Stage 7 The Way of St James:
Ponferrada – Ferreiros
Distance: 117,08 km
– 13,5€ Breakfast + Rebreakfast + Food
– 13€ Hostel + Dinner
We wake up with the sunrise. I love living at the rhythm of the Sun, it makes me feel good. Then, as every day, we follow the pilgrim’s routine. In the morning it includes: first, get up (hard task), second wash your face with pilgrims from all around the world, get dressed, prepare the panniers/backpack, have breakfast and finally leave. Beautiful routine.
I start the stage without my partner Jairo who has gone to visit a village where he lived as a child. We agree to meet later. Immediately after his departure, he calls me because he has left his folder with the credential and all the important documents. Later we will know that the towel and the soap have been left behind too, but for these, it will be too late.
I start pedalling alone, well alone, the Camino is full of pilgrims so you are never alone and, since Leon, the amount of pilgrims has increased. The landscape has also changed, it’s more beautiful. Numerous mountains surround me while I cross vineyards and orchards, the green predominates everywhere.
A bit later, I meet Jairo again and we join a group of cyclists who have travelled with us before. Together we cross the kilometers that separate us from Cebreiro, these are nothing more than a mere procedure for what awaits us. Before arriving to the mountain we stop a couple of times to eat and charge our batteries up, the profile of the climb scares us. We wheel and wheel while we ask ourselves when the ascent will begin, without realizing that we have already started.
The first part is hard, on a road and between trees. The second one is even harder. There is no longer vegetation that protects us from the Sun and it is raining heat! The path has become of earth and stone, it is difficult to ride here. In some sections I have to get off the bike and push it, it hurts. And no matter how much I drink, I am not able to replace all the liquid that I am sweating. I’m suffering so much!
The pilgrims on foot, who also suffer, turn away and encourage us when they hear us approaching. And even some charitable souls lend us a little power by pushing us. It might seem like a small push but it gives a lot of energy, not so much for the impulse itself, but for the kind gesture. Thank you very much!
Little by little, we get closer and closer to the summit. The suffering does not prevent us from enjoying the luxurious views which are contemplated from up there. A smile appears on my face as I feel that the climbing is coming to an end. And there at the top and full of joy, a group of Dutch pilgrims form an arch with their walking sticks and cheer up all the people who reach the summit.
I feel a little bit stupid with such a smile on my face, this is undoubtedly the happiest moment of the Camino so far. It is like a cyclist winning the main stage of the Tour de France. I receive a treat from one of the women who is cheering up, but no candy can better this sweet moment, wonderful, wonderful this moment, wonderful I feel, wonderful everything!
Before finally going down, we need to go up and down several peaks. The knee does not allow me to pedal any more so the last climb will be on foot. At the top we stop for a while, I can not continue. And now, as usual: some bread, fruit, chocolate, some soft drinks, ibuprofen, ointment and massage. And yes, now, it’s going down time!
The descent is great, magnificent and impressive. Kilometres and kilometres of descent, 33 kilometres to be more exact. In addition, this one is by a forest footpath between leafy vegetation, it is perfect to cycle on. We cross forests and streams, fountains and towns, and mystical places with hermit druids. And I go through them as fast as I dare. Volando voy…!
I arrive at Sarría and I slow down, there is a party (like everywhere in Spain apparently) and a medieval market distracts me. Crafts, homemade products, infusions, soaps, etc. Fragrances, tastes, colours and music are palpable in the environment. When suddenly … Iñigo?! Arturo?! My aunt’s brother, who is also doing the Camino. Known faces and faces to be met, they are all friends on the Camino de Santiago. I have to get to Santiago tomorrow but Jairo is not in such a hurry, so we say goodbye and I continue alone. Until next time my friend!
I continue just a little longer, or that’s what I hope. I’m tired and my knee and my hands are just about to collapse. It’s getting late and I can not find a place to stay. I arrive in another town and, as in the previous one, the hostels are full… And with the excitement of the day I have forgotten to withdraw some money, there are no ATMs either and I barely have 12€. I do not know if it going to be enough to spend the night and have some dinner. Please help!
And the help comes in the form of a small hamlet. I find a small hostel where they tell me I can stay in exchange for the will. And for dinner, they make me such a big sandwich that it is impossible to grab it even using both hands. Although right now I am not able to grab absolutely anything with these numbed fingers I have. And also, they offer me a toast with homemade cheese. It’s all delicious! I give them all the money I have.
Tomorrow is the last stage… I feel nostalgic. I close the day trying to remember everything I’ve experienced today while listening to background music. The melody makes the words I write come to life in emotions that run throughout my body. Today… What a day today! The sun has already gone to bed and so have I, but with so many sensations it will be a bit difficult to fall asleep.