Sunday, September 23, 2012

Day 14 - Villavella - Vilar de Barrio

Another day of contrasts, we are now in Galicia, the final region of our trip. Today was the 3rd consecutive day up in the sierras (mountains) which will continue through most of Gallica.

We started high up in the mountains, and after a lot of the trail followed the road yesterday we were keen to get back on the proper offroad trails.

Knowing that we started with a descent, we were unsure how rideable it was going to be.

Straight out of town we headed down into the farmland, which must be mainly cows as we could smell the shit literally! It was so moist that they had laid a strip of granite slabs down the centre of the path to avoid the slop. Riding down this in the dawn light was interesting to say the least. We managed to avoid falling in the adjacent poo, all the way to the bottom.


Once down in the fields, the trees opened up, and the rolling hills started.

We went through a very small village, which had a entire section of the village containing abandoned old stone houses, while the rest of the village included modern houses, very strange.

Then the rocks got rockier.


We tried to ride as much as possible, but the fear of flatting was always in the back of the mind. And we also had to avoid the thorn bushes that were everywhere.

The trails got slower and slower, and we realised we had barely gotten 5k in just over one hour. Slow going!

Finally it started to smooth out, but it only got steeper. And we started to gain back some of the early descending.
Eventually we made it back to the road, to find yet more climbing.
Back up in the clouds, which looked menacing today. The weather forecast was for rain, we had been so lucky so far we were just hoping for the best. Being above 1000m we were not looking forward to any rain.

We arrived through more small villages with lots of abandonded houses. Being so high up in the clouds it was eerie being in these villages.

Climbing higher further, we came around the corner and did a double take.

A giant resovoir.

Now we were ready for the descending.

Following the trail, we started to ascend a very loose dust track which looked like sand but was much lighter through all over the place.

Then the descent finally started.

5k of the most fun I have probably ever had. We bombed down 300 vertical metres on this loose dusty double track. With dust flying all over the place Rishi had to back off a few hindered metres just able to see anything.

Rishi and her dust trail
Arriving in the next town with the biggest smile on our faces, we spotted a local Rishi could wacky race. He really wasn't any match.

Still shaking out the arm pump from the last desecent, we had another 400vm to descend, this time on the road.
A bit more on the brakes this time, with the fear of meeting and oncoming truck, or worse a BMW doing 150. The solid white line seems to mean nothing here.

With only 60k done, we are ready for lunch. By pure luck, we stumble into an average looking Taberna. They have a set menu, which has one option, soup & a mixed plate. And it was delicious and light, just what we needed. Ready to go the waitress brings out two giant frozen icecream desserts. Not sure if it will go down well we wolf it down.

Already done our riding to the schedule we are keen to push on and get ahead of schedule to minimise the riding ahead.

With climbing on the schedule, we have never trusted the profiles. But this one we found was fairly brutal, 350+vm over 5.5k almost 7% average gradient! At least this one was in and out of the shade.

Finally we arrive at the top, with another 5k of flat rolling hills. Before a 5k descent again into the next village.

After last nights luxury in the spa hotel, we are back to reality in an Albergue, which is actually quite nice.

We have spent a fun evening with 4 walking pilgrims, and two other spanish cycling pilgrims, sharing stories with various people translating between spanish, english & german.

The spainard cyclists are planning the same stop tomorrow night as us as well, so apparently a Australia vs Spain race is on.

With only two days left we have left a manageable amount of riding to finish, we are just hoping that the forecast heavy rain for Sunday stays away.



  1. Hi Ben,

    I had walk a couple of times on the Camino de Santiago. I am planning to do the same Camino Levante as you next year on a bicycle. I hope you can help me on the terrain and bicycle required for this road as I am preparing to get a bike for this Camino. Hopefully I can use it after the Camino as regular commuting/grocery bike.

    1.Is a 26 inch MTB or larger 29er better?
    2. Rigid fork or suspension? Personally I don't really like any suspension.
    3. Gearing. A basic 21 speed good enough for the route?
    4. Tires. Semi slick or knobby? How much of the route is on the tarmac? On the path? Gravel? Rocks? 1.95 inch width enough?
    5. Would a touring bike or a hybrid with 35-38 mm be better? Would the 700c wheels be a bigger spoke breakage risk?
    6. What do you recommend for a budget bike on this route? And what would be a perfect bike for this route if you were to do it again (ignoring the cost)?

    Thanks again. I hope to be able to get your feedback.


  2. Hi Evan,

    Terrain is dependent on whether you want to stick to the trail as much as possible, or if you are happier taking the paved roads.

    We stuck to the trails as much as possible, taking a lot longer but more enjoyable, there are only a few sections which the road must be taken by bike, as it is impassable or extremely slow.

    We are both mountain bikers, so took our 26" hardtail bikes. I would prefer a 29" bike but the other aspect is you must be able to fit racks safely, so avoid carbon (my 29" mtb is carbon)

    I would say rigid is fine, i rode with a steel framed bike with a steel rigid fork and it was fine.

    There isn't too much climbing so gearing is fine, I had a 27 speed, but rarely used more than 10 gears.

    For, tires, this can be important, if you plan to ride the trails as much as possible, I would stick to a fast rolling nobby tire, 1.95 is fine, we had setup tubeless with sealant, which meant we only had 1 flat between the two of us over the 1200k, pretty impressive, with lots of rocky sections and thorns as well.

    We found bikes to be very common, with lots of mountain bikers and road cyclists throughout the route, which also tells me there must be lots of bike shops, so if you take spares for any specific parts like brake pads, spare derailleur hanger and spare spokes, you should find a shop to help you repair.

    I think the bike i had was perfect for me, light rigid mtb with fast rolling nobby tyres, disc brakes where great with the extra weight when going through towns especially with some steeper sections, although it is good if you know how to bleed and adjust the brakes if you plan to take disc brakes, as the smaller towns may not have experience with them. Buy the best racks and bags you can, as if you plan to ride offroad, you want them to be very secure, make sure to take an occy strap to tie down for extra security.

    I wouldn't go with a touring bike unless you plan to stick mostly to the roads, as the offroad trails are quite rough in places.

    Hope that helps, happy to answer and other specific questions.

    We also plan to ride the Via Francigena route in June next year, which looks great!