09 September 2012

Camino de Santiago Day 13: Palas de Rei - Santiago

After getting all packed up (on the late side as had become traditional by this point) we decided to head to a bar in town for some proper breakfast. There were many pilgrims on foot, many of whom had been walking for two or three hours already, and it felt surreal to tell them that we planned to reach Santiago that day -- still several days away for  them.

Just as we were leaving the bar it started to rain lightly, and eventually became more steady as we headed off on the trail. But it was a warm day and there was fairly good tree cover overhead so we didn' bother putting on our waterproofs. There were some climbs at first but eventually we took to the roads for a long downhill into Melide. On our way into Melide we encountered a disabled cyclist who rode to different spots along the Camino and gave people stamps for their credenciales, while raising awareness about cycling for disabled people. We had a nice chat with him before continuing on.

Emerging from the Camino onto a crossing with the road.
In Melide we stopped for a second small breakfast and bought some bocadillos to eat later for lunch. We were passed by a group of four Korean cyclists who we had been hearing about for a few days from some of the other cyclists we'd come into contact with. Despite the heat, they were wearing long shirts and pants and even bandanas over their faces -- quite the sight!

Despite the early rain it quickly got hot now that we were out of the mountains. We had rolling hills the entire way, but plenty of shade, and the camino was nice and wide for the most part, so we made good progress. We had called ahead from Melide to reserve some beds in Santiago so we knew it didn't matter what time we arrived. (We had thought about trying to press on a bit from Santiago towards Finisterre, but decided we wouldn't have time. Plus I wanted to soak up the atmosphere of Santiago a little bit!)

In the afternoon Miguel and I managed to lose Alberto somehow--he was ahead of us cycling through a small town and Miguel stopped to adjust his luggage on his bike. Then we made a wrong turn and Alberto must  have been cycling back to find us just at this moment, so we managed to miss each other again. After about five minutes of wandering around looking for each other and missing each other's calls, we eventually managed to find each other again. Shortly after this, Miguel noticed something weird with his rear wheel. He looked down to see that the quick release was completely open and his skewer was actually out of place! No idea how long it had been like that but glad we noticed it before it caused a crash.

Through the trees, nice wide camino.
We stopped near Arca o Pino for lunch at a table on the side of the road, grabbing some cold drinks from the bar nearby. It turned out the table was covered in tiny little spiders which got all over everything! So it wasn't the most relaxing rest we've ever had, but at least we had shade.

We knew we had a significant hill coming after Arca o Pino which we once again managed to climb in the heat of the  day. After a few more ups and downs I could tell we were getting very close. I started to feel really giddy and happy, and suddenly my legs felt they had all the power in the world. Alberto told me were going uphill but I almost didn't believe him because it felt so easy.  I guess that's why they call this last hill into Santiago the Monte de Gozo (Mount of Joy)--I'm sure I'm not the only pilgrim ever to have experienced that sensation.

We reached the top of Monte de Gozo at around 6pm and stopped to take some pictures, and one east asian tourist seemed to be particularly interested in Alberto. She didn't speak and English but managed to communicate that she wanted to take a picture with him! Miguel and I found this very funny.

Monument at Monte de Gozo (documenting the Pope coming to Santiago in 2010, the most recent holy year).

Descending towards Santiago.
Eventually we headed down the final hill into Santiago. We located our albergue since it was on the way to the  Cathedral and checked in. It was pretty much a dump, in the bottom of a block of council flats and with a really weird hippy vibe inside. But as it was the only one that listed a number so we could call ahead, we hadn't really had much of an option.

After checking into the albergue we quickly headed to the Cathedral with all our luggage still attached to the bikes. We felt that we really had to arrive there, with everything we'd been carrying for the whole journey. Most of the walkers had arrived earlier in the day but we seemed to be in the prime arrival time for cyclists. It was great to watch other people arrive as well as we took the obligatory pictures and revelled in the moment.

In front of the cathedral
As we were walking around the plaza in front of the cathedral we bumped into Tim, the Kiwi, who had basically done the whole day without stopping at all and had arrived several hours before us. We made arrangements to meet later for some food and headed off to get our comostelas (the certificates that all pilgrims get upon producing the credencial with all the valid stamps). Miguel and I both ended up with the proper ones which you get if you've done the route for religious or spiritual reasons, where they write your name in Latin. Alberto didn't want to say he'd done it for spiritual reasons so he ended up with a less exciting looking compostela.

Miguel and some the spread of our food at Orella
We enjoyed lots of great food at a restaurant called Orella that Miguel had looked up and discussed whether or not we should head to Finisterre the following day. We weren't that convinced that we could make the 90km in one day, as we had heard it was very hard, but although my goal had always been to arrive in Santiago, Alberto had his heart set of Finisterre. Miguel would stay behind as his girlfriend was meeting him in Santiago for the weekend, so Alberto and I went to bed still not 100% sure if we'd actually attempt the ride the following morning.

We forgot to write the stats down before deleting them, so these are the estimates:

Odometer: 75km
Moving average: 10.9kph
Overall average: 7.9kph
Moving time: 6 hours
Stopped time: 3 hours 40 mins

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