Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Day 12 - O'Ceberio - Portomarin

Holy cow! We were awoken at 6am by the sound of Ave Maria super loud. I opened my eyes and saw dark wood above me barely visible in flickering candle light. I thought I was dead, only to look around and see a statue of Madonna and child – argghhhh! Then a chap in the bunk below farted, clearly I was not dead! It wasn’t candle lights, it was just electric light from downstairs and other peoples torches and headlights. The wood was the roof beam. It appeared to be the alarm to get the cyclists out as all the walkers were either finishing off breakfast or already on the road.

There was much rustling and plastic bag stuffing going on but I stayed resolutely where I was, until a few other people left. Up and into the shower. The shower was interesting, a glass door in a communal bathroom, giving us a little more information about our fellow travellers than I needed, but I guess some of them now know more about me than is entirely nice.

Then down to breakfast. I was dipping Magdalena’s in honey, not terribly healthy but a great way to absorb carbohydrates fast. We sat outside with a couple of English blokes who were walking but not much slower than us. The older one burst his CamelBak water carrier and went berserk because he couldn’t fix it. It was really quite funny.

We started the climb straight past the Spanish family who had cycled out ten minutes earlier and already stopped to walk. We saw the motorway towering above us, it was an intimidating sight as we knew we had to cycle above it. The climb wasn’t so bad though, it was long and only occasionally really steep but it was pleasantly cool with Simpson’s clouds all the way.

Reaching O Ceberio was wonderful. The highest climb of the whole trip and we’d made it – woohoo. There was a little cafĂ© playing absurdly loud Celtic music, and serving people painfully slowly. The church was beautiful, very plain with a story of a miracle – A local shepherd struggled through the snow to get to mass, but the monk performing the ceremony hated him for being so dedicated, when it got to communion the wine and bread really did turn to blood and flesh. The chalice is stored in a gold box to the side of the church. I lit some candles and sat three rows in from the back on the right for a few minutes quiet thinking. The town itself had stone age round buildings with thatched roofs.

I was nervous about the valve on my front tyre sheering as it was at an alarming angle. I decided to fix it, but was really struggling to pump up the tyre so German ‘Dad’ types got a young Italian chap with a super pump to inflate it – in nine seconds.

The descent was really scary. I kept stopping and told Lou how nervous I was, she wasn’t finding it frightening at all so I suggested I’d find it easier if she took a stint as ‘lead rider’. Half a kilometre down the road I was back in front – Lou decided it was scary after all. It gets frightening because you feel like you are going much faster when in front because you can’t see where you are going. The road is just a string of hairpins, with just a metal crash barrier to stop your bike, but probably not you, hurtling down the mountainside if you don’t turn quick enough. Cycling clubs came whizzing past us, some waving and some not holding onto the handlebars at all.

Whilst stopping every couple of kilometres to cool the rims we watched the helicopters water bombing the forest fire on the next mountain, although the wind was blowing our way so we didn’t want to stick around long.

We stopped in Samos to cool off and enjoy some lunch. The ride on was hot and tiring, although we were cheered on by a nice stamp from the monastery, but disappointed that the church he directed us to didn’t seem to exist.

It was absurdly hot, over 40°C, even though it was after 4:30 when we set out. Hot and tired we made our way over several hills before reaching Sarria. It looked a little grim and it was more difficult to navigate because they no longer speak Spanish as we are now in Galicia and the road signs are incomprehensible.

We found the Hostale Londres, as recommended in our book. It was grim, very, very grim, but Lou had a bug in her eye and really wanted to stay somewhere. On balance we agreed that it was preferable to lose an eye rather than spend a night in the Bates Motel. I was glad, I’d rather have stayed in a school hall. We rode around to the fancy looking Hotel Alfonso XI, but it was ‘completo’. The receptionist took great glee in telling me that everywhere in town was ‘completo’. I stopped at a bike shop to pick up a functioning pump. I managed to mime a CO2 canister, which wasn’t easy, but he didn’t have any so it was all rather wasted on him.

We toyed with going back to the Bates Motel but really weren’t keen. We cycled down the main street - nothing. We decided that if we headed for the church we’d pick up signs for the Camino and the alburgue, and we’d be able to ask there for a bed, or floor space, or school gym floor space! Outside the church a chap offered us rooms. He spoke to Lou in French and she went with him to check it out. Slightly smelly, hot single rooms with a shared, but clean bathroom and a garage for the bikes, all for 7€ each. Perfect.

We strolled out to pick up stamps and cash. Shop security throughout Spain has been non existent. Shopkeepers work out what you owe on a piece of paper, check it on a calculator, then put big notes in a box under the counter and smaller ones with the small change in a little drawer. It’s quite sweet really, and refreshing that they can do so without fear.

After failing to find a restaurant we had dinner at our Casa’s owner’s mate’s bar. Salad followed by all sorts of veal choices were on the menu del dias, which, as ever was not written down so I guessed at most of it. I managed to negotiate a tuna and cheese omelette. If I’d known more words I would have had more ingredients! Some of the people who had helped us out on the mountain were at the next table and seemed rather disappointed that we needed no help translating. They were itching to be useful! We shared a bottle of truly dreadful wine. They were staying at the same house as us.

Back to our rooms. It was nice to have a room to myself even though it had no outside window, just shutters out onto a corridor. My shutters were fine left open but through the night Lou realised hers weren’t. Having sprawled out to keep cool she awoke to find the light on by her feet. Assorted folk who were visiting the bathroom had to pass the end of her bed.

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