Dropping down from the altitud of Vendas del Narón through wind and spitting rain towards the reservoired crossing of the Rio Miño at Portomarin was a cold affair, cruising past the hump-backed pilgrims protected by their plastic rain capes as they hiked towards me.
Entering the village square of Portomarin, looking for breakfast, the squalling windy rain gave way to another full-on torrential downpour. I took refuge under a galleried walkway and secured the bike before heading into the bar for toast and coffee. I comiserated about the weather with a fellow cyclist. When he heard I had come from Santiago he asked my advice, He had a flight home Sunday morning and so needed to get to Santiago that same day. Should he average a better speed and cycle 120km on tarmac or attempt the 80km off-road route? It felt like a terrible choice to have to make, He had cycled 700km from St-Jean-Pied-de-Port and was missing out on some great riding though stunning countryside, but his options were running out. That countryside was pretty steep & rolling, it had taken me a disappointing 2 days to get this far, and he only had another 10 hours of daylight. Taking the road would also give him the easier access to bailing out and calling a taxi if necessary. Having said that, after 700km he was tour-fit, and by sticking to the albergue-laden Camino Francés his bike was unencumbered by camping kit. At the time, I think advised the conservative approach, now that I write it out I hope that he ignored me and completed his Camino.
I left the bar, with the rain settling into a steady rhythm, I dug out from my pannier the pilgrim’s cape donated to me by a great friend and cycling companion, Cesar, bid good luck & Buen Camino to my breakfast companion and headed owards through the rain.
I noticed little of the route, focussing instead on trying to make progress and keep dry. The cape was very effective against the worst of the rain. It may not be the most aerodymic approach as a cyclist, but it is very effective means of keeping dry. The more aerodynamic and “technical” jackets tend to soak you with condensation from the inside, while the constant airflow around the cape kept me surprisingly dry, coupled with my Tilley hat to prevent rain dripping into my eyes.
There came a point however, mid afternoon, my extremities were numb, and I needed spend half an hour out of the rain to dry out, warm up and lift my spirits. Unfortunately I seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. So I found a bus shelter and brewed a pot of tea.
And then pushed onto Samos. Where I shared an Albergue dormitorio with a grumpy belgian whose only interaction with the world was “il fait froid.”
He was not wrong.