This will be my fifth Camino de Santiago and the first time I’ve chosen to go by bike and the first time I’ve tried a route other than the Frances. I have no idea what to expect over this 1000km journey. Will my body cope, what injuries do cyclist get if hikers get blisters? How many stamps do I need to collect each day to qualify for a compostella? Where do I stow my bicycle on an evening? Which bits of the route are too technical and require you to take the road? Am I going to be boiling or freezing? Most importantly, can I find pilgrim menus on the Via de la Plata?
Although this is another camino adventure and I should be pretty confident by now, the combination of new route and new transport means I’ve absolutely no idea what to expect and for a seasoned pilgrim that’s both terrifying & exciting in equal measure.
I finally made the decision to go by bicycle as the Via de la Plata will be practically deserted in January (only 5000 people walked this route in total in 2017) so if I hope to see any pilgrims at all, covering three times the distance in a day will triple my chances! Secondly, biking should allow me plenty of time to get all the way to Santiago de Compostella instead of finishing my pilgrimage in Salamanca. I’ll get to enjoy all the major towns and cities of this camino as, fortuitously, most of the major towns are around 60-80kms from one another, making for enjoyable evenings!
However, there are some drawbacks to this decision. Firstly, I’ve never ridden a bicycle more than 20kms in a day – my first day will be 70kms and up until this afternoon, I’d never replaced a wheel, fixed a puncture or put a chain back on a bicycle. I spent most of this afternoon breaking both mine and my partners bikes in order to practice fixing them! I’m bringing my own saddle, two pairs of cushioned underwear, cushioned trousers and cream especially for biker’s ass for if there’s one thing I do remember from bike rides of yore – it’s the pain in the buttocks!
The second drawback – the weather is diabolical in Spain at the moment. As I type. just a week from departure, there’s snow in Salamanca, and not just a bit of snow, motorway madness causing snow, rain most everywhere else and more rain forecast to come. If it doesn’t dry up soon, some of these paths will become totally impassable forcing me into a road-based camino and, buggeration, I’ll be perma-sodden just like my last camino!
Well, for better or worse, on Monday the 15th of January I fly into Seville from Gatwick and will depart from the Triana Backpackers albergue the next morning and begin the 1000km journey to Santiago. My hired bicycle will be waiting for me at the albergue as will the inn-keeper, who has been kind enough to open the albergue only for me as I will be it’s only guest that evening. I plan to take it easy, ride what I can each day and just enjoy each new experience as it comes, sun, rain, hail or snow! *but please, go easy on the snow*