The hostel at zuzur was great, as the previous day I did not care been the last person leaving the place as I’m riding and can catch up very easily. There I had the luxury of wifi so I stayed after everyone left to write the previous day post on my blog and then left.
Salsa was in great shape after the adjustments in Pamplona. I started riding towards ‘El Perdón’. This is a mountain with a wind farm on top of it. In fact it was Gamesa’s first site. If you are reading this, work for Gamesa and happen to have SAP access, you will find it with wind farm code PA0001. Not sure how many turbines G42 are there, a dozen at least.
I was quickly advised by some locals not to go through the camino and take the highway instead cause I would find mud, stones where I would have to carry my bike, water and more mud. Just like any part of yesterday I thought. The local guy said I could still get to El Perdón by taking a paved road. Giving the fact that I’ve made salsa age prematurely by using her as a mountain bike it came to my mind it would be fair for her to take the highway and then come up to El Perdón.
I took the highway where salsa could stretch her legs for some time and then cut back to what I thought it was the right exit up the mountain. I wish Sheri, who has all this bike traveling experience under her belt, would have recommended me a triple gear as the slowest speed salsa offers is still way too hard for high inclination hills. I made it and found a nice town. The main building was the Saint Michael Archangel church which also served as a pilgrim hospital, this was built just in the XIII century.
I went to the local shop that sold baguettes and I asked the lady partly nocking if she would sold me half of it and half a cheese portion. She not only agreed to that but also to the making of it. So I outsourced my sandwich / bocadillo / torta making with half cheese, avocado and sardines.
She said it will be hard to continue by bike because of the road. And I said that I skipped the worst part by coming to the highway. She kind of laughed and with a more serious voice ‘the worst is right ahead of you’ she confirmed. ‘There is a lady on its own that also went cycling, you’ll see her for sure’ she said.
I kept going, found some large ponds of mud, and because it was all uphill there was no way to ride this stretch. I frequently sank into the mud as I pushed salsa and dig her out of the mud. This was definitely a hard work out both lower and upper body. At some point I got to firmer mud and rode again for about 20 meters, I got some speed getting ready for the next mud pond but there were some nice rocks that could not be seen. Salsa likes to go the easiest way, if sliding the back tire to a side when facing a rock is easier than climbing it, that’s what she will do. The problem was that the rock could not be seen and all of a sudden the back tire went in a different direction. I tried to unclip my left leg to compensate but because the amount of mud on the shoe and pedal, this did not work. I ended up falling on my side in the mud and then got all salsa’s weight on me. I started wiggling my foot while still on the mud first to free myself and then to take the weight out of me. This wasn’t possible so I ended up taking my shoecover together with my shoe. I got up, moved to a grassy-less muddy area and then open my tools pannier reaching for an Alen key to fix the pedal clipping.
The rest of the way up was similar except that I did not fall again. The climbing was more difficult and the ground was a combination of loose stones and mud. Definitely not a rideable place. I saw someone ahead of me pulling out her panniers from the bike and carrying them up to the top. This was the girl on her own I was told about earlier. I was finally able to get some momentum and rode all the way to the top.
The few people that was there, the girl that just made it, and myself were in agreement that we should be forgiven for everything we’ve done in our lives after climbing El Perdón (the foregiveness). This time I listened more carefully to someone who recommended not going down via the walking way but by the road. That road was the one I should have taken on the very first place. The other cyclist, Jennifer, and I came down using the road and continued our way to Estella. The hostel we came into is not the best but we found her friends who made dinner for us and shared with us a bottle of wine. I also found a friend I met in Roncesvalles who walked the same distance I’ve been riding.
We crossed some amazing bridges, fields, and towns. We mostly went thought the walking way so on many occasions we had to carry the bikes to go through stones or stairs, dived and got out of mud ponds, and were also able to talk to some elders. The small towns are mostly composed by them. Newer generations moved to larger cities and grow their kids there. Dozens of towns in Spain are abandoned cause there is nothing to keep them alive. From 1 of 10 that we went through we only saw one that had people in the streets with kids.
They all welcome us the pilgrims, as they know this is something rather special regardless of the reason to be, and surely they get some local income through us. ‘Buen camino’ is the standard good luck saying. Some of them have thrown ‘good luck, you are really going to need it’ as I make my way into the unknown roads that are not meant to walk comfortably, much less to cycle. The road is rather well signalized all over the stages, but it does involve some trust keeping forward if not other indication is found.
One of the things I enjoy the most of cycling the camino is the subtle change of scenery. From deep forests to crowded valleys to large fields. The camino goes all over them, gets through the very center of towns making you feel that someone is waiting for you in celebration of the just realized achievement and leads you to an exit for a new breathtaking view. It taps into low-hanging-fruit emotions but is patient in waiting for deeper ones that you were just unaware of.