I had to wait outside the hostel until 8.30, by which time most of the hostelers gone, for the Saturday bloke to come and let my bike out of the garage, having talked his way through the exact purpose of each key in his copious bunch.
The morning looked grey but dry. Samos had a splendid monastery, and then in Sarria I had a coffee to gee me up. I sourced some bread and tortilla from a bakery, but thanks to my inaccurate Spanish, my slice was the size and wieght of a mattress, so I was happy.
On the advice of a helpful local I spurned the offroad option and followed the tarmac. Upwards it went for over an hour, 15km or so, a steady 450m of climb. Then there was a long descent into Portomarin, an odd place removed from the site of a new reservoir and rebuilt brick by brick in Disneyesque perfection up the hill, but without jobbing actors in kitsch costumes pretending scarily to be six-foot-tall mice wearing polka dot dresses.
I had lunch in the square in front of the formidably fortified church and chatted to Carlos, an affable cyclist from Vigo doing a weekend of MTBing. The reservoir seemed to have disappeared, leaving mud canyons and stranded walkways down to the water that now dangle in mid-bank a hundred metres from the water. And the old old bridge (pilgrim bridge?) is re-exposed in shades of brown, overshadowed by the modern concrete bridge vaulting high above it.
I set off up again – 15km more of such up – in this curiously Yorkshire Dales-like scenery; the other side was an agreeable donwhill past Ventas along a narrow tarmac country lane. It was like Kettlewell or Grassington, but with tortillas.
A track took me through a wood on either side. It was lovely: farmy hamlets with mud and cows and poo, and dry stone walls and farmhouses that looked like Airedale B&Bs.
And then it started to rain. Big time. Hard. Fast. Ah. Time to find shelter. The first attempt failed as the farm awning thing had a guard dog barking insanely. Hmm, Yorkshire’s sheepdogs aren’t that intimidating. The second time was more promising, the awning of a hostel… but it seemed closed. Three shivering walkers joined me, and the gusty rain was now siling down. We knew there was an open hostel 3km along the road in Airexe – see, I wasn’t joking about Airedale – so when the torrent became a bit less torrential after 45 minutes, we decided to head for it.
Luckily it was only 1km (hooray for my guidebook’s terrible grasp of distances) and I only got a bit damp en route, and the hostel, though unstaffed was open so we all found ourselves a bed and dried out.
The owner of the restaurant opposite got out his bagpipes while I was perusing his menu and played the traditional Galician signature tune of Camino pilgrims. I recognised it as the last one in Suite Compostelana by Federico Mompou: a guitar work that I’d played, not very well to be honest, as part of my guitar recitals as a music student. The version today, being on bagpipes, was raucous, rough and often out of tune. If only I had been able to play it on my guitar so well.
Later on, showered and freshened up, I returned with Carlos – that MTBer from Vigo who had arrived at the hostel too – and we enjoyed Galician white wine and the pilgrim set menu (good fish, Santiago cake, coffee and herb liqueur).
Carlos had good local recommendations: visit Coruña for its old town, Vigo for its beaches, Combarro for its nice little fishing village. He also mentioned Alsa (the bus company that transports bikes along rote of Camino); bicigrino (a website for biking pilgrims); and his helpful printouts from supermarket chain Eroski, with route, profiles, ratings and top ranks of places to stay.
There was yet more bagpipe playing, from a duo who started outside, perhaps to keep the clientele inside, and then they moved inside, perhaps because it was chucking out time. An excellent day.
Miles today: 45
Miles since Pamplona: 426