The camino continues – Mondoñedo to Sobrado dos Monxes

15 08 2015

D3: Mondoñedo – Baamonde = 56 km

Early to rise, but not as early to depart as hoped. What was supposed to be a quick pump up resulted in a complete deflation, thanks to a faulty hand pump, or faulty user. But after walking to the gas station (and thank goodness they had a Presta attachment), we were on our way. Then, our long, oh so long, 8 km uphill out of Mondoñedo. After an hour and a half and some blood, sweat and tears (okay, maybe no blood), the worst was behind us and we appropriately rewarded ourselves with chocolate when we reached the top.

Throughout the day, we were leap frogging with a French father and son who had cycled from Santander and were on the tenth day of their journey. Nothing that makes you feel especially old, slow and weary like watching a 14 year old boy effortlessly barrel up a hill, or so it seemed. We continued to cross paths with each other as we followed the same itinerary for the last three days. That’s the beauty and magic of the camino – while the pilgrimage might be a personal journey, there is a strong sense of community and solidarity amongst peregrinos. Familiar faces constantly reappearing; you part ways with someone thinking you won’t see them again (after all, there are so many pilgrims and you could so easily miss each other by a few kilometres), and before long, you see them again. We witnessed one joyous reunion in Sobrado dos Monxes – a Canadian woman, a kindergarten teacher from Toronto who had walked the Camino Frances three years earlier and was now walking the entirety of the Camino del Norte, and a Spanish guy. They had met in Bilbao and walked together for a few days, but then he went ahead and they didn’t see each other for a month. Then, while enjoying a menu del dia on a restaurant terrace, they saw each other, exchanged a huge hug and many stories of the past weeks.

Healthy snacks after a long day of cycling

Healthy snacks after a long day of cycling

D4: Baamonde – Sobrado dos Monxes = 39.5 km

On day four, we were bound for Sobrado dos Monxes, a town with a beautiful monastery where we’d received recommendations to stay for the night. So, we decided to get a nice early start, waking up at 6 AM and on our bikes an hour later. The morning was cold. Bitter, biting cold. We toughed it out for 17 km to Mariz. Quite easy terrain-wise, but we couldn’t even enjoy the downhills because they were even colder. Then, with frozen hands and toes and noses, Breanna declared, “I’m not biking in this,” and we stopped to warm up and wait for the sun.

Defrosting our toes

Defrosting our toes

We really are creatures of comfort. The previous afternoon the sun had been too hot. Now it was too cold. Too hilly. On this particular morning, I reminded myself that there is no bad weather, just poor clothing, or harsher yet, poorly prepared people. Granted Galicia’s cool and wet climate, I probably should have packed some gloves and warmer clothes, however in the scorching heat of Barcelona, this weather seemed unimaginable.

Cow crossing

Cow crossing

After the sun poked its head out, we continued on our way. Today’s route was a bit tricky because there were no main roads, we didn’t have surface information for these backroads, and it seemly likely that the camino was rugged. I’d set a route that seemed best, but of course some rugged sections (and even a rocky uphill) were inevitable with the limited information I had. It was a beautiful trail through a quiet forest of pines, and I reminded myself that “Smooth seas never made for skilled sailors.” Maybe a bit dramatic granted the challenge at hand, but it kept my wheels turning. After a headwind section, we were more or less coasting for the last stretch to the monastery.

Monasterio de Santa María de Sobrado dos Monxes, or the Sobrado Abbey is believed to be originally founded in the 10th century by the Benedictines, but was then abandoned and then re-founded as a Cistercian monastery in 1142. Upon arrival, we basked in the sun in the beautiful cloister. Then later, among other things, we enjoyed callos a la gallega, a tomato based stew with tripe (cow’s stomach), garbanzos, beef, chorizo and who knows what else.

The lovely Sobrado Abbey

The lovely Sobrado Abbey

Its impressive facade catching the setting sun

Its impressive facade catching the setting sun

In every full albergue, you will also find a full rack of stinky, well-worn boots

In every full albergue, you will also find a full rack of stinky, well-worn boots

After cold beginnings, a nice, warm, relaxing afternoon. And tomorrow, we would be Santiago de Compostela.

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