Author Topic: Ham's Galician Gallop  (Read 3384 times)

Ham's Galician Gallop
« on: 04 May, 2017, 06:26:29 pm »
This is the story of my Galician Gallop, I thought I spend some time writing up the preparation, well, because….

In contrast with many here - but likely as not similar to many - I’m not a habitual cycle tourer. I’m not an audaxer. I’m not a racer. I’m not a camper (although I used to as a yoof). I admire all those who do any and all of that, I'm in awe of Salvotore's trip through the north etc etc. I’ve done occasional long rides in the past, I don’t ever feel the need to rinse and repeat. I’ve done some occasional touring, group rides, whatever. I love cycling: I love the freedom, the sense of adventure and achievement, the ability to move through places in sympathy with the environment. I struggle with my ageing body, weight, fitness, motivation – nothing unusual there.

Previously, the most adventurous tours I’d done were a couple of times with Tiermat, through Catalonia in late April, which thoroughly whetted my appetite for more. Unfortunately, this year it didn’t fit with his plans, so I began to plan a solo jaunt. Through a fairly basic process – find Airport A somewhere where it might be warmish in April but not too hot, find Airport B to cycle to – I came up with the basics of the Galician Gallop. Fly into Asturias and out of Porto. Flying BA, so bike is included in baggage, both are pretty cheap flights (£45 and £50 when I booked). One cold in early January I stopped prevaricating and just hit buy. Preparations  began in earnest.

I wanted this to be a challenge, but not one that broke me, getting that balance right turned into an obsession. What I knew about me and cycling: I can ride up to 200km a day, but doubted I would want to on consecutive days, I also find that over 80Km aches and pains start in my neck, so I set my daily distance as 80 – 100Km. Climbing, while I have managed over 3Km a day I felt that I needed to limit repeating days to 2Km. Oh, and forget that these days I have a knee that has started grumbling with no obvious provocation. Oh, and that I’m combining distance along with distance up. Scared, me? I would advise anyone thinking of something similar to be as realistic as they can be, adding the element of stretching yourself as long as that’s what you want.

With those parameters in mind, I had the makings of a trip. Using paper maps, Google maps along with Ridewithgps I put together something that ended up looking like this (may need to click on show all rides to see the end to end) The process and experience of route plotting in unknown countryside is something I learned a lot about, and I’ll touch on in detail later on.

I could then get down to the detailed preparations: working out what to take, obsessing over fractions of a gram in the packing, getting back down to fighting weight, building at least a degree of fitness, driving everyone at home mad.

Before I knew it, I was up, up and away.

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #1 on: 04 May, 2017, 06:50:20 pm »
Day 1 – Novellana to Navia

Given the late arrival of the flight, I didn’t think much to the idea of stumbling around strange countryside in the dark, so a taxi ride to a nearby town-ette with a hotel seemed to be sensible. While I had deliberately avoided following any of the many Camino routes, here over my €8-3-course-with-beer-wine-brandy meal I met and chatted to my first genuine camino foot soldier a granny from Switzerland who left her family at home and walked a couple of weeks each year. In hindsight, following a camino would have been no bad thing, there’s an interesting friendly vibe, with all manner of people doing it for all manner of reasons in all manner of ways. Going to go back and have a re-read of Andrij’s bike camino a year or so back.

A fresh and bright morning dawned and I started turning the pedals along the coastline for the most beautiful bucolic beginning to my adventure. Rolling countryside, roads empty of cars, pilgrims plodding peacefully, a light wind on my back and the sun in the sky.

I did love the droll irony of this selfie

The only hold up along the way was at Luarca, trying to post my bike bag and tools to me at my last hotel in Portugal. What I thought was going to be 5 minutes turned into a 1 hour confabulation involving all three post office clerks, with the lead finally being taken by the manager. Who got the thing fucking wrong and failed to use the two day delivery service he said he would. Yes, that had consequences. Coming out of Luarca, I had the treat of a short bit of 20% but I found myself at the top and on the way again.With less than 60km and no particularly stiff climbs it didn’t too long to get to Navia.

Navia proved to be a charming coastal town, I spent some time walking out to the beach before starting inland.

It was good to see proof, if proof were needed that Jesus loves doughnuts

I almost forgot to add the Vid:


Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #2 on: 05 May, 2017, 03:50:43 pm »
Day 2 - Navia to somewhere in the middle of nowhere

This was where the ride proper starts. It was the Google streetview scenes from around here onward into Galicia that made me choose this part of the world. The combination of quiet country roads with challenging climbs seemed almost too good to be true. Of course, the extensive numbers of wind power turbines everywhere suggested a potential reason for why it is not more popular. Anyhow, I was about to find out.

The route planning and execution was via Ridewithgps, using OSM cycle mapping delivered onto my phone and Garmin GPS. I also made certain I had the end of each day ride as a waypoint on the Garmin, and I tried to sense check the Ridewithgps route selection using Google streetview. From the navigation front, I found the combination of RidewithGPS instructions verbally from the phone combined with the track on the Garmin was unbeatable and something I'd use again. The two together worked to remove all uncertainty from the instructions, while the Garmin track gave me the flexibility to confidently alter the route on the hoof, something I did more and more of as the week went on.

The streetview investigation meant that I had some questions about the quality of some of the areas but the elevation profile

where I basically ended up climbing then riding a ridge looked too good to pass up. After the first 20k of climb where 10% appeared to be the max gradient, I would spend the whole day in about a 200m bracket.

Time for the off.

The ride started moving up the river valley, again lucky with the weather with a light tailwind.

The roads again are perfect, empty and inviting

Fairly soon, though, the OSM bike map basis made itself felt

That's actually one of the better sections  ::-) - I was very happy at this stage to have the Croix de Fer with 38s which helped immensely. going through any of the water jumps, I chose the deeper tracks in the hope that the ground at the bottom was gravel not mud. that worked 98% of the time.

But , it was worth it, the proper road would never have got that high

This part of the ride was everything I'd hoped for. This streetview shows where the track crossed the road, the view down both sides, and how streetview can fool you into thinking that the track is in good condition.

This day also took me into Galicia, in the province of Lugo, where the provincial roads are labeled LU-Pnn, eg LU-P501. This would be entirely unremarkable without the assitance of RidewithGPS directions, which said things like "Turn on to Loopy 501 :D
I thought, they got it right.

Arrived at my hotel in the middle of nowhere all happy and fired up for the next day.

Here's the Re-live video


Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #3 on: 05 May, 2017, 05:20:35 pm »
Looks gorgeous!

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #4 on: 05 May, 2017, 06:45:39 pm »
Day 3 - to Ourense

Day 3 was worrying me. On paper it had extended to 130km with approx 2Km climbing in about 80km, which was pushing the boundaries of what I thought I could do without damage. The off road sections were slow and tough. And, there was a 30km headwind forecast (and delivered). I was planning to get to Ourense, a big regional town, I'd done my homework and knew that there was a train service that I could pick up, depending on how I felt I could bail to it if needed.

So, after waiting for breakfast which started at 09:00 (!!!) I set off.

The scenery is as good as ever

The off road section was relatively short today, but fiercely evil to take me over a ridge. I did look at the road options but thought, it will probably be worth it. This vid from the ridge shows why. By comparison to the previous day this was relatively populated, so adding a liter of water as I had done for fear of running out (as could have happened the previous day) was also likely ill advised.

At the appropriate point, about 50Km in I sat down to lunch and contemplated direction.on the whole, I decided discretion was the better part of valour and headed for Sarria, from whence to take the train to Ourense. Well, that involved a 600m climb, too, so by the time I go there I hadn't saved that much, but I felt it was significant. Except that there were no trains that day, and no train replacement service. Oh well. With hindsight had I carried on in a straight line and collapsed to a taxi if I needed, I would have been within at most 30Km of Ourense, instead of 100. I found a taxi with bike bars on and, €100 later (ouch!) I was in Ourense.

Day 3 in Relive

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #5 on: 05 May, 2017, 07:00:05 pm »
Day 4 - Ourense to Melgaco

Todays treat promised (head)wind and rain, and as a special bonus delivered some hail. I'd set it up as a recovery ride of only about 50k, but in view of the curtailed previous day, felt that was too short, especially since the next day promised to be tough, too.

Now, I'm travelling down the Minho river, lined with vineyards producing Vinho Verde

My Polaris lightweight waterproof did a stirling job, but by the end I had no idea whether it was the rain or the boil in the bag effect. Whatever, I was wet.

Route facilities included the occasional hotel

I stopped to have lunch and managed to find another hotel for the night in Melgaco, so on I pedalled, out of Spain into Portugal and Melgacao

While I wouldn't overstate it,  both roads and drivers appeared better in Spain.

Relive 1st half of ride
Relive 2nd half of ride


Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #6 on: 06 May, 2017, 07:38:21 am »
Day 5 - To Ponte da Barca, exploring the Via Verde

Because I had shifted some of the distance to yesterday, I'd managed to take the sting out of today, as the required direction of travel included 30km of the sharpest gradients on the trip. The plan included what was shown on OSM Cycle as 25Km of down at the end on an offroad path down a river valley called the EcoVia. Given my experience I was beginning to have my doubts about using it. But, there  was a road alongside, so I'd give it a go.

Weather was set fair and I set off, finding very soon that the Portuguese have a special line in pavé used extensively on their side roads. Ho hum, or should that be, ho bum? The Croix de Fer is a brilliant choice for any surface like that, but you do get a little tired of it after a while. How the holy **** do those guys race over it?

The ride itself was a repeat of slog uphill to enjoy the view, then pop down again

The countryside was a little more populous than I had been used to, with small agricultural holdings being the order of the day. And yes, those windmills are still in evidence, but at least today the wind had dropped a bit.

Oh look, the bike route from OSM Cycle wasn't a fully made up road, quel suprise.

I made it over the lumpy bits, and to the top of the EcoVia. After a very tasty €2 portuguese version of a burger (fry up a chunk of meat and stuff it into a bun) I was ready to tackle it.

Ah. This was the bit of 1:5 at the start. Not in shot is the lady coming the other way with two cows.

Would the EcoVia be any better? Would it ****

The bits that weren't uneven rock were like

With steep, slippery wood. Brilliant to walk, crap for a bike.

Anyhow, I bailed to the road about 50M higher up the valley side and kept to it all the way to Bonte da Barca, rejoining the river side for the last couple of k when it was basically a path. My hotel room had a great view  of the Ponte

Relive video day 5


Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #7 on: 06 May, 2017, 08:13:47 am »
Day 6 - To the coast!

Again, choosing the road over the EcoVia I had a basically flat (350m of climbing) 50km to the coast. Notable was that I saw quite a few cycle groups, mostly on the other side of the road, almost always riding two abreast despite it being quite a busy road, with no obvious annoyance from the motorised traffic. At one stage, dawdling into the headwind I got overtaken by a couple of roadies, so I jumped onto their wheels quite shamelessly for 20Km.

And thence to journey's end

All that remained was the 60km logistical ride to Vila Nova de Famlicao, as my knee kicked off quite badly overnight I felt I had judged everything pretty OK, or as well as could have been. I needed to collect my bike bag and tools from Famlicao. Or not, as it hadn't arrived necessitating a visit to Decalthlon for one of their bags, onto the airport and home. The next day I got a call that the parcel had arrived, so at least I'll get my tools (and bag) back.

All in all, I couldn't have been happier. I felt a real sense of achievement, no matter that the stats aren't awesome, for me, right now, the ride had been a challenge right at the top end of my ability, fitness and body state, and I'd done it.

Relive ride to the coast
Relive ride to Famlicao

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #8 on: 09 May, 2017, 10:14:16 am »
It appears my panoramas have been accepted by Google Streetview even though they aren't entire 360 and, tbh, some of them are a bit carp....

Pano 1

Pano 2

Pano 3

Pano 4

Pano 5

Pano 6

Pano 7 (Pano Raisin?)

For anyone wot wants to know, they are captured and uploaded using the Google Streetview App, v easy to do, although it is clear some practice and experience is beneficial. Will do better next time.

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #9 on: 28 May, 2017, 04:16:17 pm »
Blimey, those roads look a bit tough - how did you manage to keep traction on those cobbbblblblbes?
<i>Marmite slave</i>

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #10 on: 28 May, 2017, 06:08:59 pm »
That bit of 1:5 was "slippy/stressy+" grade to walk! Those two cows I met on the path? I may not have mentioned they were Portuguese longhorn (yup, they are a thing)

Given that I was holding my bike, trying to stay upright and not be impaled b the passing coo, I failed to whip out my phone for the photo.

Generically, I found that the pave was much more extensive in Portugal. As for the ropey surfaces, courtesy of Openbikemap, the Croix de Fer coped admirably most of the time, when I found myself losing traction (down or up) I pushed.

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #11 on: 28 May, 2017, 06:50:33 pm »
Just seen this, looks like a proper adventure  :thumbsup:

Re: Ham's Galician Gallop
« Reply #12 on: 13 June, 2017, 04:50:23 pm »
Just wow.
Get a bicycle. You will never regret it, if you live- Mark Twain