Ride Day 27 – Cudillero to Gijón – 59 km

We have given up expecting a day which doesn’t include multiple hills. We long for a bike trip through Holland and the thought of cycling Dunsborough to Busselton and back is a mere fantasy. We have no excuse, we did plan this trip! As Tony knows, if you are on a roundabout and there are five exits and one is up a steep hill, that’s the way Duncan’s route will take you. Julie through a wobbly today at the sight of a steep incline and refused to get off the main road which appeared to be going downhill. Downhill we went. It’s all futile really as hills cannot be moved and only billion dollar roads have tunnels. So on we go and the hill came back around the next bend!

Photo below of one of the Mansions near where we stayed last night. Open to the public June to October.

Route below.

The first big climb of 170m wasn’t too bad. It was Sunday and so the local cycling groups were out in force. They love the hills. Everyone says hello going down and up and all overtake us on the hills as they have ultralight bikes and no gear. We also saw a batch of walkers as this again was on some of the North Route.

There is one major feature of today’s ride that you won’t spot on the photos. This regions rural areas smell so strongly of cow manure, it’s quite pungent and we don’t get used to it. Julie grew up in a rural location with cattle close by but the smell was nothing in comparison to this. As buying fresh milk is almost impossible in Portugal and Spain, we can only assume it’s all going into cheese.

We took a detour into Avilés, which seems well worthy of a two night stop and a full day to explore. There is a huge water frontage area with the Oscar Niemeyer Cultural Centre taking up a great space and the old centre is quite beautiful with some gorgeous architecture and pedestrian only (and two bikes).

We started off in beautiful sunshine but we had seen the weather forecast and knew the rain and storms would come. So, we skipped lunch and pushed on. It caught us at one point and as luck would have it a coffee stop appeared in the middle of nowhere, so we sheltered in there. We did make Gijón by 4.30, 30 minutes before the storm hit.

As we have finally given in to Tony’s idea of researching restaurants, we actually had dinner booked for 9pm (earliest you can find here). It was a small and simply furnished spot serving dishes for two. We had a superb couple of dishes and shared a dessert. The hotel manager on asking where we were going was quite excited when we told him and suggested a dish, which we had and agree was delicious. The chef was very young and very happy we enjoyed the food. A five star spot in a city that’s an industrial working one with a small ancient heart.

Ride Day 26 – Luarca to Cudillero – 54 km

We always knew this would be a tricky day because of the road options. The lovely A-8 motorway, high above our road was taunting us all day as we cycled bend after bend after bend, up through the valley, down the other side. Overall we climbed 1145 metres. Most of it in green lush forest. Lush because of the rain it receives – often.

However, on a positive note, the road surface was superb the whole way. It was also the Santiago de Compostela route North. We felt sorry for the walkers, mostly wearing the right wet weather gear as they trudged up and down. In 35 km there was only one rather miserable coffee shop/bar. While having our coffee, about 40 walkers passed and none of them looked very happy. One girl had reefs on, no hat and a short skirt and t-shirt. One wonders sometimes what they actually thought when planning such a monumental journey on foot.

Unfortunately, the weather was appalling, hence not many photos. We couldn’t actually see the difference between sea and sky and we missed almost all of the lovely coastline. It rained so much and we saw on the news there had been flash floods. Julie cycled through a small waterfall as she didn’t hear Duncan yell and she had her head down. The photo below early in the day. Same for the hydrangeas in a small rural hamlet early morning.

At least twenty long distance cyclists passed us going to Santiago and one family with their son, who couldn’t have been more than ten years old with his own panniers- most impressive. That’s a journey he won’t forget.

The photo below sums up the majority of the day!

Thankfully we had booked a good and historic hotel and managed to find it after a detour because the actual route had a quagmire of cow dung covering the entire road. We were so pleased to find English speaking, friendly hosts, a hot bath and a kind person to wash our wet and filthy gear. The barman/receptionist had spent a year in Melbourne.

The hotel was on a level strip of road with other equally quite spectacular mansions. An old 19th Century Indiano house that belonged to a local who emigrated to Cuba, made his fortune and built the house on the land where he was born. The 400 year old oak tree was just glorious. Definitely one to note for a return visit. They did an early breakfast for us and the home made cakes were the best in Spain to date. Photos below taken this morning in the sunshine, not yesterday.

Ride Day 25 – Castropol to Luarca – 54 km

Castropol was an odd stay. Our accommodation was almost great, though we struggled as the host spoke less English than our Spanish. It was a walk into the local village Figueras for dinner. Only one restaurant open the first night, serving tapas. On the first full day, we cycled into Castropol once Duncan had done his eight hours, for a late lunch at a very fancy place. Delicious! After a look around the town – not much too it – we picked up wine and chocolate for a quiet night in the lounge, replanning the next rides. The next day Julie braved the high, 600m bridge for a walk around Ribadeo and back. That night the only restaurant didn’t open until 9, so we raided the fridge, eating some of the next days breakfast.

Ribadeo is where all those awful logging trucks are heading that pass us everywhere on route.

We had a rather odd start to the next ride day in that Breakfast had gone on strike. Normally from 8am. Today at 8.20 there was no one to be found. We packed and got ready to leave and then it appeared at 9:30. Set off very late for us at gone 10, on a very cool and misty day but on back roads. By 11.30 it had warmed up and then the sun came out. The route below.

We wanted to see various coves and fishing villages instead of taking the easy route, so there were a lot of hills to tackle. What we found were places not really on the map, probably with little or no accommodation but very beautiful. Viavale’s was just gorgeous and reminded us both of Boscastle in Cornwall but without the tourists. We stopped for coffee and our free small cake.

Up another long steep hill out and on to more very pretty back roads. Cow country, lots of farms, cows getting milked spat noon here, no early mornings. What comes with cows is smell and something we hadn’t experienced until we reached the top of Spain – flies, although not in as greater number as we are used to at home.

We reached Navia at 1.15 and cycled around the old back streets. We came across our first Sidieria, which also served lunch. We had been seriously lacking in food the last two days having found it almost impossible to locate restaurants or shops open where we were staying and one night resorted to raiding the fridge where we were staying to make a sandwich. We ordered the lunch specials. The first course was a soup and Iberian ham and melon. The soup was so plentiful we couldn’t finish it between us and it was delicious (Vikki, we finally found what you were telling us about). The meal came with two 750ml bottles of cider which was opened with great ceremony; the first to remove the yeast and the second to pour via a long spout to give it some fizz. Then came the second courses of a fish dish and meat balls. We declined the second bottle of cider as we still had 30 km to ride and we also declined the dessert but had the coffee. The whole meal came to €20. The staff were very friendly and the whole experience made up for the not so good two days off.

More hills and valleys, mountains in the distance. This was turning into one of the best overall days so far and it was a pleasure to be out riding. Puerto de Vega was another unspoilt town on the way. The whole stretch of coast would be worthy of any itinerary and there are well marked walking trails along the cliff tops and beaches as well as criss crossing The Way.

We reached Luarca around 5. Very basic but well located hotel very close to the harbour. Our bikes are parked on the stairs landing! We explored the town after a clean up and got to bed when it was still light, having skipped dinner and had a few tapas and a couple of glasses of wine.

Luarca not what we expected but worthy of a short visit.

Ride Day 24 – Viveiro to Castropol – 79 km

Never thought we would be pleased it was overcast. I think it would have been a much harder ride today if not cooler – around 24. The heatwave has now hit the UK of course and is promising them a very hot week. We have returned to cool and misty. Here is the route.

We are 1300km in now, only 11 more ride days to go.

We were not sad to leave Viveiro. The photo below sums up the planning authority as it is their ugly as sin building on the historic main square.

After the horrid hill out on the main road, we dropped onto a quiet back lane route. This was a pleasure to ride. Hamlets and just rural life very close to the beach. We had some good breaks off the bike as Duncan needed to work. San Cibrao was a good coffee stop and in one direction quite attractive but Alcoa take up most of the bay, so a ghastly sight in the other. The crazy paving below is a coastal path that runs for most of the coast as we saw it everywhere we went.

Beaches galore, the odd camp site. Foz, another high rise modern large blot on the landscape where we had a reasonable two course lunch to keep us going. The really gorgeous beaches run from San Bartolo pretty much into Ribadeo. Great road for bikes and good cycle track into Foz.

Again, on google, the bridge across from Ribadeo into Asturias looked good but in reality it was terrifying. The walk/bike lane was in a cage on the very edge and very narrow, so you had no choice but to be up against the railing with a 50m drop and we had to walk it. Not enjoying heights, Julie found this very confronting and we will not be going over to explore Ribadeo. We shall stick to the Castropol side.

We are staying in a converted barn with metre thick walls made of granite and beams in a very peaceful countryside setting on the outskirts of Lois – Figueras. Not one word of English spoken. We now speak more Spanish than the hosts do English. The host said one word in English when she saw the bikes and saw the map on the back of Duncan’s top – “Wow”! I guess they don’t get many cyclists here.

Walked into town for tapas. Very lovely town, quiet and attractive with some impressive buildings on the water looking across to Ribadeo. We have endeavoured to find squid as good as John Stevens’s cooks but it’s not to be so far.

Time to rest the legs and bottoms for two days before the next stretch.

Ride Day 23 – Vilalba to Viveiro – 51 km

Didn’t leave early due to Duncan working. We knew we had a big hill to climb today with no way around. We had a whole 1.77km before the climb started. It went through some very pretty lanes but bits of it weren’t doable, so we did some pushing and it was pretty warm. We stocked up on ice and extra water because we knew in advance there was nowhere on route up. We made some very good sandwiches at the breakfast bar.

Here is the route.

We saw a few people in the small lanes going about their daily duties. One tractor driver stopped to tell us that the hill over to Viveiro was terrible and made steep gesture noises. One lady out with her carer for a walk and in her 90s, waved her arms at us and shouted “arriba”. It was a hard slog up and up to the top. But boy, the views were spectacular.

Going down the other side was hair raising. We kept the speed down. Not much traffic on the road which was a major one.

Stopped where we saw a picnic spot at Ourol, which turned out to be a gorgeous little village half way down with spectacular views. They had a small store and cafe. It a post office. No accommodation that we could see but a worthwhile stop off the road down. Duncan had work to do so we sat under a tree for a couple of hours.

We arrived just outside Viveiro in good time and had a very quick swim to cool off. Another place that did our washing – fab. Went into town much later for dinner as they eat late here. Viveiro was not at all what we expected. We thought it would be a quiet fishing type place and even on google earth it looks reasonably small. It was an ugly, busy place where the planning authority has lost the plot.

It was the Spain v Morocco match and we weren’t going to get a taxi back to our accommodation until the game was over. We also met a couple from Bristol who had cycled from Porto but right on the coast with no days off – it had therefore taken them 4 days longer than us. The coastline is lovely but we would need a lot more time to do the top left bit. We are pretty much on the coast now until Bilbao.

Another good place to stay. I booked all the accommodation between Oct and Dec last year. This pays off because the normal rate for where we are is €120 now and we paid €50 inc. breakfast. Not much accommodation available but we believe it’s the walking companies who book out a lot in advance of them selling the holidays. Here is where we were. Our bikes locked safely in the chapel in the garden!

Not sure about this sign. Perhaps wi-fi for vehicles is limited to 80mb for next 16.4km?

Ride Day 22 – Melide to Vilalba – 70km

We rode at dawn up into the misty mountains. Actually, it was 8am and a Sunday. The accommodation didn’t do food and as we left on an empty stomach, thought we would pick something up in town – wrong, nowhere open.

Here is the route.

We had to knock that first big hill off before it got too warm. The only straight bit on today’s ride was the first 4km. These over 1km climbs in a day are such a challenge. I think we will need knee replacements after this!

The roads were pretty good all morning. Some were new hence us leaving before they started to melt. It was a glorious morning. Being Sunday, we saw only five cars until lunchtime. This is a road we would recommend to anyone up for challenge and in lovely scenery. It swapped between looking like the Scottish highlands (stone walls, fir trees), to countryside around Melton Mowbray. Cow country and the stench going up one hill was just appalling. Pity the walkers on this bit. The hedgerows are filled with snap dragons and a dozen other flowers and the birdsong on the whole route was nice to hear instead of road traffic.

The walkers were on a route we joined but going in the opposite direction. Whichever route this one is, I would recommend to those that like peaceful lanes and beautiful countryside (Peter C?). We only had one woman shout to us (in Melide that we were going the wrong way!).

After about 20km I mentioned to Duncan that if I lived on the SdC walk route then I would set up tables in my garden and offer drinks and food to walkers. As we went around another bend, there it was. The farmers wife was buying in packaged cake and not doing sandwiches but at least it was a coffee stop and we could buy yet more bottled water. There were four other walkers who turned up while we were there and a few that walked by.

The downhill was dodgy. The route we followed was about 10km on a gravel track past a quarry. We were worried we might end up the wrong side of a large gate. In fact we came across a herd of sheep and goats, guarded by two large dogs. But slowly we inched past, and they let us by unmolested.

Up and down all day, found a bar to buy water and got a bag of ice which was so welcome. A bag with ice and a flannel is what you need when the sweat stings your eyes. Arriving in Vilalba, a bar was open. We staggered in and ordered a beer. They brought us some tapas and we must have looked half possessed as we wolfed them down. We were starving. Thankfully, we found a very close by restaurant and after a shower and tidy up, had the most fabulous meal. Galician soup – I could eat that every day, made from turnip greens and lots of other beans and of course potatoes. Then a slow roasted lamb joint with yet more potatoes, followed by rice pudding for me and Duncan had deep fried crepes! I think we were really hungry. Staying in the only thing really worth seeing in the town of Vilalba at the Torre Parador, but it’s the countryside that’s the star.

Another shocker of a ride tomorrow but then we will be on the coast again and hopefully it will have cooled down. We love the Galician countryside immensely.

Day 21 – Santiago de Compostela to Melide – 53 km

It was well worth staying in SdC for two nights. Duncan needed to work but the museums were open until 8pm, so we got out then. Plenty to keep you occupied for a few days. Gorgeous old city. Plenty of security about. Nice feel to the place. Found the last brass shell, having seen them over the years all over Europe. Duncan got a hair cut which is a tad severe.

Tried leaving early as usual but it takes quite a while to get organised, tie bags on bikes etc. then, as we were about to set off, a girl approached us as she saw the Australian flag on our tops. She was from Brisbane and cycling from Lisbon to SdC and then beyond on the inland route, by herself. She didn’t like Lisbon at all but she did cycle to Sintra which she said was a nightmare, along with the terrible roads (sound familiar).

Leaving SdC was interesting. Dozens of people walking in at 9.30 which became a crowd at the 5km mark. Quite a few people stay 5-10 km out so they are fresh to walk in. It’s very busy, far more so than the Portuguese route and alongside quite a busy road, which we used as less hilly and it would have been impossible to be going in the opposite direction to walkers on their route.

The road had disappeared at about the 15km mark! Major road works, new highway going in. A couple heading in on bikes struggled up a steep dirt incline and Duncan spotted the Perth Transport top, so said hello. Turns out they were Italian, from an island off Trieste and they have friends in Perth they visit every couple of years.

Pretty hellish riding in 33 degrees, massive climbing all day, tar melting and sticking to tyres. We were really glad to reach Melide. Good basic accommodation with everyone here on the SdC route going in the opposite direction to us. They have washing machines – woohoo.

Looking forward to an early night as we have longer to go tomorrow and thunderstorms are due at lunchtime. Will try and leave here much earlier which shouldn’t be too hard as there is no breakfast supplied but a place in town that opens at 6.30 am.

As it is summer solstice tonight – in Galician it’s Noite de San Xoàn or Bonfires of Saint John. It’s usually held at the beach but I think they light fires all over the place. It’s a bit of a worry in the heat we have surrounded by Tasmanian blue gums, so here is hoping we have a night without issues as we are cycling over a mountain covered in forest tomorrow.

Ride Day 20 – Cambados to Santiago de Compostela 63 km

Another hot day. Rain didn’t arrive but still very humid. Almost 1km of climbing yet again. Early ride took us along an offical wine route and then we joined the walkers on some of the Portuguese Way. They would have had another day ahead and most looked weary in the heat.

The small lanes through vineyards were gorgeous. Plenty of village life to observe. They are still making their new housing from solid granite, right down to the fencing and paths. Not sure how this works in winter with heat retention issues, we recently heard they are big on underfloor heating.

Bread van dotting around delivering daily orders, people out tending their veg beds, small tractors working. Gorgeous! The grapes are grown on high trellises, the posts are solid granite. This is to stop fungus issues and to let the air flow. Small parcels of grapes everywhere, it would seem every family has a vineyard, mostly selling their grapes co-operative style.

Last bit of ocean for a while, it’s all inland and hills for the next four days.

A set lunch in Padron under the shade of the Plane Trees, two courses and coffee for €9. This is where the stone boat with the bones of St James came to rest, moored to a Roman sacrificial alter, now within the church. Allegedly (Douglas).

There is a switch to food and drink in Galicia. In Portugal, the coffee wasn’t up to scratch due to being made from long life milk but the cakes and pastries were superb. Here, the coffee is excellent, on par with home but the cakes aren’t worthy (so far) of praise. Doesn’t matter when you are hungry. Order a coffee in these parts and you will get the cake for free and sometimes a glass of orange juice too. Order a cold drink and you will receive at least one or two tapas style food items. So, walkers will just order cold drinks and get lunch for free. We had missed breakfast so we went for the full Monty at lunch, especially with another 400m of climbing to go.

We reached Santiago de Compostela at 5.30, another 9 hour ride. The hill into town and up to the Cathedral is a killer on cobbled roads. Not too crowded, the odd straggler walker looking dazed, stunned at the sheer enormity of the Cathedral and sheer relief of making it, most just sitting in silence and reflection. This all changes when they are out on the town later when bumping into people they have met on route. You hear little screams and laughter intermittently as you walk around. We are staying a stones throw from the Cathedral in the old town and have two nights here.

Peter – by the time you get here all the scaffolding will have gone and the place will be clean and fresh. They are doing an amazing cleaning job.

Cambados break

Duncan had to work but luckily, at its light until after 10 pm and the wineries open for tastings after 5, we did get out to see some in reach. One was on top of a hill but without the bags, it was doable – Martin Codax. The best wines we tasted were from a family owned and operated winery in the town itself, Albariño D Fefiñes, whose family also own and run Gil Armada (cellar door only). Thankfully, the Fefiñes wines are available from Waitrose in the UK and a Perth distributor in Perth, so we will be able to acquire a bottle or two later.

Cambados is worthy of a visit. In fact, if we were organising to cycle here again, I think we would start in Vigo and ferry to Cangas and then follow the entire coast to Cambados and the islands and peninsula too. It was really beautiful coastline and the small hamlets made it quite idyllic.

Ride Day 19 – Vigo to Cambados – 75 km – 1137m climb

Today was a 9 hour journey in 30 degrees. Here is the route.

Thank goodness we have three nights off. We (just) caught another ferry out of Vigo to Cangas, in the queue nice and early when it dawned on Duncan that perhaps we need a ticket before boarding – correct. So I hang onto the bikes as 100+ people get off in Vigo and the queue to Cangas starts climbing aboard while Duncan runs to ticket building. Cangas Ferry Port below.

Immediately we loved Cangas. Great place for sailing. Boats for hire, it all looks gorgeous. We needed some cable ties and fruit. Cable ties because Julie’s panniers are now held on the bike with them as clips have all given in – easy. Fruit was a whole new experience. Lovely fruit and veg shop, several people in line. Woman at front wants a pineapple. Cashier gets large knife and cuts one in half, shows it to customer and she says no, so a second pineapple is cut, same response. After four pineapples have been slaughtered, she doesn’t want any of them and starts the same process with melons. The assistant cuts her a piece to try and she isn’t thrilled, so a second one gets the chop. She likes this one and so it is wrapped up in cling film. The next woman wants a watermelon and so the whole process starts again. Duncan actually came to see why it took me 20 minutes to buy 2 clementines and one pink lady apple! Can you imagine if this was the process in Sainsburys or Coles.

We have a mountain to climb this morning. We thought the Spanish were honking to complain about us on the road at first but we now realise it’s encouragement. Unlike Portugal, here roads have a pink lane section or a sign to remind drivers about cyclists. Everyone gives us a very wide birth, so much so that we pull over on non marked roads to let traffic go by – people always wave thank you or honk.

From what we know so far, the Spanish take their holidays in July and August. This area would be chaos at those times. Other times, it’s like you see below. Bay after bay, beach after beach and un-touristy towns and villages all along the coast. The retired people are the ones mostly at the beach. The downside is that not everywhere is open and the sea is FREEZING! It is as glorious as it looks in the photos. Maybe the reason English speaking people don’t come is because virtually nobody speaks a word of it. The emptiest beaches were the ones with no facilities and no parking, accessible by foot or bike only!

We stopped for a quick lunch in Pontevedra and then pushed on. It was hot and we went through five litres of water and needed to find shade to rest every 30 minutes, more on the hills. Our average speed was a pathetic 9kph. At one cafe on a hilltop, the breeze was so strong it lifted a cafe umbrella over the edge to who knows where. They were still looking for it when we left. The replacement being fitted below.

We could smell the Scallops as we came across the bridge into Cambados. We cycled part of the wine route into town. The granite here is pinker and less austere than yesterday, and so plentiful they use it for wine trellising. The houses look less like Aberdeen as well.

The Parador has a pool. We got there at 6.55 and it closes at 7! Managed a couple of lengths before showering, changing to a smarter look and going out for scallops, mussels, crab patê and Albariño. We may just have landed in Paradise. Bed at 9. Prices are about double that of Portugal but we sort of expected that.

Portugal is still the winner of cakes and pastries but we will endeavour to keep looking!