I could have easily made it to Sanitago on the bike yesterday, but I stopped short and will have an easy ride today. It was raining very lightly in Tivo when I got up, but by the time I had breakfast and put the panniers on my bike, it had stopped. I left in the dusk of morning with a flashing headlight and taillight.
Oh, a digression — if you’ve read my earlier blog entries, you know that Portugal and all of Southern Europe was suffering a heat wave when I arrived. I’ve now learned that it has a name, Heatwave Lucifer.
The afternoon before I left Tivo, I had taken this picture of the Camino just after the hostel. The path also serves as a village street, apparently constructed before the automobile age and never widened. The grapes vines on both sides bear Concord grapes, some of which were ripe. Yes, I sampled one. As to the crucifixion, it is very weathered and must have been there for centuries. Yesterday morning I cycled down this path before rejoining highway N550, which I then followed all of the way here.
After just a few kilometers of pedaling, I stopped at a café with decent WiFi internet access and uploaded yesterday’s blog entry. The café was jammed with pilgrims, and it was difficult to work and juggle my coffee. I had to share my small table with three other pilgrims, and there were people standing. Had I just gone 200 meters further, I would have found a café with no customers whose owner would probably have been delighted to sell me a coffee and have me use the WiFi.
I entered the town of Caldas de Reis by crossing the Ullma River on an ancient bridge that had been resurfaced and widened to handle two-way automobile traffic plus a narrow pedestrian walkway on each side. I snapped this picture of two pilgrims on the bridge, one of whom just had to take a picture of the scenic river.
Ahead, the bridge curved to the right, so I was able to photograph the arches that support the bridge. These ancient arches were well-enough build to support the automobiles and semi-truck that cross the bridge today. Yes, I cycled over those arches, completing with the heavy traffic on the narrow but busy roadway.
I next passed this poor old church in a state of neglect with two women sitting beside it. There was a sign to the right of them announcing that ice cream was sold inside, and the rusty sign on the front of the church advertises a tobacconist’s shop. Under the arch just behind the rusty sign there is an ancient fountain from which I imagine pilgrims were once glad to drink. No one was at the fountain when I stopped to view it. I am not religious, but it saddens me to see an old, historic building neglected this way.
Incidentally, sections of the highway that I cycled today were very busy, and often there was no shoulder, so I had to ride out in the traffic lane competing with cars and trucks. It wasn’t a problem. Spanish drivers are incredibly tolerant of cyclists and treat them as a normal part of the traffic flow. As I mentioned in earlier posts, when passing a cyclist, almost all drivers wait until they can safely pass while giving the cyclists at least the required 1.5 meters (about five feet) of clearance.
If you’re wondering why I photographed this road sign, it is because of the town to the left, Os Anxeles. That is the Galician spelling of Los Angeles. Although people in this region seem so speak Spanish more than they do Galician, all of the signs along the roadway are in the latter language. It pays to know a few words of Portuguese here as well as Spanish. Galician has a lot of similarity with Portuguese.
My final photograph is of the hostel where I spent last night and from where I will publish this blog entry and eat breakfast. It’s a combination pilgrim’s hostel and restaurant called La Calabaza del Peligrino. Calabaza can mean either pumpkin or gourd. I suppose the idea is that this is a place where a pilgrim can find refreshment, just as ancient pilgrims filled their gourds with fresh water. There is a huge patio in the back where my bicycle is patiently waiting for me to reclaim it after breakfast.
Today I cycle to Santiago de Compostela, the end of my cycling journey. I have a room (bathroom down the hall) reserved for three nights, and I hope I can extend it to four. August 23 is the earliest I could get a train out of Santiago to Madrid. From Madrid? I don’t yet know. I will have more than a week left before my plane leaves from Madrid, so perhaps I will spend a few days in Córdova and then a night or two in Madrid again before I fly home. Whatever I do, I’ll post it daily on this blog. I will plan it and make reservations from my room tomorrow. I also have to decide what to do with my old touring bicycle. It’s not worth what the airlines would charge to fly it home. Perhaps I should just leave it on the sidewalk with a sign on it reading “gratis,” free.