Riding the Via de la Plata for Oscar’s Fund

Raising Money for a Good, Local Cause

I’ve decided to put together a little page to give an overview on why I’m heading over to Spain to do a big bike ride to raise some money for Oscar’s Fund. If you would like to sponsor me, I have inserted several links like the one below for you to click and donate some money to this very worthwhile cause.

CLICK HERE to visit my sponsorship page

First of all, What is Oscar’s Fund?

Oscar is a little boy from Redcar (North East England) who was born in August 2010 and suffered severe brain damage due to being deprived of oxygen at birth. He spent the first 10 days of life in a coma and suffered multiple organ failure. The first few years of Oscar’s life have been touch and go and he was put on a palliative care plan (end of life) during which he has been in intensive care three times and his family have been told several times that he’s not going to make it. To add to this he has suffered three life-threatening superbugs due to poor organ function having had e coli, c diff and pseudonomas.

Thankfully, over the last year he has really turned a corner and he has had fewer hospital admissions although his cerebral palsy is still classed as life-limiting due to the severity of the damage. Although he has no mobility or communication he is generally a happy little boy with the greatest smile ever and has come further than we ever dared to imagine.

Oscar needs lots of equipment and therapy to keep him healthy and happy. To bring about a better quality of life, we are trying to fundraise to get an accessible vehicle for him and would love to take him for ABR therapy in the future.

oscars-fund

To find out more about Oscar’s Fund, click here

How am I going to raise money for Oscar’s Fund?

I am spending eight days cycling through Spain along an old pilgrimage route called the Via de la Plata.

CLICK HERE to visit my sponsorship page

What is the Via de la Plata? And where do I start and finish?

Many have heard of pilgrimage routes that run through the north of Spain to Santiago de Compostela. The Via de la Plata is the longest of the camino routes through Spain, and runs south to north, from Sevilla to Santiago de Compostella.

Also known as The Silver Route or Camino Mozarabe, the route was historically used by the Mozarabic (Christian) pilgrims during Spain’s Muslim-dominated period, and follows the course of a Roman Road (Rute de la Plata) for much of the way. The route passes through historical cities Merida, Cáceres, Salamanca, and Zamora before passing through Galicia.

VdlP-Map

Map of the Via de la Plata

How many days am I cycling?

I have eight full days, but ideally I hope to arrive in Santiago in good time on the last day for logistical reasons.

What is the distance?

The total distance is 1,000km (621 miles). (It’ll probably be longer with all the wrong turns I’ll take!)

CLICK HERE to visit my sponsorship page

How many miles will you do each day?

It depends on how I feel. Once I get going, I prefer not to stop. Although I may have the best intentions of splitting the route down in to equal segments of 80 miles per day, if I’m feeling strong I’ll likely continue ‘til I’m knackered.

I am keen to stop and probably stay over in some of the more desirable locations such as Merida, Caceres and definitely Salamanca, so I am hoping to base my mileage on those points (meaning day 1 = 210km, day 2 = 140km, day 3 150km), thus giving me less miles to cover during the latter days, which are apparently much more mountainous, and hopefully enable me to arrive in Santiago early.

VdlP-shell01

The iconic shell marks the route

Is it part of an organised ride?

No. I have organised everything myself.

Who are you riding with?

No one. I’m going solo.

What is the terrain like?

From what I can gather, the vast majority (80%+) of the route is trail and off-road, undulating during the first half, with steep climbs and mountain passes (Padornelo 1329m, A Canda 1262m) during the latter half.

What bike will I ride?

I’m taking my cyclo-cross bike (like a road bike, but built to handle mud and varied terrain too). Arguably not the best bike for an off-road excursion, but I just love this bike and haven’t Christened it on a multi-day trip yet.

Testing the Set-Up on the Dirty Disco

Testing the Set-Up on the Dirty Disco

Where will I sleep along the way?

I had initially planned on sleeping in the bivvy bag, but there are many cheap lodging options on the route such as refugios and albergues than cost around 10-15 Euros per night, as well as other options like pensiones (20-30 Euros) and Casas Rurales (25 – 80 Euros). I’m sure I’ll manage to squeeze in one night of wild camping along the way though.

How do you get a bike overseas without it getting broken in transit?

In a box, on a plane. Before I go I will get a discarded bike box from the local bike shop. The bike (and a lot of my gear) will go inside, and I’ll unpack it in Seville.

What do I foresee as the main challenges?

Navigation – The big worry. I get lost everywhere I go. There isn’t a good map for the via de la Plata, probably as its all on tracks. I don’t want to buy several maps to cart along with me, so I won’t be taking a map. I can’t read a compass, so there’s no point me taking one.

And although the route has occasional yellow arrows marking the turns, my understanding is that these can often be wrong, contradicting, absent, or hard to spot.

IMG_0609

©Jean-Christie Ashmore (www.walkfarmedia.com)

I know I’ll have to stop and ask for directions more than I will like, but while asking for directions in Spanish is easy, understanding the response won’t be.

Language barrier – Cycling through some of the most remote parts of Spain will be rewarding in terms of relatively unspoilt beauty, tranquility, and experiencing ‘real’ Spain, but there isn’t going to be a great deal of English-speaking people along the way

Heat / Dehydration – The downside of getting a tan is that the heat can be a massive issue. The temperatures, especially during the first few days will be around 25C – 33C. Not unbearable by means, but during much of the route, there is often nowhere to fill water bottles for 25km at a time, so I’ll have to be careful with my fluid intake.

Terrain – I haven’t done an awful lot of off-road riding over the last two years, and I have done a measly 7 miles on the CX bike this year. This could be a killer, but I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it.

VdlP-terrain01

As long as the terrain isn’t like this for too long, I should be OK.

Flooding (and Rain)– I personally find this hard to believe, but according to many sources, the early stages of the route out of Seville are susceptible to flooding.

VdlP-flooding

Flooding! Ha!

The north of Spain can get pretty wet (as wet as England!!). As long as its not torrential, I’ll be OK.

Pedals – I love Crank Bros Egg Beaterspedals, but they don’t have a reputation as being the most durable. Mine have covered a lot of miles, but they’re starting to feel a bit rickety now, so I’m planning on taking my Time Atacs. I haven’t used these as much, and I still struggle with their clip-in mech, but I’m hoping to use the coming weeks to get comfortable with these, and if my knees decide they don’t like them, I’ll revert to Crank Bros.

CLICK HERE to visit my sponsorship page

When do I leave? When do I return?

I’m away May 11 – May 20, 2014.

I catch a train to Gatwick on 10/05, stay overnight, and board an early flight on 11/05. I’ll have the afternoon in Seville to unpack, assemble bike, organise luggage, get my bearings, and think about finding somewhere to sleep.

I’ll (hopefully!) arrive in Santiago de Compostella (in one piece) on 19/05, and board a flight back on 20/05.

CLICK HERE to visit my sponsorship page

Thanks

Thanks to a very helpful and supportive forum called Bear Bones Bikepacking. A special mention in particular goes to Adrian Rees. I’ve never met this guy, but he’s been an incredible resource and great support.

Massive thanks to my amazing wife for (begrudgingly) letting me have this time away. She still won’t talk to me about the trip or ask any questions about it, so I hope she reads this page to understand a little more about the what/where/how’s.

Thanks to my wonderful parents. They’re going to run Feetus.co.uk in my absence: Not an easy task by any means.

And Finally

Sponsor me. The funds are going DIRECT to a special and very worthwhile cause.

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3 responses to “Riding the Via de la Plata for Oscar’s Fund

  1. Pingback: Via de la Plata: Albergues | Um Caminho para Todos·

  2. Hi Firmo – I’ve just spotted this and you mentioning me! Wow – thanks for the thanks! It was a real pleasure to see you ab-so-lutely nail it 🙂

    • Cheers Adrian.

      You were instrumental in helping me plan for the camino, so I massively appreciate everything you did for me.

      My wife’s succumbed to the fact that I am going to be doing this regularly now, so I’m currently drawing up ideas on where to go next year!

      All the best.

      Firmo

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