Another day riding the Camino de Santiago brought with it some unforgettable scenery, perfect cycling terrain but also more bike trouble. My phone charger had stopped working the night before, and my phone was my only means of taking photos. As such, I had to be quite reserved and took significantly less photos during day 6 of the Via de la Plata.
- Total Distance today: 109km
- Total elevation gained today: 3,760 feet
- Total Camino Distance elapsed: 713km
A Vow to Relax
I was ahead of schedule and told myself that today I would take it easy. With only a couple of days remaining until I would reach Santiago, de Compostela, I felt a sense of regret for putting in so many miles so quickly during the days before, and wished I’d had time to stop, breathe, and take it all in. But that’s me. I’m not very good at resting – and having Santiago fast-approaching proved to be a dangling carrot in front of me.
It was a cool morning as the pilgrims in the Riego del Camino albergue rose early. We joked of my escapades during the night of my sleep-walking while we organised and packed our gear ready to hit the camino. Out of a dozen peregrinos, I was the 2nd-last to depart, but caught them all up along the way and wished them ‘Buen camino!’
Riego del Camino to Tabara (30km)
The trails were heavenly. Wide, open, mostly-straight gravel tracks over gently rolling gradients. The sun was low and cast long shadows across the horizon. The landscapes felt a lot different to days gone by, as there was an absence of olive groves and vineyards. The land was dominated by agriculture, and tractors busied themselves between the farms.
My tyres were brand new before setting off just 600km before, but the rear tyre was severely worn down, making it nigh on impossible to ride uphill on the gravel. The back wheel would just spin, losing traction.
There were no shops in Riego, nor were any shops open during the first couple of hours riding. I wanted to stop and switch tyres but was conscious that stopping would mean I would have to wait even longer for breakfast – and I was starving! But by continuing, I felt there was a genuine danger of my rear tyre being reduced to nothing (and I am shit-scared of bike accidents).
I made it to Tabara and was absolutely starving. By the time I arrived, the sun was high and very hot. I popped in to a small shop and went crazy for junk food. A huge bag of crisps, chocolate, a box of 6 Cornettos, plus fruit and water. I sat on the steps in the shade of the Iglesia de Nuestra Senora de la Astuncion while I greedily over-indulged. Its easy to justify eating so much shit when you’re racking up the miles.
Trouble in Tabara
I wheeled my bike around every shop in the town, hunting a place where I could buy a charger, but I had no luck. Such quaint, beautiful towns like this aren’t interested in phones and most places had no idea what my iPhone was.
The large green space in the centre of town looked like the perfect place to strip my bike of its luggage whilst switching the front tyre to the rear for the extra traction. What should have been a 15-minute job took me two hours.
During the removal of the rear wheel, the freehub fell off and the teeth inside it went missing in the grass. I didn’t notice the absence of these teeth until I had fitted the wheel and felt the stiffness of each turn of the wheel. It wasn’t until I took it all apart again that I realised, and then I had to get down on my hands and knees searching for these little teeth – and then fit them. Not an easy task. It was so frustrating in the heat. After two hours, I was really pissed off.
Tabara to Santa Croya de Tera (22.5km)
A relatively straightforward section of the camino on gentle, undulating terrain ranging from gravel to sand. I think I had gone without food for far too long earlier in the morning, and the bike situation didn’t do anything to brighten my mood. I felt depleted and exhausted. After just 15km I was ready for another stop, so I pulled in to Bercianos de Valverde for a café solo.
During my stop in the café I think I interrupted a sexual encounter between the middle-aged waitress and her customer. I pretended I hadn’t seen her rolling her skirt back up as I entered to spare her blushes, and she gestured for me to take a seat and she’d bring the coffee over to me. This entertainment was very welcome.
After just 8km of cycling, I felt completely sapped again. I was glad to have reached the pleasant village of Santa Croya de Tera. I stopped to buy water and took another long rest in the local park. I couldn’t face cycling.
Santa Croya de Tera to Rionegro del Puente (27.5km)
The wind was in my favour today, so I cheated and took the road for 15km. Flat as a pancake, I was able to roll along comfortably without effort until I reached the dam/reservoir (Embalse Nuestra Senora de Agavanzal). The paths around this stunning man-made lake were dizzyingly winding, but provided stunning views of the area. It was extremely hot at this point.
After a series of hand-written signs advertising X miles until coffee, I reached Villar de Farfon, where an South African ex-Missionary owned a small house with his wife Dorothy and two children. They had renovated this beautiful place and set up a donation-based dormitory-come-cafe.
I ended up sitting and enjoying stimulating conversation (and coffee and biscuits) with Craig for a good 90-minutes. A very wise man; his words made a big impact on me, and I took a lot of inspiration that put wind in to my sails for the remainder of the day. [Craig Wallace, If you ever read this: Thanks a lot, best wishes and God bless]
Cutting straight through the heathland, the trail continued on to Rionegro del Puente. There are some very technical sections during this short section, especially during the short descent in to town.
Rionegro del Puente to Puebla de Sanabria (40.5km)
It was about 3pm and baking hot as I passed through Rionegro. My brain felt like a bubbling cauldron inside my head and helmet, yet this was to be a long stage with a lot of climbing.
From Mombuey onward, the camino runs adjacent to the road, much of which is shaded by large trees. I couldn’t justify coming off this road – it was just too nice – and was rewarded by passing lovely hamlets.
Having made surprisingly good progress, I didn’t feel quite ready to drop in to Puebla de Sanabria just yet, so I took a detour up a steep climb to get better views of the surrounding snow-capped mountains. I could really see myself living in this place.
Puebla de Sanabria
After a short, sharp descent in to Sanabria, I pulled in at the first place that offered pilgrims a bed. It turned out to be absolutely wonderful – by far the most tasteful, well-equipped albergue during my camino. Albergue Casa Luz is ran by an elderly couple and is immaculate. They took my 10 Euros, stamped by credenciale and showed me around. It was still relatively early (before 6pm) so I gave my bike a good clean with the hose.
That night, I scoured the town for electrical shops and with a massive stroke of luck, just as the last shop was closing, I managed to source a phone charger from them! A miracle. I relaxed with a few beers and free tapas, toured the Castillo, and had an early night.