I arrived in Barcelos early yesterday afternoon by bike, again riding mainly over cobblestone rural roads. I had been warned to avoid the national highway N306 due to heavy, high-speed traffic. However, I reached a point where I had to decide whether to take the highway or a pilgrim’s path through the woods. If I had been riding a mountain bike, I suppose I would have chosen the path, but I wasn’t sure my road touring bike could handle it, so I chose the “highway.”
It wasn’t nearly as bad as I had been led to believe. Motorists were very careful of cyclists, and I wasn’t the only cyclist on the road. It was more of a narrow, busy rural road that what we would call a highway in Arizona.
In addition to individual cyclists, there was a whole group of mountain bikers on the road. We continually passed each other, and it turned out that they were coming here to Barcelos for lunch at the restaurant next door to the pilgrim’s hostel before heading back home.
Even the pilgrims on foot were frequently forced to walk the highway, and from talking to them, their experience was not as pleasant as mine. An Irishman I was just speaking to said most of the car traffic gave pilgrims little room.
Here’s one of the signs I ran into where the pilgrim’s path or camino joins the highway. On the bottom it reads, “Caution! Circulation of Pilgrims.” Those might not be the exact words we would use if we wrote the sign in English, but it basically means that pilgrims are walking in the road ahead.
Below is one of the villages I cycled past. I should have noted its name, but I did not. This whole area is thickly settled. So far I have not really had a sense of being out in the countryside, unlike when walked the Camino francés.
This ancient bridge leads into the town of Arcos. As you can see, my mountain biker friends went into town to explore, but I did not. I could have ridden into town and taken another exit to get back to the highway, but I was a bit tired of being jarred by cobblestones and was hoping to ride ahead and find a stretch of relatively smooth tarmac.
The guys who were riding here to eat yesterday dumped their bikes in the pilgrim’s hostel while they ate at the cafe next door. The hostel belongs to the town, but the owners of the cafe manage it. As you can imagine from the number of bikes, the restaurant was very crowded at lunch. I ate lunch there, too, delicious salmon with French fries preceded by a bowl of soup whose ingredients plus black olives and a salad of lettuce, tomato, and onion.
One last photo. My roommate’s girlfriend was carrying a sign saying “free hugs” in various languages. It turned out that in addition to Italian, she spoke a bit of French. Well, in any language, free is free and also irresistible. Her boyfriend snapped the picture, and he didn’t even punch me afterwards.