Riding through the rain takes it’s toll. Our second day in Spain pushed us to keep on going through skinny and somewhat dangerous road for bicyclists, we pushed on through Vigo, ending in Pontrevidra. We were trusting an end destination of a campsite that we found though the web, and as we were winding through the city center, it became clear that the wasn’t going to be a campground anywhere near here.
There is no fault in our plan when nothing is really set in stone, so we rode around the cobblestone streets through the medieval arches and squares until we found a “Pension,” a form of hostel, found a room, dropped off our bikes, and ran off for a beer and tapas.
While we wanted to be camping, as the rain dumped outside, knowing that our gear was dry and we wouldn’t have to go through a rainy pack-up in the morning was calming.
Our next stop was Santiago de Compostela, which, for me was a destination I made clear that we had to visit. Thanks to the many films and documentaries I’ve seen that highlight the Camino, I knew that it was a journey worth experiencing. Despite Keagan’s drive to stay along the coast, we knew it was the right choice.
Leaving Pontrevidra in the rain was just another start to a fun day’s ride, and as we started, per usual each, we started with a hectic climb until sweat and rain became inseparable.
The skies cleared as we passed a sign marking the Camino De Santiago, and the roads opened up to vineyards and villages. Riding along the shoulder we saw the helmets of two mountains bikers bouncing up and down through the grapevines on our left, along with a few hikers in rain ponchos covering large backpacking packs.
I took an immediate turn under a canopy of grapes overwhelmed by the smell, which gave us the feeling that someone was shoving a jug of Welches grape-juice under our noses.
The minute we came through the vines, “Buen Camino” was hollered at us along with a smile and wave. From thing point, and for the next few days, we were pilgrims traveling along the Camino.
Oddly enough, the movies I’ve seen portrayed the Camino in a perfect light, but the chance to experience it myself was mind-blowing. Riding through moss-covered pine forests along eroding dirt and cobblestone paths with the visible wear from thousands of travelers, it had me curious for the reasons everyone we saw was out there on the damp trial, walking for weeks. Some were old, some were walking with others, and many were solo, but no matter who they were, or language they spoke, everyone wished us luck as we passed.
The rain was always flowing in and our dripping down the moss and ricocheting off the ferns, trickling down the path to Santiago de Compostela. This was where our weighed down touring bikes were creaking and screeching trying to stay together as we racked over rocks, cobblestone, streams, and thick mud instantly wrapping around our tires trying to pull us down.
Pedaling up muddy hills, our tires trying to find something to grip, we reach the top where a few other pilgrims we sitting down looking at Santiago along the ridge. For many, this is a spiritual journey to reach the cathedral in Santiago, and even though we happened on the trail by chance, that view took my breath away. It seemed like the end of our adventure but will many miles ahead, we were happy to be there in that moment.
Santiago welcomed us with an apartment shared with a few university students who immediately become our best friends, laughing and helping us as we showed up covered in mud, sweat and rain with a smile on our faces.
I stood in the shower watching the water turn brown from mud for what seemed to be forever until I felt somewhat clean. We explored the city, eating at El Gato Negro (the Black Cat), gorging on clams, meat, empanadas, and bread.
Our day of rest was needed, and as we woke up the next day, our good friend, rain, welcomed us with open arms as we headed along a river into a range of mountains brooding ahead of us, straight to the Costa da Morte.