Now the route was becoming pretty crowded the closer to Santiago we got. As we only had 98 kilometers (60 miles) to go before reaching Santiago, this was hardly surprising.
The current distance required for a pilgrim to achieve a Compostela is 100 km for walkers, 100 km for those on horseback, and 200 km for cyclists.
Being so close to our destination (something which we would easily have achieved in one day 10 year’s ago) it was with a heavy heart that we set off the following morning. The closer we got to Santiago, the more we didn’t want the trip to end. Ok, so it had been tough at times, but there were as many highs as there had been lows – we simply didn’t want the adventure to end. The idea of carrying on to Finisterre, and even riding to Santander from there suddenly seemed very inviting.
John noticed a sole from a shoe hanging from a tree branch and quipped “someone must have discarded their soul along the way”.
The worst of the hills were now behind us, although the route still presented us with some challenges as it became undulating once more. Short steep ascents, and slow downhill gradients. At Ventas de Naron, for example, we were at 700 metres and the ride down was once again accompanied by thick mist. In part, the walkers’ trail looked inviting, so we rejoined it for a while, although it was quite narrow in parts.
Occasionally we would come across groups of young people singing and shouting to each other. They were determined to enjoy the experience with gusto. The going was quite slow in these sections, often bringing us to a complete stand-still because many people simply weren’t watching what was going on around them. I’m sure I would have been the same if I was walking, rather than riding, the Camino. We both had bells that would give out a low, apologetic ring as the last thing we wanted to do was startle people. But these were often either ignored or not heard, and it was with some relief that we stopped by a small make-shift hut where we were presented with a free coffee each.
A young family with a donkey sauntered by. Everybody clambered around them, interested to hear about their adventures. The young man, his son and wife were from Australia and had walked all the way from St-John-Pied-de-Port. Rejoining the track, we found ourselves again riding slowly and stopped occasionally because the scenery was stunning enough to take your breath away. A road coming into view, we decided, rather reluctantly, that it would be better for us to rejoin it. Unfortunately, this turned out to be a very busy N547 which we followed all the way into Arzua. We found a private albergue and booked beds in the dormitory. Here we met up again with Leslie, our cyclist friend. A small group of people arrived by bus, and were fresher and more energetic than those of us who would have been travelling for some days.
So, while all we wanted to do was settle down for the night, they had energy and pent-up excitement to get rid of. Even when eventually everybody had managed to curl up in the bunks, it was not to be a restful night. John was in the bunk above me and whenever someone was snoring I would prod his mattress with one of my feet. That was, until I realized that he was as awake as I was and definitely not one of the offending snorers! Our earplugs proved to be totally ineffective.