We’re in Spain now, hence I’m dropping the H from Camino.
After an enforced rest day on the Duoro river to recuperate it was time to get riding again. Originally the plan had been to catch up with a friend of Brianna’s in Braga, which is on Porto’s commuter train network. Although that plan fell through we decided to still take the train out and get back on the trail from there, saving us 30km and some hilly city riding.
We rode across from Braga to Barecelos (20km) via a secondary highway, which was an amazing descent. Barcelos is famous for being the home of the story about how the cockerel became the symbol of Portugal. It’s a story that involves a pilgrim of St James. As the story goes a pilgrim wrongfully accused of theft forecast as he was hanged the judge’s rooster dinner would be brought back to life. The rest, as they say, is something best left for the X-files.
After Barcelos we rode on to Ponte de Lima (30km), a bridge named and famous for its Roman/Medieval bridge. I was somewhat concerned about this ride because it was the first of the hilly stages that separated Portugal from Spain. After doing some research into the walking route, we decided it wouldn’t be rideable and should instead stick to the highway, which did have the advantage of smoothing out the gradients somewhat. There were two climbs, both turned out quite manageable with a lovely descent after each. We made extremely good time and could explore the town.When we arrived at the albergue in Ponte de Lima there were already some 20 pilgrims waiting for it to open. We were informed that bike riders couldn’t be accepted until 6pm, but as there were 60 beds available we shouldn’t worry. Indeed I think we were issued beds 33 & 34 within a large dormitory, easily the largest group of people I’ve shared sleeping space with since primary school. After only meeting 15 pilgrims before this, it was suddenly strange to be sharing with 30 others. We were the only cyclists and although we’d been riding for many days and kilometres it felt a bit strange to be there when everyone else was hiking.
Interestingly people seemed put off by the idea of cycling such a long route, as if hiking was easier. I guess they don’t know you don’t have to pedal down hill.
The next morning was the section I was dreading, the crossing of the hilly region between Portugal and Spain. The camino takes a steep hiking trail for these days, so we decided it would be better to take the highway. The first climb and descent took us from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães (20km) and was actually quite pleasant. After some food and a look around we did the next one to Valença on the Portuguese border (18km).
Valença is a town which features a historical crossing into Spain and a huge triple-tiered fortress full of cannons that looks over the river. Interestingly the Spainish didn’t feel the need to build a fortress of their own.
After lunch we decided it was time to cross over into Tui, Spain which was not nearly as exciting as I’d hoped because there was no line to demark the border. Just a huge faded and peeling sign once you’d crossed the river. Tui is on a hill and not super accessible on bike due to all the stairs/steep roads.
We had planned to ride another 15km or so, but I was having a fructose reaction from lunch and we’d just gained an hour of time so we decided to knock off instead.
We made up for it on Wednesday by riding 50km from Tui to Pontevedra via Redondela and Arcade. Again most of this riding was on highway because photos of the trail made it look not super bike friendly. The highway does, for the most part, have a nice wide shoulder but it’s not well swept and I got our first flat of the tour. It was slow and I only realised after siesta when it was completely flat, but it explains a lot about the doubley hard climb and shakey descent before lunch.
Thursday I was sore. Muscles have reached that level of exhaustion again where they need a day off to recouperate. Combined with not sleeping the night before in the dorm of 1000 snorers. Both climbs involved a lot of shifting around to find muscles that didn’t ache yet. More highway riding again, we accidentally rode a whole stage just trying to find a place to have coffee. We ended up finishing the whole day before lunch (40km), which allowed for a great siesta).
Tomorrow is the final 25km. We’re not sure then what. We might go on to Finesterra, the end of the world. Or just go back to Madrid. Wait and see in the final chapter.