The room at this great albergue was shared with three other gentlemen who happen to be all great snorers. There was the predictable – low volume one, the unpredictable – high volume one, and the one I won’t let you sleep cause you think I’ll stop breathing after this half the road snore. I wore my ear plugs, opened the window to let some non-bacterial air come in and went to sleep.
My neighbors, Diego, Ivone, Miriam and I dressed up and went for a nice breakfast. If you’ve been reading my blog you can predict what this was about: tortilla de patata, orange juice and colacao. We then headed to the cathedral and then back to the albergue.
I started cycling not as early as planned but I would have never changed that breakfast, stroll, and conversation. The albergue did not let me in to use their toilet so I went back to the spa and they were nice enough to do that. As I cycled out of town I found Jennifer at a stop light. We shared some stories and I was happy to hear that she was doing really well.
The road was all about cycling up the hill. I did not have bocadillos with me this time and I was determined to change the strategy. I no longer wanted to carry the food with me, instead I would stop and eat at the town when my guts felt doing so. Three hours later I was starving. I had the most intelligent idea and stopped at a ‘menu’ restaurant. This was a 10€ – 3 entry meal with 1/2 lt of wine. I loved the carbo-protein feast with the alcohol shot and was proud of my decision.
I walked out to salsa and looked at the map just to realize that the highest elevation of the camino was right ahead of me. No downhills in between, the hill was right in front of my face waiting for me. With a decent amount of alcohol in my blood I actually started to think. I had to become very efficient to encounter my next challenge. After looking at the map the next thing I did was getting back into the restaurant, walked to the toilet and eliminate all waste from my body on both directions. I then made sure that salsa’s tires were up to 4.5 bars so that the minimum surface, hence friction, was working against me. The chain was still lubed from the morning, I started riding salsa and my last strategy was focusing on my shoulders and hands. This last step allowed me to make it all the way through.
At my massage yesterday, I told the lady I was sore mainly on the legs and gluteus. She proved me wrong by pressing some marmas (strategic energetic points) on my shoulders and made my yell. While climbing up I realized I was wasting a considerable amount of energy by carrying some load on my shoulders. I then focused on first relaxing my hands and let my abs and core transfer the work into my legs who will in turn push this down to the pedals. This worked very effectively, the rule was: the only job my hands, arms, and shoulders would have was to drive the handlebar HORIZONTALLY not down. This meant, no pushing down, only making the necessary movements to guide myself to the right way and maintain equilibrium. In turn, my core will take the force down to my legs and push the pedals down.
Through this technique I not only saved my shoulders and arms from an unnecessary amount of stress, but I efficiently managed to propel myself all the way up. I made it to the Cruz the Hierro and left the things I had prepared earlier. Ideally you would let go all attachments by placing a stone, relatively sized to the load you carry, right at the Hierro Cruz pole.
The way I cycled to this place reminded me to my Mexico City marathon 1997 when I ran the last 2km with no recollection of feeling any pain in my body. Not sure where I was, while on the clouds I tried to come back to reality watching people fainting next to me. I finally managed to get back to me right when I was crossing the finish line. Just like Forest Gump, I could not stop running cause it took me some time to land earth again.
I spent some time at this not religious but rather spiritual area and then headed to the best part of it, the downhill. The snowy mountain view, perfectly paved road, no wind, no cars, and the downhill, made the moment the right combination for any avid cyclist. This was the moment where a go-pro camera would have become very useful. No thanks though, I did not need a other gadget to carry.
I started pedaling down and gently shifted salsa’s gears, half way through the rear ones down, up the front one, and finish with the smallest on the rear. The SRAM gears cooperated smoothly on the change and were ready for some adrenaline. After some days of utilizing salsa as a mountain bike, placing my behind behind the saddle for stability on downhills, I adopted a more road racing position. I stocked my elbows close to my body, lower my shoulders and lower back, and finally placed my head as close as possible to the handle bar.
I then understood what my touring bike, salsa, was designed for. It was actually designed for touring. On the first downhill we got to 65km/hr and seamlessly broke the speed down slow enough to safely make a closed turn and face the next straight stretch. This sequence repeated itself until we went up to a max speed of 74km/hr (at my speedometer). Salsa performed like never before and we safely made it to the next town, Molinaseca.
The next sequence of towns were not as exciting and the winds were determined to not cooperate. I decided to stop on the 80km at Villafranca del Bierzo. I arrived to a private albergue, ‘la piedra’. As soon as I came in they offered something to drink. This did not happen to me before, not even at El Parador San Marcos.
I had a shower, a massage right in the middle of the room with everyone around, and then went for dinner to the restaurant next door. I initially sat on my own and then a lady, whom I met earlier at the albergue, invited me to sit with her group of friends. We had a great conversation. We all shared how we started thinking about possibly considering the idea of doing the camino. And from there, how it materialized itself. We also talked about how hard it would be to get back to our own lives after living this. In short, in normal life you don’t talk to a perfect stranger or expect that person to give you food or water, or at the very least ask ‘how are you?’ with all the intentions of really knowing how that person is doing and not just following a protocol. Understanding the next person’s pain cause you indeed have gone through that and knowing its real, religion or praying wont do much to it, you have yourself and each other to help your very real situation. This is the magic of the camino, the fact that it takes humans to their very essence. This should not be a weird aspect of our every day living, but something we could take everywhere we go any time.