Wednesday, 25 November 2009

It's the end of the world as we know it... (and I feel fine...)

34 days, 1895km, 1 puncture, 1 broken bottom bracket, 1 snapped gear cable, far too many hills and some really horrible weather after leaving Puy, we finally arrived at the coast previously believed to be the edge of the world: Finesterre. It looked a bit like Cornwall. We decided against joining the tradition that has built up amongst walkers to burn ones boots upon arrival; historically this was probably a very sensible health precaution, but with the advent of vibram soles means that there are rather unsightly piles of burnt plastic everywhere. Anyway, cleats are expensive and we'll probably be needing them in South America.

We don't have too many photo's to put up this time, as the weather turned again as we left the flats of the meseta. Mostly this led to miserable driving rain, which turned to miserable driving snow with altitude and meant risking hypothermia to get the camera out.

The cycling wasn't made any easier by the gradual reduction in functioning of gears on my bike. Initially I lost all high gears, meaning I looked liked a mouse in a wheel on anything that wasn't a steep incline (bizarrely meaning that we spent 2 days hoping for plenty of hills!). Functioning ceased completely about 70km outside Santiago, and we made it into the city with my bike having effectively become a singlespeed, stuck in a mid gear that managed to make both the ups and the downs challenging! Following this I can confirm that singlespeed touring bikes probably aren't a good idea, and whoever it was that said bikes don't need more than 3 gears, was wrong. Luckily, alongside his many other talents, Ja is secretly a mechanical genius (and he didn't even make me write that!), and managed to recable the whole bike using little more than an allen key and an old pair of stockings. Or something like that. It looked quite technical and meant I got gears again, so I was pretty impressed.

For some reason I had imagined it would be all downhill from Santiago to the coast, but I couldn't have been more wrong, and as a result we had a couple of overnights enroute, staying in the tiny village of Olveiroa, on a working farm in renovated 17th century outhouses (sadly the weather was too hideous for photos). It was here we decided to try the Galician regional specialty of Caldon Gallego which is, I understand, usually a cabbage and bean stew (obviously supplemented with the obligatory serving of chorizo) however in this instance involved the largest plate of cooked meats we have ever seen, served with something that might have been cabbage when it started stewing 2 weeks earlier. Good job we're still on that vegetarian holiday!

Back in Santiago we had a final evening of tapas and Ribeira, wrapped the bikes in clingfilm (an unusual stipulation of the bus company before travel), and got the night bus to Bilbao to enjoy the 30 hour 'mini-cruise' crossing to Portsmouth. The less said about this the better, and I am still left undecided as to whether I was more disturbed by the on board 'entertainment', or the fact that Ja appeared to thoroughly enjoy it.

Having added a couple of weeks to this part of the trip, and with the bikes in need of some serious servicing, we have now decided to leave for Argentina on the 5th December, and will be spending the week or so until then gloating about not having to be in work and trying to come up with ways of becoming independently wealthy so as to be able to continue this lifestyle indefinitely.

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