Welcome to the day 12 post of our Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage by bike which happened on the 5th of June 2015. I did this stage of 63.82 Km or 39.7 miles from Las Herrerías to Sarria in 8h and 05 min, of which 5h 14 min were of actual moving time.
I must confess, I’ve been dreading to write this post as it reminds me of the biggest navigation error I’ve made in the entire pilgrimage. I felt (and still do) like a fool for having done that error, but if this post and video help prevent other pilgrims from doing the same mistakes than it is worth it. My ego can take it 🙂
I left the hostel in Las Herrerías around 7:30am, 30 min earlier than I was used to, because I knew it would be a day of challenges ahead. Fernando had left the hostel about 40 min earlier, I think (he is used to waking up with the birds).
Full of energy and disposition I started cycling up hill, but without my Navigator by my side (I don’t have a very good sense of direction) it wasn’t long before I made the 1st mistake.
When I came to a crossroad junction and had to decide to continue in the direction of La Faba on the small road I was on (labelled CV-125/1) or take another small road to La Laguna (labelled CV-125/15) I decided to continue to La Faba (there was no yellow sign to help out at that point).
I must add a note here to say that this mistake is only relevant to those who do the Camino by bike. I essentially took the same route as the walking pilgrims do, which from the village of La Faba onwards is totally unsuitable for most cycling pilgrims. It is a 4 Km long uphill track that even walking pilgrims carrying a heavy backpack would struggle with, I think, let alone those pushing a loaded bike up.
So, for anyone reading this post and planning to do the Camino, do yourself a favour and take the road to La Laguna. It is about 2 Km longer, but believe me, it’s worth it!
The worst part of the 4 Km uphill track actually wasn’t so much having to push the bike up. It was the huge number of flies because of the amount of horse manure left in the track. In Las Herrerías it is possible to “rent” horses to carry the luggage up for you (is that cheating? I don’t think so, as you have to walk it up anyway… the horses only carry the luggage). Obviously the horses leave “stuff” behind when going uphill.
I arrived in La Laguna with a feeling of achievement, but was really tired and it was a slow ascent. So much so that some walking pilgrims that had left the hostel after me, actually caught up with me in La Laguna as I stopped for a few minutes to drink some freshly squeezed orange juice and eat a banana. La Laguna is by far not the end of the ascent to “O Cebreiro“. After La Laguna there are still another 2 Km of uphill which was steep enough to force me to get off my bike again and push (I’d say perhaps a 12% incline in places… about 150m up in 2 Km).
Well, now we come to the point that I got to the Village of “O Cebreiro” and stopped to take a few pictures. Once the pictures were taken I decided not to go into the village (which I should have done) and moved on. Somehow I missed the yellow sign that was actually pointing towards the village. Instead of entering the village, in order to get onto the LU-633 in the direction of Liñares, I continued on the small CV-125/1 and happily rode the wrong way downhill for more than 6 Km until a lady waved at me with the typical “no” gesture. Must confess, by that point I was already suspicious of having taken the wrong route, but God knows how much more I would have traveled if that lady didn’t do this small gesture and took the time to explain to me how to get back to the Camino.
Angels appear in many shapes and forms. We are all angels when we help other people. Religious chatter aside, I feel I can say that for me that it was God who placed that lady there, right when I needed it, to bring me back to the right track, so “Thank you God!”.
Well, as you all can imagine the frustration of having taken the wrong direction for so long was only matched by the realization that I now had to climb another 6 Km again after an already challenging morning climb pushing my bike most of the way up, but that was what the universe wanted me to do at that point, so I did it. Thankfully the directions given by my angel were clear and precise and with some checking along the way I was able to re-join the Camino near the village of Liñares 1h and 38 min later. So the result of my mistake was a loss of about 2h and the need to ride nearly 10 Km or 6 miles more than I should have, of which 8 Km or 5 miles where of steep uphill again.
After that, you could think that the rest of the day was a breeze… Well, it wasn’t bad, but as I paid more attention to the yellow signs they led me to paths which were again not suitable for cycling pilgrims after the village of Hospital, but the worst parts of these paths were relatively short compared to what I had endured between La Faba and O Cebreiro in the morning. I would strongly advise though that if you are cycling the Camino you stick to the road (the LU-633) until about 1 Km after the village of Fonfria where you may follow the yellow signs onto the walkers path which is very smooth compared to the previous ones and it will save you some 2 Km over staying on the LU-633.
If you do take the walkers path, about 1 Km after the little village of Fillobal, you will re-join the LU-633 again. From that point onwards I decided I had had enough, no matter where the yellow signs pointed to. I knew that road would take me to Samos and Sarria, but I didn’t know at the time in which city I was going to stay for the night (was aiming Sarria though).
Along the way I crossed little villages and towns, such as Pasantes, Triacastela (where I met a pilgrim on a recumbent tricycle, pulling a little trailer behind with his dog in it), San Cristovo do Real, Renche, San Martiño do Real and Samos.
I didn’t know at the time, but it was in Samos that Fernando had stopped.
As I arrived in Samos at was still about 2:00pm and I decided to ride further to Sarria, the next town in the Camino. I stopped in Samos just to stamp my Pilgrim’s credential at the municipal hostel and moved on. I added some of Fernando’s pictures here, although I have not experienced the town myself. From Samos to Sarria is just another 12 Km, but I was pretty tired from all the uphill climbing this day, so my plan was to make an early stop there. Crossed through and by tiny villages with distinct Galician names such as A Ferrería, Teiguín, O Vao until arriving in Sarria around 3:00pm. Sarria is a well-developed town and I followed the yellow signs to see if they would take me to a hostel in town.
By cheer luck, as I was riding through Sarria I passed by a little souvenir shop and glimpse inside only to see Marcelo and Alice in there. I stopped to say hi and ask what their plans were. At that time they were uncertain if they were going to stay in Sarria or ride a bit further, but when I told them I was pretty tired and was going to stay they decided to stay as well. It just happened that nearby there was a private hostel named Casa Peltre. Alice went to take a look inside and came back saying she thought it was very good (and it was indeed). The overnight was €10 and the albergue is clean and comfortable with a fascinating decoration (take a look at the pictures in their web site). Maria, the “hospitalero” who received us is a really nice person. It is a small hostel and can accommodate only 22 people at once, distributed in 3 bedrooms: A big dormitory room with 14 beds on bunk-beds where we stayed and two other rooms with four beds in each (2 bunk-beds). The hostel has two spacious and very clean bathrooms, with very good and warm pressure showers. It has also a fully fitted kitchen upstairs and a dining area.
After a warm shower Marcelo and I decided to walk around town to find something to eat (Alice was a bit tired and decided to stay and have a nap). We found a Kebab place by the Sarria river side and filled our bellies with Kebabs. With bellies full we walked around town a bit more until we got to a tapas bar called “Mesón O Tapas
” and treated ourselves to some delicious Spanish beers.
It was a day filled with mixed emotions: The physical challenge of having to push the bike up some very steep paths full of obstacles, the frustrations of the mistakes I made along the way this day, the blessing of having an Angel direct me to the right path again and the joy to encounter good Camino friends at the end. I certainly could have lived without the mistakes, but it was a good day, in spite of them. Well, that concludes this post about the 12th day of the Pilgrimage. Please feel free to leave comments, questions or at least indicate if you liked it or not by clicking on the stars in the bottom of the post.