Well! This is embarrassing. I’ve been searching for another word but ‘embarrassing’ just about sums it up. Oh! Humbling! That’s another good one! It’s taken me two flight tickets and a fortune in cold medicines to finally make it onto the Via de la Plata (I have been sick with a bad cold since last Friday and had to postpone my arrival by 5 days) and already on day 1 I have to admit to being beaten as a bicigrino! Perhaps the illness had a part to play but I could not muster the energy to get myself, the gear and the bike up even fairly gentle inclines.
Not that there were many gentle inclines – the route between Guillena and CdlA was basically just carved out with mud – the ‘path’ was a gorge for 13kms that I had to drag the bike up and over, lifting the bike at times and pulling onto the higher ground. Between this and the streaming nose and cough I decided – admittedly with weakness – to call it quits at CdlA and switch to what I know – walking!
The generosity of Ines and Pauline at the Triana Backpackers meant that I could send the bike back by courier and continue my camino by foot tomorrow. Hopefully some other ample bottomed woman with a tad more grit will get use out of that new saddle! What a div! I’m cringing as I write this – I’m surprised how physically tough this was compared to walking! Admittedly I saw no other cyclist going my way but plenty coming at me in the opposite direction down the hill! In the end, I’m relieved that I got the bike to town at all – there was a couple of times I was considering ditching it behind a tree and exclaiming, in broken spanish, that it had been nicked! Not reaaaaally (not much!)
Well, I think I should probably move on! The good news is that it is not raining and is warm enough during lunch hours to take lunch in a t-shirt! The even better news, the sheer physical exertion of today seems to have done wonders for my cold as I write this from the Hotel Castil Blanco I’m able to go at least 10 minutes without descending into a hacking cough! Every cloud…
So what about this Via de la Plata!? The ride to Santiponce was well way marked from Seville although I still managed to take a couple of wrong turnings and resorted to Ines’ brothers app ‘Via de la Plata premium’ to pick up the GPS map. I also managed to cross the Guardalquiver at the wrong place leading to a hairy downhill crossing of grassy wasteland. The ride into Santiponce is flat, easy and beautiful and I arrived into town around 10am to enjoy a coffee and an orange juice at the Colosseum Bar opposite the entrance to the Roman ruins of Italica. Then onto Guillena, I arrived around 11.30 through country roads that were showing the same kind of gorge features I’d come to despise later that afternoon but they had the good grace to at least be situated among flat riding. A cafe con leche and a bocadillo in Guillena left me plenty of time to get to Castilblanco (2 hours I estimated) and then onto Almaden! That’s where he plan fell apart. Those 17kms took me 4 and a half hours ON A BIKE! It was a case of pushing the bicycle up over the rocks – reaching the top – mounting the bike – freewheeling down – rinse and repeat for 4 hours!
So, here we are! As it’s Saturday night I’m heading into town at 7.30 to eat at one of the two restaurants at the town, El Rincon del Beni! Let’s see if they do a pilgrim menu!
Lastly, I’ve seen no other pilgrims – despite doing a double stage (hmmm!). However, Ive heard from Ines that there’s a boy here in this town (not sure if she knows this hot tip is a touch wasted on me!) who started the vdlp on Thursday by foot! If he’s following the guide then we’re in the same town! Likely he’s being a good peregrino and staying at the Albergue… I’ve got my feet up in the hotel. Hmmm, I hope he doesn’t read my blog! Perhaps the earth could then open up entirely and swallow me whole! #facepalm