Arzúa – Mondoñedo – Soto de Luiña

I got my water bottle filled with milk before leaving the farm. Even though they’d not gone to bed until past midnight, they’d been up before 6am and had delivered a calf while I’d been sleeping. I set out and had a relaxing day with several stops to drink the bottle of wine that I’d been given the night before.

Other than the wine, the highlight of the day was meeting Dani, another cycle tourist doing the camino. Unfortunately, he was going the other way, but we sat around for the best part of an hour chatting. He’s on his first tour, but is looking to do a long one in the future so had lots of things to ask me.

In the evening I made it to Mondoñedo and, not finding a fire station, went to speak with the police. I asked him about a place to camp, and he said that I should be fine to stay next to the hostel. It was closed, but he assured me that being a small town it was very peaceful. I accepted, and after waiting around in the police station until it closed I left all my things there just taking my sleeping things and handlebar bag. The policeman had given me a map, but it made no sense so I asked a couple of guys for help. They showed me the way, and when we got there were surprised by my plan to camp as the hostel was new and surely I should be sleeping inside being a pilgrim. I wasn’t bothered, but they seemed to have decided that I must sleep inside. They tried to make some phone calls, and after a while a different policeman turned up to open the hostel up for me for free. There were lots of bunk-beds and even showers, but they were cold. A definite upgrade from my tent.

The next day, after picking up my things from the police station, I headed towards the coast. The route along the coast is a definite highlight of this European excursion, although definitely not easy. There is a new motorway, but that’s forbidden for cyclists. We get to take the old road which goes through the hamlets. I would see a sign that said Gijon 80km and then my GPS would tell me it’s 130km. The joys of ridiculously unstraight roads.

The motorway went over countless viaducts and I got to go up, down, up, down, up, down and up again as the only bridges on the old road were to cross streams 5 metres below the road. The road had next to no traffic as it went through the small coastal villages. I kept going until I reached Soto de Luiña and found the hostel again. This time I actually met three other pilgrims, a German cyclist in his 50s called Klaus, and a Polish father and daughter called Superman and Ula. Klaus didn’t speak much English, but he was interesting to talk to. Superman and Ula had just started and were enjoying themselves, but wishing that they were doing it a bit later in the season so there’d be more people. I read a book about the camino while I was doing it, and I think that walking it gives you a very different experience, more because of the people you meet than the speed. When you’re walking, you generally go at a similar pace as other people so while you might not hike with them during the day, you’ll stay at the same hostels during the night and get to get to know these people over the month or so that the common version of the camino takes.

Soto de Luiña – Ribadasella

I had camped in my tent outside the hostel, because the other 3 had each paid €5, and it had been comfortable but chilly when I woke up. It had been raining through the night and it persisted through the morning. I set out riding with Klaus for a while, but he kept riding while I would stop for pictures and just generally laziness. We made it to the first town together, and took a photo, but then he set off by himself again while I sat in a bus stop for a second breakfast.

The chilly weather and rain continued, but I stayed pretty warm … other than my feet. Cold feet make for a miserable cyclist, and even with my Sealskins socks and neoprene booties I had cold feet. I took a lunch break in the city of Gijon, but the miserable weather didn’t make me interested in being a tourist and looking around. I found a fire station, at about 4pm, and almost decided to stop, but someone told me there’d be another one 40km down the road so I kept going no matter how cold my feet were feeling.

About 20km before the town of Ribadasella, where I’d been told there would be a fire station, I saw a sign for the camino which pointed to a path along the beach. The sun was going down and it seemed like a great idea. I’m not sure why. I was on a nice paved road, that was getting me to Ribadasella just fine, but the yellow arrow pointing to the beach path tempted me. It also looked like it’d be about 1.5km shorter. It probably was. It was also a ridiculous route. I explain what happened in the 2nd video below, which I recorded at what I thought was just before I’d rejoin the road. I was wrong. It was followed by about 500m on a paved road and then 800m pushing up a steep slippy path up a hill in the pitch black with random branches, that I couldn’t see, getting stuck in my wheels and barely having the arm strength to keep going up. I dropped my bike a couple of times and had to take lots of breaks to keep going.

When I made it to Ribadasella you can imagine how unimpressed I was to find out that in fact there was no fire station. I went to the Guardia Civil who told me that the hostel was a few km back up the hill I’d just come down. There was no way I was going back up that hill so I asked for an alternative option. One of them mentioned a bus station around that I could throw my tent up at and, the next day being a Saturday, the first bus wasn’t until close to 8am so I wouldn’t get disturbed. It sounded good to me, so I followed a policeman who offered to show me the way.

Start of idiocy with pretty view

Monologue about why I travel by myself

Ribadasella – Boo

“What are you doing?” and “Who do you think I am?” were the first words I heard from my tent in Ribadasella. It was followed within a second by someone shaking my tent. Turns out Ribadasella is a quiet town, but the Guardia Civil don’t really communicate. I’d been told the night before that I could stay there, but the man who came to annoy me just after I woke up was very certain that I wasn’t. I passed my passport to him through the zip in my tent after I’d failed his stupid guessing game (My 3 guesses had been policeman, bus station worker and homeless person) and he went off to the station to speak to someone about it.

It was still only about 7:30am, but when he came back he was telling me that my tent needed to be down by the time he’d had breakfast in the bus station café or I’d be in trouble. I started letting my mat and pillow down, had nothing left inside my tent and was actually starting to take the tent down by the time he came out. It had only been about 5 minutes and he was angry at me for still being there. Having already explained that I’d been given permission to stay there I had nothing more to say so I ignored his chuntering and kept on at my own pace, being in no rush as there were still rain clouds overhead.

The perfect weather that had accompanied me to Santiago had taken a definite turn for the colder and the previous few days had been chilly. My supposedly-waterproof socks hadn’t dried out overnight and I’d had a bit of knee pain the previous day, possibly from not setting my saddle height up properly. While sat around waiting for the rain to stop, and reading La Familia Supertramp‘s book, I considered getting a bus to Santander. It was about another 110km to the wonderfully named Boo, where I’d be staying with someone from Warmshowers, and I decided that I’d just ride and see how the knee felt, and just how cold it got. I also had another motivation, as well as Boo I’d be passing through a town called Poo. As I chose my route through Honduras at least partly because I went through Gracias just because of its name, I was unlikely to be not going to Poo.

The road continued along the coast and the snowcapped Picos de Europa mountain range started to appear on my right. If I’d been there with a bit more time, I’d have turned into them. Thankfully, I had a deadline because otherwise the snow and inevitable cold weather would have struggled to keep me away.

Being in Asturias, I was seeing signs for cider everywhere and decided that I had to try some before the day was out. Thankfully, when I made it to Poo I stopped in the covered garden area of a pub. I ate my lunch, and got chatting with a family who were hiding from the rain there. I asked them about the cider, and why they were pouring it from such a great height (glass in the left hand as low as possible, bottle in the right hand stretched all the way up) and they offered me a glass. It had a pretty mild taste, and they assured me that their homemade cider was much better. Apparently lots of people in the area homebrew as there are apples everywhere, but not being season they weren’t as good as the oranges that I’d been able to pick so easily in Portugal.

Just after leaving Poo the sun came out and a brilliant tailwind started up. It varied between a strong breeze, and a wind good enough to push me up hills. I’d been aiming to stop about 30km short of Boo, with my 31st birthday being the next day it seemed a good idea, but the wind was so wonderful that when I was about 25km outside of Boo I contacted my host and let them know I’d be arriving that night. There were some very dark clouds ahead, and they turned into a ridiculous downpour which combined with the temperature being around 5c made for a cold finish to the day.

Arriving in Boo I found the house of my hosts Aitziber, Jesus and Uvi with a bit of help from Jesus and a butcher. I was welcomed in and seeing my lack of warm clothing was shown to the shower and lent a warm hoody and pair of jogging bottoms by Jesus. I’d made it to Santander with a day to spare and I’d have my birthday as a day off. Wonderful!

Watching football