We had learned to respect the weather in Spain which can change very rapidly and the marked difference between the early morning temperature and that later in the day was striking. Having already ridden in excess of 650 kilometers (404 miles) from our original starting point at Bayenne – we had experienced bitter temperatures (the type that crept into your bones, necessitating an extra layer, or two); followed by intense heat later in the day. Along the way there had been some amazing sights, especially from the uppermost recesses of the mountains as we made our way through them; we were continuously bombarded by the various sights and smells, although the climbs were challenging at times.
However, as we set off from Alto do Poio this morning, we were to encounter yet another phenomenon. We were 1330 metres above sea level at this point – above the cloud line, which had not been evidenced the evening before. Once we began descending we were engulfed by a damp foggy mist only to be greeted by an amazing panoramic view as it cleared. I stopped to take some photos before catching up with John who had, as usual, set off in a rather cavalier fashion – one that I am always loath to copy. While the climb up the previous day had been long and tiring we were to descent to 665 metres in a matter of minutes.
At times I felt as if my hands were about to fly off as the strain of constantly applying the brakes took hold – I definitely wouldn’t make a Tour de France competitor. Totally unaware that I was being slowly followed by the local Policia, I was very relieved to reach the outskirts of Filloval, where John was waiting on a bridge. Only when the car sped passed did I realise that it could have overtaken me at any time, so I wondered just how long it had been behind! Much of the rest of the day the road consisted of easily manageable ups and downs.
We had meant to reach Palas de Rei by evening but instead opted to get a room in Portomarin as it looked interesting enough to explore. As we reached the outskirts via a large bridge spanning a wide river, we were greeted by a long line of steps. Deciding that we didn’t fancy carrying the fully-laden bikes up them, we turned right and kept to the road until we noticed a hotel with a very welcoming sign outside saying “pilgrims welcome”.
Looking for an Albergue at this point went out of the window. Instead, we booked a private room and negotiated with the proprietor where we should leave our bikes for the night. Both exhausted, we were happy to rest for a while before showering, then taking a walk around the very beautiful town centre. Driven now by hunger, we went in search of a restaurant for omelette followed by chocolate pudding. Portomarin has a tall imposing church which is definitely worth a visit although it was closed when we were there.
The 13th Century Iglesia de San Juan has the largest single nave of any Romanesque church in Galicia. Many of the buildings (including this church) in Portomarin had been moved and reconstructed, stone by stone, on the present site as their original area was to be flooded to make way for a dam.