Since our last post, we continued along the Meseta, through the city of Leon, to the Montes de Leon, the western boundary of the central plain. We crossed that chain of mountains, reaching the highest point on our pilgrimage (1500m). In the Massif Central we walked higher than that, but this was the highest point we reached under pedal-power alone!. We camped at 1300m, with a spectacular view.
It was however, very windy, and unlike other nights when strong evening winds petered out with the setting of the sun, this wind only got stronger. To make matters worse, the ground was incredibly stony, with only about 4cm of topsoil over the bedrock. Not only was this uncomfortable, but we had trouble getting our tent pegs to stay6 in the ground. On the windiest nightof the trip so far, we had no way of pitching the tent tautly. It was very saggy, the side walls of the tent blown flat against our sleeping bags as we tried to sleep. Then at about midnight, before either of us had fallen asleep, the tent blew down! we fixed it, and retightened everything as much as we dared, then tried to sleep some more. At two in the morning, it blew down again. We were very tempted to leave the tent flapping on top of us and just try to sleep. Instead we managed to re-pitch the tent while staying inside, in our sleeping bags, despite the fact that one of the poles supporting the tent had fallen out.
The descent from that point the next morning was steep but slow. The road was in such bad condition, with abundant cracks and potholes that could easily send you over your handlebars. So despite the steepness we went very slowly, which was hard work for our brakes. We had to stop several times to let them cool off. The rims of our wheels were too hot too touch! It was also a bitterly cold morning, one of the coldest of the trip, and our hands were frigid. Part way down Adie could stand it no longer, and pulled a spare pair of socks out of his bag and wore them like mittens. They were nice and warm, but the loss of his opposable thumbs made him feel decidedly simian, and also made holding onto his handlebars tricky.
After going through Ponferrada, a very boring city, we spent the rest of the day crossing the Cordillera Cantabrica, a second mountain chain that wraps around from the northern border of the Meseta. It started off as an easy climb, but for the last 20km it was steep and brutally hot. Those last 20km took us 3 hours. In total that day we biked for 5:30 hours, and 85km. It was probably the most exhausting day of the entire trip. We spent the night im the mountain village of O Cebriero, now in the Province of Galicia.
The next day was hilly and very pretty, we spent the night in Portomarin, a town interesting only because it was transported stone by stone from the river valley to a higher location to make wayt for a large reservoir.
Another up and down day ended in O Pedruozo, 20km short of Santiago de compostella. The most interesting part of the day was the fact that we ate an extraordinary amount of food!
The last kilometers into Santiago were dull, ugly even, as we skirted the airport and new out of town developments. We eventually mader it to the old city. It is quite pretty, but it and the catherdral, were decidedly underwhelming (except for the number of tourists, which was overwhelming, and made us want to get out of town as quickly as possible).
We went to the pilgrims´offive, and got our ¨compostelas¨ certifying that we had completed the pilgrimage (as if we needed anyone to tell us that).
We are leaving town as soon as this is published, heading to the Cap do Fisterre.