22nd August 2013

I heard last night that Gina’s mum is unwell. Gina did not want me to return home immediately, but I am going to step up my rate of progress. I have a hotel booked tonight in Ribadeo for 2 nights to give me a rest day; but after that I plan to stick to tarmac and storm to Santiago asap. I reckon I can cover the 200km distance and 4,000m of climb in 3 days from Ribadeo. I’ll use Albergues along the way as I don’t need to book, and just hope there is space!

My departure from Navia goes well and I get off early. There is little up and down today, and the Camino takes me mainly through farm tracks so I progress with some speed. I see many interesting farm buildings with holes in the walls, though I’m not sure what they are for (anyone know?) I have a feeling it’s something to do with maintaining a cool temperature in the room below:

All the way along the Camino there are markers to help (though my GPS is useful too as I often depart from the official route). In case you ever find yourself in northern Spain, this is what the markers look like:

I think the idea is that there are many routes (the yellow lines like rays of the sun) all coming towards Santiago (the yellow dot). So the markers are always orientated so that the rays point you in the direction you need to go. There are also yellow painted arrows on trees and walls to help avoid going astray.

The Camino is very well organised because it is such a religious pilgrim route and has church and state support. However many people such as me are not doing it for religious reasons and I suspect this is eroding the holiness of the route. I spotted some evidence of satanic forces establishing themselves just 1.5km off the Camino:

I am on the beach by mid afternoon, and close to my destination so I have a couple of hours rest. The beach is a series of coves in the cliff face separated by walls of rock reaching out along the beach towards the sea. Once in any particular cove you can’t see the next one along, and one such has been designated as the naturist beach. It’s very well organised. 

As I doze on the beach I am aware that the tide is coming in, but the sand slopes steeply so it doesn’t come anywhere near where I am lying. When it’s time to go I pack up my panniers and head out along the coves back to the bike. As I round the cliff wall of my cove, I see that the next beach does not slope steeply like mine, and the incoming tide has reached much further – in fact the sea has reached the next rock wall and effectively cut me off from where my bike is locked up. I wander up to it and investigate. There is a couple by the cliff, who see my confusion and we start chatting. They are french, and have some Spanish and little English, but I gather from them that the water around the cliff is only chest deep.

Rather than risk my panniers (which have my computer, phone etc in) I leave them on the beach in an alcove high above the waves, and wade in. It turns out that the water is in fact neck deep (maybe the French chap was taller than he looked), and the action of the waves regularly carry me off my feet. I would not want to risk my IT stuff here. So I climb out of the sea up onto the cliff face and see if I can make my way around dry-shod. That works for a while but then I come upon some sheer cliff. Also I can now see far enough around the cove to realise I’d have the same problem 2 more times before I reached the bike.

So I decide to give up and look for another option. I dive into the sea and swim back around to where I have left my kit in the alcove. As I round the rocks back to the cove, imagine my surprise when I see that the French couple are having sex in the alcove near where I have left my kit. She is bent over some rocks and he is calmly rogering her from behind. They are out of sight of the rest of the beach, but knew I would be returning so have evidently chosen to do this in my sight. They may have just liked being watched, or maybe they were hoping I would join in. But I just give them a smile and a wink and moved on. 

I wander back to the cove I had started in, and after some exploration find a way up the cliff and into the fields above. I follow a path back towards the car park where my bike is locked up, and as the path is quite clear I’m confident it must go there. It winds back and forth above the coves, and finally comes down towards the cove with the car park. And there it promptly dies out. I can’t understand how it can do that – it must have been made by others seeking to return to the car park after having been cut off – maybe they all just died in the fields. But in any event, between me and the bike there is 40ft of brambles and nettles going down a 20 cliff edge to a river, empty when I arrived but now full of tidal water, which I will have to cross. This barrier stretches on into the distance following the river inland. Ho hum.

After some messing about I decide the only way is to beat my way through the brambles. I use my pannier and sleeping bag case to push them down, and then stand on them. It’s slow work but once beaten down they can support my weight and give good grip as I descend to the river. It takes 20 mins of careful work but I escape with just a few cuts to my legs. (and nowhere else – I had put my shorts back on by this stage!).

A quick wade through the river washed all the blood off, and I finally made it back to my bike and a small bar, where I could have cold coke and reflect on my mini adventure. I finally make it into Ribadeo in the evening, which turns out to be quite a large town on an estuary, with a small ship-yard on one bank building very large ships.

Published by jhalstead1

This is my blog of my trip around Spain, off road, on my mountain bike. The story is told in full in my book "Three Wheels on my Bicycle", available on Amazon in Kindle or hardback.

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