A trip up the gates of Hell on Europe’s oldest Pilgrimage – this is the hardest we have ever done carrying the bikes up dried river beds up the side of a mountain to stay in a neolithic village. Something I’m glad I did but not to be repeated.
Wednesday – Leon
The day began with Raymond waking up at 4am and deciding to get the night bus to the airport. This was a good move as he was there for the opening of the airport pub at 5. Frank meanwhile was sticking to the established plan and caught the airport bus. However this broke down on the main road and he had to run the rest of the way getting there just before check in closed. An interesting start. He then bought a disposable camera. The flight on flyglobespan was great value for 19p and even better when we got complimentary breakfast. On arrival at Stansted Frank discovered that his disposable camera was in fact 3 films in a box. Luckily the local Dixons were very understanding and swapped the item.
Frank runs to airport from main road after bus breaks downPA050012.JPG Leon, Spain
Franks luck changed at this point as he ate Andy’s breakfast roll with the extra sausage then gained an admirer in a young child. Another couple of pubs and then onto the plane. Vallalodid is a big industrial town with a good football team. It was here we discovered the importance of checking how old internet pages are as the 10 euro taxi trip cost 18. In the station we bought sandwiches and then went to walk out without paying. Frank had forgotten! The train journey was nearly 2 hours across a flat dusty plain to a green Leon. It has not rained in Spain for a year.
The hotel was right next to the station and the bikes there. We set off for town which was on the last day of a festival with 100s of stalls banners and people dressed in medieval costume. There were fireworks, buskers, small plays, people on stilts and huge bins with fires.
Raymond now very happyHotel Astur Plaza, Astorga. Right on main square
Thursday – Astorga
Our first stop was tourist information to find a bike shop. The guy was late opening it but fixed it for free. Much better for Andy when he could reach the handlebars. A slow climb out of Leon on the N120. Very dusty and lots of lorries. We took what we thought was the Camino but ended up as a dead end. Later things got better and we were able to cycle on the Camino next to the main road away from the trucks.
Lunch in Hopital De Orbigo at Doctor Santos Olivera to left when crossing bridge. Pilgrims menu is 7 euros and very good.
Raymond with a flash of inspiration and the rest of us with a dash of wine decided to lead us the walkers route from hopital. If you have seen pictures of Mars then you will know the dusty landscape we crossed not on bike but mostly by foot. This route was described by the Brazilian we met in the bar as “scenic” – and he was right as we climbed quite a few hills! Frank got a puncture so that also slowed us down. Luckily we were not far from Astorga so we soldiered on till there.
hitting the “knock”climbing a mountainDisaster – gear cog falls off
Friday – Villafranca del Beirzo
The day of hell as Andy might call it. Uphill for many miles in high temperatures took their toll. First we left Astorga via Gaudi’s palace. Up, up, up went the track and someone had not taken enough sugar or carbohydrates in the morning. Soon Andy was ill, very ill and was all for taking a train, bus or taxi. Two cans of coke later he was fine and managed the rest of the road into Villafranca. A long day. Andy went straight to bed and slept from 9.00pm to 7.30 am.
Saturday – O Cebriero
The day in heaven. Andy has coke, chocolate, high 5 bars etc for breakfast to ensure he does not get caught like previous day. The climb higher into the mountains continues through countryside with people who are quite poor and etch a living from the land. The road is shared with cows and chickens. Reach La Faba where we have lunch before following the strangest Pilgrims sign yet – on a car! Raymond I not looking forward to getting to the farmhouse that is in a clump of 12 houses. However when we get there it’s an iron age village with 4 pubs. We have some wonderful beer, great company and end the night being invited to a cielidh with bagpipes and drums by a local family.
scan0038_edited-1.jpgDisaster – gear cog falls offRaymonnd enjoys last leg of cycling
Sunday – Sarria and Portomarin
Another day of adventure. Went to bar from party last night to have breakfast. then up the hill to alto freewheeled many km lunch in Samos nice restaurant with jabile, wild boar stew. last restaurant on left as head out of town. Frank took my bike and Andy walked to Sarria, a one street but struck lucky again getting a swanky hotel room for 43 euros right next to station. Walked into town and almost ate on the main strip which had no life about. Spotted a church up the hill so headed for that this was a good move as had found the old town and a few bars and cafes in narrow cobbled streets. Phoned Franks wife but only managed to leave a message.
We sat outside as its much warmer at night now 17 degrees. Met Paul and Helen from British Columbia. then went to a pilgrims cafe. Had Caldo Gallego a wonderful potato and leak soup. a 3 course meal with two bottles of wine was 4 pounds each. Met two Irish girls, Niamh (pronounced “Neeve”) and Orlagh (pronounced “Orla”), and chatted to them. They had not been well treated by other pilgrims as they were not religious enough. The café was interesting as the menu choice was meat or meat. Raymond tired so went to bed while I sat in hotel bar. I was called out the bar by the manager as our cistern kept running and while Raymond was sound asleep the manager, the woman next door and I tried to sort the plumbing!
Santioago cathedral in backgroundPA060029.JPG
Monday – Santiago
A train journey to Santiago which meant running from one platform to another and jumping on a train connection with two bikes and no tickets! Bike company gave money back. We booked into Hotel Suso and then bumped into Frank in main square of Santiago. Tail end of hurricane Vince hits us and the first rain for a year in parts of Spain hits us.
Tuesday – Santiago
A day of rain and wandering round museums like Museo de Pobo Galego. Had good lunch in Zingosa café and great game of cards at night.
Wednesday – Edinburgh
A morning wandering around then caught the bus at 12:30 to Edinburgh. David presents welcome home chocolate cake.