I probably over-did the bike packaging. In reality I could have reversed the pedals, bungee’d the front wheel to the frame and the driver would probably have let me on just the same.
By 08:00 I had re-assembled my bike, loaded up the panniers and was heading out on my Onimac.
I took a quick ride around the old town of Santiago, found the cathederal and Plaza del Obradoiro, but felt out of place, for most of the tourists, this had been the objective of gruelling weeks of hiking, the “Pilgrimage of a Lifetime”.
I was keen to get a pilgrimmage card that would enable me to stay in the Albergues, I also needed a guide book to help with the route and to hit the road.
The Compostela office is where the pilgrim presents their compostela card with stamps from each albergue and point of interest along their route to show that they have completed their pilgrimage. Their name will be entered into a register and they will awarded some kind of celestial Nectar points Nectar points to be cashed in at a later date. I went to the office to ask for a blank card so as to take advantage of the network of Albergues as I headed away from Santiago. They looked at me blankly, seemingly unable to coprehend that anyone would want to do the Camino de Santiago back to front.
“I have come by bus and I am going to cycle home”, I explained.
“So we cannot give you a compostela, you cannot do the Camino Santiago”, they replied.
“well, I can, it´ll just back to front. I just wanted a Compostela card to collect the stamps and remember my journey.”
They looked back at me blanky. So I gave up on them and decided to head out of the city and find my way to Monte do Gozo to pick up the route.
I managed to get lost in the suburbs of Santiago just as a storm hit but stumbled upon a campsite where I was able to change into cycling gear and get a beer and a bite to eat while waiting for the worst of a downpour to pass over.
The camino route is marked by yellow arrows and scallop shell signs pointing towards Santiago. Once clear of the city, I got into my rhythm and felt the freedom of the road fill my spirits. Every couple of hundred metres, I would meet a pilgrim heading the “correct” way along the path and we would each holler “Buen Camino” in encouragement. Many were hobbling quite badly as they fought with blisters and over-stuffed rucksacks. The pilgrims were so thick on the ground that Iif i cycled more than a couple of minutes without seeing one appear, I was sure that I had missed a yellow arrow and would need to retrace my steps to the last junction and wait no more than a minute or two for the next cagoule-clad pilgrim to confirm the correct route.
Still somewhat unsure of the availability and protocol for obtaining a bed for the night, I decided to take advantage of one of the many albergues advertised on the path. I stopped a little earlier than planned but nevertheless I was ready to relax, having slept intermittently on the bus and then having been on the go since alighting in the Bus Station at 08:00, I was somewhat disappointed to feel so tired yet to see only 35km of progress.
I consoled myself with a warm shower and a cold beer, followed by a hearty meal served at the comunal dining table shared with the 6 other pilgrims, some of whom were spending their last night on the trail before a long push into Santiago the next day.