Galicia random encounter and El Camino de Santiago

Do you know Fidel Castro, the former leader in Cuba (still in power), is not from Cuba? He is actually from Galicia, you may ask where the hack is Galicia? It is located in the northwestern most part of Spain, famous for the destination of El Camino de Santiago (The ways of St. James) where thousands of pilgrims finish their long walk and rest a bit there.

Ron and I kept cycling along the northern coast of Spain, crossing a huge bridge from Asturias to Ribadeo, the first town in Galicia side. The bridge itself is a highway and bicycles are forbidden to ride on, but there is a narrow side walk that our GPS and Google map lead us to. It saved us around 10km to cycle around that river mouth.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did not stop in Ribadeo but keep going to Foz. The day before we rolled our bike on sort of grassland next to the beach, usually there are some hidden thorns which may puncture your tyres. Both of Ron’s tyres were flat on the road, before changing the tube, we first pumped them up to see if it goes flat immediately to determine the size of the punctures. Luckily they were both tiny punctures, and they lasted the whole day with 2 more pumpings. Once we arrived Foz, we repaired both inner tubes by Superglue. It was Ron’s first bicycle tyre repairing ever, I am glad to see him learning how to do it by himself.

The night we stayed with our host Anxo, who shared his experience cycling in Cuba. He recommended us to ride along the Galician coast instead of national roads. Thanks for his advice that we had amazing views all the way pedaling to Viveiro.

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In Viveiro our host Roberto just had an operation and could not receive us, but he found us his colleague Simon who welcomed us in his huge apartment. The next day we played badminton with him and his colleagues, gosh it was exhausting to run around like mice. Once I settled down I must train up myself playing badminton that I used to play quite well.

Almost everyone in Viveiro knows Simon as he is the PE teacher in a high school. On the day we planned to leave, he organized 2 newspaper interviews so that we could share our stories with people in his town. For us, this bike trip is a dream come true, we wish to let more people know that they can pursue their dreams and keep fighting for it!

Here are the two interviews:

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Simon strongly recommended us not to miss 2 very interesting things to be seen on the way to Ortigueira.
El major banco del mundo (The best bench in the world) – which is located next to Praia do Picon (Picon beach) in a village called Loiba. Once we arrived there, we were totally soaked by the 270 degrees view of the ocean and the cliffs. However, the bench seems quite lonely if there is nobody visits it, although it enjoys the best view in the world everyday.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe town pig Anton of Espasante – located in Espasante beach. We were shocked to hear this tradition about a whole village raising a free pig (always named Anton) for a year, letting it to run around town and eat whatever it wants. Then by the end of that year (in April) they have a lottery to award the winner Anton to eat. This year the winner did not want to kill Anton, that’s why we were lucky to see it still alive by the end of April. Simon told us Anton is “in jail” because it is too big now, and people with crops and vegetables growing in their garden are worried about Anton would eat them all. We asked around and finally located the “jail” that people put Anton, it is huge! I tried to seduce it with an apple, and it ran after me like a monster.

That evening we were glad to locate a river and set our tent next to it with gorgeous view!

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Actually after Ribadeo, the Camino Norte goes inland passing Vilalba and reach Santiago de Compostela. But the coastal route we were riding through Ferrol and A Coruna is the Camino Ingles (English Way). It is just a name for the route, but Camino Ingles has less infrastructure than the other Camino, less albergue (pilgrim hostels) and much harder to find where to get a stamp.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne of the main attractions along the coast are definitely those quiet and exotic beaches, they are almost untouched because of the sparse population there.

We stopped at Ferrol for a night and camped under a lookout along the river. It took ages to cook pasta using my handmade can stove and burning alcohol. It was time to consider buying a regular camping stove that we could boil the rice in 10 minutes. What brand do you suggest?

There are still plenty of fishermen working in the river, catching fish with nets.

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Local fishermen catching fish

And here is the Galician Horreo (traditional storage house), rectangular shaped and usually with only 3 supporting pillars. You can read its function in my previous post.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUpon arriving A Coruna, the largest city in Galicia, we had a very nice host who gave us a lot of advice on bike gears. Due to the fact that some teeth of my gear plate was worn out and could not catch the chain, I had no choice but to change the whole plate-chain and cassette system because if I only change one part, the old parts will wear out the new part much quicker than usual. It costs 50 euros to change all 3 parts including the service charge, I found it quite reasonable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARon got his bike shoes as well, which allow him to ride using both his quadriceps and hamstrings, a more balanced training of the leg muscles. We were riding our last day towards Santiago de Compostela, which marks the final destination of El Camino de Santiago. After a little climbing to 400m, we enjoyed rolling down all the way.

P4241522aWhen we reached the Cathedral square in Santiago, we saw a fellow cyclist who dress up his bike like a crown. He is Alfonso, and his bike Lucky, they are Lucky Alfi. They both have happiness seeds which lift up people’s souls and feel happy. I was totally inspired by his joyful character, he has a super talent to convert any negative experience into a positive ones. Wish him all the best in his touring adventure, and I think we will meet again somewhere in Central Europe later this year. Follow Lucky Alfi cycling tour!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASettled down in Santiago, we had a nice dinner with our host. And the next day, we went to get our Camino certificates. Almost everyday there is a long long queue at the Camino office, in high seasons around 2000 pilgrims rush into the town each day, no wonder the majority of economy in Santiago is supported by tourism!

Most of the Saturday and Sunday, there will be midday mass in the cathedral which has a ceremony dedicated to pilgrims. I was touched when the priest blessed all of us a safe journey to homes, the last time I visited my home was a year ago, and now I am on the way home, but do not know how long would it take… most importantly is to travel safe!

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The day we left Santiago was a rainy day, the pouring rain washed away all our joy and passion, although we tried to stay positive, we did not know it was a timer-bomb which leads to an explosion when we arrive Portugal. Read my next post and see what happened.

P4281652a In Pondevedra, we were received by Familia Supertramp, a family who travel with their kids on trike bikes (recumbent bikes). Oscar and Susana are very enthusiastic about their adventure next year when their son grows up a bit more. You can get a lot of useful information on their website about how to do a cycling tour with children.(but it is in Spanish)

Before crossing the river to Portugal, we had our last dessert, that was to visit the Castro, very old settlement by the Celtic people, this is located in A Guarda, worth to drop by and have a look, magnificent!!
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So far Galicia has given us plenty of random encounters, it is truly one of the most beautiful part of Spain, very untouched and traditional. By the way, their language Galego is a mixed between Spanish and Portuguese, one of our host recommended us to listen this Galician band SES, here is one of their songs:

The first chapter of our cycling tour is done, and finally we crossed to a new country Portugal. Stay tuned and see what challenges are laid ahead of us!

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