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2017-08-18

A self-guided bike tour from Porto to Santiago de Compostela ( guest post)

Karen and Richard decided to ride from Porto to Santiago with Live Love Ride on a self-guided bike tour! Equipped with e-bikes, they rode for 6 days to complete "El Camino" - here's what they have to say about their adventure!

Karen and Richard are an adventurous couple, who decided to ride from Porto to Santiago on a bike tour with Live Love Ride. Throughout the way, they encountered several experiences and adventures - as onde does on a self-guided tour - and decided to share their great times with other future pilgrims! Here is their daily journal of their bike tour from Porto to Santiago de Compostela in the central path.

On day 1- Arrival at Porto

After arriving at Porto airport,  Karen and Richard were met by Ricardo, from Live Love Ride, who proceeded to transfer them to their first hotel and debrief them on their tour, bikes, hotels, luggage transfers, GPS, maps, cellphone and other additional info. After a walk in Porto, both Karen and Richard got their pilgrim passport at Porto's Sé Cathedral and rested before their first day of cycling, that would take them from Porto to Barcelos.

Day 1 - Vairão to Barcelos

Karen and Richard were transfered to Vairão, shortening the first riding day in about 15km, in order to avoid the urbanized sections of "El Camino" in the city of Porto. After a bike fit, they started riding north, to Barcelos, on their Scott E-Scale 930 bikes - 500W battery packs and 250W Bosch engine supplying them extra strength while riding! "We were exhausted after the first full day on the bikes. We got a little off route but ended up finding our way...logged 51 Kilometers on the bikes on day 1. The theme of the day today was direction...finding the right path and staying on it." Arriving in Barcelos after 51km, they discovered the city's historical center - originally a roman settlement - the Barcelos rooster and the beautiful Granitic churches and building of the city.

 

 

 

Day 2 - Barcelos - Ponte de Lima

Riding the Camino is always a spiritual experience - if not religious. Riding for such long distances on your own, many times in silence, makes you question lots of things and is great for instrospection: "This morning I wondered why are we here? What makes one take such a journey? Passed many people on Camino today - you say bom Camino as you pass others - bom means good."

Riding to Ponte de Lima, you approach the beautiful village by the Ecovia, alongside the Lima river. The roman bridge ( re-built in the 14th century) marks the landscape in what is considered the "most portuguese" village in the country". "The electric mountain bikes are amazing. Today we had some really fun downhill rough terrain to navigate on a narrow path. You feel safe though on these heavy mountain bikes . Hard work but good work. Outdoors all day - extraordinarily beautiful villages and farmland that I know pics can't capture. Glad to be resting - will go out on this beautiful town shortly - there is an outdoor market right nearby. Bom Camino!"

 

 

Day 3 - Ponte de Lima to Tui ( entering Spain)

On day three, you start riding from Ponte de Lima to the north, in the direction of Valença and, crossing the Minho river, Tui in Galicia, Spain! But first, the Labruja! Our Garmin GPS's point to a different track than the official Camino route for this day, so that riders don't have to puch their bikes all the way in the stony sections of the Labruja Sierra. But a self-guided tour often presents some challenges that require an adventurous spirit to be solved, which was what happened to Karen and Richard: "This morning we awoke eager to get on our bikes -we were feeling ready - onward - no question about it! Our luggage was all packed to be shuttled ahead to Tui, Spain! The hotel staff person unlocked the door to our bikes with a worried look and pointed - my front tire was flat! Two hours and very greasy hands later, after much problem solving about how to change an electric bike tire, I asked Rich where the GPS was so I could set it up on my bike. He had packed it into the luggage being shuttled! He ran into the hotel to no avail - the luggage had already been picked up." 

So, without the GPS, they decided to follow the yellow arrows towards Santiago which pointed to... the Labruja Sierra! This is probably the most technical and tough climb of the Camino, with a rock garden on a climb. But all climbs are rewarding when they are done - " at the top was a spring, fresh cold water and an amazing view. But can you imagine the climb down? So, While Rich forgot to pack the GPS, he redeemed himself fixing my flat and carrying my bike - what a trip. I don't know if words can really describe the journey today - mountain hilly paths, waterfalls, small villages nestled in the mountains. At one point we looked up in the distance and saw a narrow path way up on a mountain top - thinking we won't be going there. A bit later we realized we were on that path!". Reaching Valença, they only had to cross the river to Tui, Spain, to rest in the village's Parador. Leason learned: "Tomorrow, I will pack the GPS! "

 

Day 4 - Tui to Pontevedra

Riding in Galicia is similar to riding in northeast Portugal - the Portucalense county, from which Portugal emerged as a country, was once part of the kingdom of Galicia! "I am losing track of the days. We were so happy to awake to no flats - just needed to pump a little air. We crossed into Spain last night and rode today from Tui to Pontevedra - was suppose to be 56 km - ended up being 61 due to a few direction errors. The first part of the trip was lovely - many walkers on the Camino path. Climbed some big hills on smooth paths with no problem with the electric bikes!". Redondela's and Pontevedra's historical city centers are beautiful and really reflect the heritage of the region - the churches, ancient granite buildings and amazing seafood that is characteristic of the "Rías Bajas" region - "Exhausted - hope I have the energy to go to dinner because food has been spectacular! "

Our Scott E-bikes in action!

 

Day 5 - Pontevedra to Padrón

Leaving Pontevedra, the ride starts with some climbs, towards Caldas dels Reis - a thermal resort nearby Santiago. The trails are beautiful today, packed with gravel roads, which are not technicalat all - great to rest from yesterday's big ride: "It's hard to believe we completed day 5 today! We are ready to get to Santiago for our final biking day. Today we biked 40 km - much easier than yesterday's 63 (...) The weather was gorgeous and most trails were off road and manageable with some just right challenges. Of course, it's hard work, especially on long down hills where you need to hold back and your muscles tense up. We were grateful for the electric assist bike on the uphill - made it doable (...)". As you make your way to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino starts getting packed with more and more pilgrims, all eager to arrive to the Cathedral:  "We saw many, many pilgrims on the path today".

A group of riders with E-bikes going towards Santiago de Compostela

Day 6 - Padrón to Santiago

It's a relatively short ride from Padrón to Santiago ( although there are still some climbs). This is the day you arrive to the Cathedral, where you end the Camino ( and where another Camino starts). "Today we awoke early eager to get to Santiago just like hundreds of other pilgrims. We could not believe when we set out around 8:00 and hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims lined up at the park ready to start the walk together. We were just a few minutes late and ended up in the midst of them but they cheerily made way for us to get to the head of the pack and take off. The riding was easy today, clear smooth paths compared to the constant cobblestone in Portugal. However, the beauty of Portugal's eucalyptus forest and small villages was breathtaking!" Arriving in Santiago, many pilgrims choose to visit the Pilgrim's Mass at the Cathedral, held everyday at 12:00 - sometimes, they'll have the privilege to witness the "Botafumeiro", the huge incense thrubile that hovers over the Cathedral. The narrow, medieval streets of Santiago hold many secrets to discover - museums, restaurants, churches and memories from other ages. While some guests choose to stay for an additional night in Santiago, others are transfered that same day to Porto, to their airports or hotel. Although one thing is for certain: for all the pilgrims, they leave with the certainty that the Camino never actually ends.

Thank you Karen and Richard for sharing your story, pictures and memories with us! If you'd like to know more about our Bike tour from Porto to Santiago, click here

And... BOM CAMINHO!

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