a couple of Spanish cyclists shouted across ‘crazy’ I found it a little funny.

Tony told me as we stopoed just before we crossed a bridge the story how the church had been moved from under the bridge to its current position in the village.. We had reached over 700km now… im thinking its less than a hundred to go.. positivity… I didnt want the journey over I just knew we had a goal…

We hit Gallicea.. we climbed from the bridge about the same height we descended… it wss hard work..  we cycled on… and as we did we met a couple from London cycling Leon to Santiago….the woman was the better cyclist I have to say….

We pushed on heading for Santiago…we cycled through a little village and pulled up under a car port. … Bang HEAVY RAIN hit us, and the temperature had dropped a little…. we got wet…. but the end was in sight… cycling on we went up and down and I got reallt cold on the descents to the point I wanted more hills….

I remember seeing a sign for Santiago 53km… I thought nearly there… a few hours at most…

We pulled into a small village and I stocked up with food from the supermarket… bread chocolate spread ham… croissants ok I love them hehe and cakes… we stopped in a park to refuel with food for energy and motored on… the butties were amazing the bread was dead soft with a hard crust it was well needed.

Signs for Santiago dwindled off… it was now a road full of ups and downs… it hurt now.. it was like a never ending roller coaster… until we hit the airport ascent….

Ok the airport hill how would I describe it long steady climb but very long… you know when you’ve hit it….

This point my legs were sore bum too and I was hurting on my hands

We reached the top of the airport hill hitting a big roundabout. . I thought this is it 5 mins and we will be in Santiago. .. we had to turn off the main road and take the cycle path… realising if we hadn’t took the roads the journey would have been much longer…

We got back running cycling along the side of the road and it said Santiago 9km… I remember saying 9km as its further to go??? From the airport hill it is mostly down hill and a few uo hilla luckily more down hill than up… tonys wheel wobbling still…

We arrived in the city of Santiago…. its a big city… we followed Tonys gps and had to go back on ourselves as we hit steps.. really push weighted panniered bikes up steps we cycled round…it was dark now the city lit by street lighting, busy with the hustle of traffic… we were back among people when for days and hours we cycled along roads somewhat desolate and deserted ..

We arrived at St james church tony went to the middle of the sqaure in front of the great steps… at this point we had arrived we had completed our journey from st jean pied de port to Santiago in 6 days…. a mean feat by any call.

One last thing to do before finding accommodation obtain the compestella… we arrived at the office 30 mins left prior to closing… call cutting it close..

Tony went first I second . We werent leaving our bikes unattended….

I was asked if I had completed the journey for spiritual or religious reasons or none.

The fact that I wanted to cycle with my mate was one.. a holiday with a twist. And a challenge as many times I thought we werent going to make it…

Along the way I remembered my dad left his name and mine on a stone at the cross… miss him everyday he, d bloody think we were mad doing what we have just done…. I put down spiritual reasons but it was much more too.

683km – 845km the final push…. furthest we had gone… challenge complete… compestella obtained…

Accommodation to be found… albergue city centre 18 euros a night sold… including storage for the bikes…

I borrowed a friends trousers before I left as I ripped my light ones.. didnt want to carry a pair of heavy jeans all that way to wear them once… when I started they fitted fine.. no belt needed .. I had to use cable ties to hold them up as I had lost loads of weight..

We went to the end of the street had a pilgrims meal pasta and stew witb cafe con leche… bed for some well earned sleep.. the albergue slightly smelled but I didnt care the night before we had slept on a stone…

Tony is a top bloke a great friend has a never give up attitude…eased me with my anxiety… and all I can say is what a journey….

845km in 6 days on fully weighted panniered mountain bikes. Experiencing all types of weather except snow hail or ice..

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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