Day 3 was all about the state of my bike, whereas day 4 was more about the state of my body. I was feeling good that I was able to continue after fearing the worst from breaking my bike, and I knew that this morning would be the last major mountain stage. I Had dried everything from the previous day, had everything in order, and decided to eat light until I had crossed the mountains. My head immediately sunk however, when I drew the curtains and saw that it was pouring with rain and I could see that the snowline in the distance was not much higher than where I was. This day was the longest distance covered during the entire trip, though I had no idea it would be.
La Laguna was completely deserted when I left with all the residents probably looking out of the window shocked at how crazy someone could be going out in that weather. I started cycling along the tarmac until the Camino took a left along a track, climbing all the way. I dismounted and walked this part, as the path was not suitable in the conditions to ride and it was at this point when rain started to turn into sleet, and snow was starting to settle on the ground. There is a major sight that will you a lift no matter what conditions are like, or at least it gave me one, which is the border of Galicia. I certainly felt like Santiago was now actually achievable, though it was still 164km away.
O Cerbreiro is the first village in this new region that you stop at and rejoin the main road. On a clear day you would be greeted with impressive views from both sides of the ridge, but for me, I couldn’t see very far at all, just the village and maybe 500m in all directions. O Cebreiro is a really beautiful village to visit, and the Camino cuts right through it. There are also bars and hostels at this point, and was where I saw other people for the first time. By this point, the snow was well and truly settled on the ground and I was battling to keep dry and warm after just 30 minutes on the road. The Camino has another split in this town, one that directs you to the main road, the other, to a track that takes you to the 3rd highest point of the Camino.
I chose the track because I didn’t see the sign properly, and that I just followed a pilgrim that I could see in the distance. If you are doing this in winter, be extra vigilant with the signs as the snow does cover some of them, but thankfully there aren’t many diversions, and they all reconnect to the main road sooner or later. This track was one of the most enjoyable parts of the day, the snow was getting deeper, but being in the trees did help prevent the snow from getting too deep. Just one km later and you reconnect to the main road and you descend a little towards the next village, Liñares. This village isn’t as picturesque as O Cebreiro, but you also have options to stay as well, and there is a small shop for some basic supplies.
I pretty much blazed through Liñares and rejoined the LU 633 which is the best road of this stretch of the Camino and one that frequently connects it intermittently for the next 80km. There is a climb to the next point, the Alto Do San Roque where I could barely see a thing, but I’m sure if conditions are good, you would see for miles around. Progress was motoring along at this point, though my gloves had soaked through by now and I was in need of getting into warmer setting soon. Hospital de La Condesa is the next point, which I cycled completely past, only to stop and take pictures. This was where my friend Rafael was staying the night, so essentially I was about 10km behind him, following his decision to continue solo the day before.
From Hospital, the Camino does divert from the main road, but if you stay on the road, you won’t miss anything and you are reconnected a few kilometres later. This is the last climb to the 2nd highest point of the whole Camino Francés, the Alto Do Poio. it’s just 2 or so kilometres from Hospital, and there is a hostel at the top. Because of the snow I couldn’t see much more than 100m, and this is where you start to descend. I imagine there are some amazing views from this mountain pass if you attempted this amazing journey.
For a hiker I know the descent would take up a large part of the day, and would be lined with hostels along the way, and it partially diverts from the main road. By bike however, this will take about half an hour. I was just sort of fed up of being wet and cold and suffering by this point, but I completely missed the villages of Ponfría, Fillobal and Pasantes. While there are some hostels and restaurants in these places, they are slim pickings. and the next major village is Triacastela. This road is a lot of fun to ride on, and though it was wet, I was able to maintain control without any problem the entire time. after about 6 km, I was out of the snow, and visibility was ever-improving. The road is still descending when you reach Triacastela, but I needed some nourishment.
I found a supermarket and took advantage of buying a small towel to dry myself the best I could and a using their heating to take the edge off my numb hands, and buy some more rations. Triacastela is a really good rest place after all the climbs, and there are quite a few restaurants and hostels should you need it. Samos is the next notable place on the journey, 10km away. The Camino will follow the main road while occasionally diverting to any village on the way. The road is slowly descending through a small canyon before San Cristóbal Do Real which isn’t worth stopping at, then Lusio which had a hostel just half a kilometre later. There is very little to write about any other place until Samos.
Samos is worth checking out and is the perfect rest stop before Sarria. There’s a huge monastery there which the main road grazes, followed by a notable number of places for a tired pilgrim to put their feet up. By this point, my hands were now back to normal and I was just determined to get to Sarria and enjoy a taste of civilisation. Samos is also the point where you start leaving the higher mountains and start to experience the gentler green hills. The road descends a lot less and there are a few small hill climbs, but not a lot to worry about, and there really wasn’t much that I could see from when the Camino diverted off the main road either, my charts indicated very few hostels on this 11km stretch to Sarria.
The road does get increasingly busier the closer you get to the town, but thankfully the Camino diverts off it when you reach the outskirts, and you see the Río Sarria as well as the older part of town on the hill. Sarria is one of the most well-known Galician towns on the Camino because of it’s history and more importantly, it’s the nearest major town you can start your journey, and receive the Compostela by walking. As rules state, you have to be more than 100km away from Santiago if you are walking, and 200km if you are doing it by bicycle or horseback (Camponaraya). Sarria is 117km away more or less, and you see a notably higher number of pilgrims at this point as a result.
Sarria is well worth a visit, and the old part of town is Camino crazy, with the main church perched on the top of the hill. I also decided to completely recharge my batteries there enjoy a few filling croquetas then hit the road at around 2pm. The Camino directs you to the immediate countryside, off road, and away from the LU 633 and this part often slows the cyclist down in favour of the hiker. You officially leave the town after crossing the Ponte Da Aspera around the corner from the castle, and reconnect to tarmac at a village called Barbadelo of which you are climbing a little.
I stopped there for a stamp in one of the hostels when the typical Gallego weather kicked in again, English April showers, the difference being that they are a bit warmer than England. This part of the Camino really makes you feel like you’re in a different country compared to León, and I couldn’t believe how much this felt like England. The only difference is that you see Spanish and Gallego written everywhere. At A Serra, your cycling goes off-road a little before crossing the main road on several occasions including the LU 633. The Camino then stays on tarmac, passing through the villages of Peruscallo and Brea, where you will see the first of two signs saying you are 100km from Santiago.
This sign brought be a lot of excitement and I was fully pumped to keep going, only to discover that this sign is fake, and the real one is actually a few hundred metres down the road, and why there are two I have no idea. The milestone is adorned by trinkets and some marks and graffiti like the border crossing to Galicia was. It was around the hamlet of Morgade where I was stopped by a resident offering to sell me a shell, which led us to having a conversation along with the whole family. This was my first ever experience hearing Gallego and surprisingly, I could understand most of it. But they were really nice people, and it was yet another highlight to the day I was having.
The Camino continues on and off tarmac for large parts of this period. You pass the lovely village of Mirallos with the Igrexa de Santa Maria and some hostels, then off road after la Rozas, and here it is quite treacherous for the bike, as you are crossing streams on foot and there are some impressive paths which go alongside them in the forest. Then I joined the road at Moimentos which is the first of three hamlets that you pass on the main road, and they offer plenty of rest for any tired legs. It was here that I met some pilgrims on horseback for the first time. They were dressed in the traditional clothing and were in a convoy of about 6 horses and were super friendly, but you see this occur less often as the bicycle replaces it. The views start to open up as the Camino starts to reach Portomarin, the next major town.
This point is also where you start making some sharp descents and the main Camino usually cuts through and goes down some rough tracks which aren’t very suitable for bikes. A Parrocha is one village in particular which springs to mind where I nearly crashed. Then, there’s another village called Vilacha which is a little better and there are more hostels to rest, and is the last village before Portomarin. The Camino then takes two different directions and I chose the one which I thought was safer for the bike. I wasn’t wrong, but I did suffer a major crash. My brakes couldn’t handle a particular turn and I went off it and landed in a field of long grass. amazingly despite falling more than 10′ into the field all I did was wind myself and the bike was unscathed. That lucky shell did it’s job, but it made me feel even more vulnerable on the bike than ever before.
Portomarin was just 1km away, and the road reconnects with the LU 633 and you arrive at a bridge which cuts over a large dammed lake, and on the other side, you see a flight of stairs leading to a gateway into the village. Portomarin is well worth stopping at despite the steep hill getting you there. It has an impressive main plaza with a rather unusual church dominating the scene. You also have everything you can possibly need to continue onto the next stage. Many pilgrims if they started the day in Sarria, would usually stay the night here. My objective however, was Melide, though because of my tiredness and crash, I was prepared to reach Palas Do Rei to end the stage instead.
The last stage of the day is a 25km stretch over more hills to Palas Do Rei and this time the camino is almost entirely on tarmac roads. Just on the outskirts of Portomarin, I bumped into my mate Rafael again, which meant I caught up with him and that we were a team once again! We actually had no idea where either of us were, as signal back then was rather shocking, but it gave me a boost, and I needed it, because the road climbed once again. For a cyclist, it’d take about 20mins- half an hour to get to the end of the road O Alto Do Hospital, though there are hostels in Gonzar and Castromaior just in case. Annoyingly the Camino kept climbing up to about 700m in altitude which pushed my body to the point where I was starting to struggle.
Airexe was the last notable village I remember that stood out before our bed for the night, though there were a couple of hostels just before that village and the Igrexa de Ligonde surrounded by old slate houses. However, I remember it more for all the cows lined up on the road, something I was told was a common sight in many of the local villages here. There were also quite a few hostels when leaving Airexe and the temptation to duck into one of the bars was high by this point. about 20 minutes later and we made it to A Brea, which connected to the N-537, which is the Main road to Santiago, and I knew that I was so close to Palas.
Just 2km later, and at the first sight of the first of many hostels in Palas Do Rei just gave me the biggest sigh of relief and I was not in great shape. I was totally not fussed what the beds or conditions were like, I wanted to get off the bike and sit on something soft for a change. The Hostel was on the outskirts of town and cost 5€ for the night and was essentially a warehouse with several rooms with about 100 beds inside of it. It was quite modern, but it was the busiest and worst hostel of the trip, and I would recommend one that’s a little closer to the town centre. I was just too tired to care. What helped us get to that point, was that it was sunny and quite warm but being Galicia, it usually doesn’t stay that way for long. All that was for sure, is that Santiago was about 70km away, and that we had just one final push.