Camino Frances part deux and Masseube – 9th to 24th July

Saturday 9th July

León to Itero de la Vega via Carrión de los Condes and Terradillos de los Templarios, Bercianos, Mansilla de las Mulas and Frómista. (Days 20,19,18,17, 16 and 15)

Distance 138.59 km
Max Speed 55.6 kmph
Average Speed 19.4 kmph
Total Distance 5142.23 km

After 3 nights in the Parador it’s time to move on. “I will miss you Parador and the pampering that came too!” Wild camping is going to be even tougher now! We have a plan, I made it ( and trust me I’ve had some serious practice) but strangely they rarely survive contact with me the next day. But actually we want to make Pamplona in 5 days, approx 380 km) to arrive in time for the last day of the running of the bulls. It’s certainly possible because initially the terrain looks fairly benign. It’s the latter days that might be tough. So we’re going to push hard for the first couple of days. TBH the plan is already unwinding since we should have been on the road by 9am. It’s already 9am and we’re only just finishing breakfast.

We finally got going at 0930hrs and by 1430hrs we’ve done about 75km and stop in Ledigos for lunch. It’s fairly flat hence the good mileage but very dull; arable fields follow one after the other relentlessly. We’ve seen alot of walkers and wonder how they stay motivated walking in this heat, with their bergans when the scenery is so dull! After Ledigos we stop in Carrión de los Condes and then Frómista for a drink. Before Frómista we’ve stopped to photograph the endless wheat fields and we see a cyclist coming towards us. He stops to chat. He’s Henry from Belgium (poss 10 years our senior). This guy has cycled everywhere. Not on this trip because he’s only doing Spain and Portugal in his 3 month sabbatical but in the past he has cycled S. America, Shang-hai to Delhi via Tibet, Mongolia, eastern Europe, Western Europe. It’s incredible – in Tibet he was almost crushed in a landslide, survived but his bike and luggage didn’t so he bought another bike for $50 to finish the trip. He takes our photo, we take his and we say our farewells. At no point during this whole interlude did he use his left hand; not when he was cycling up the hill towards us, nor to park his bike, or to get his camera out nor when he finally prepares to leave; it remains firmly tucked into his trouser pocket. This guy has only one hand; how he manages braking and gear changing I don’t know! Incredible.
Our one sightseeing moment today is to stop and admire the Canal de Castilla. An 18th Century canal that provided transportation of crops as well as power to turn the corn mills. It has over 50 locks. From here our last push to the River Pisuerga and an 11 arched bridge, the Puente de Itero, and here’s an Albergue, a 13th Century chapel restored by Italians and they have room for us to camp and a shower to use. We’ve been on the bike for 11 hours with relatively short breaks and we’re pooped. Definitely time for bed said Zebedee! Oh PS, another record broken today… most distance in one day!!!

Sunday 10th July

Itero de la Vega to Villafranca Montes de Oca via Burgos (Days 15,14, 13, 12 and 11)

Distance 93.45 km
Max Speed 67.5 kmph
Average Speed 14.6 kmph
Total Distance 5235.68 km

We are up and start packing up by 0730 this morning, then we have a quick but basic breakfast in the converted chapel. The volunteers that run the chapel all come for a week at a time from a religious order in Italy. First we cycle for 12km and stop in Castrojeriz, a small village, for our 2nd breakfast!! En route we met a Dutch couple on a Hase Pino, Peggy and Ron. Peggy is recumbent on the front, and Ron is upright behind her, Captaining. These guys drove to Spain, dropped off their car and plan to cycle to Santiago then get back to the car and go home yet they’ve got so much luggage on the bike and in a trailer! 7km later we reach Honanas another village where we need to make the decision to stay with the Camino and use a cross country track or take a large detour to get to Burgos. We speak to a couple of people who say it is rocky, not good for us. But when we pop in a shop for a litre of milk to refresh ourselves Daz speaks to the shopkeeper and gets his mind changed again!! So we push up the hill out of the village and soon the road runs out and we are pushing up a crappy gravelly track. Daz rushes ahead and say it turns into a better track at the top, so foolishly we push on. We then spend the next 20 km dodging potholes, soft gravel, walkers and pushing up 2 big hills under the baking sun. Thanks Daz. We finally reach the road again and after another 15 km we reach Burgos. Tired, overheated and grouchy.

We have a look round Burgos but it’s so hot and we’re so tired it’s tough to summon any enthusiasm for the task in hand.

Burgos, a city in Castilla-Leon situated in the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela, still preserves important vestiges of its medieval splendour. The city, which was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon for five centuries, boasts a masterpiece of Spanish Gothic architecture: the cathedral of Burgos, declared World Heritage. Aside from a visit to the historic quarter, you can take a quite interesting walk along the banks of the Duero and Arlanza rivers.
The city of Burgos, crossed by the Arlanzón River, is a few kilometres away from the prehistoric site of Atapuerca, which was declared World Heritage. A military hamlet in its origins, the city slowly became a powerful commercial city in the Middle Ages. A critical factor in this development was that Burgos was the capital of the unified kingdom of Castilla-Leon between the 10th and 15th centuries, its privileged location on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and the monopoly it held over the trade of merino wool, also contributed. All that splendour left a profound mark on present-day Burgos.On the foothill of the fortified Castle Hill, which has the best views of the city, the medieval quarter unfolds. Some of the remarkable buildings of this place include the Mudejar Arch of San Esteban and the Gothic church by the same name, which houses the Reredos Museum. Another important temple is the one devoted to San Nicolás, where you can see a magnificent polychromatic alabaster reredos.
But beyond all doubt, the architectural masterpiece of Burgos is the cathedral, declared World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Erected on top a Romanesque temple, the cathedral was built following a Norman French Gothic model. The filigree work in the spires of the towers and in the exterior of the High Constable Chapel, are some of the masterpieces found in this cathedral.

After food and a few hours rest we feel ready to push on and initially cycling along the river Arlanzón is pleasant but then it’s on to the N120 and it’s grim. It’s a Sunday yet the traffic is heavy including artics. The miles stretch on and then the terrain becomes increasingly hilly. We’re struggling to achieve the speed we need on the downhills to give us a fighting chance on the subsequent ups. As we crest each hill we hope it’s our last but each time we see another hill. Finally a gradient warning 3km at 6%… Downhill!! At last. And we’re in Villafranca – the plan was to wild camp on the river Oca but Daz sees an Albergue and wants in. I have a huge problems with Albergues – I don’t want to sleep in a dorm room with 23 strangers. I’m a shit sleeper at the best of times but Daz is used to this and my sleeplessness, but other people; I’ll either disturb them or they’ll disturb me! So I refuse communal sleeping. Daz reports a dorm room is available but under continued requests they allow us to pitch our tent in their backyard, no grass just concrete. But we manage to tie the tent to the fence and I’m happy. Our tent isn’t perfect but it’s our private space and our sleeping mats are so comfy. After a shower we head off for a snack and the Euro final France V Portugal. Congratulations Portugal!!

Monday 11th July

Villafranca Montes de Oca to Najera via Santa Domingo (Days 09, 10 and 11)

Distance 57.67 km
Max Speed 61.0 kmph
Average Speed 20.9 kmph
Total Distance 5293.35 km

This morning we emerge from our cocoon into the concrete jungle of the Albergue’s back yard. Packing up in so much easier when tenting on concrete. BTW we’ve cured our condensation problem in our tent – pitch on concrete! No, just kidding. For the last 2 nights we’ve kept the main doors open. Result: temperature in tent = temperature outside tent = dry tent. Even better, Daz actually feels the chill during the night and then uses his sleeping bag whereas before he was one big sweat monster. Apologies if this solution is incredibly obvious; it wasn’t to us, we read it on Fb. But a disadvantage ( well only in D’s mind), tent is insecure and it’s easy for someone to steal our bags!!! Of course if the doors are zipped closed our tent is as secure as a safe. Not!
After breakfast we cycle to Santa Domingo de la Calzada. A very beautiful pilgrim stop and for us a nice detour off the N-120.
One of the Rioja town’s most deeply marked by the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela is Santo Domingo de la Calzada. Its network of medieval streets, declared a National Historic Interest Site, store a valuable heritage, particularly its walls, the Cathedral and the old Pilgrims’ Hospital. La Rioja’s gastronomy, and above all the famous wines of the region, are some of the attractions the area offers, where it is also possible to visit the cradle of the Spanish language and the monasteries of Suso and Yuso, in San Millán de la Cogolla. At the foot of the Sierra de la Demanda hills and the mountain of Yuso, Santo Domingo founded this town in 1044 to help the pilgrims who travelled to Santiago de Compostela in the Lower Middle Ages. The Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela, which has UNESCO World Heritage status, breathed life into the economy and culture of the lands it passed through and was closely linked to the spreading of artistic and cultural trends. The pilgrims who crossed the lands of La Rioja used to rest on the banks of the river Oja, in the forest of La Hojuela. It was here where Santo Domingo raised a bridge and built a shelter, a hospital and a hermitage, the origin of the town and city (a title awarded by Alfonso XI in 1334). Pedro I “The Cruel” is to thank for the walls which fortify its medieval layout, which has been declared a National Historic Interest Site.

Today we’re determined to relax more. We planned to hit the first few days hard to Pamplona but we’ve exceeded a sensible push and the final 2 hours last night were horrendous.

After leaving Santo Domingo we only have 20km of predominantly downhill cycling to our stop for the day, Najera. We cycle over the river and turn down a nice treelined avenue to a campsite in the former Bullring. Once set up we head into town via the river. We see a huge cliff face on the other side with caves in and a castle on top. Pretty impressive.

The town is divided by the river Najerilla and an exceptionally important monument stands on its banks: the monastery of Santa María La Real. Built in 1032, it underwent a number of modifications in the 15th century. Its fortress-like external appearance constrasts with the ornamental beauty of the cloister of the Caballeros (knights), so-called because of the great many nobles buried here. The church houses a magnificent piece of carving in the choir, a brilliant high reredos with a Romanesque image of Santa María La Real, the Royal Pantheon, bearing the tombs of some thirty monarchs; the mausoleum of the Dukes of Nájera and, in the crypt, the cave where according to legend the Virigin appeared before King Don García, who ordered the construction of the site. Facing the monastery is the Nájera History and Archaeological Museum, with sections on prehistory, the Romans, the medieval period, ethnography and painting, as well as material from the Nájera region. Also of interest is the Santa Cruz parish church and its lantern resting on pendentives, situated in Plaza de San Miguel.

We spend the rest of the evening feeding ourselves, having a few glasses of Tinto Verano and trying to upload the blog. Unfortunately everywhere we go has poor WiFi so we don’t make any progress.

Tuesday 12th July

Najera to Los Arcos via Logrono (Days 08 and 07)

Distance 68.17 km
Max Speed 62.0kmph
Average Speed 14.9 kmph
Total Distance 5361.52 km

In the morning we get up late, knowing we only have 60 km to do today. I’ve had a horrendous night, I woke around 4am convinced I was being eaten alive by some sort of insect. I was itching like crazy and couldn’t stop scratching. I couldn’t see or hear any mossies. For the next few hours I’m constantly scratching. Daz enjoys his lie in but for me it’s just a catch up on last night’s lost sleep. We pack up and see a Spanish mountain dog watching us from a high wall next door. Then we cycle into town for breakfast. By the time we get going it’s gone 12!! The first leg today is to Logrono. We are following the N120 but it’s very peaceful as most of the traffic is on the motorway that follows us. But then the 2 roads merge and now it’s a cyclable autovia down the last hill into Logrono but we make good time and the traffic isn’t too bad. We park the bike near the cathedral and go in search of the tourist info. Some while later, having wandered all around we decide to stop for lunch. I’m having a tough time; the bites from last night which weren’t noticeable this morning erupt every 4 to 5 hours and i’m desperate to scratch. They are now really obvious bumps; about 10 on my face, 10 and my right arm and more on the left. I try taking antihistamines to calm the irritation but the bites still flair every 5 hours!

The river Ebro passes through Logrono and spanning it are two bridges which are used to connect Logroño with Navarre and Álava. The oldest of them is the Puente de Piedra (stone bridge), which takes the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela into the city. Originally (in the 11th century), it was fortified by four arches and three towers. Another bridge, this time made of iron and built in the 19th century, also crosses this tidal river.

By the time we are finished lunch it’s 4pm and most of the bars and cafes are shutting for siesta. We find the tourist info office on the way back to the bike and get a stamp!! Cycling out of town we are now on the N111, another quiet road that should lead us all the way to Pamplona tomorrow. But today’s planned stop is just past Los Arcos for some wild camping. We do stop in Los Arcos to see if we can camp at the Municipal Albergue but the person responsible is having their dinner and won’t be back for some time. So in the end we push on. It’s about 930pm and we have about an hour of daylight left. We end up cycling another 6 or 7 km before finding a cornfield that has been recently harvested. It’s been really windy today; it’s a headwind so we’ve had to remove our flag which is creating huge drag. We pitch our tent in a corner behind some bushes out of site of the road. As we are setting up the tent another of the pole snaps, that makes 4 since Santiago… way to go Vango!!

Wednesday 13th July

Los Arcos to Pamplona via Estella and Puente La Reina (Days 06, 05 and 04)

Distance 60.64 km
Max Speed 65.2 kmph
Average Speed 13.3 kmph
Total Distance 5422.16 km

We awake in the cornfield having had a good night’s rest. I slept better and only woke once with an itching frenzy but at least I haven’t been bitten more. It’s just such a horrid feeling that it’s driving me crazy!

We’ve got about 15km this morning before breakfast in Estella. But we end up stopping outside in Irache. Whilst finishing breakfast we chat with an English couple who have been living in Australia for some years and are on their second walk of the Camino. They mention a font at a nearby monastery that is a little special. Not only does it have a water tap, but a wine tap too!! No way!! So we are soon on our bike, backtracking about 800 metres up a gravelled road to the monastery. Yep, sure enough here’s the Fuente de Vino. It is now looked after by a Bodega, but used to be run by the monks. Each day up to 100 litres of wine are released for the parched Pilgrims! Whilst everyone is getting a sip and having their photo taken at this amazing font I prepare our water bottles for wine!! Unfortunately the dribble of wine is quite slow, so although it’s great for a quick sip it takes sometime to fill our bottle!! The wine is quite tasty too!!

We carry on our journey, and near Maneru come across a stranded cyclist with a bad puncture. He is from Portugal and only heading as far as Logrono then catching a lift. He is struggling to mend his puncture having had 3 attempts, so Daz lets him use one of our patches plus glue. Puncture fixed and good deed of the day done we carry on.

At Puente de Reina we stop at a supermarket and have lunch by the river. My bites are still really bothering me and still no sign of them going down. I’m so tired, I have a snooze on another concrete bench (becoming a habit!) and an hour later drag myself up by the bootheels and face the task ahead… another sodding great climb, 8% for 11 km to the top of the hills separating us from Pamplona. The good news is that once we reach the top (if/when!?) the last 11km is supposed to be all downhill. We manage to grind up in number 1 granny ring without stopping, so we must be stronger than we thought!! At the top the headwind that has been plaguing us all day is very strong. As we descend we’re buffeted left and right making for a very scary ride. But finally we reach Pamplona, well the outskirts anyway and we stop for WiFi and to find accommodation. We are in no fit state to cycle the 10 km to the camping grounds the other side of the city! After 2 abortive attempts we find a bar with sufficient WiFi and luckily find some apartments just around the corner. Even better they give us loads of details about the Running of the Bulls festivities (fireworks, music, parties etc etc) and how to get there. So we are all set. Up early tomorrow and maybe I can watch Darren scream as he hurtles past with a huge bull up his arse!!!

Thursday 14th July
We’ve been pushing hard for the last 5 days to see this spectacle. The alarm goes off at 0610hrs and by 0630hrs we’re getting off the bus in the city centre. Everyone is dressed in red and white; white trousers, red top and red hanky and already the centre is full of people, I suspect many haven’t been to bed. We head for the bull ring and buy our tickets. Inside the arena everyone is in the party mood. We pick our seat; opposite the entrance to the arena and then sit and watch. Various bands march into the arena and keep the crowd entertained. At 0750hrs, it’s the count down to the run. There are 2 large TV screens which shows the bulls who will be running and then the crowds lining the streets, limbering up before the run, the majority crossing themselves (asking God for protection). And then they’re off. Within seconds of the start, hordes of youths coming running into the arena to the jeering cat whistles of the audience; basically they’ve been on the route run by the bulls but right near the end so they’re nowhere near the bulls. Meanwhile on screen we can see mayhem on the screens as the streets narrow, the running lads bottleneck and the bulls charge them down. And then they all charge into the arena. 2 bulls trip and fall taking out a couple of runners but when they regain their feet there’s a lad lying beneath. Blimey, the lightest bull here is 540kg and the heaviest 670kg.
And then that’s it – the run is over. The bulls have run out the either side into the bull corrals. These bulls will now rest before the bull fights tonight.
We think that’s it but how wrong are we! Now young bulls are released into the arena; just one at a time. Lads lie across the entrance so the bull has to jump over them and the freshly released bull charges at the crowd of young lads. It’s common for a bull to ‘catch’ someone and casually toss them aside. It looks effortless (for the bull) but painful for the lad tossed aside. Sometimes a baggy sweatshirt means the individual can’t be tossed aside because they’re hooked onto the horns; this looks really unpleasant and on other occasions a ‘tossed’ individual remains curled on the floor (that’s the advice, once down, stay down) but then the bull decides this is the easiest target and has several more goes. On one occasion a ‘tossed’ individual is attacked a further 4 times. He’s not laughing when he finally staggers away needing medical attention.
They release 6 bulls and then the show is over. I’ve never seen anything like it; it holds a macabre fascination watching people put themselves in the path of danger deliberately!
Then we get a bus home; a nap is in order I think.

The Running of the bulls.
The fiestas of San Fermin are celebrated in Irunea/Pamplona, in the region of Navarra, every year from the 6th to the 14th of July. They have become internationally known because of the running of the bulls, where the bulls are lead through the streets of the old quarter as far as the bull ring by runners.

The fiestas are celebrated in honor of San Fermin, patron saint of Navarra, although the religious aspect would seem to have taken on a secondary role over the last number of years. Nowadays, the fiestas are seen as a mass gathering of people from all the corners of the world and where the partying, the fun and the joy of it all are the most outstanding ingredients.

The Encierro … The Running of the Bulls
The Encierro is the event at the heart of the Sanfermines and makes the fiesta a spectacle that would be unimaginable in any other place in the world. It was born from need: getting the bulls from outside the city into the bullring. The encierro takes place from July 7th to 14th and starts at the corral in Calle Santo Domingo when the clock on the church of San Cernin strikes eight o”clock in the morning. After the launching of two rockets, the bulls charge behind the runners for 825 metres, the distance between the corral and the bullring. The run usually lasts between three and four minutes although it has sometimes taken over ten minutes, especially if one of the bulls has been isolated from his companions.

Chants to San Fermin
The bull run has a particularly emotional prelude. It is when the runners, just a few metres up the slope from the corral where the bulls are waiting, raise their rolled newspapers and chant to an image of San Fermin placed in a small recess in the wall in the Cuesta de Santo Domingo. Against the strongest of silences, the following words can be heard: “A San Fermin pedimos, por ser nuestro patron, nos guie en el encierro dandonos su bendicion.” (We ask San Fermin, being our patron saint, to guide us in the bull run and give us his blessing). When they finish they shout “Viva San Fermin!, Gora San Fermin.” This chant is sung three times before 8am first, then when there are five minutes to go before 8am, then three minutes and one minute before the gate of the corral is opened.

Rockets in the bullring
The third rocket, fired from the bullring, signals that all the bulls have entered the bullring. A fourth and final rocket indicates that all the bulls are safely in the corral located inside the bullring, and that the bull run has ended.

For the rest of the day we catch up on sleep then go out later sightseeing. It seems the whole of Pamplona is dressed in red and white, and out to party this evening, it is a beautiful sight. We hadn’t bought tickets for the bullfight this evening, but as we walk around the Plaza del Toro we get hyped up on all the singing, brass bands and everyone being in a party mood. Some ticket touts try to sell us some overpriced tickets and in the end we go to the official box-office just on the off chance there are some tickets left. €20 each later we have our tickets in our grubby mitts and join the multitude in the arena. A quick order of 2 large gin and tonics (they come in bucket size in Spain) and we take our seats out in the sun on the upper tier. All around people in red and white are dancing to the music being pumped out by about 3 or 4 brass bands in the crowd!! Most the time they are all playing the same Navarran folk songs, but sometimes at different times or tempos… it’s a cacophony of sound. Everyone is drinking and picnicking and it seems the bullfighting is a secondary consideration. At the end of the show we wander the streets and grab some food before wandering up to the area surrounding the old citadel. At 11pm we are sat on the grass watching the last firework display of the San Fermin celebrations. What a brilliant day. This city sure knows how to party.

Friday 15th July

Pamplona to Gubitxa via Zubiri (Days 2 and 3 )

Distance 48.48 km
Max Speed 54.3 kmph
Average Speed 10.8 kmph
Total Distance 5470.64 km

We’re a bit worse for wear this morning and I’m desperately trying to make the most of the 12pm booking out time but some handiman has decided this morning is the time to demolish a wall and drill for England. Every time I’m about to drop off, the noise erupts again. Finally I can take it no more and get up. A quick breakfast and we’re off. We cycle into Pamplona city centre. It’s like a completely different place. Everyone is dressed in normal clothes and the party atmosphere has gone. We find the tourist office to get our stamp, cycle around the cathedral to a beautiful viewpoint of the old city walls and then we cycle out of the city, stopping at Puente de Magdalena and the Puente de Arre and a Basilica church. Then it’s onto the N-135 to Zubiri.
It’s a pleasant and pretty cycle to Zubiri and we stop for a menu del dia. Then we set off again, this is the part I’ve been dreading, the climb up into the Spanish Pyrenees to Roncesvalles. But actually it’s OK. It’s very beautiful and we gently climb to Alto Erro (810m), then drop and later climb again to Alto Mezquiriz (955m). And then we spot a campsite; it’s too good to miss such an opportunity and it’s already 7pm. Roncesvalles will have to wait until tomorrow!

Saturday 16th July

Gubitxa to Laas via Roncesvalles and St Jean-Pied-du-Port (Day 1)

Distance 86.24 km
Max Speed 64.7 kmph
Average Speed 15.1 kmph
Total Distance 5556.88km

We’ve both slept really well and it’s another beautiful day. I’m so pleased as cycling through the Pyrenees will be so beautiful today. One English couple had come through whilst the whole place was shrouded in fog; all that effort for no view. My bites are continuing to plague me, today is their fourth day and they still itch sporadically and have turned into really nasty hard lumps.
Cycling update: yesterday we had an offer on the tandem. It’s from a recumbent dealer in Thetford, we’ve been in discussion with him since León and yesterday he made us an offer. In order to force his hand we said we wanted it agreed and despatched whilst in the midi Pyrenees housesitting.

We have breakfast in the campsite cafe whilst the tent dries and then cycle up to Roncesvalles. It’s so beautiful. Quaint hillside villages with chalet style houses bathed in sunshine with a backdrop of mountains. In Roncesvalles we stop for a stamp and a few pictures and then head off to the Pass de Ibaneta at 1055m. We stop to admire the view from this high point.
Then it’s down the other side. Sadly on the way down the other side we miss the border from Spain to France… going too fast me thinks and then we arrive in St Jean-Pied-du-Port.
What a beautiful town. So we’ve completed the Camino Francés in 12 days of cycling, or 15 days in total. We get another stamp from the Pilgrim’s office and then have a photofest with our completed passport. Unfortunately no certificates issued for completing it in reverse. 27,000 people have passed through this town and registered for the Camino this year. It’s an incredible number and doesn’t include the thousands who join late to complete 100km walking or 200km cycling and still qualify for a certificate in Santiago.
After some lunch, yummy French food, we head off. It’s still quite hilly but we set an easy pace and just enjoy the views. It’s really so beautiful. In Sauveterre de Bierne we stop at a supermarket for our dinner, a tub of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and some milk. We’re eating our dinner outside the supermarket door and a French lady and her daughter stop for a chat. They love our bike and are amazed by the distance we have come. They offer us a bed but unfortunately they’re in the wrong direction but instead they take all our details. It’s so lovely when people are this excited by our journey. Another 12km and we find a spot by the river to camp.

P1120597 P1120599 P1120601 P1120602 P1120603 P1120604 P1120606 P1120607 P1120608 P1120610 P1120611 P1120615 P1120616After setting up camp it’s off for a swim. Unfortunately there are other people here by the river but they ignore us so we ignore them!

Sunday17th July

Laas to Pau

Distance 65.99 km
Max Speed 61.9 kmph
Average Speed 13.7 kmph
Total Distance 5622.87 km

Well it was certainly a 5* wild camping spot. We don’t even wake until 9am. Leftover milk and brioche from last night’s supper and off we go.

P1120617Our first stop is Navarrenx, a beautiful walled city on the river. Very picturesque.

P1120618 P1120619 P1120622 P1120623 P1120624 P1120625 P1120626 P1120627Daz spots a couple with a trike on their van so off we go to quiz them. It’s a Catrike and he offers us a test ride. I’m happy to accept and it’s so lovely to ride. I’m impressed.

P1120628 P1120629The owner has reservations; hard to climb hills, poor visibility and he should have had suspension.
We thank them for our test ride and wander into town for breakfast.

P1120630 P1120631 P1120632 P1120633 P1120634 P1120635 P1120636 P1120637 P1120638There’s a market on and it’s very busy. We head off enjoying the Pyrenees in the distance and the beautiful countryside but then it flattens out and the road becomes busier so it’s not as pleasant. Around 3pm we get a puncture and whilst Daz fixes it, I dry out the tent which was soaking this morning (yes, even with all the doors open).

P1120640 P1120641 P1120642Finally we arrive in Pau but we’re so hot we just head out to a campsite outside of town.

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Monday 18th July

Pau to Masseube

Distance 81.4 km
Max Speed 77.0 kmph
Average Speed 17.8 kmph
Total Distance 5704.27 km

After breakfast we head into Tarbes. The route is so dull and hot. In Tarbes we spot a Lidl’s and Decathlon on the same estate. First a snack sitting at the front of Lidl’s

P1120651 P1120652and then Decathlon. We want a new tent. The condensation in ours is terrible, it’s really heavy and since I fell on it 2 of the 3 support arches have snapped and are covered in masking tape. We look at their tent selection and then start setting up a tent in the store.



It’s so embarrassing when an assistant explains that outside all the tents are erected and on display. Whoops!!!
After a quick cycle through Tarbes to see the sights and then cycle into the park.

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Then we cheat and get the train to Lannemezan. Our last train journey with the tandem.


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After stopping for a sandwich in Lannemezan we decide to contact our hosts Bernadette and Howard asking if it’s OK to turn up early. It’s 5pm and there’s still over 43km to do but it’s a doddle. It’s mostly flat and downhill, beautiful arable land to look over and then we’re in Castlenau, 25km done. Only 18k left. We stop at the supermarket for milk and some snacks and once again sit outside the shop like 2 pikies. And then we’re off again. And we arrive in Masseube at about 7.30pm. Bernadette and Howard can’t believe how quickly we’ve cycled from Lannemezan and we’re rather impressed too! We’ve also set a new record for our fastest speed, 77kmph, but this is our last ride on this tandem. So an end to an era for us. We unpack, sort out our gear and shower. Then we sit and catch up with Bernadette and Howard (B&H). It’s an odd thing but we’ve only met them twice before. First at a music night in Castlenau where they overheard us talking about workaway and wanted to know more and then before we left the midi Pyrenees we popped in to say ‘Hi’ and because I wanted to see their new home. They have an incredible Basque house right in the middle of Masseube, next to the village square. Yet despite only 2 brief visits it’s so relaxing to be here, I feel as if i’ve known them forever. Actually as I write this, I realise it’s completely inaccurate – there are people I have known for years, some I’m related to, and spending time with them is far from relaxing and of course because I haven’t known B&H for years I have no real idea of the fascinating past they’ve had. They’ve had some incredible experiences!

Tuesday 19th July – Masseube

This morning after an incredible good night’s sleep we have breakfast and then wander into the village to look at the market and then stop for coffee. We return and start preparing their upstairs bedroom, we need to paint the ceiling, it’s covered in water stains. We also do some work on the tandem, dismantling it into its component parts.
In the evening we’ve been invited to supper with some friends of B&H, Dennis and Tracey. They live just outside the village. We have a lovely meal sitting in the garden, play petanque (yup Daz wins) and have a tour of the house. It’s a very pleasant evening.

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Wednesday 20th July – Masseube

I put more coats of paint on the discoloured ceiling whilst Daz packs up the bike and arranges UPS – the tandem will go Friday.

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Bike being dismantled:

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Then we start preparation for our next chore; there’s brown wood everywhere in the house but it’s overwhelming in the lounge because there’s dark brown wood panelling. Bernadette wants it painted white to brighten the room. It’s not the final colour scheme but an interim stage whilst the final colour scheme is decided.

Thursday 21 July – Masseube

Daz paints the lounge panelling and now that the stained bedroom ceiling ( which has probably had in excess of 10 coats applied to the stained areas) finally looks white, I can tidy up and return the furniture. I also help Howard construct the large wardrobe. I’ve also tried to put together a bed in the other room but the parts don’t fit together. In the evening we head to Tarbes (B&H lent us their car but didn’t want to join us) for a horse spectacular. OMG these guys on horses are so incredible!

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Friday 22nd July
Daz finishes the lounge panelling.


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P1120712 P1120713 P1120714 P1120897 P1120898 P1120899Bernadette and I work in the cellar, photographing furniture that she wants to sell and moving stuff around to make more space. Then we prepare another bedroom for painting. Today UPS pick up our boxed tandem. It’s a relief but we’ll be even happier when it’s received in the UK and paid for.

In the evening we’re visiting Kerpal and Andy, friends of B&H. They have a beautiful house and Kerpal has cooked an amazing Indian meal. Very tasty! Another lovely evening.

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It would be fair to say B&H have totally embraced our presence in their home. Each day we all sit down together for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

P1120681 P1120682 P1120684 P1120685 P1120686 P1120706 P1120707 They are really interesting and desperately want to look after us; so much so that they would’ve cancelled their supper dates but fortunately on both occasions their friends were happy for us to come along. We have been so busy and whilst we’ve been working Dan (a local builder who’s highly regarded) has also been here plastering and doing other jobs for B&H, so it’s been pretty chaotic and exhausting but not once have their spirits flagged! It’s also been very educational (I won’t elaborate, but B&H I’m sure you understand) and the way they cope with everything is truly inspirational and personally I feel truly honoured to have had this time with them!

Saturday 23rd July

Today we paint the bedroom we’ve prepped. TBH this sucks because the upper border is bright blue as is the weird blue chimney panel and there are stains on the ceiling. I’m really doubting whether we’ll get enough paint coverage but as awful as it looks initially, by the time we’ve done 3 coats on the blue, it’s really starting to look so much better! B&H are off to a wedding so we have the house to ourselves.

P1120890 P1120891 BTW did I mention this is our dream home. A beautiful, characterful house; it’s Basque don’t you know, on a significant plot of land right in the middle of Masseube. So it would be like having a lovely private country home but slap in the middle of Masseube.

P1120886 P1120887 P1120888 P1120889It’s brilliant. Daz and I have huge house envy and I’m not shy about it. My main aim is to persuade them to sell – how hard can it be?. Persistence is the name of the game!!!!

Sunday 24th July

Today is our last day with B&H. Daz does a few more coats of paint in the blue room and then we put all the furniture back.



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Then I do the internet adverts; selling the furniture and ornaments I photographed. So everything is done. Daz and I go off to the bar and then have a stroll round the village. There’s a pool, river, sports grounds, so much to do! We’re really impressed by Masseube. Definitely a place that ticks a lot of our boxes for when we come to settling down.

In the evening we head off. B&H give us a lift to Sandy and Mike’s. We all enjoy a drink and the early evening sunshine on the terrace.


So after 7 months we’re back where we started but at least now we’ve got 5700km under our belt. However we now have no bike. We are undecided about how we should continue our travels. We feel that the adventure will continue, but the tandem definitely had to go. But now our thoughts are on the way forward; 2 trikes and continue cycling, 2 normal bikes and continue cycling, backpacking in India or S America, workaway or house sitting in other continents, crew on a boat?? Or any other alternative!! Dilemma!! At least “AnyWhichWayYouCan” is living up to its name!!
But for the next 10 days it’s time to relax by the pool and enjoy some downtime. And our great friend Jac Webb is coming to visit too, how fab!


Camino Frances – 2nd July to 8th July

Saturday 2nd July


Santiago to Río Pambre via Pedrouzo and Ribadiso. (Days 33, 32 and 31)


Distance 69.5 km

Max Speed 66.5 kmph

Average Speed 13.2 kmph

Total Distance 4731.34 km


Today we start the Camino Francés but going in reverse.  Once again we have John Brierley’s guidebook, Camino de Santiago, The Way of St James.  We’re still enjoying the luxury of our expensive hotel with its beautifully manicured lawns and aviary located right in the heart of Santiago and both feel rather negative about setting forth.  But off we go, walking back up the hill to the campsite to pack all our gear and we’re just about to leave when we meet Simon and Julie and have a good natter. They are staying in Santiago another day, so we hope to meet up with them en route.


The most popular route (which gets very crowded in mid-summer) is the Camino Francés which stretches 780 km (nearly 500 miles) from St. Jean-Pied-du-Port near Biarritz in France to Santiago. This route is fed by three major French routes: the Voie de Tours, the Voie de Vezelay, and the Voie du Puy. It is also joined along its route by the Camino Aragones (which is fed by the Voie d’Arles which crosses the Pyrenees at the Somport Pass), by the Camí de Sant Jaume from Montserrat near Barcelona, the Ruta de Tunel from Irun, the Camino Primitivo from Bilbao and Oviedo, and by the Camino de Levante from Valencia and Toledo.


The network is similar to a river system – small brooks join together to make streams, and the streams join together to make rivers, most of which join together to make the Camino Francés. During the middle ages, people walked out of their front doors and started off to Santiago, which was how the network grew up. Nowadays, cheap air travel has given many the opportunity to fly to their starting point, and often to do different sections in successive years. Some people set out on the Camino for spiritual reasons; many others find spiritual reasons along the Way as they meet other pilgrims, attend pilgrim masses in churches and monasteries and cathedrals, and see the large infrastructure of buildings provided for pilgrims over many centuries.


At about 12pm we’re ready to hit the road and whilst we stay on the N-547 all day (except for a misguided detour) it is very beautiful; lush, green, rolling hillsides.  And we’re really enjoying it.  

P1110726We cycle through O Pedrouzo and head on to Ribadiso, where I want to divert off the mainroad to an albergue for food and to enjoy the riverside ambience of the Rio Iso.  

P1110727 P1110728Big mistake, after missing the turn, then backtracking we discover no cooked food for another 2 hours! Annoying!  So after a quick snack we follow the pilgrim’s way instead of retracing our steps and then discover we can’t get back on the main road!  After several kilometers of pushing and slow cycling we recover the main road.  

P1110729 P1110731 P1110732 P1110733 P1110734 P1110735 P1110737 P1110738We see so many walkers, I can’t believe how many people come to do the walk.  Young and old, various nationalities, some with full rucksacks and some with barely anything, mostly walking but a lot of cyclists too.  But there are so many places to stay along the route that it suits all sorts.  After our rubbish detour we head to Melide, our new designated food stop.  We’re being constantly passed by motorcyclists.  I assume it’s just a good motorcycling road but when we enter Melide I realise my mistake.  There’s some sort of motorbike festival going on and every street is full of motorbikes.  

P1110740 P1110741 P1110742 P1110743 P1110744 P1110745 P1110746 P1110747We enjoy some people watching, have food and then push on.  I’ve chosen a spot off the N-547, on the River Pambre to wild camp.  Unfortunately the river looks black and stagnant – I’m not getting in that for a wash.  There’s an albergue next to the bridge but we’re offered a room for 36€!

P1110755 P1110748 P1110749Moving swiftly on!!  So we decide to find another camping spot.  We’re just leaving when we get chatting to a German lady, she has walked from Bremen, Germany over the last 5 months – incredible! She’s had to deal with snow, hail, rain and now sun!  We backtrack a couple of kms from the river and pitch our tent in a field.  It’s very peaceful and has views over the surrounding hills.

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Sunday 3rd July


Río Pambre near Palas de Rei to Triacastela via Portomarín and Sarria (Days 30, 29, 28)


Distance 80 km

Max Speed 70.8 kmph

Average Speed 12.2 kmph

Total Distance 4811.34 km


Last night I thought I heard a vehicle alongside us which seemed strange since we were beside a grassy track inside a field.  But Daz confirms a van drove past – twice in fact.  And once disturbed Daz couldn’t sleep again, worrying about getting moved on.  I, on the other hand, rolled over and straight back to sleep.  This morning whilst packing up the farmer comes round with his dog.  We greet each other and he leaves us to it.  I think he was just checking how we’d left his field – perfectly of course, we always do a litter sweep.

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First we cycle uphill to Palas de Rei for breakfast.  Then a couple of kilometers outside this village we leave the N-547 and follow a country lane, the walkers route.  The lane is full of walkers, in fact so many we wonder if they’ll bother to get out of our way.  The scenery is beautiful but we’re climbing for 12kms.  

P1110759 P1110760 P1110761 P1110762 P1110763 P1110764 P1110765 P1110766Then we finally hit the top and it’s 13km downhill into Portomarín.  Daz is desperately trying to set a new speed record and I’m desperately trying to contain my fear – I’d hate my panic braking to interfere with one of D’s speed records.  But alas it’s not to be, only 70.8 kmph – slow huh???

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The reservoir of Belesar, on the river Miño, flooded the old village of Portomarín. Its main historic buildings were rescued stone by stone: they are the Romanesque church of San Pedro and the monumental church fortress of San Nicolás.
Some of the old medieval palaces were also placed in the main square of the new town of Portomarín, located on top of a hill. The medieval bridge stayed underwater and all that remains is the base and one of its arches at the entrance to the new bridge.
The old Portomarín was formed by the medieval hamlets of San Pedro and San Nicolás (today San Xoán). The church of San Xoán or San Nicolao was built at the end of the 12th century by followers of the Maestro Mateo, -the façade is influenced by the Portico of Glory at the Cathedral of Santiago-, and has been declared a Historic-Artistic Site. The nearby church of San Pedro, which is Romanesque, dates from the 10th century. Close to the church of San Pedro are the palaces of Berbetoros and of the Marquis of Paredes. Out of town and away from the main group of historic buildings, it is worth mentioning other Romanesque churches: Cortapezas and Castromaior.
Prominent among the popular architecture are the old slate houses and the traditional wine cellars, very common in this wine-growing region. But in Portomarín it is not the wine which is famous, but rather the local liquor, so renowed that they dedicate the Festa da Augardente to it on Easter Sunday.

We cross the beautiful river of Miño and then climb.  A desperately long climb.  

P1110777 P1110778 P1110779Then it’s in to Sarria and on to Samos.  Samos is incredibly beautiful and I’m glad we chose this detour.  


The monastery at Samos is best known for being on one of the many pilgrim’s routes (the “way of St. James”) to Santiago de Compostela cathedral, but it is a highly impressive and massive structure in its own right. It is also still active and additionally offers lodgings for those on religious retreats or connected with the pilgrimage.

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Samos monastery has suffered many terrible fires and has been plundered on many occasions throughout its troubled history. Seven bishops have come from this monastery, the most notable of whom is the illustrious Benito Jeronimo Feijoo.

P1110780 P1110781 P1110782 P1110783 P1110784 P1110785 P1110786 P1110787 P1110793 P1110794At the beginning of the nineteenth century it was converted into a Benedictine site. The church façade dates back to the eighteenth century and is still incomplete. The most outstanding feature of the Samos monastery is the Classical Feijoo cloister, along with a statue of the aforementioned illustrious gentleman. Once inside the monastery, there is an ancient door from an old Romanesque church that was destroyed in the seventeenth century.  We rest here for a while and also dry the tent out, a chavy moment as we hang it over the railings overlooking the gorgeous monastery!  After a couple of cokes we cycle out and uphill towards Triacastela.  We want to find a wild campsite near the river before hitting the village.  But as we climb and climb we see that the river is in a deep ravine and there are no camping spots, and even if we could camp we’d need to abseil down to the river to wash.  It’s not until we hit Triacastela that the river becomes accessible but where to camp.  After much deliberation we find a spot just to the side of the river and close to the town, where we think we’re fairly inconspicuous and can access the stream.

P1110808 P1110810 P1110811First job, change into swimming cossies and into the stream. Gosh, it’s tough going for the full dunk in this cold water but we brace ourselves and it’s done.  Now to set up our tent as Mr Farmer goes passed in his tractor a gazillion times.  


Monday 4th July


Triacastela to Molinaseca via O’Cebreiro and Villafranca del Bierzo (Days 27, 26,25)


Distance 89.3 km

Max Speed 76.1 kmph

Average Speed 13.3 kmph

Total Distance 4900.64 km


Today we set the alarm for 7am but there was no need because we’re right next to the Camino and the chattering walkers start passing us from about 5am onwards.  We know our first leg today to O’Cebreiro is going to be tough, hence the planned early start.  It’s rare we’re ruled by an alarm clock these days!  So we’re up and our tent is like a swamp; it doesn’t let water in but nor does it let any out and for some reason there’s even more moisture on the inside of the fly than normal.

 P1110813 P1110814 P1110815 P1110817It’s not helped by the fact it’s a damp, misty morning, we’re near the river and we’re up before the sun can dry off any of it.  So we pack it up, sopping wet and after a quick breakfast we start the hill climb.  It took us almost 3 hours to reach the pass at 1330m and only 9km done.  The views were absolutely incredible.  

P1110818 P1110819 P1110820 P1110821 P1110822We stopped for a quick drink, thinking the worst was over, but we were still climbing an hour later, having descended twice when we finally reached  O’Cebreiro.  This is actually so much worse than I anticipated – I planned for 2 hours then flattish riding. It had already been 4 hours!!

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At the final pass we chat to a group of Spanish cyclists from Salamanca who say this is the most beautiful part of Spain; not too hot (har har) not too dry and the scenery is amazing.  

P1110847 P1110848 P1110849 P1110850 P1110851 P1110852 P1110853 P1110854 P1110855But with the final pass completed at 1300 metres we started the descent.  10 km later without a pedal stroke we are at the bottom. We stop for a coke and milk and to dry the tent in the blazing sun. The next 18 km were also on a slight decline to Vilafranca and we soon powered through.  We arrive in the town and see the temperature has risen to 40 degrees celsius!!  

After a ‘menu del dia’ which we both struggled to eat due to tiredness and possibly the heat we decide to have a lie down so set out to find a ‘shady bench’.  We can only find one, so Daz sleeps on the floor.

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Villafranca is the last important town in Leon that is crossed by the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela. Its rich monumental heritage, and the influence of the St. James pilgrims, have made it an important tourist centre. Its old town has been declared Property of Cultural Interest.
The main square, or Plaza Mayor, the City Hall, calle del Agua (Water Street), the arch at which it ends, the mansions, such as a 15th-century Moorish one, the convent of Agustinas Recoletas, and other palaces, make up the tourist circuit.
At the entrance of the village, you can find the 12th-century Romanesque church of Santiago. The Puerta del Perdón gate is at one of the sides. Pilgrims who could not make it to Santiago de Compostela because they were ill were given the jubilee blessing here. The Castle-Palace of the Marquises of Villafranca is near this church. However, the best place to see palaces is Calle del Agua: amid coats of arms some emblematic buildings appear, such as Torquemada Palace, Casa Morisca or the birthplace of the writer Gil y Carrasco. Other monuments that are worth visiting are, amongst others, the Gothic Collegiate Church of Santa María, built by Gil de Hontañón, the Baroque convent of San Nicolás el Real, the convents of la Anunciada and San José, founded in the 17th century, and the Church of San Francisco, which has a beautiful Mudejar coffered ceiling.


A couple of hours later we rouse, douse ourselves in the fountain and set off.  Apart from the temptation of a river beach and seeing everyone swimming we soon zoom through the next 24 km to Ponferrada with its huge castle.

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Ponferrada, capital of the region of El Bierzo, is one of the major staging posts on the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela as it passes through the province of León. The historic quarter of this town sits below an imposing castle built by the Knights Templar.
The first records of Ponferrada are as a former citadel in Roman times. From the 11th century, the rise in pilgrimages to Santiago de Compostela spurred the appearance of the hamlet of Pons Ferrata, located on the Pilgrim’s Route to Santiago de Compostela and named in this way because of the building of a bridge reinforced with iron. In 1178, the King Fernando II of León placed this flourishing settlement under the custody of the Order of the Temple. The Knights Templar used the site of a primitive Roman fortress to build a castle in which they settled and which, at the same time, protected the passing pilgrims. This favoured demographic growth and led to the commercial development of the area.

The Castle rises above the river Sil, dominating the city’s historic quarter. Construction began on this medieval fortress with a polygonal structure towards the end of the 12th century. The entrance is on the south side, over a drawbridge spanning the moat. The main façade, meanwhile, is flanked by two large towers joined by a double semicircular arch. Standing off a large interior courtyard are various rooms, such as the Armoury or the Stables, not forgetting its Keep and others like the Malpica, Cabrera, Malvecino, etc.
At the foot of the Castle is the historic quarter of the city, with entry along Calle del Reloj. It is on this street where the Clock Tower stands, built during the reign of Carlos I in the 16th century, on the site of one of the gates of the former walled enclosure.
Next to the Clock Tower is the Convent of the Conceptionist Mothers. The building, on two floors, was erected in masonry by Francisco Samper, beginning in 1565. Particularly noteworthy is its façade, which features a vaulted niche with the image of the Purísima Concepción.
The end of this streets leads into the Plaza de la Encina, a traditional site of commercial activity. The Basilica de la Encina stands on the square and is one of the most outstanding religious buildings in the city. The church was built in the Renaissance style in 1573, while its baroque tower dates from later, from 1614. Inside, as well as the carving of the Virgen de la Encina, some reredos can be seen, among which the high altar is outstanding, the work of Mateo Flores in the 17th century.
At the bottom end of the historic quarter is the Hospital de la Reina, Renaissance in style, and the baroque church of San Andrés, which houses a Christ of the Knights Templar.

A stop for an ice lolly then it’s the final crawl up to our last stop and camping site today – Molinaseca, a Municipal site, the Albergue Municipal San Roque, only 6 euros to pitch our tent, have a shower and space to dry out all our gear.  The people running it, Manuel and his wife, are so warm, friendly and helpful.

P1110877 P1110878  They can’t do enough for us. We   sample their home cooked dinner, which included a delicious lentil soup.  Today has been a tough, hot, challenging day. We had our highest pass so far at 1330 metres, our hottest at 40degrees and fastest descent at 76.1 kmph! We have seen people pushing prams holding their bergans, a dachshund with booties on to protect  his feet on the walk, walkers pulling trollies and many cyclists and walkers of all ages, nationalities and abilities.  This is a fabulous route and inspires us to keep pushing even through such adversity.    


Tuesday 5thJuly


Molinaseca to Astorga via Rabanal del Camino (Days 23, 24)


Distance 50. km

Max Speed 0 kmph

Average Speed 0 kmph

Total Distance 4950.64 km


We need another early start today because we’ve got 12km of climb, gaining 900m in elevation to 1515m. We’re up but we’re enjoying our breakfast and Manuel’s company and extra coffees that I don’t want to leave.

P1110879 P1110880 P1110881 Finally we force ourselves to hit the road.  Then within minutes another delay whilst we admire and photograph the beautiful bridge and river in Molinaseca.  

P1110882 P1110883 P1110884 P1110885 P1110886Then we hit the road again and we pretty much manage 7km. We’re just grinding in our lowest gear, and it’s slow progress but we’re so pleased we’re over half way and have made steady but slow progress.  

P1110887 P1110888 P1110889 P1110890 P1110891 P1110892 P1110893 P1110894 P1110895 P1110896 P1110897 P1110898Then we stop for a drink in Acebo.  It’s cobbled here so we needed to dismount and push anyway.  We’re pushing out of the village when we  see a lady on a trike – our dream machine.

P1110900 P1110901 P1110902 P1110903 P1110904 P1110906 P1110907 P1110909 We’ve come to the decision, since we met Jaap in Nigran, that we can’t/won’t cycle our tandem round the world.  There are many reasons but the main ones: my position is neither fully recumbent nor fully upright.  I slip in my seat constantly which means the edge of my seat digs into my arse and my back loses contact with my seat back resulting in a bad lower back.  Daz has a comfortable biking position but steering is a stressful job especially at low speed; even removing a hand to wipe sweat away can send us zigzagging across the road.  And we need to carry more gear – more water, a cooker and food.  Not in Europe but in less developed countries where facilities might not be so plentiful.  We did think single recumbent but i’m sorely tempted by a trike: no stability issues, comfortable seat, no need for a bike stand and no need to unclip! Trikes are as about as common as our tandem recumbent so we have to say hello which leads to coffee, a test ride and a discussion about ‘best buy’ in the trike world. Marjo is on an Ice Adventurer and whilst she’s had some problems with it, she’s absolutely delighted because it has given her back her freedom (she had a serious car accident and is lucky to be here at all!) .  She’s with her husband and they’ve cycled from their home in Holland and hope to continue their cycling expedition into England before returning home.  After chatting to them we head off and then see a tandem.  A Belgium couple mending their puncture, another chat and we’re off.

P1110910 P1110911 P1110912 But OMG the rest has done us no favours, we’d done over half the climb before stopping but clearly this was just the warm up and there are so many steep bits that we have to push.  

P1110913 P1110914 P1110915 P1110916 P1110917Finally we hit the top, we think, but sadly there are no markers, but we think it’s the 1515 m point, 900m of climb and it’s far to say some of the last couple of climbs nearly made us sick.

P1110918 P1110919 P1110920 P1110921 P1110922 P1110923 P1110924 P1110925 P1110926 P1110927 The next pinnacle is the Cruz de Ferro and we stop to admire the cross before heading on to Rabanal del Camino.  An easy ride and barely any pedalling.  We stop here and find a restaurant with ‘menu del dia’.  Included in the price is a glass of red wine, well we thought it was a glass but it turned out to be a jug and since the food was mediocre, I decided to make it up in fluid intake.  Thank God the remainder of today’s route was just down hill into Astorga.   

During this leg we see a young lady with her dog in a pram.  The poor dog has tendenitis so she got a pram so he could still keep her company. Definitely ‘man’s best friend ‘.

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 The capital of the county of Maragatería in the province of León offers a rich medieval legacy, the result of its location at the crossroads of: the Pilgrim’s Road to Santiago de Compostela and the Ruta de la Plata (Silver Road). Its walled town preserves churches, convents and hospitals which take travellers back to the purest tradition of the Pilgrim’s Road. Another outstanding feature in the town’s streets is a culminating work by the Modernist architect Antoni Gaudí: the Bishop’s Palace. Astorga is, also, a good opportunity for enjoying the rich cuisine of this area. here we find a hostal so a real bed for the night and after some sightseeing we catch up on admin; laundry and posting our latest blog.  

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Wednesday 6thJuly


Astorga to León via Villadangos del Paramo  (Days 22, 21)


Distance 53 km

Max Speed 0 kmph

Average Speed 0 kmph

Total Distance 5003. 64 km


Another easy ride today but incredibly dull scenery unfortunately.  Yup it seems the tough riding equals the most spectacular scenery.  We’re on the N120 whilst the Camino runs right alongside but along a gravel track. Nothing of note happens except we stop for a coke, I hang out the tent to dry and whilst i’m doing that a car drives into the back of a van that has stopped at a zebra crossing.

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P1110955And then we arrive in León.  First stop a bike shop dealing in Azubs but they’ve only got one recumbent in store, no trikes and unfortunately any informative chat is impossible because they don’t speak English, and us no Spanish.

So we head off to find our bed for the night.  Daz has been scheming for months for this stop over because tomorrow is my birthday.  So we’re staying here for 3 nights and he’s only gone and booked the Parador.  What a fantastic treat.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  

If you are lucky, your ultimate destination in Leon will be the San Marcos Hostal, a Parador hotel that will take your breath away with its serene magnificence.  Yes i am that lucky!

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The Parador San Marcos Monastery – The magnificent 100-metre facade of San Marcos Monastery barely prepares you for its even more astonishing interior. As this is the best hotel in Leon and certainly one of the five best in Spain, suffice to say that even if you aren’t fortunate enough to stay here, you should certainly visit San Marcos both to enjoy its sumptuous elegance and to see the small but touchingly beautiful 11th-century ivory Carrizo Crucifix displayed in the archaeological museum.


Unfortunately the receptionist says we can park the bike in the luggage room, but the luggage room guardian says ‘no’ we must park it in the carpark round the back.  Sadly this means we end up carrying our own bags – gutted, wanted a bag man.  Then as we’re about to cycle round the back with the bike the receptionist rushes out to ask Daz about the ice he requested.  Poor Daz has to sidle away to have his ‘secret’ discussion.  But the surprise is kinda ruined and it doesn’t help that by the time we’ve parked the bike, struggled down the corridor towards our room we are neck and neck with a waiter, with an ice bucket and a bottle of champers!!! My birthday champers.  

received_10154255049107889 received_10154255049187889 received_10154255064217889 received_10154255105987889 received_10154255106107889 received_10154255106237889 received_10154255106272889But it’s lovely and funny too.  The room is gorgeous and I love this luxury after cheap hostels and wild camping.  We spend several hours drinking our champagne and relaxing and then Daz goes off for another ‘secret’ discussion.  A very long while later he returns looking really unhappy.  For weeks he’d been trying to work out our schedule, where we’d be for my birthday and what present he could get.  He’d found a 4×4 off road buggy experience near León.  The arrangements had been agreed and emails sent.  But today the guy says it ain’t happening.  He has no English speakers, well that’s his excuse anyway.  Poor Daz!  He’s really upset but actually I’m loving my other treats and we can always do it somewhere else – perhaps near Blajan. in the evening we go out for food.  We see a bizarre new game: wetted sand pitch, 9 skittles and a hemispherical, wooden throwing implement.  The men throw the half ball up into the air towards the pitch.  We couldn’t work out if the aim is to hit the skittles or whether there’s scoring areas.  

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We sit in the cathedral square enjoying people watching and then watching the spectacular forked lightning as a big storm moved over León.    


Thursday 7th July – León and Hels’ 50 th birthday.


A sumptuous breakfast in the Parador.  

P1120006 P1120007 P1120008 P1120009 P1120010Then a relaxed stroll around León and its beautiful sights.

To judge by the first sight of its outskirts, Leon is like any other modern Spanish city: a few smoke-belching factories and a crop of ugly apartment blocks. But as you move nearer to the older heart of the city, there is an increasing sense of excitement: you begin to realise that you are on the threshold of something special. You may catch a glimpse of the cathedral, you may take a wrong turning and find yourself nosing up a tiny one-way street past ancient houses and through marvellous arcaded squares that are reminiscent of Venice.

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Leon Cathedral – When the guide book compares Leon cathedral to Chartres, it sounds a little too much like journalistic hyperbole. Leon’s cathedral might be impressive, but as good as Chartres? At first glimpse, the cathedral cannot match Chartres’ massive airship-hangar bulk. But once through the remarkable portals, the point of the comparison becomes clear. The stained-glass windows produce a breath taking swirl of colour. The guide-books tell you that the cathedral has 125 windows and 57 oculi producing an area of glass totalling 1,200 square metres — in fact, so much glass and so little wall that the cathedral is in danger of collapsing. But nothing can prepare you for their full dramatic effect. Leon cathedral is unique in Spain, for its windows as, much as for its clean-cut elegance.

The first church erected on this site was in 924, the current Gothic church is the fourth which was started in 1205 and is mostly a copy of the cathedral at Rheims planned by Bishop Manrique de Lara and the foundations were first started by Bishop Martin Rodriguez el Zamorano whose tomb is inside. The finances around the build are interesting: Alfonso X contributed handsomely it is said as his father, Fernando III, had not repaid a loan to the Pope used to reconquer Seville. The papacy granted indulgences to contributors, stopped Italian creditors collecting monies, and signed over a third of their tithes from rural Leon. In 1258 a church in Madrid offered 40 day indulgences to large contributors and two chapels, Santiago and San Clemente, were offered to the highest bidders.  Because of this sustained drive to raise funds the cathedral was built in record time, and by 1302 was complete. During the 15th century Renaissance tastes influenced some rebuilding and additions for example the library was built during this period by Juan de Badajoz the Elder, also the sacristy, several portals, and a new arch to connect the cloister with the cathedral. However the cathedral still retains it 13th century Gothic structure.

The inside of the cathedral is best viewed in the early morning or later afternoon when the sun moves quicker across the floor and walls as it illustrates the colours from rose stained glass windows.  Leon cathedral was known as the cathedral without walls, as it has more glass and less stone as walls than any other cathedral in Spain.

Basilica of San Isidoro – San Isidoro is built into the old city walls, an impressive chunk of which can still be seen behind the basilica. The Royal Pantheon and Treasury, whose entrance is to the left of the church, contain some exceptional 12th century frescoes illustrating New Testament, hunting and pastoral scenes.

The Basilica was built on a Roman Temple to Mercury, which had been replaced by a monastery dedicated to San Juan Bautista, however that was destroyed at the end of the 10th century by the Moor invasion.  The current church is of 11th century construction and was the most important church in north west Spain as it established the artistic Romanesque models used in the northern half of Spain. The church was enlarged by Princess Urraca during the 11th century, the portico and crypt were preserved and remain original.

Inside there is an interesting inscription on the baptismal font from Pedro Deustamben who takes credit for rebuilding the church and miracles that happened through him as he was such a great person – it is odd.


Later in the afternoon we return to the hotel, I have a full body massage and facial booked.   Wow, the massage is verging on painful but it’s lovely and I’m sure it’s good to have the kinks worked out of my body.   OMG I could learn to love all this pampering.  What a fabulous treat! In the evening we go for another walk in the city. We sit on the street at a restaurant and as we eat some sumptuous food watch the people go by. A fabulous end to a marvellous birthday experience.

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Friday 8th July

Today we’re off on a tour of the Valporquero Caves.  We catch a bus from just outside the hotel.  There’s a driver, a ticket lady and one other passenger.  None of them speak English.  At the caves we have a new tour guide who speaks extensively, unfortunately not in English – thank goodness we have a brochure in English. It’s semi dark in the caves so reading the guide, our only English reference is quite hard!

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Cave of Valporquero
Situated in the heart of the mountains of León, next to another site of immense beauty: the Vagacervera Gorge. Just a million years old, this is Castilla y León’s youngest cave, formed during the Pleistocene, when the icy waters of the Valporquero Stream trickled silently between the limestone, forming the magnificent sight we can visit today.

Inside visitors can admire flowing forms, columns, stalactites and stalagmites in the seven rooms that make up this cave. Some of the figures and rooms have been given names, such as ‘Fairies’, the ‘Stalactite Cemetery’ or ‘Solitary Column’ , inspired by the imagination of those that have admired them; capricious forms and figures including ‘The Phantom’ ‘Virgin and Child’, ‘Twins’ or ‘The Tower of Pisa’.

This is also a great place for lovers of potholing, who can follow the ‘course of the waters’, a fascinating route that is guaranteed to surprise and delight.P1120078 P1120079 P1120080 P1120081 P1120082 P1120083 


Camino Portugués part 2 – 25th June to 1st July

Saturday 25th June


Braga  – Skydiving


Distance 20.36 km

Max Speed 75.4 kmph

Average Speed 13 kmph

Total Distance 4393. 60 km


Today we cycle from Braga to the aerodrome and whilst cycling up a cobbled Street get a puncture en route, in the back tyre.  Daz soon has it fixed and we’re off again.  

P1110349 P1110350 P1110351 P1110352We enter a stretch of national road and it swoops smoothly down hill, reaching our top speed so far – 75.4 kmph!!! We soon arrive at the skydiving centre!! Daz was a bit nervous about jumping again; his concerns were about lack of familiarity of the landing site.  Fortunately everyone is super nice at Skydive Porto and we’re so pleased we decided to come here.  

P1110356 P1110355 P1110357 P1110359 P1110361Once he’s done his first jump he realises there are more features here to orient himself than in Seville.  He’s jumping from a tiny Cessna IA2 this time and the exit means getting on a step outside the plane onto a step under the wing- sounds terrifying to me.  He gets 4 jumps done and one of the instructor even jumps with him, videos it and gives him tips on developing his skydiving technique.  A really excellent day.  Once we’re done we cycle back to Braga and catch the end of Wales V NI (Wales were victorious but an empty win with an own goal from NI).  

P1110362 P1110363 P1110365 P1110364 P1110367 P1110366 P1110370 P1110372 P1110371 P1110373 P1110374 P1110377 P1110379 P1110380We then find somewhere to eat and watch the Portugal game until extra time starts – too boring.  Then home to our tent – we thought the party finished last night but there still seems to be a party in town……. until 2am.

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Sunday 26th June


Braga to Rubiães


Distance 61.74 km

Max Speed 55.8 kmph

Average Speed 12.8 kmph

Total Distance 4455.34 km


We pack up and get chatting to 2 Canadian cyclists; each on a touring bike with their own trailer each carrying 25kg – a lot of equipment! They’ve been cycling for 4 weeks around Portugal, Julie and Simon.  They remind us that we should visit Bom Jesus do Monte, the most popular tourist site in Portugal.  

The imposing Bom Jesus do Monte (Good Jesus of the Mount) sits just outside the city of Braga, Portugal. Perched high on a hillside in Tenoes, some 381 feet above the ground, it is accessed by funicular, car or on foot via a magnificent 116-metre stairway.

Braga – Bom Jesus do Monte

There has been a building on the site for centuries, dating back at least as far as 1373, when a chapel was erected in dedication to the Holy Cross. It was rebuilt twice during the 15th and 16th centuries, and again during the 17th century, in 1629, when a pilgrimage church and six chapels were built, dedicated to Bom Jesus (Good Jesus). The building of the present sanctuary began during the 18th century, erected to a neoclassical design by the renowned architect Carlos Amarante, under the order of Rodrigo de Moura Telles, then Archbishop of Braga, whose coat of arms is located above the gateway.

The Sanctuary is an important site for pilgrimage, with pilgrims walking the sacred way, the “stations of the cross” for contemplation and penance since 1811. These days, it is also a hugely popular tourist attraction in the area, offering tranquillity, beautiful architecture and sweeping views out across the city of Braga and to the beaches of Viana do Castelo and Esposende.

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The Sacred Way is a series of Baroque staircases laid out in a zigzag shape, working its way up the several hundred metres to the top of the hill. It is dedicated to the five senses (sight, smell, sound, touch, taste), each of which is represented by a different fountain, along with a further fountain dedicated to the wounds of Christ and three more dedicated to the virtues.

If the idea of climbing several hundred metres, whether on hands and knees or on foot, sounds tiring, the funicular makes for a good alternative. It dates back to 1882 and was the first funicular to be erected on the Iberian Peninsular, linking the Sanctuary with the main city of Braga.

It’s only 4km from town, on a hilltop perch overlooking the city and surrounded by ancient woodland.  We cycle some of the way and then walk up the road to the start of the steps.There’s a bike race today and twice we’ve seen the racers go past followed by all their support vehicles.  They’ve got 11 loops to complete.  At the bottom of the steps we cheat and use the water powered funicular.

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Once we’ve visited Bom Jesus we head to Ponte de Lima.  The only thing of note is how tough we find it.  A real long slog and we get another puncture, this time in the front tyre.  The front tyre has worn down so much on the left hand side that we’re down to the blue under layer.  

P1110431 P1110433 P1110432 P1110434 P1110436 P1110435 P1110439 P1110440So this tyre gets binned and we put on a new front tyre that we have been carrying for a while courtesy of Richard… thanks. (Our tyres have been wearing extraordinarily quickly but only on one side!).  We’ve just recommenced cycling when I notice a car driving next to me.  I think they’re just looking or taking photos but they’re trying to give us a bottle of super chilled water – how fantastic.  Cold water is lovely especially when we’re used to drinking very warm water.  

We arrive in Ponte de Lima and park (abandon) the bike. It’s a delightful market town, retaining a sleepy medieval atmosphere.

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There is a Roman bridge that gave its name to this very ancient and very beautiful town, which received its first charter in 1125 from D. Teresa, the mother of the first king of Portugal (a number of years before the foundation of the kingdom).

In the centre of a rich farming region, where the famous vinho verde is produced the greatest number of manor houses and palaces are to be found, many of them offering accommodation to tourists under the system of Turismo de Habitação.

Every fortnight, this traditional town is brought to life when a huge and lively fair that dates back to the Middle Ages is held on the banks of the river. This same stretch of sand is also the site for another traditional event held in June, known as the “Vaca das Cordas” (when ropes are tied around the horns of a bull, which is then led onto the sand to “fight” with the local population). In September, the town once again bursts into life with the jolly event known as the Feiras Novas (New Fairs). This is the town festival, which includes a huge market, fireworks, a funfair, carnival costumes and a brass band competition.
It occupies one of the most beautiful riverside settings beside the River Lima.  We have a stroll around and then realise there’s a horse fair this weekend.  We head to the arena and watch the tail end of the show.

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After Ponte de Lima we head towards Rubiães.  It’s uphill for about 14km and takes us about 2 hours – demoralising or what!! We had hoped to find somewhere to camp before Rubiães but fail and find somewhere just outside and since it’s already gone 9pm we’re getting desperate but the site is nice enough if not a little too exposed for my liking.

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Monday 27th June


Rubiães to Nigran


Distance 78.16 km

Max Speed 69.8 kmph

Average Speed 16.5 kmph

Total Distance 4533.5 km


Last night we checked the map and decided we should abandon the Camino Interieur and head for the coast along the valley of the River Coura to Caminha.  It’s a tough decision because if we remained on the Camino we could get to the coast via Valença and Tui and for less mileage than the route we’ve chosen but we’re hoping for scenic and rewarding scenery something we’ve been short of lately.

So plan made we head off.  We find a little cafe within a couple of kilometers, coffee but no food unfortunately.

P1110491 P1110493 But this is a workstop.  Daz changes the front disc brake pads whilst I fix our 2 inner tubes from our recent punctures.  Whilst we’re there it seems that the jungle drums have been at work, “Strangers in town on a weird contraption, come and stare”, and they do.  Lots of locals come in to check out this aberration! Work done we head off and find another cafe, the cafe on the bridge in Covas, to eat and to sit on their balcony looking down onto the river.

P1110494 P1110495 P1110496 P1110497 P1110498 P1110499 So beautiful but strangely it’s here I decide I need a good cry.  I have no idea why but I think it’s the last couple of days have been incredibly hard cycling, it seems to take us hours and hours to cover a distance we use to ride easily in a faction of the time. I feel that instead of improving, I’m going backwards.  Poor Daz is busy offering me flights home etc but I just need a good cry.  I’m sure this will all be forgotten in another hour!

We then follow the river along a beautiful valley.  It’s idyllic, easy riding, some shade and the river to our right.  We’re thinking we made the right route choice.  Then we arrive in Caminha only to discover the ferry to Spain is closed.

P1110500 P1110501 P1110502 P1110503 The ferryman doesn’t work Mondays – gosh how we laughed when we heard the news – NOT!   We have a cafe stop whilst discussing our options: stay a night and get the ferry tomorrow; cycle back up the valley; get a train or try to find the MAN CALLED MARIO.  Daz goes back into tourist info to ask about trains but on this visit he has a different assistant who says Mario will take you, he takes everyone.  So we cycle out of Caminha to find Mario.  Eventually we find the right place but Mario is at lunch.  We take the time to dry out our tent and write the blog.  Then Mario tips up and he’s positively grumpy!  He’s not fazed by our bike and baggage but I’m distinctly fazed when he points to our departure point.  100m away on the beach of deep sand – and of course I’m the baggage mule and take all 4 panniers whilst Daz takes the bike.

P1110505 P1110507 P1110509 P1110510 P1110511 P1110513 P1110514 P1110515 P1110516 P1110518 After a beach embarkation – we’re off and it’s the shortest crossing ever for 10€ across the River Minho and into Spain.  And another beach landing!  Arghhhhhh the sand is so hot as we do a couple of trips to get bike and gear onto the boardwalk.  

P1110519 P1110520 P1110521 P1110522 P1110523 P1110524 P1110525 P1110526 P1110527 P1110528 P1110529 P1110531 P1110534 P1110535Daz seems keen to do multiple trips – strange methinks but he’s taking photos of the beautiful scenery and of course it’s not his fault that the topless sunbather features in every photo ready for analytical study when he zooms in later!!!!

From here we head to Baiona, through A-Guarda with the Atlantic on our left.  Despite a strong headwind we make great progress.  

P1110538 P1110539 P1110540 P1110542 P1110543 P1110545We pause at an old ruin by the rocks where a couple of huge motorhomes are tucked up for the day.  The views along the coast are spectacular as is the size of the German motorhome, it puts Dawn’s into the shade and must have cost as much as a good house in these parts!!

In Baiona we discover a beautiful seaside resort.  Baiona has a lot of charm with a quaint fishing port, a number of small but appealing beaches, and an old town that sits just behind the main seafront area.

P1110546 P1110548 P1110549 P1110550 P1110551 P1110552 P1110554 P1110555 P1110556 P1110557There are also many small beaches along the coastline within close proximity to Baiona and this is one of the reasons why it is so popular with summer visitors.

Within Baiona’s old district there are a number of narrow corridor like streets with typical Galician terraced houses lining them. This area is pleasant to walk around and it gets you away from the busier seafront zone which is more commercialised. There are bars, cafes and restaurants hidden away in this area and most are superior to, and often cheaper than, the ones found on the ocean front drive.

Castelo de Monterreal, Baiona

There are quite a few churches and other small buildings of architectural and historical interest, but Baiona’s most prominent building is the Castelo de Monterreal, a castle that sits to one edge of the town. You can visit Castelo de Monterreal and it affords excellent views of Baiona and the surrounding coastline from its elevated position.  

We stop in Baiona and relax.  The football is on, Spain V Italy. Spain goes out of the competition.  Next game England V Iceland, although the Spanish aren’t televising it, Daz is confident of an English win! (misplaced confidence it seems!). We realise it’s getting very late and we need to find the campsite in Negran.  So off we totter (yup we’ve had a few beers) and cycle about 4 km into Negran just in time to watch the sunset.  

P1110559 P1110560 P1110561 P1110562 P1110564 P1110565 P1110566 P1110567 P1110568 P1110569 P1110570Campsite found, booked in and pitch found.  Now we just need to set up.  We’ve been greeted very warmly by our neighbours Jaap and his wife, Annette.They’re in a campervan but he has just cycled from Alkmaar, Holland to Santiago in 5 weeks with his brother.  In 5 weeks he’s ridden only 2000km less than the distance we’ve achieved in 8 months.

P1110571 Daz says size…… whoops distance isn’t important, it’s the experience that matters – oh how I love a testosterone moment! More interestingly he’s on a Nasca recumbent.  We definitely need to talk to this guy because not only is he riding a recumbent but he’s just completed the Camino de Santiago de Compostela.   


Tuesday 28th June

Last night we had a beer with Jaap and Annette and this morning a coffee.  Whilst we can’t ride his recumbent – this guy is 6ft 5”!!!! we both sit on it.  Jaap has been setting a demanding schedule, on the road by 0830 hrs, only 15 min break’s allowed, 100km to be complete by 5pm.

P1110572 P1110573 P1110574 P1110575 P1110576 P1110577He  chose the pilgrimage to teach him how to relax, stop rushing and enjoy The Way – we’re not convinced he fully succeeded although he’s enjoyed the trip.  But it’s funny seeing someone focusing on the goal, not the experience something we have really had to try and learn during on our trip. It’s too easy to only think about where we’re going and this detracts from other beautiful sites and experiences en route.  And by comparison it looks as if we’ve excelled!!!

We both suffer huge bike envy even though he’s had serious mechanical issues.  We have both realised that our ‘pig’ is a ‘donkey’ – sorry Richard. My seat and cycling position is really uncomfortable and is starting to give me lower back pain ( because I’m neither fully recumbent nor upright and for me the seat isn’t suited to this position) and whilst Jaap can cycle one handed, Daz could never be this relaxed!   It’s food for thought.


Finally coffee and chat done, washing done we head to Praia de Patos, to investigate surfing lessons.  We end up at Point Break surf club with Luis and have an hour’s lesson.  He’s absolutely brilliant but whilst Daz is up in minutes, I’m still struggling after an hour.  But at least now we both have the basic technique to work on!

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We spend the rest of the day on the Point Break patio, enjoying the sun and sea.  Finally me must cycle back whilst we can still walk (yup we had to have some post surfing beers).  Back at the ranch Jaap and Annette are still next door even though we expected them to leave today and opposite are Julie and Simon, the Canadians we met in Braga.  We have a very entertaining evening comparing bike tales! Julie and Simon are travelling for six months and will spend the majority in Europe before flying to New Zealand for the last 5 weeks and then back to Canada and work. They are fun company and hopefully we will see more of them on the route as they are also thinking of doing the Compostela.

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Wednesday 29th June


Nigran to Caldas de Reis


Distance 72. 44 km

Max Speed 67. 5 kmph

Average Speed 16. 2 kmph

Total Distance 4613. 94 km


This morning we woke late knowing we were going surfing again at 12.  We nip out of the campsite for breakfast after saying goodbye to Jaap and Annette.  No sign yet of Julie and Simon being awake, too much wine maybe? Been there, done that!  After breakfast we go back to camp and pack everything back onto the bike, we will cycle to surfing fully loaded then continue on. Julie and Simon are awake now and have decided to have a rest day,  lucky them. But we make a plan to catch up with them in Santiago.  We cycle off to Praia Patos and see Luis again for some kit hire for an hour. It’s a holiday today in the area, São Pedro day,  so there are lots of people chilling at the beach.  

P1110590The waves are quite good today, well, good for us beginners. But soon our hour is up and we shower, grab a drink then set off.  Our route today will take in Vigo, Redondela and Pontevedra with maybe a few more miles to Caldas de Reis if time and energy allows.  The last few days of cycling were on the coastal Camino, which isn’t in our guidebook.  Today we will resume the book’s route and complete day 20 and most of 21, Redondela to Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis.  But we stick mainly to the N552 and N550 and make good time except for the following…

1 – Front chain derailed twice before Vigo. Daz realises the boom has slipped allowing the chain to slacken, and soon fixes it.

2 – Rear chain derails on way out of Vigo. This doesn’t happen often but the cause is a broken holding point for the plastic tube that the chain runs through.  Daz bodges a fix until we can do a full repair.

3 – One of the rear pannier catches kept slipping off the anchor point, cause was bad packing, Daz rearranges the contents which allows the catch to engage fully.  

P1110592 P1110594 P1110595 P1110597 P1110598 P1110599 P1110600 P1110601 P1110602 P1110603 P1110604 P1110605So finally after all that the rest of the day glides by.  We stop in all the towns for stamps in our Camino passport and for refreshments (ice creams and 2 large bottles of cold fresh milk were our mainstays today!!). We push on into early evening towards Caldas de Reis and having checked the map earlier I direct us off the main road towards a smaller road in the woods that crosses a river.  Happiness, we are soon dekitted and cooling off in the cold waters, seeing who is brave enough to go for the first dunk!  

P1110607 P1110608 P1110609 P1110613 P1110614 P1110616 P1110618 P1110620 P1110621 P1110622 P1110623We wash then set about pitching our tent next to some vines again.  We forgot we were on Spanish time, so although it’s half past 9 there is still daylight for another couple of hours.  Fortunately the occasional farmer and his tractor doesn’t stop to investigate!  We fall asleep next to the babbling brook!


Thursday 30 th June


Caldas de Reis to Santiago


Distance 47. 9 km

Max Speed 68. 8 kmph

Average Speed 16 kmph

Total Distance 4661. 84 km


I slept really well last night but Daz says the ‘noisy babbling brook’ kept him awake.  The farmer is out on his tractor and I’m just waiting for him to come over with his shotgun and say ‘get off my land!’, but fortunately he doesn’t.  We head into Caldas de Reis for breakfast and to enjoy the hot springs – and by hot, I mean Hot, it almost boils the skin from my feet!  

P1110624 P1110625 P1110626 P1110628 P1110629 P1110630 P1110631 P1110632 P1110633 P1110634 P1110635 P1110637 P1110638 P1110639 P1110640 P1110641 The ride into Santiago is tough, just a continual climb and uneventful.  We’re only 3 km from the centre when the we have a bike problem.  It’s already after 3pm so whilst Daz fixes it, I get the tent out to dry on the pavement.  

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We’re such pikies! But eventually we arrive.  We’ve completed the Camino de Portugués!  Even though we’re on a ‘world tour’ it seems like a great achievement to complete this Camino and to be part of the exuberance that you feel from all the other travellers.  Fantastic.  We go to get our certificate but the queue is huge.  Instead we get our passport for the Camino Francés and go off to admire the cathedral.   
The final destination on the Camino de Santiago. The Galician capital is synonymous with the Camino, an ancient pilgrimage route, born in the 9th century, that has linked the city with the rest of Europe ever since. Every year many thousands of pilgrims set out on foot, by bike, or even on horseback, to live this experience that combines adventure and spirituality. The final goal is the Cathedral in Santiago, one of the sacred cities of Christendom. This is, without a doubt, an unusual, unforgettable way to travel through Spain.

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Construction of the Cathedral started in 1075, when the town arrived to the climax of its importance. The chapel, Capilla del Salvador, is still conserved of this oldest epoch.
The second phase, after the wedding of Doña Urraca and Raimundo of Bourgogne, shows influences of french Romanesque style, as well as a style that is all Santiago’s own, the so-called Románico Compostelano. The Obradoiro Facade (to which later on were added Barroque elements) and the towers Torre de las Campanas and Torre de la Carraca were made at this time.
Through the Obradoiro Door you enter the so-called Old Cathedral, a Romanesque crypta with the first vaults of groined arches that were ever built in Spain.
The sculptures of the Portico de la Gloria, another entrance door, are considered some of the most important works of medieval art.


Around the cathedral there are a number of squares or plazas:
Plaza de las Platerias – this square is named after the many shops of silver articles (Platerias) which are to be found still today under its arcades. From here you can see the cathedral’s gothic portal and the only facade which is conserved in the original Romanesque style, with fantastic sculpture works, like the figure of King David.

Worth seeing as well are the Fuente de los Caballos, a 19th century fountain in the center of the square, Casa del Cabildo, of 18th century, and Casa de los Canónigos (also called Conga), another 18th century palace that separates Plaza de las Platerias from Plaza de la Quintana.

Plaza de la Quintana  – from this square you see the Portico Real, Royal Door, of the cathedral, the towers Berenguela and Torre del Reloj, as well as the Puerta del Perdon. This door is opened only in a Holy Year, during the Apostle Festival.

The Monastery of San Pelayo de Antealtares, with its austere facade of granite, is one of the oldest buildings in Santiago. It was founded in 11th century by Alphonse II in order to entomb the mortal remains of the Apostle James there.


Plaza de la Azabacheria  – this square opened originally the legendary Puerta del Paradiso (door of the paradise), through which the pilgrims entered the cathedral. It was replaced by a neoclassical work of Ventura Rodriguez, which is to be seen today.

The monumental Monastery of San Martin Pinario, of 16th century, is one of the most impressive examples of Barroco Compostelana. It was built over a Romanesque church, which has been an important medieval religious center.

Legend tells us that the Convento de San Francisco was founded by Saint Franciscus of Assisi, after a revelation on his pilgrimship to Santiago, 1213 to 1215. God told him he should buy land from the monks of Saint Martin’s Monastery for the symbolic price of a basket of fish, and then build there a monastery of the money some Cotolay would find in a fountain. Everything happened as predicted.



Santiago is an incredibly beautiful city and we are amazed by how packed it is with walkers and bikers who are finishing ‘The Way’.  We’ve not seen many people on the Camino Portuguese, most of the thousands here have come in on the Camino Francés which we will do in reverse when we leave. Having had a little walk round taking pictures and marvelling at the sights (and other peoples touring bike setups or unicycles!) we think the queues for our certificate have probably reduced so we head back and get our certificate.  

P1110656 P1110678 P1110679 P1110684 P1110685It’s already early evening and our campsite is 3km out of town.  But it’s also Francesca’s 27th birthday.  We want to help her celebrate so instead of heading for our campsite we meet Fran and start to celebrate.  We finally find her in a very noisy Plaza with live music blaring.  We spend the night talking about our experiences and what Francesca will do next in between eating tapas and ordering more drinks.

P1110689 P1110690 P1110691 P1110692 P1110693 P1110694 P1110695 Many beers later, at 2am, we say goodnight to Francesca and then we try to cycle to the campsite.  Eventually we arrive (in one piece) but we have a difference of opinion.  Result?  Daz sleeps in the tent (now slightly broken!!) whilst I sleep in a nearby park on a concrete bench.  


Friday 1st July


At 6am, fed up with the concrete bench I break into our tent and take my stuff (clothes, sleeping bag, sleeping mat) and head off into town.  I’m wondering if I should walk the Camino!  Around 8am having walked past lots of coffee shops and hotels thinking I should be brave and go in I finally pluck up the courage and find a hotel that will let me book in immediately (thank God – I’m so tired).  It’s a lovely but very expensive 4* hotel.  Around 2pm after a lengthy nap, I decide i’d better answer Daz’s messages otherwise he’ll worry.  We meet in town at the old market (we do love our Spanish Market halls!!) and even though all our gear is on the campsite, we stay in my hotel after a leisurely stroll around the sights of Santiago (well it is 4 star and the beds are so comfy, be a shame to waste it!).   

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