Last few days in Santiago

Sadly, we were to wake the following morning, not to festivities, a special church service, or parades through the streets. On the evening of the previous day, 24 July, there had been a horrendous train crash with many losing their lives. It transpired that the train had taken a corner too quickly and caused it to flip over.

We did not know this until the following morning when we were watching the television in the restaurant and realized that something horrific had taken place. We made our way into the city in light rain. The streets were deserted, and few shops were open. A complete contrast to the previous day, it came as no surprise to learn that all festivities to celebrate St James’ Day had been cancelled. While this was a fitting tribute to those who had lost their lives, it seemed a little harsh as at least 10,000 people had flocked to Santiago to take part in the festivities.

In total shock at this unexpected turn of events, and against our better judgment, we decided it was time to go home ourselves. The magic and uniqueness of the trip has been temporarily lost.

We did stay in Santiago for another two days because we could not organize shipping of the bikes as all the shops had closed temporarily in light of the tragedy. Once opened again, we enquired at a bike shop if they could arrange for our bikes to be transported back to the UK. After spending a further night at Monto do Gozo, we packed our panniers and headed back into Santiago.

Here we found a private room and spent the early part of the evening listening to melodious music being played just outside our window by a solo artist with a guitar – it matched our downhearted mood. The next day we bought two cheap backpacks for our belongings before taking the bikes and panniers to the shop for shipping back to home. Then we boarded the first of three trains, averting our eyes as we passed the earlier crash-site and sat back to help our minds and bodies heal over the next 36 hours and silently send our heartfelt sympathies to the families of those who had been killed in the train crash.

As the train gathered speed we both found it cathartic to sit quietly and reflect on the wonderful sights and sounds we had encountered over the past few weeks. Looking out of the window, we were being transported through regions that we had been riding through only a few days before. Under the iron bridge near Astorga, through vine-filled fields, wind mills grinding silently in the distance. So many memories came flooding back.

The first train stopped in Henday (just over the border between Spain and France) in the early evening. We boarded the second train (after a hurried bite to eat) to Paris and tried to get some sleep, although both still filled with thoughts of the sights and sounds we had experienced. Finally, still dressed in the our cycling longs and jackets – which had kept us warm on the train – we reached the terminal for the Channel Tunnel and our final train. Preparing to board this last train, I handed my passport over to a customs officer who grinned broadly (I didn’t know customs officers could do that) and said in a strong British voice “well, you’re not trying to conceal yourself are you” – I was wearing my high-vis yellow jacket used to keep me warm.

I replied proudly “We’ve been cycling through Spain”

2 thoughts on “Last few days in Santiago

  1. That sounds like an amazing trip, Kathleen. Also I’m impressed that you did this on your own – our children thought we were mad to even attempt the ride, let alone if I’d wanted to do it by myself! I suspect they’d have hired someone to keep tracking me, lol. If memory serves, I do recall someone saying we were on the Varcalos route through the Pyranees. That was definitely the toughest day because by the time we reached O’Cobreiro many days later, the terrain didn’t seem too bad. But, of course, our legs were pretty much used to the hills by then. Like you, we hadn’t intended our cycling to stop in Santiago but unfortunately circumstances meant that our little bubble of joy was burst. It’s funny how you yearn for home when bad things happen.

    I was on a Boardman bike (I nicknamed it “my Stallion” because it was so skitty) – by far one of the most favourite rides. At the time I bought it the size was a tad too large – so within five years I was having a lot of difficulty getting on it, and had to replace it. Sometimes I think I’ve had more bikes than hot meals, lol. My husband’s trusty old bike serves him well, although I’ve been nagging him to replace it.

    We had recourse to get help from Decathalon ourselves when we reached Santiago. Because all we could think about, after that dreadful train crash, was getting back home and weren’t sure we could transport the bikes on the train, and didn’t want the bother. The bike shop very kindly packed them up and transported them back for us.

    We are currently thinking of walking part of the Camino – although it was earmarked for next year anyway. This year we booked to join the French cycling club on a wonderful week of cycling events during August. It’s been postponed until next year. My husband is talking about riding El Norte to Santiago from Santander instead if we get a chance. So this might indeed be our next adventure. He refuses to let his age define what we do – and I just get dragged along, lol.

    So are you planning your next walk, or cycle along The Way? I’m sure you’ll achieve both and perhaps one day we might bump into each other – although not literally, I hope.


  2. Thankyou for sharing your wonderful blog. I made almost the exact ride last year starting June 4 from Bayonne. Did u ride the Varcarlos route over the Pyrenees? I took 18 days to Santiago and overnighted in mostly same as you. After Santiago I continued to Porto by bike.Train to Seville then after 2 weeks rest in Southern Spain and Tangers, rode Via La Plata back to Santiago the El Norte in reverse to Santandar and boat back to the UK. A total of 3055klms over 66 days not including rest days. Flew back to NZ August 30th. I was 67 and other than riding off the road going up a mountain and grazing my shin I had no mishaps or cycle problems. A young man at Decathalon in Santiago gave my bike, a Dawes road bike a free clean up and check over when I bought new brakes etc on return trip! An amazing trip. I had previously walked all these routes in the past but as i am recovering from a back injury decided cycling the way to continue my obsession with The Way. Buen Camino and goodluck on your next adventure. Kiwi Kay.


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