|Cruz de ferro|
|Listening to the templar knight in Manjarín|
Here's Alberto's report from the trail: "On our way downhill, lots of walkers were surprised to see us on the trail. The Spaniards we had met the night before said 'why would you go on trail when you could take the roads?!'. Miguel was doing very well with the descent. It certainly wasn't as bad as Carlos had described, although I could see for a novice rider or a walker who wasn't in the best shape that it could be tough. We met Lucy at the agreed town to check in and then turned back to the trail while Lucy carried on on the roads, until we reached Villafranca at the bottom of the hill."
|Miguel descending the camino|
We cycled through the town of Villafranca del Bierzo, which looked like a nice town, but carried on further across the valley. We were following rougly the route of the new A-6 highway that goes all the way from Madrid to A Coruña in the Northwest corner of Galicia. Alberto's family lives just off of it, down in Madrid! It was pretty spectacular to see the big, modern highway passing high above us. We were going along the N-VI, which had been largely replaced by the A6 so the traffic was pretty light. In any case the Camino followed the left shoulder of the road and was protected from the traffic by a guardrail so we felt pretty safe.
The road was pretty flat so we just kept pushing on, stopping in Vega del Valcarce for a quick bite. Shortly afterwards we started to climb O Cebreiro. There was some confusion about how much further we had, as Miguel thought he had been told that the hostel of O Cebreiro was at the base of the mountain, but I thought it was at the top. It didn't really effect things as we were going to keep pedalling anyway!
In La Faba, we asked a local about the best way to get to the top. There were three options: the camino proper, which we had heard would be very difficult as it is very steep and rocky, a small road that is shorter and steeper, or the N-VI which was less steep but a longer route to the same destination. The man recommended the smaller road because it had the best views, so we decided to take that one.
|We followed its instructions!|
|Starting the climb|
|Alberto took this picture from his vantage point further up the mountain. If you look really hard you can see a slight blue dot near the middle of the picture, that's Miguel!|
Alberto reached the top of O Cebreiro first (naturally) and caught up with Tim, a Kiwi cyclist who we had seen a few times on the road (although we had mistaken him for Italian for a while due to his tricolore cycling shorts!). Once we had all reached the top and had our rest and some food, we tried to figure out where to spend the night. Once again fooled by optimism and the Spanish capacity for understating the gradient, we thought it would be a fast descent down to Triacastela, 20km away. Miguel and Alberto teamed up with Tim to take the trail, while I would take the road.
|View from the top of O Cebreiro|
1. It turned out Triacastela was 28km away, not 20.
2. It was not downhill to Triacastela. There was actually a not-insignificant uphill for about half of the distance and then a descent to Triacastela.
3. The road we had been on prior to O Cebreiro didn't head to Triacastela!
Fortunately aboout 2 minutes down the road from O Cebreiro a man in a car pulled over and asked if I was on the Camino. When I told him I was, he told me I was on the wrong road! I had to return to the town and take a different road instead. I was so grateful for that man! I have no idea how far I would have gone before I would have realised my mistake otherwise.
I returned to town and asked at the bar just to make sure I was now headed on the right road, and sent a text to Alberto telling him the situation. By then we had realised that Triacastela was a bit further but it just seemed better to stick to the plan and head there, rather than try to change our minds once we had already separated from one another.
The guys were having a nightmare of their own in that the uphill was really steep and they even had to push their bikes up some of the hills! I took them nice and easy on the roads and eventually reached a downhill section. (Not before getting offered a ride by a taxi driver who was passing -- I turned it down!)
A few km before Triacastela I heard a voice shout 'Lucy!' and braked to see Miguel and Alberto through the trees on the side of the road. We said our hellos and agreed that we'd see each other in Triacastela soon. When I got to Triacastela, I started asking around at the albergues seeing if any had spaces. It was nearly 8pm by that time and many were full, but the guys arrived and we managed to find one that still had spaces, although not three beds in the same room.
We saw Tim arrive in Triacastela as well, but he opted for a casa rural outside of town for the night, a bit pricier, but might have been worth it for the opportunity to sleep in a room by yourself!
We stayed in the albergue Xacobeo which was actually quite nice, although a bit expensive. We managed to make it to the supermarket just before it closed and cooked pasta for dinner in the communal kitchen. We could tell we had entered Galicia because people had left the kitchen a complete mess and the place just generally had the atmosphere of a normal hostel; what a contrast from the night before!
Stats for the day:
Moving average: 14 kph
Overall average: 9.3kph
Max speed: 65.1 kph
Moving time: 7h30m