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I made a fairly late start, gone nine, and the one way system in M (see, I am obedient, I obey one way systems!) led me a funny route but did show me this:

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I don’t know how visible it is, but there’s quite an old two storey stone house in derelict state between some late mid/late 20th Century buildings.  The effect is, to me, strange:

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And oh boy, to me there is no doubt which are the aesthetically more satisfying constructions and, I suspect, which, with some care and attention, would/will last centuries and which won’t.

It also brought me past the big church from a different angle and it felt nice to wave it goodbye again.

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Then I was out into the country. This is one of my partial panoramas.  Sadly, the ‘photos don’t catch the warm colours (in fact, they give a rather grey feel which was how it felt on the skin and muscles!)

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In fact the light on the far hills was lovely.

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This was a very mild uphill spot, I stopped for the light, not a breather!

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And I also liked the stone in this view:

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The whole day was going through mixed farming countryside and small woodland.  The farms are small and many had that sort of mix of wood and stone “fencing” and gave me the feeling that the stones had been there for a very, very long time.  Some of the houses were lovely but the cycling was grinding and I didn’t stop for many ‘photos.  I regret that I didn’t now.  There was one tiny but lovely looking chapel with marble vaults on each side of it (like the ones next to Santa Maria yesterday). The vaults were as high as the very low walls of the single nave so the church looked bizarre, as if someone had built two high blast walls on either side of it as you see in the transformers in electricity transmission systems. They must have been within under 10m of the chapel walls and appeared to be as long as the church.  These aren’t   something I’ve been seeing until now.  Are they a local fashion in how to be buried?

There were lots of lovely horreos, many modern concrete built but some clearly much older, stone built and one had the door open revealing that it was half full of bright yellow maize heads.  Lots of eucalyptus trees but also some lovely chestnuts and lots of oak.  And quite a few of these:

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What does he mean?  Houses in a state of decline?  Well, yes, there were lots of those and I think more ones like this, not  that old, than really old ones.  No, I’m referring to the metal globe thing.  I’m 99% sure they’re water tanks, often, as I think this one is, with added TV aerials.  They seemed rather like things from 40s sci fi movies though and again, they’re not something I’ve seen elswhere. Surely the water will be hot in summer if it waits up there for any length of time?  What creates these local fashions?

After some slogging, and here I was quite happy to stop for a breather, I had this:

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I think you can just see a “blue man” on a bike vanishing in the distance.  I’d seen him earlier, stopped picking blackberries (a lot of pilgrims do that: hooray for use of otherwise wasted good food, I confess I never stopped for them feeling I would grudge the time too much).   He was about my age I was guessing.  I took another ‘photo just to confirm how close I was getting:

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He’s gone.  In fact, about 2km further, after a bit more up and down, I got worried that I might have missed a turning as he really had vanished.   I hadn’t and forgot about him once I’d looked at the map and convinced myself I was on the right road but I did think “Boy, I am sluggish today.”  Well, that was true, I just didn’t seem to have much oomph but I was hugely amused, probably two hours later to see him in Compostela and realise that he had an electric bike!!  I’d seen quite a few in France and even had a brief go on one (that’s a story that should have made a post and will some day) but I hadn’t seen any other pilgrims with one.

One odd thing, that contributed to my feeling I might have lost my way was that the lovely white arrows on the road, and the occasional funny faces simply stopped about there  and we were still, well, 33km from Compostela.  Very oddd and it also contributed to this:

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Yes, bushed at the top of a really foul long climb with massive road works going on about 10km from Compostela I’d followed the sign across the roundabout and about the time that sign made it blatantly clear, I realised that I was on the approach road to a motorway into Compstela: NOT right!

I was only 100m down so a quick, rather embarrassed pedal back up the hard shoulder the wrong way (as I say, I like to be obedient) and then: no other obvious way to Compostela off that roundabout until I   realised I had to go a couple of hundred metres back down the foul hill and come off it to join the walkers’ path, which led, quite quickly, to an older main road and I was fine again.  But where had my white arrow painting angel gone just  when I had most needed him/her?  The complete absence of arrows continued all the way into Compostela and you’ll be expecting a proper narrative approach shot here. Well there isn’t one because there wasn’t one, there was a brief flash between trees on a descent which confirmed what the Garmin distance count and the last signs had said and showed a big, grey town under a now drizzling and completely grey, dark grey, sky. Sorry, no, I wasn’t hauling the brakes on, backing up some metres, risking my life in a gap in he traffic, all to get you a grey on grey approach shot.

The outskirts of Compostela go on for kilometres and  are deadly dull I’m afraid.  My guide book told me to keep using the signs for the historical centre, all well and good, and, rather bizarrely, to keep the bus station on my right.  Never saw a bus station and the historic centre is actually quite big and now white arrows, no nothing.  Like a lot of other cyclists, I fudged and most of us ended up opting to join the walking pilgrims who had at least a few yellow arrows.  So we came into the cathedral square down a flight of stairs!!  Serves us right I guess.

And I arrived to this:

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Heavy police presence and an extrordinary cacophony of drugs and hand bells that was getting louder and louder making it quite impossible to hear or think much.  It gradually became clear that I had come in one corner of the square (down the stairs) just as a huge carnival procession came in another corner.

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And some basketball with only one hoop per court, I think sponsored by local banks was also taking up half the square:

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You see: there really is only one half court.  I wonder if it’s a game of “one half”?  (OK, I know, that’s terrible.)

And the procession kept coming and coming:

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And oddly, more and more cycling pilgrims seemed to appear from nowhere, more than I’ve seen at any previous point.  I guess I’d expect a lot bottled up here but they weren’t already there, they were suddenly flooding in.  Two men, I think the ones who dubbed me “yellow man” arrived on their bikes and one, bless him, took out a proper hairbrush after taking off his cycling helmet and brushed his enviable amount of snow white, rather fairy tale beautiful, hair … and then what were I’m pretty sure, their wives arrived and the self-care looked touching as were the hugs and congratulations and suddenly I was noticing that some of the walkers had arranged rendezvous too, and others who had travelled in, or formed, packs were hugging one another and jumping up and down for cameras.

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And they mingled with the procession and much dancing and taking of selfies was going on everywhere you looked, and you still couldn’t hear yourself think for drumming, bells and, wait for it: bagpipes galore!

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And just as I thought it couldn’t get any more exotic and was shrinking back against the cathedral wall, well actually, that and the foot of its scaffolding, and as I was rather prosaically, and tiredly, thinking that I wouldn’t mind squatting down but everywhere I could see to do that had clearly been marked by dogs peeing competitively telling each other that bit of the cathedral was theirs … along came this:

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Yes, men and women on horseback with bed rolls in front of their saddles and nasty looking swords.  Toto and I shrank back into the wall,well, tried to, and both wondered who’d spiked our water bottles and what on earth had been put in them. Surely this was no ordinary psychotogenic influence? We were supposed to be at the end of a solemn, Christian pilgrimage.  (OK, agnostic, but very solemn I’m sure you’d agree.)   This was mayhem and some of it transparently pagan:

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And then, in the space of another ten minutes or so, they were all gone.  And here’s Toto looking a bit, well, like a bike ought to after a long trip.

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And then, as if Lewis Carroll had been scripting it all along, came the white train (and yet more cycling pilgrims):

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Toto and I decided that the cathedral would wait for another day and I felt I couldn’t leave him in this dodgy arena and gone and hug Saint James (I’m not making that bit either: that’s what I have to do at the end of all this) and we crawled off, now pretty damn cold, to find something to eat.

And this, gentle readers, is Gallician soup:

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I’m not a fan of cabbage and bean soup but this was cabbage and bean and potato and a very little bit of cheese soup and it was absolutely delicious and warming and was followed (from the English language menu I confess) “Toast with Gallician pork rind and cheese”:

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Yes, I had simply chosen the two things that said “Gallician”.  When in Gallicia, do as the Gallicians.  It was actually pulled pork and cheese on toast, very high on protein, carbohydrate and fat and just what I needed.  And we found a hotel that would take us, and it was one with lovely receptionists.  Then, after quite a while in the room, unpacking, uploading ‘photos etc, I opened the net curtains and found this:

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There’s a milky way leading from my window to the cathedral:

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OK. It just leads to a wall and a dead end but that’s real life Toto.  Actually, this is Toto safely locked up in the boiler room.

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Anyway, here we are, I’m stocked up with food from the supermarket and we’re not going to Finisterre and we may go home a day early so I might see my daughter before she goes, later than planned, for another year abroad.  And all’s well with the world.  OK, I made that bit up too, as far as I can see, the world’s still in a very mixed state, frankly parlous in many ways, but boy am I happy to have made it and had such an adventure.

And lovely people have followed this mad blog so that we didn’t feel too lonely.  Actually, I promise, I have no “we” delusions, I have some respect for Toto as a bike, and like HG Wells, I think bikes are pretty good things, but I don’t talk to the bike.  I do occasionally talk to my legs but that’s only a bit mad.  This would have perhaps been quite a lonely experience, despite the miracles of modern ‘phone contact with my family, had I not created this blog and, to my immense pleasure and surprise, found that people were reading it and commenting.  It won’t stop here but I think this will do for tonight.  Reviews on Google maps say the café/bar about 100m from here is great so I’m off to get a beer and raise it to everyone!

    4 Comments

  1. It’s OK if you talk to Toto… We will still accept and affirm you. 🙂

    You are a really good writer, Chris. Together with the pictures, it feels as if we are really taking this trip along with you. Thanks for this blog!

  2. ¡Salud! Though I’m on the cava, obviously.

  3. So they knew you were coming then!? What a bizarre greeting, but many congratulations. A glass of Swiss wine was raised to your beer. Looking forward to hearing about the cathedral – I have both hopes and fears for it!

    • My daughter’s response was similar to yours Helena: she said it seemed somehow fitting that I arrived into that melee. Both right I’m sure! It’s taken me a day and a half and two bites at it, three if one counts that arrival which involved seeing about half the exterior, but I’m about to try to do it justice with pretty awful ‘photos and some talking to the keyboard. Fears, which I had too, were really not realised and much is glorious, as it should be. Hope your Swiss trip continues well..

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