Tuesday 12 June 2012

Day 16-San Breixo, Sobrado dos Monxes, Arzua - Santiago de Compostela

We made it!!' After cycling 599 miles (958km) the feeling of achievement is as intense as the body aches.
A long and intense day just before arriving to Santiago.

We started early (for us, anyway) leaving San Breixo via Parga. Back, legs, shoulders, all complaining.

Taking the turn towards Ferreira we joined the DP-8001.

This is not strictly camino. The walking route takes you through Seixón, Anafreita, Coba (a big hill), Pedramaror and then joins the road to Sobrado via Vilariño.

Some of these places aren't linked by roads, and we spent some time last night trying to work out a road bike alternative, taking in as many of the stops as possible.

In the end, the rain won out. Heavy continuous rain when we woke up made us rethink a more direct route to Sobrado.

We followed the DP-8001 until As Cruces turning left to join the AC-231 to Sobrado. Both roads good to cycle, the latter a well cambered tarmac road which gave a smooth ride despite the driving icy rain.

We took refuge in a cafe next to the monastery in Sobrado, a beautiful ornate church and cloister, which is still partially occupied and also contains a pilgrim hostel. Ordering cafe con leche and large Bocadillos, we waited for the rain to clear inside.

A break in the rain and we rush in to the monastery to stamp our camino passes and head on our way.

Sobrado to Arzúa along the AC-934 until Corredoiras where it becomes the AC-234. A great road for cycling- smooth tarmac and only a few cars. The sun peeks out, drawing steam off the road and warms our backs. Our shoes are still soaked through.

Arzùa is where the Camino del Norte meets the Camino Francés. Suddenly there are loads of peregrinos strolling up and down the road. We hear 5 different languages asking directions.

We pass through the main crossroads and join the camino, a sense that the various routes: Camino del Norte, Camino Frances, Camino Primitivo, all weave into one on this final journey to Santiago de Compostela, where the bones of St James lie.

Although we're only passing through on our way to Finisterre, you feel the anticipation around you, exhausted faces, lots of knee-straps. A hope for all those around you to make it that last 37km.

We begin this stretch on a cobbled street and then spend the next 37km switching between main road and the dirt track which is the camino.

It is raining again and the dirt track now has a stream running through the middle of it.

The main N-547 which runs in parallel has large trucks driving at 100-120km/h along it and I watch a couple cutting the corner over the hard shoulder (our bit of road) so they don't loose speed.

I don't really understand why, if this is the main camino, there isn't a safer road bike alternative indicated (as there is across Asturia and most of the north coast).

We jump off and hit dirt tracks. We rejoin and cringe every time a truck rushes past.

As we approach Santiago, the camino crosses the main road before a roundabout which connects with the motorway. A big No Cycles sign forces us off the road, down a bumpy grit path and we walk, pushing bikes until we meet the path around the perimeter of the airport. A disused sliproad allows us to ride in to San Paio and we break briefly before following the camino uphill to another dirt path down. We push the bikes AGAIN, and the camino eventually joins a local road up to Monte de Gozo, the last hill before Santiago. The view is incredible, with the spires of the cathedral in the distance and huge black clouds broken by shafts of light.

We cycle down and cross the last two roundabouts on the outskirts of town before following the camino route to the Cathedral.

A last hitch- the main walking route is a one way street with cars driving in the opposite direction, uphill and with their foot down! What on earth are the city planners thinking???

We push the bikes along the narrow pavement, over a pedestrian crossing and then cycle the last bit, around the paved side streets, arriving at the foot of the cathedral as the clock strikes 9pm. We've made it!!!

A rush of emotion, relief, and the smiles from people around us- they've seen or experienced this before.

We'll be back again tomorrow morning to stamp and authenticate our route at the official Pilgrim's Office (which closes at 9pm) and plot the next bit- to the end of the earth...

Total Distance so far: 600miles (960km)

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