. Camino Cycle 2006 . Cockle shell

Diary - Day 6

Stage 6 – Leon - Ponferrada– 26/09/2006 - 100Km

Distance 64.6 miles (102km). Feet climbed 3740. Cyling Time 5 hrs 42

After a much-needed rest day a cheery gang tackled the first hill. Paul, fitted out with a compact chainset felt more comfortable, but trashed his front derailleur on the first climb. Ten kilometres further down the road a curious weather phenomenon was encountered where a river valley contained a carpet of cold mist. After 10 chilly minutes they climbed out of the mist into brilliant summer sunshine which persisted for the remainder of the day. In the next few miles, Larry and Stephen both punctured, one with glass and the other with a nail. This brings the total to four punctures for the trip.

Barney limbers up by lifting his bike with one hand while he waits for the crew to assemble


Paul pins his hopes on his brand new black front chainset


Rolling out past the Parador Hotel where the rest day was spent


The black bull looks back on Leon


The coffee stop was taken in Astorga where there were impressive buildings including a Gaudi Bishop's palace and a cathedral. The cobbled square in town was overrun by a market and the decision was made to delay lunch until part-way up the mega climb of the day.

The Gaudi bishop's palace in Astorga


The only bit of the journey which was not cycled, an old rail crossing after Astorga


After a short descent out of Astorga, the route rolled gently uphill along small roads beside the camino, with the best scenery so far. The van man and his beautiful assistant were now on the scene and lunch was taken in Santa Colomba de Somoza. This is a beautiful village a few kilometres off the Camino with a stone church which has a stork's nest in the spire. The lunch was a real banquet taken in "El Artesano" where our host was Pepe. When we arrived he put Paul Nolan in charge of giving out drinks, trusting him to record the amount on a sheet of paper (despite Paul's profession). Pepe prepared a salad followed by barbecued steak, chorizio and lamb chops. The salad was delicious, with the tomatoes coming directly off the vine. All were agreed that this was our best meal to date (lees than 20 Euro per head) and we highly commend it to all passers-by. We also congratulate Pepe for his superb food and congratulate his son who is currently sitting his final medical examinations. At the lunch stop Jimmy replaced Paul's front gears in an instant and he was restored to full mechanical fitness.

The multi-coloured train sweeps in to lunch


"You know, he could possibly be there, if he wasn't awake"


Having found the lost boy, Jimmy brings him safely in to lunch


Suzie, in a daze, nearly takes the door off the van as she arrives


Pepe, in a rare lapse, puts Paul in charge of the bar


In a further lapse, he puts Oonagh in charge of cooking!


Seamus is too busy eating to pose for photos


"I ate so much steak that I think I've loosened a tooth"


"Serves him right for being so greedy"


"Show me the way to go home......"


Stephen checks whether there is a big hole in the side of his head as well as Larry's


Both Suzies are entertained by the Father Ted impression


Leader of the pack!


I wanna be in Pepe' gang


No more storks coming to our house?

After the two hours plus lunch break, the major climb got under way and was completed in superb weather. A refugio was reached which appeared to be the top but was the first of several false tops. Eventually we crested the summit (4,717 feet). At the top there is a famous iron cross, where pilgrims leave a stone which they have brought from their own country and Barney delivered our stones (including one with the name of Cancer Centre) to the base.


Onwards and upwards on the big climb


On the big hill, spot the cyclists


Frankie goes to Santiago


Flying Turlough breezes uphill. Note that he has his helmet positioned to protect his mileometer in case of a crash


Suzie, wine taken at lunch, floats serenly upwards


On his new supergear, Paul "Kimmage" Nolan slides past as Larry is distracted by the camera


Barney places stones brought from home at the base of the Iron cross at the Hilltop


Oonagh places a stone


Gerry celebrates


Mairead celebrates another hill climbed


The descent was very steep and tricky, with many sharp hairpins and variable road surfaces. The most striking example was in the village of El Acebo where the main street is a narrow concrete road with large protruding stones set in it. This was an almost impossible descent with several cyclists walking and it is reputed to be a deathtrap in wet conditions (literally). Paul Nolan chose this street to descend with a rolling video camera in one hand!


Man of steel Stephen "Roche" McKeogh ignores the dire warnings and flies down the treacherous street in El Acebo


Others are more


Is this the way to Santiago?


Gerry's afternnon stop is ready for him!


On the rolling finish to Ponferrada


"Wasn't that the greatest cycling day ever?". "Yes, but very tough".

The rolling finish into Ponferrada was felt to be easy, so much so that the lead group cycled past the hotel for an extra mile of climbing, before returning sheepishly. There was considerable elation among the cyclists who felt that this was the best day of the tour to date. Dinner was taken in the old town of Ponferrada which is quite pretty with several interesting old squares (not referring to our cyclists).


The walking pilgrim (Seamus)

Seamus started walking shortly after lunch and walked over the top of the mountain. Like the others he found this to be superb walking country, with the steep climbing in hot sunshine offset by spectactular views which were reminiscent of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

He covered 14 km (9 miles) to add to his 4 km on the rest day.

This brings his total to 65.5 miles

I am just a pilgrim on this road...


Seamus on tough climb


Here I hope to insert Gerry's performance data when it has been suitably massaged







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