Early start nly to be late in the end – the journey back

This morning I was the one who got up before everybody else. I grabbed my stuff and dragged it to the station, where the bus stop was. I had decided fr the airport bus and against the taxi because I thought that the packe but still pretty big bike would be easier to transport.

The bus had no actual suitcase compartment but t was a bus like you sometimes ave on airports to go between the terminals, with a rack for luggage. And it was full. But we managed. I think people just did not have the energy to protest at this time f day.

My well-wrapped but massively heavy package (bike only!):

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To check the bike in, I had to buy a box at the airport anyway because they would no accept it without bx. Well, actually I felt better with the box anyway.

Even on an airport you can find mystical views if you pick the right time of day:

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In Santiago we left bang on time, everything was quiet and few people were around. Spaniards are no early risers.

Barcelona was seething humanity. This looked a little like Dusseldorf when I had left three weeks ago on the first day of the German holidays, only worse.
Prices for everything were through the roof, it was full and noisy, what a culture shock (another one!) Welcome back in real life!
We lifted off more than an hour ate after a good hour queuing on the airfield. Hmmm…

In Dusseldorf I decided to leave my bike packed to get home quicker and manhandle the bike home somehow. I was fed up with this.

The train-journey went without further problems, and at the station in Siegburg I was welcomed by my three girls.

 

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Since I had to go to work the next day, thislast blog-post was not written until mch later, sorry about that. Nonetheless, here are some numbers for the whole tour:

  • Start: Cologne Cathedryl
  • End: Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
  • Cycled kilometers: 2553 (1586 miles)
  • Days n the bike: 30
  • Punctures: NONE!
  • Heightmeters: over 30,000 (98,400 feet)
  • wight reduction rider: ca. 3 kg (in 3 weeks), that’s almost half a stone
  • Donationa raised (as of September 2017): 1280 €

Thankyou all so much who have donated or encouraged and cheered me on in other ways, all above my wife Rachel who supported this tour and let me go cycling for weeks this year!

If you would still like to donate, you can find out how to do so on this page.

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Santiago! One day early! And how crowded is this place?

in the morning, the eager foot pilgrims started very early again and started a big palaver. But thanks to my earplugs I slept through till I was woken up by my vibration alarm. My damaged rib bothered me a lot less now, so I think it was not fully broken but maybe just cracked. 

Since it was still dark and I refused to leave in the dark, we had coffee and some breakfast first. It was a funny mixture of nationalities and different breakfast styles in the hostel kitchen.

After that, we left, again together, and managed to escape the ever growing stream of pilgrims on smaller roads away from the official footpath. Could not always avoid them though.

The last kilometers were like the great barbarian migration (and any other nation which was mixed into this). People were streaming towards Santiago from all imaginable directions (well, nobody appeared out of the ground so not ALLdirections). We reached the Monte do Gozo, the first hill from which you can see Santiago.

A few more rotations of the pedals and I was really in Santiago. All with my own power on my trusted steed, er, bike, which has been with me for over 10,000 km now by the way. And I was in Santiago for the first time in 23 years or so, after studying here for half a year in the 1990ies A very good feeling.

The historic center was as confusing as ever (and beautiful), but this time it was full of people! How many people can a town cope with? Still, I found my favourite bar / seafood place after some searching and it was totally unchanged! The same old knackered furniture, wine from the barrel, great seafood for very reasonable prices.

After that I did the obligatory visit to the Praza do Obradoiro in front of the cathedral. The irony of this journey is that both Cologne cathedral and the cathedral in Santiago were both in scaffolding. You could not even enter through the main door! Well, anyway, here is the proof that I was there.

Please don’t ask why I am looking so confused. I have no idea.

All we had to do now was find somewhere to stay for the night. Leonie had decided to go to Porto the next dayso she wouldn’t get there too latebin the evening. Santiago was practically booked. The Hostal De los Reyes Catolicos was not an option at 250 € per night 😨, but with a bit of luck and persistence, we found a hostel a little outside the center. A nonprofit organisation, like many of ten, which also meant it was quite cheap. This was particularly important for Leonie because she was on a rather tight budget. It was spacious and clean, and cheap, so just the right thing.

Numnbers 68 km, 978 hm, pilgrims thousands, cathedral views, may be half…

So I arrived with two days to write the blog, organise my trip home, get souvenirs, enjoy santiago and maybe find some old favourite places. A little round of applause please!

I will write about my days in Santiago and the journey back, so keep checking the blog every now and then.

Galicia is really pretty. And hilly. And the weather changes often.

Leonie and I had a kind of tacid understanding to ride together today and to try and avoid the big roads. I quitebliked the idea of having some company and Leonie was quite happy with my GPS possibilities to find smaller, quieter roads. This meant some climbing in the morning, though. We had a climb of about 400 height meters at the start, taking us up to over 500, later in the day we slowly went up to 715 m, which was the highest point I reached in Galicia.

The weather was not great but also not bad, but definitely offered some dramatic views..

All in all, we made very good progress, both because Leonie kept me from stopping all the time, and also because we tried to escape the barking dogs, of which every house in thisbruralbarea has atvleast two. Most of them are chained, but not all…

Still, we did do our coffee breaks, after all, Leonie is Dutch and they like their coffee 😉

We found out about a hostel in a monastery, in the old buildings, which appealed to both of us greatly. In the end, it was quite a long day (see the mileage today), but the last kilometers were mostly downhill.

The monastery was great! We were welcomed by an English monk with a cat in his arms, who wrote down our data with great pernicketyness (the monk wrote, not the cat. That would have been spectacular). Later we were shown around the facilities by the monk on the left (the hospitalero) with baseball cap and trainers. Very cool monks!

The dormitories were in the restored former stables, quite full and with little ventilation (it had a bit of a “cave-feeling”), but the atmosphere was very special.

Numbers today are pretty good: 93,5 km, 1625 hm, barking dogs did not count, too many, supercool monks in trainers and baseball cap in a medieval monastery:  1

Finally, Galicia and some welcome company

This morning continued along the big national road because i wanted to reach Ribadeo asap. I soon reached the border to Galicia, a river which i had to cross on a narrow footpath along the motorway at a height of about 30 m over the water…

And I set my foot onto Galician soil for the first time in 20 years or so

In Ribadeo i wanted to post the front panniers with some stuff i did not need anymore, like the camping equipment, spare maps and guidebooks and so on. I was afraid the broken front rack could break more and get caught in the spokes and cause an accident or so.

I had soon found a box and a friendly person who helped ma out with some packing tape and i went to the post office. Wow, 45€ for 6 kgs? Not exactly a bargain. Also, the guy told me that the advertising, and the bar codes had to be covered. The box was full of that! So i went to get packing paper and tape (had to buy a whole roll) and repacked the box (very loudly in the post office). Next was that the internet was not working in the whole post office and he could not enter my data.

Overall, sending this packet cost me the best part of hours! 😬

While I was here, i wanted to have a look at another highlight near Ribadeo. Spanish friends had told me about it and it was supposed to be fascinating: the Playa de las Catedrales. The special thing was that high rocks rose from the beaches, with caves and in combination with the often rough turquoise sea this was very special. Needless to say that the place was not a secret to hundreds of other people who were also there…

Without them and with a decent photography equipment I could have played there for hours!

But as you can see, i was not alone. I went on, used the last chance for a bath in the sea and headed left towards the mountains.

On the side of the road i saw a cyclist looking for something in his panniers. No, her panniers. It was Leonie from Holland, who was also travelling by herself. Since we were heading towards the same hostel and she fed me with chocolate, i agreed that we went together for the rest of the way. Our travel speed matched very well, which can be a little difficult with cyclists. On the way, we visited a little church, where we got a private tour by the local caretaker, organ player or whatever his job was. He was certainly the biggest fan of this cute church.

Travelling with an attractive 26-year old woman definitely had its advantages 😉. We even got a little private organ concert!

The front facade of this church had been designed by the same guy who made the cathedral in Santiago, as our little friend proudly explained.

The landscape changed towards more and more hilly, and we reached Mondañedo with a mountain finish. Mondañedo is a cute little town with a decent pilgrims hostel. At eight (or so), a policeman comes along and charges you for the hostel and stamps the credentials. Very official act!

Numbers: 62,7 km, 766hm, baths in the sea 1, slightly chaotic dutch women also 1

A short cut causes more trouble with the front pannier rack

Early in the morning, the old harbour of San Esteban showed a very special atmosphere

I had left my track to get here and so i continued without my track for a while to do a short cut. It turned out this short cut was the footpath of the Camino and as such even hard to walk, let alone to ride with a loaded bike. Well, i wanted adventure, and i got adventure. The result of that was that the lowrider rack, the rack for the front panniers broke on the left side. Same place as it had broken in France before on the right. Now i knew how to stabilise the thing and i fixed it provisionally with a stick and a rubber strap.


I reached Cudillero, which I had visited 20 years ago. Cudillero was one of the first villages to understand how to market their fishery tradition, and it was unchanged as far as i can remember. But I was glad to be there before the tourists streamed in.

After that it went on over small country roads, which had been the main connection along the coast before the motorway was built. Now it was virtually empty and really nice to cycle. The motorway has its own fascination with its impressive bridges and constructions. It follows the coast alongvthe whole north. Spoils the view in some places but leaves the smaller roads quiet (and also the villages, much to the despair of the inhabitants)


But also crowded beaches

In La Caridad the public hostel was full so i chose to accept a bed in the well-kept private one for an extortionate 13 €.

Numbers: 98,2 km, 1920 hm ( should have gone up and down the road a little, i would have cracked both the 100 and the 2000, hehe)
Since leaving Cologne i have now roughly 2400 km and ca. 34000 (yes, thirty-four thousand) height meters on the clock

Can’t be bothered in this rain. But later it stopped

This morning it rained. It had rained all night and was still coming down so even before everybody left the hostel, they were in rain gear. Me too. And since some over motivated pilgrims had decided to unpack and repack their rucksacks and put EVERYTHING in plastic bags, the night had been over since 5:30. A. M. that is.

So here I was on a wet road in a wet world getting wetter and i just did not want to be there. I made it to Gijon, which is supposed to be very nice, but this morning didn’t do it justice I guess.

eute morgen regnete es. Auch die ganze Nacht schon, und trotzdem war um 5:30 h die Nacht vorbei, denn ein paar übermotivierte Fusspilger mussten unbedingt mitten in der Nacht aufstehen und hatten alles einzeln in Plastiktüten verpackt. Grummel. Also bin ich auch raus und stand um 7:30 h im Regen auf der Strasse.

So I found a cafeteria and had breakfast and another hot chocolate because it was one of those hot chocolate days. It was still raining but I had to go on some time and during a stop at a bus station, it actually stopped raining!

I went on through a really cuteblittle valley, and I encountered this sign:

It says on itvthatvthis stretch of the road is known for many accidents. Really? Here, in the middle of nowhere? With next to no btraffic?

Well, it was not before long that I saw the first car in the ditch. The driver was unhurt, but he would need to call in some heavy gear to rescue his vehicle (car). I know I should not laugh, but I actually did…

I found a short cut (always a good idea), which lead me directly onto the premises of the Arcelor steel works, a dirty,noisy and scary place of you are on a bike. I have no idea how I ended up there. Neither did I know how to get out of there, but thankfully a security lady with a facial expression of a bulldog showed up and I explained to her hat I was just lost and if she could help me find an exit. She did, but her facial expression still looked like a bulldog…

I found the town center of Avilés, which I found very appealing. They also have a great ice cream place there. There wasvalso an open church, butbi did not want to ask bthe priest in the middle ofvthebholy communion if he ad a stamp for my credential, so tourist office it was again. Who knows how long a mass in Spain takes?

I tootled along for a little, ad I finally found a bed in San Estaban de Pravia, a cute little placewith a nice old harbour with vintage equipment. The hostel was notvthe beat butvthe landlord was very nice and friendly.

Numbers: 67,7 km, 1123 hm, steel works without exit 1, ice-creams 1 (should have had more, was great!)

Short-term change of plans, but actually a great day

this morning i had planned to do a little detour to Covadonga, a very Spanish place of pilgrimage, in the Pico’s de Europa, a national park which has some of the most spectacular but least known mountains and nature I have come across. Herevis what wikipedia writes about the place:

In 722 AD, Iberian Christians won a namesake battle over the Muslims in Covadonga. This was the first Christian victory in the Iberian Peninsula over the Arabs and Berbers invading from north Africa under the Umayyad banner, and is often considered to be the start of the 770-year effort to expel Muslim rulers governing the Iberia during the Reconquista. Our Lady of Covadonga is a significant Marian shrine. The Spanish Army has, over the years, named several of its units “Covadonga”.

In the mountains above the town are located the two lakes of Covadonga, Enol and Ercina, and the road leading to the lakes is often featured in the Vuelta a España bicycle race.”

But as I stood at the start of the first road into the mountains, I lost my courage when it started to rain a little and the rain radar also did not promise much good for the day. Of course, it did not rain all day in the end, and I would have to make up for the missed height meters later. But it would have been an extremely tough day if I had gone, and with the weather we had it is doubtful if I would have benefitted much from the great landscape.

So I followed the normal route and came across this. If you put a keg on yourvtap here the whole village will have to help empty it…

I  continued and passed the pretty but touristic village of Ribadasella (the photo does not really do it justice)

In Villaviciosa I missed the opening times of the tourist office by 6 minutes because I had chatted with a French cyclistbon the way (wanted to get a stamp here) and continued my towards Gijon. And then the road went uphill. And further uphill. And did not stop going uphill. And I faced whatvi had joked about with IRA and Bernhard before. I was climbing the pass which according to nthe guide book even the toughest mountain bikers should not climb on the bike. Well, I was going on the road, so the ground was acceptable, but I did have to climb the 463 meters up nonetheless.

When I was at the top, someone had stolen the view 😠

Absolutely true, I had ended up in the mist of the low hanging clouds and I could not see anything. Thankfully, the view was found again on the descend.

… And finally, after another 200 m climb of course 😬, ended up justboutside Gijon in Deva on the campsite, which offered beds for pilgrims. Not great and very full, but at least dry, which should prove very good the next morning.

Numbers: 82 km, 1762 hm,  missed opportunities 1, revenge also 1