Thursday, April 21, 2011

Day 11. Triacastela to Ventas de Narón (57 km)

We slept like logs, and were much recovered by the morn. Our spirits plunged, however, when the weather forecast predicted heavy rain in Galicia. Rats! We tried to depart early (8 am), and made record time to Samos (10 km), where there is a magnificent Benidictine convent. Unfortunately we got there at 9 (my Mom would have called us Los Abominables Hombres de las Nueve), and the earliest we could visit the convent was at 10 am. We were on a hurry to recover the lost time and advance as much as we could before the stormy weather caught up with us, so we contented ourselves with taking lots of pictures from the outside.

We made Sarria (21 km) by 10:30 am. Not a pretty city. Just the type of agglomeration of apartment buildings that I have come to dislike. So we crossed it quickly, and embarked on a very pretty route through the hills. The sun was holding despite the weather forecast, and for the next 40 km we did all that a good bicigrino is expected to do. We went through beautiful valleys, where cows where happily munching away, and charming hamlets of milking farms (the danger of going through cow country is that you have to be very careful where you roll; that next clump of dirt could have your bike smelling for hours!). We went down slopes covered with flowers, grunted up hillsides, walked through mud carrying our bikes, biked along the middle of the road/stream (a clever invention of the Gallegos to make the road and the stream follow the same path, to conserve space), defied dead coming down slippery slopes, and overall had a good time.

We got a bit wet around lunch time, when we arrived to Portomarín (41 km at 275 m elevation), an interesting town on a hill overlooking a dry dam. We later learned that the reservoir had been emptied to make repairs in the penstocks, but it was very strange to see the drying skeleton of what must be a pretty lake. On further inquiry I learned that the old Portomarín lies buried in the sediment of the dam, and that the Romanic Church in the plaza of the new town was brought in from the old town stone by stone! We had a good lunch of Empanada Gallega (filled with bacalao) and Lecón Asado for Horacio and Caldo Gallego and Merluza en Salsa Verde for Raúl, and with full bellies we were ready to resume the road.

And then it happened all over again. We had to climb from 275 m to 650 m in 13 km, so we pushed, and pushed, feeling the strength drain from our limbs. Then, when we thought we could not push any further, there would be a short flat stretch where we could mount our faithful steeds, only to find around the bend another slope, longer and steeper than the previous one. Our hopes of advancing significantly toward Santiago were dashed, and as we reached the crest, around 6 pm, we were delighted to see a small rural hostel a few hundred meters away, in Ventas de Narón (57 km at 625 m elevation). We dragged ourselves in and found another of the many families of friendly Spaniards, where were absolutely delighted to see a pair of tired pilgrims, and offered us a cheery bed in their empty hostel, a warm shower, and a typical Galicia meal. And just as Raúl was taking his shower a veritable deluge fell on the small town. We were so glad we had reached shelter on time!

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