Growing up along the ocean, then moving to Colorado, makes me wish there was a place with Colorado’s scenery as well as a beach. Riding along the coast of Portugal and Spain, parts of it seem to have resembled that completely. Before we embarked on the Camino de Santiago, we rode through pines forests standing among orange-tinted ferns, pine-cones riddled throughout the road, a landscape which I didn’t expect to immediately turn into white sand-dunes rolling into the ocean. The climate would fluctuate only a little bit, making us throw on a rain shell to stay dry, but still we would start sweating profusely as soon as we began pedaling.
Seeing as the rain is now our favorite riding partner, it rode along with us as we stepped out of the apartment in Santiago de Compostela headed for the Costa da Morte. This wasn’t planned but that is the beauty of the this adventure, the freedom to bike in a different direction because we heard there was something meritable of riding the extra miles to see, or because we liked the look of that hill better than the other one.
The dead coast was a trek and a part we didn’t plan for, but that made the optimum chance for an adventure. A dead coast, the end of the world, a new view, we were hooked.
Cutting a straight line to the dead coast, we were climbing, climbing so much we loved it and then we got a little to into ourselves. Finishing a climb without stopping once, we glanced at each other, *fist-bump, ate a cracker and drank some water. Both of us were talking about how there was no way we could've done that 2 weeks ago, true, and how we were killing it, ready to take on it all. This is where we lost it. They popped up everywhere. A 1700 m climb with an 7% grade, had us laughing again, and we rode on. The wind howled, the chill of the ascent got to us, forcing more unused layers out of the panniers and on our backs.
This went on but we were determined. Before we knew it the dead coast appeared, and for the first 30 kilometers of it, every corner and town made me uneasy. I felt the hair stick up on my arms. A tangible gloom hung thick around the jutting gravestone shaped boulders lining the coast. The green fields looked as if a fire had just run through it and live was hopelessly trying to cling on.
I rode with my eyes peeled to the ground avoiding flat hedgehogs baking in the sun. Birds, from seagulls to colorful finches we lying on the side of the road seemingly unharmed but not moving.
As we rode up to the only cafe for miles, the eerily quiet, “Hicthcock-esque” town, had life. We realized it was Saturday, so apparently that means every guy over 40 comes out of the ghost coast to drink, and as it was there lucky day, the spandex clad Americans roll up to give them something to yell about. We take the heat, some laughs, ate our ham & cheese, and left.
This part of the trip was slightly explained in a previous post, but there are a few other occurrences and points that I wanted to make relevant, now that I have a few weeks of riding in.
This is pretty damn tiring. As fun as it is, I get tired and I am man enough to admit when I’ve had enough, but this trip is all about giving that every mile, the little bit more juice we have to push us over that ridge.
That’s how the ride to Muxia was.
It was beautiful, as Keagan described, we rode the Camino, I saw a donkey, some sheep, beautiful beaches with peeling waves and old nude people. We charged down rocky hills through the blazing heat. Ran into a hunter with a pack of 8 dogs plowing through the mossy pines on the hunt for something that neither of us understood. After a long day we made it to the town and everything was shaking, but we made it, the campsite must not be far off. We had a beer and shook it off.
The last 6 miles to the campsite were grueling. For once, beer was a bad choice (I learned my lesson), and I almost reached the tipping point where I was done, sweaty, shaking, and exhausted.
We make it, the camps owner/bartender comes out speaking no English, yet perfect French. I catch my breath, gather my French and soon enough our tents were pitched, and I was floating in the grassy calm Atlantic. The sunset uninterrupted by rainclouds, drowning us with orange light as our legs took the shocking cold bath of saltwater they needed.
Sand in my hair and salt dried on my skin, I was perfectly content. Walked up, washed off, took my computer to the restaurant to order whatever meat they had. Through a broken and hard to comprehend conversation with the bartender/owner I sat down defeated. The restaurant was closed for the season, it was 10:30 pm, and the nearest restaurant was 2 miles down hills.
For me this was shattering, because as I walked down to my tent all I thought about was the grueling ride, my content full stomach was going to have to endure back to camp.
As I was sulking, about to jump on my bike, I’m startled to hear Keagan shout “RYYYYAN!” in a slightly uneasy tone.
I thought, “Well shit what else could go wrong now.”
Jumping up to the campsite above us, I saw Keagan staring at me with a grin in front of Joel and Natalie. Immediately I found out why Keagan called me up because they start happily blurting out French and I took a second to switch that part of my brain, and made out that they were inviting us for dinner.
After being poured an apéritif of gin & tonic, and offered some Spanish tortilla, I sat there with a smile on my face, so happy to be speaking French again, but mainly because I only had to walk towards my tent for dinner. Sharing stories and our adventure we laughed and ate, all the while Keagan was left deciphering the words he could, while Joel and I would translate some things over to him.
We found out that as I was trying to ask for a menu at the closed restaurant, Joel and Natalie heard my voice crumble in disappointment as I discussed the distance of the nearest restaurants, so they welcomed us to their fold up chairs and comforting personalities.
It was the end to a perfect day that tried to break me but didn’t. I drank my gin, conversed in french, gorged in spaghetti and ham, and fell asleep a happy man.