It is hard to believe, but I am playing the 14th hole on the back nine, to use a golf analogy.
With any luck, I should be arriving in Santiago on Friday, culminating thirteen days of riding.
In order to do that I have a very challenging mountain to ascend tomorrow. I am just entering the autonomous region of Galicia, which has four provinces. Thought by many to be the area of Spain that reminds them of the Pacific Northwest in the States.
Similar to the mountains of the Northwest and the Pacific Ocean, the mountains of Galicia are the first object in more than 3000 miles that westerly winds coming across the Atlantic hit. So weather changes quickly with rain, wind and fog.
The mountains are not particularly dramatic or very high, but they must be crossed to get to Santiago.
Tomorrow’s is 4,363 feet high, and I will be starting at 1,738 feet. I don’t know what the grade is, but the distance that I have to accomplish this is approximately 5 miles.
The town at the top is O’Cebreiro, with a population of 50.
Tonight I am staying in another Albergues, which are essentially hostels with metal bunk beds with no sheets or blankets. But showers and sometimes food. And they are cheap. Tonight cost me 5 euros or about $6. Only peregrinos can stay in Albergues.
But this one has two things most of them do not. One, a massage. I just had one and it hit the spot.
The second, is the padre – the father of the young entrepreneur that is running the Albergues. A delicious head of white hair, crumpled face reflecting years of toiling, walks with a cane, long nose, but eyes that are alive. He offers to take by car your clothes and gear that otherwise you have on the back of your bike in your panniers. He will leave them in a bar in O’Cebreiro for you to pick up after you have scaled the mountain. How is that for service? Is there a cost? Yes, a total of 4 euros.
I took him up on his kind offer without hesitation.
Climbing hills has been very difficult for me. For a lot of reasons.
It has never been my cycling strength (I am very good at going downhill!). I am riding a mountain bike that is very heavy. The gear I am carrying in the panniers weigh something — I don’t know how much, but it is not light. Plus, I am carrying on my back a small backpack that is loaded with a bladder full of water plus four guide books.
In addition, since my chain broke I have not been able to switch to either the lowest or the highest gears. I am riding all the time with the chain on the middle of the three wheels. This is normally something I can live with, but it does mean that I can’t get into the lowest of the lowest gears for hill climbing.
They say 15% of the peregrinos ride a bike. Of these, my estimate is that 50% of them are not carrying any gear with them on their bikes. They have a sag wagon, someone who is following their journey and bringing their gear to them each night. Or they are part of a tour that provides this service.
Needless to say, I had not had this luxury.