Declan Wong

Joined May 2019
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  • Day50

    Camino 14 Melide to Santiago!

    July 16 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 20 °C

    Our last day is 50km and the track is busy busy with peligrinos. To accomplish the feat of trekking the Camino as a pilgrim, you only have to officially walk the last 100km (or bike the final 200km). Therefore the track is now overrun with huge groups of kids, tourists and all those out for the Camino experience. They're still walking for 5 days - so not a bad effort, but we seek out and try to spot the 'authentics' among them. They are easy to see - they've been walking around a month or maybe more. They look tired. They're clothing is not quite so spruce, nor is their hair. Many are limping and many more are wearing knee braces. They've done more than a jaunt - yes, we can spot the authentics amongst the music-playing, laughing, chattering newbies in clean new trainers and yoga gear.
    We hope for a perfect lunch spot for our last meal on the trail. No sooner did we speak this, that we see our place round the very next corner. A chilled spot with enticing menu and devine vegie burritos. Lou can't resist a wine with her lunch - it is the last day - but I remember Ponferrado and decline - we still have 25km to go.
    The last blast - we think we're going to cruise down the final 12km but it there is one steep pinch after another, til we emerge at the top of Mont do Gozo - from here we can see the 3 spires of Santiago cathedral and I have tears as I gaze on our finishing point.
    Finally we are at our last 500m, pushing our bikes since riding isn't allowed in the bustling, narrow and winding streets of the city centre. We walk through an arch and out on the main plaza and there it is - Santiago cathedral. The square is full with pilgrims, dirty and weary like us, just sitting and just looking in silence. We have jobs to do - return our bikes, find our accommodation, sort our gear and shower - but for now we are content.
    Later on, beers have never tasted so good and we enjoy a later night than we're used to, since tomorrow we don't have to get up and ride anymore.
    As we wander town, in a happy daze, we see people we've met on the Way coming in - the paraplegic Italian guy and his girlfriend - he did the whole thing on a recumbent bike, and the big Scandinavian guy with his partner and two kids - who had the children in a rickety carriage with tiny wheels and was pulling them along.
    Our Camino is complete and tomorrow we each go our separate ways, but I think each of us is already eyeing up a return to Spain and another Camino.
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  • Day49

    Camino 13 Sarria to Melide

    July 15 in Spain ⋅ ☁️ 19 °C

    We're feeling exuberant as we tackle our second-to-last day with a new-found energy.
    We discover on a hilltop the remains of a village built around .... 4000 BC!
    We negotiate a descent down to the riverside town of Portomarin where we have a long lunch, complacent now, and confident of our ability to complete our ride comfortably.
    Melide is not the most enticing town although riding through it the following morning, we find more charming areas than that which locates our hotel. That said the hotel is comfortable with a friendly and helpful London/Spanish manager.
    Tonight we discover the popular local dish of octopus in butter. It's exquisite and meltingly tender.
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  • Day48

    Camino 12 O'Cebreiro to Sarria

    July 14 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 14 °C

    Waking up in O'Cebreiro is incredible - we're above the clouds looking way way down - the distance we climbed yesterday looks impressive. Our spirits are high - while we are loving our adventure, there is a feeling creeping upon us that we have nearly made it; almost completed our quest.
    The days starts with more climbing, unexpected, but we're fresh again and find it pretty easy. Then second breakfast before some long downhill to Samos. We want to visit the monastry but can't find a way in. An average lunch in Samos and we are off to Sarria - an unprepossessing town that we won't be needing to visit again.
    We head out looking for dinner, with our mind on pizza. We are super hungry and just weary. However it is Sunday for one thing, when many restaurants are closed. Also on any day, there are few food options before 8 or 8.30pm. Eventually, having walked further then we wanted to, through a not so interesting town, we find a pizza cafe and tuck into average, but does-the-job pizza.
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  • Day47

    Camino 11 Ponferrada to O'Cebreiro

    July 13 in Spain ⋅ 🌧 18 °C

    Today will be one of the biggest climbs of the Camino - a 7km uphill that comes right at the end of a long day. It's slow and hot but eventually we roll into the pretty and tiny cluster of buildings that is O'Cebreiro. It's Saturday and mass is at 7pm. We go. Of course we don't understand the sermon, save for a few short pieces that the priest has some pilgrims come up and read in German and English.
    In the small church there are locals and then about 30 pilgrims. The priest asks all the pilgrims to come up and we go stand in a circle at the front of the congregation. He comes around, hugging each of us in turn and wishing us, "Buen Camino". It was serious, and beautiful and moving.
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  • Day46

    Camino 10 Astorga to Ponferrada

    July 12 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 14 °C

    It's a beautiful climb in the Leon mountains to one of the highest points on the Camino. The temperatures these days aren't quite as high as last week, so we are a bit more relaxed with our days.
    At the top of the hill is the Cruz de Fierro, or Iron Cross. On a knoll of stones deposited by the pilgrims, stands an oak trunk about 5 meters high, topped by a simple iron cross from which the monument takes its name. There is an important tradition, regarding the Iron Cross which includes a ritual that most of the pilgrims usually fulfill: It involves transporting a stone from the starting point of the Way to the Iron Cross, and once there, drop it in the knoll. The size of the stone should be proportional to the sins that the pilgrim wants to atone, and it represents the release of those sins through the sacrifice involved in carrying that stone.
    We perform our own ritual with stones we had picked up. Other pilgrims have left articles representing what they want to release in their lives. There was a half-full packet of cigarettes so we presume someone had ditched that habit symbolically at that point. Lou was tempted to nick them, but I feel that would have been bad karma!
    Lunch today is just amazing - we're in a wee village high up in the mountains, in a cafe run by an American that is worked off his feet and a bit tense - he later tells us a relationship fell through and that now he is running his cafe alone, and it's hard, and hard to get any time away - pilgrims come through all hours of every day. But he cooks for us big steaming plates of fresh vegetables, pasta and pesto.
    There is a 15km descent down to Molinaseca that is too treachorous by path, so we take the road and are there in minutes, delighted to come upon our first swimming hole!
    We are only 7km from the night's home at Ponferrada so we indulge in swimming - bliss, and lounging in the shade of a tree with big glasses of sangria and ice creams.
    Who knew 7km could be so long and arduous. By the time we tackle it, the sangria is taking effect, the sun is, well, scorchio, and the road is slightly uphill and completely free of all shade. Ponferrada is another town on a hill, with a traffic-free centre and a castle.
    Plus a fantastic Italian restaurant and a gelateria right on the plaza we are staying on.
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  • Day45

    Camino 9 Leon to Astorga

    July 11 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Leon is a bit crazy to get out of, but the second half of the day improves as we ride through more stunning towns, and then into the hills again - we've had a few days off from climbing and now we're back on. The hills are red and stark - they remind me of outback Australia.
    My bike is being a pig and I haven't got my climbing gears, plus my hands are permanantly black and greasy from putting the chain back on.
    Astorga is a charming town on a hill and our hotel is overlooking the main plaza. First job is to get my bike to the mechanic arranged by Tour N Ride - our bike hire company. Liz puts her bike in too. 3 hours later we pick them up and wow - I have smooth and perfect gear change, just in time for some climby days coming up.
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  • Day44

    Camino 8 Sahagun to Leon

    July 10 in Spain ⋅ ☀️ 20 °C

    Yet another easy day where we are getting into our routine. Early breakfast, bash out 1/3 of our day's ride before second breakfast. Then another 1/3 of the day before lunch, and the final leg bringing us in mid afternoon.
    My highlight was the most beautiful sunflower field, and our photo shoot courtesy of two cheerful Italian pilgrims!
    Leon is spectacular! It's bigger and busier but brimming with charm, churches, architecture (including some Gaudi) and amazing food and tapas. It would be lovely to stay longer here.
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  • Day43

    Camino 7 Fromista to Sahagun

    July 9 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    One of the easiest days, but not so interesting as it's completely flat and largely skirting villages and farms. We just ride on, seeking out the yellow arrows that lead the way to Santiago. Today we can take our time, so we stop for a good lunch of paella followed by Toblarone ice cream - a new favourite.
    Sahagun seems a charmless, agricultural town. We wander through the centre before dinner, and stop for a beer outside the cathedral. It's quiet, although everywhere is quiet before 8pm, when Spanish families come out to play and eat!
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