160601 – Finding The Way

I expected today to include a lot of hard climbing over the mountains.

As I settled into my room last night, I discovered I had the room to myself. Conversely, the shared bathroom by design had no lock. Very strange.

Leaving the hostel this morning, I learned I couldn’t leave. I had glossed over the reviews where others indicated you couldn’t leave the hostel before 8:00 am. I correctly assumed you could leave the hostel. But I couldn’t get into the main hostel area with breakfast, and I couldn’t get into the garage with my bicycle. Not that I started the day much before then, but irksome nonetheless.

The receptionist (different than last night) asked about my trip. She inquired whether I traveled the Camino as a pilgrim. I responded I was my own kind of pilgrim, to which she responded that was the best kind. She took a photo of my bicycle and I before I cycled away. It’s the legs.

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I started the day headed to the “Santiago Door”, the starting point for the Camino de Santiago in Santander. My cobblestone road degraded to a rut down the side of the mountain. I’ve cycled worse paths, but not many. On the way down I managed to catch one pedal on a rock, and the other on a stick, and down I went. Mostly unscathed except for a scraped-up knee. From there I found my way to the Camino, (mostly) marked with yellow arrows at intersections and signposts. My experience with searching for the signs for EV6 last year served me well today, although I realized the trail markers are never placed in reverse – pilgrims travel the Camino in only one direction.

I spent most of the day on level path, either packed earth or pavement. I passed a few pilgrims in the first 15 kilometers. The first 46 kilometers provided great cycling. While riding down the highway 40 kilometers from Santander a car pulled up next to me and rolled down the window. The host from the hostel last night shouted “Camino!” to me and gave me a big thumbs-up!

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The holiday season in Europe runs from the beginning of June to the end of August. On my last tour, on the 1st of September the weather suddenly turned cold and rainy. Today, the 1st of June, the weather turned hot (deep into the 90s). On flat terrain I can handle the heat, as I generate my own breeze. A lot less true when climbing mountains!

Taking a turn into the wilderness, following the ever-present yellow arrows, I considered staying on the highway. I’m not certain whether my experience shows for having the correct expectations, or fails because I did it anyway. The next 8 kilometers I climbed ever upwards on poor, loose-gravel roads. Eventually returning to the highway I think I lost the Camino for the last few kilometers into Tomar, but I’m not all that upset by that. The roads today would clearly have broken the social contract I had with Wayne and Charlotte.

Arriving in Tomar, I planned to camp. Locating the campground, the guard at the campground informed me Registration would not open for a couple of hours, and asked me to wait. I wandered about the campground, and decided instead to go to the hostel in town. A good decision, as that left me with more time to wander about Tomar. What appears to be a simple ruin on a nearby hill turned into the first keep built in Portugal. Later the site became the Convent of Christ, the largest, best-maintained Cistercian abbey in Europe, and a UNESCO World Heritage site. When the property changed hands, the ruler used the money from the lands to fund much of the Portuguese exploration of the early 1600s.

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Every time I found myself coasting down a hill today, I kept expecting Charlotte to come zipping past.

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