A Little Help From My Friends

With A Little Help From My Friends I have managed to find the parts and fix the surfboard rack.

José my Porto Warm Showers host very kindly drove me to French home improvement giant Leroy Merlin to source the PVC pipe to replace the rack’s broken U-bend.

José massaging the PVC piping into place

The repair required:

  1. One meter of PVC pipe (the minimum length you can buy)
  2. One hacksaw
  3. One can of PVC pipe cement
  4. Two 90-degree bends
  5. One connector to join the two 90-degree bends
  6. Two amateur plumbers who referred to each other as Mario and Luigi throughout the build.

 

With white, black and now grey PVC piping she’s looking more Mad Max than ever

The standard PVC pipe size in England is 36mm. Leroy Merlin only stocked the Portuguese standard (32mm). Not to worry, we closed the four millimeter difference with a fetid combination of beer can pull-tabs, yellowy used earbuds and cat hair.

That should do it!

Disaster and The Lessons of Hubris

Today a piece of my surf rack fell onto the road and was crushed by a car.

The driver heard the crush, saw me signal to stop, and promptly reversed over the surf rack U-bend to seal its fate. And to really put the boot in, once the driver had slapped me on the back and handed me the pancaked piece, I placed it on the curb only to have a school boy walk past and kick the U-bend to the gutter while I dragged the bike to safety.

Truly.

A school boy!

A citizen so diminished of size and stature that any kind of vengeance was totally beyond the pale.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. But I was laughing the whole time. The trip has been so good thus far I was due for an incident. That morning I had thought how I hadn’t even adjusted or modified the rack since I left London six weeks ago and as me Ma says, pride cometh before a fall — I had given in to hubris and the rack was struck down as a consequence.

The pancaked U-bend
The pancaked U-bend.
IMG_1370
Where the U-bend should go had it not been crushed by a car and kicked by an obtuse schoolboy. Note the whole, properly connected, U-bend in the background.

Why did the U-bend fall to the road?

Why did the chicken cross the road? How long is a piece of string? Why is the sky blue?

The Portuguese roads are often cobbled and these vibrato gyrations must have wiggled the U-bend loose from its feathered, gluey nest. Alas! She had been doing so well.

IMG_1374
The rig is quietly becoming a junk-raft bound together with nothing short of madness.

To stem the flow of shame and certain embarrassment, I pulled out the toolkit and got to work.

What did I have to work with?

Why, cable-ties and duct tape of course.  The yellow bits in the photo above are me two tyre irons – I’m fucked if I have a flat, I’ll have to tear it all apart to release the bounty within. Still, I managed to patch her up and we limped on – and I shit you not – I was singing, nay, crooning  Chumbawamba’s seminal 1997 hit Tubthumping the whole way, ‘I get knocked down, But I get up again, You’re never gonna keep me down…’

I did get knocked down.

Well, not actually.

I mean the rack fell apart after my shoddy repair. But I put more good duct tape over bad and we limped on to Porto, triumphant and buoyed up by my new story.

Stay tuned.

Will I be able to find the requisite parts in Porto to rebuild the rack and continue the mad adventure down the coast?

A Happy Casualty of Design

En route to Esposende, Portugal, I came across Clássicos Populares, situated at Antas. The shop had a wonderful array of Vespas, classic road bikes and motorcycles — some of my favourite things. And while I couldn’t speak with the owner, I managed to get some photographs for you, dear reader.

Clássicos Populares road frontage
Clássicos Populares road frontage
IMG_4730
Hot dang I’d love to have that powder blue Vespa in me stable
A nice wee
Paris 1992
I like the wrap on the drop bars
Yessir I like the wrap on them drop bars (is that a Columbus Tubing sticker on the down tube?)
Fill ya boots! One for every day of the week to match ya underwear
Fill ya boots! One for every day of the week (note the sweet wee Marlboro Man sticker under the seat).
Old Love New Love
Old Love New Love

Matadors and Madonnas

To be fair, I had been warned.

I found Hogar Del Puerto Hotel on booking.com while I soaked up a truck stop beer outside of Pontevedra. At 15, it was the cheapest on the site and the reviews were suitably terrible: mold on the walls, old sheets, surly service with cramped bathrooms.

So I took it.

I was broken when I arrived.

I had cycled 70 kilometers from a campground near Noia. Now, 70 kilometers for me is the equivalent of well over 100 kilometers for a non-surfboard-lugging-cyclist.

I was ravaged.

The Hogar is the quintessential family operation: grandma behind the bar, grandad asleep in front of the TV and grandsons playing dominoes – old men in training – when they weren’t serving lotto ticket punters. A baby in a walker wheeled along the floor and bumped chair legs, my legs, any legs (I admit, I may have scowled at the baby when she ran over my foot the sixth time).

I was still at the bar.

Grandma took the cash, unpinned the safety pin that secured the crumpled notes in the pocket of her pinny, and dumped the wad on the bar, before she peeled off my five euros in change.

Grandma had taken my passport, the cash, but had not produced a key.

Grandma dug.

Dig granny dig.

You know, she tried. She dug through sheaves of spent lotto tickets, soiled espresso cups, and dead Galicia Estrella bottles before she found the set and sent the older of the grandsons upstairs with me.

I pushed the heavier of my pannier bags into his arms.

We trudged up the stairs together, between framed matadors and Madonnas. Or were these suited old men family portraits? Tough to say, tough to say.

Grandson-senior fumbled with the lock. No dice. I ground my teeth and shuffled from left foot to right foot, and passed my pannier bags between exhausted hands.

Come on.

I hoped the lock would pop, but no, I had to lay down — surrender — my bags.

Open sesame.

Two backpacks were already in the room. My room. I pointed at the luggage.

‘Dos amigos?’

‘No amigos,’ I said, ready to haunch it down, Indian style, in the hallway. ‘No, err, nueva habitacion?’

I waited under the steady stare of the matadors while grandson-senior went downstairs to consult with grandma.

Sure, there were shouts. Steadfast deliberation, even. I had tried to keep myself and my baggage off the walls but I slumped forward, and then backward, while helmet-hair grease swathed the white walls.

Who were these two phantoms who had swooped upon my bedchambers when I needed them most? And why would they deny me my slumbers?

By the grace of God a new room was found and I threw my bags at the bed.

No hot water.

No towel.

No soap.

Nada.

I couldn’t face the downstairs trudge again.

I cold shower.

As I work up a Dove Beauty Bar lather I think, How do I explain this to the old battle axe? I’m haunted by the comments from booking.com, ‘You will have trouble communicating with the staff if you don’t speak Spanish.’

‘This is a shit hotel.’

To stem the shock of the cold water, I think, How I Will complain to the kid.

‘Ducha fria’ or ‘Duchas solo fria, no caliente,’ a basic variation on Warm Showers, one of the few words I know in Spanish.

But of course, I never complain.

Why?

It was a roof over my head for 15.

And in the morning, a warm shower and a free breakfast.

Victory in the Atlantic

Today was a good day.

I have lugged my surfboard for 40 days and today I crossed the Rio Minho into Portugal. I have now cycled over 1000 kilometers since I started my journey in Santander, Spain.

And what have I learned?

Distance bows to math.

Cycling an average of 25 kilometers a day over 40 days will get you to 1000 kilometers.

Victory in the Atlantic: crossing the Rio Minho from Tui, Spain, to Valença, Portugal.
Victory in the Atlantic: crossing the Rio Minho at Tui, Spain, to Valença, Portugal.
Lagos? Only another 1000 kilometers away
Adios Spain
Adios Spain

 

After the Rain

A few days ago at Laxe I got rained out and had to stay in a hotel and the night before that I was at Playa de Razo surf camp. It’s good to be back wild camping — so quiet. And no annoying hotel owner knocking at my door to offer extra soap.

I was in a bit of a shit mood that morning: more rain, no surf, blowing money on hotels, no sun… What was going on? But I did what I always do: I kept cycling.

IMG_4715
Wild camping outside Fisterra (“Land’s End”)

I initially flagged checking the surf at Soeseto, on Galicia’s Costa da Morte, of course they’d be none. But something was nagging at me – so I went. And lucky I did, there was a nice A-frame breaking close to shore. I debated with myself again: it was cold, raining, there was no shower… I had lots of excuses, bags of ’em.

Philip, an Austrian, joined me at the lookout, ‘Yesterday, it was really big.’ He gestured out to sea, ‘but it was super crowdy,’ he wrinkled his nose and cracked his knuckles.

I asked him if he was going in today.

‘I want to, but the weather.’

He also said it was the only place in Galicia with surf — that was it — I had to go in.

Philip went back to the warmth of his Kombi; I locked up the bike and dragged all five pannier bags and board down to the beach. With impatience, I tugged on my wetsuit but the zip’s string got caught around my waist – fuck – I had to pull it off again, hop naked on the sand, yanking, trying to slip my legs and feet through all the while freezing in the rain.

Finally, the wettie was on.

I put my most valuable panniers containing laptop etc into the board bag and left the other three beside it on the sand.

Now, I was in.

And within seconds, I made my first wave (a nice left, on the backhand, all I seem to pick-up at the moment).

After 35 minutes I was pretty cold (should’ve brought a 5mm wetsuit). I got out and took Philip’s advice: rinse off in the stream, mountain man style. I took care to swizz out me nether region, the chaffing and saddle sores were bad enough without salt and sand to moisten the already painful brew.

I was pretty much packed when Philip came back to check the swell. He told me his brother was studying at Oviedo and he was here on a visit, with a surf trip on the side using his father’s Kombi.

‘That’s a cool van man, especially with the pop-top roof, how old is it – from the nineteen eighties?’ I said, my eye on the warm interior.

‘Yeah, my father bought it 30-years-ago,’ Philip said. ‘But I don’t like this kind of life, I miss my own bed.’

‘Lucky you’re not in that,’ I pointed to the tent strapped to my bike. Philip seemed wistful — the spoilt school boy who woke up to a turd in his stocking. ‘You can cook with us if you like and camp here.’ I was chuffed with Philip’s offer, and felt bad for privately disparaging him, but given what appeared to be an already toxic level of cabin fever, I didn’t want to add another stinking body to the heady mix.

‘I’m gonna go man.’

‘Good luck,’ Philip said, and with his hands in his pockets, he turned back to the sea.

Inside the cockpit
Inside the cockpit
At the Fisterra lighthouse lookout
At the Fisterra lighthouse lookout
The Fisterra lighthouse, which warns ships against Costa da Morte (Galician: "Coast of Death")
The Fisterra lighthouse, which warns ships against Costa da Morte (Galician: “Coast of Death”)

 

Border Patrol

Mission: cross the Asturias border to Galicia.

. . .

Result: a chance encounter with a man, his dog, and their Land Rover Defender.

The Dream Team: if only I owned both rigs.
The Dream Team: if only I owned both rigs.
Tito running wild and free
Tito running wild and free
I couldn't resist a selfie on the Puente de los Santos bridge
I couldn’t resist a selfie on the Puente de los Santos bridge that spans Asturias and Galicia

David val Pena, Aspirant Round-the-World Cyclist

David, 44, plans to start his circumnavigation in 34 days, on his 45th birthday. His first stop: Pedro’s, a fellow Warm Showers host at Luarca. I was fortunate enough to stay with David at Foz, Galicia, in his grandfather’s restored barn, before David left to cycle the world. The barn had fallen into disrepair. David, his father and his brother, have restored the building, digging deeper to add another level while adding more stone to extend the roof for David’s bedroom.

David with the bike that he plans to travel the world on outside his grandfather's restored barn house.
David with the bike that he plans to travel the world on outside his grandfather’s restored barn house.

David has planned his round-the-world trip for two years. His warchest stands at 12,000 euros in addition to 3000 euros for equipment and 3000 euros for flights and visas.

“What is your budget per day?” I asked David as we peddled to his barn house.

“Well, 200 euros per month, more or less. I mean, this is OK, but some guys do it on ten dollars a day or less.”

Wow.

I thought I had honed my frugal blade to a fearful cutlass, a veritable scimitar of scrimp, slashing average costs to 20 euros a day — but no, I’ll have to cut the fat to get down to round-the-world pro level.

David works as a radio host at Foz’s cultural center. He interviews people for the local radio program and on the day that I met him he had interviewed a German who had been living in Spain for twenty years building clay-brick houses.

David’s favourite interviewee?

A Danish traveler, Charlie Uldahl Christensen, who is walking from Esbjerg, Denmark, to the village of Lengasti, Tanzania, on the East Coast of Africa pushing a pram of water to raise awareness for African clean water.

David has also hosted Wild Bill, a Fully Lugged reader favourite. David confided in me that, since I had met Wild Bill in Boo de Piélagos, Bill has been pulled over six or seven times by the Guarda Civil. But Bill, ever the sweet talker, has never been fined as he claims his e-bike and trailer combination are saving the world.

I asked David how his mum and dad felt about his forthcoming adventures.

“I haven’t told my mother,” David said over our fried salmon dinner. “It’s like this: I’ll tell her a few days before I leave.”

“And your father?”

“I meet him once every two weeks at a restaurant. When I bring it up — the trip — he hangs his head. But this last time, I didn’t say anything, and he asked me about it.”

David is a humble guy. No internet at home, he cooks with a wood-burning stove and has made a his own boy scout tin can cooker for his two year trip. Incongruously, he has a penchant for American sitcoms dubbed in Spanish, laughing with gusto at The Big Bang Theory.

Keep laughing David!

How I Wound Up in Rehab

Google maps. As my mate Hutch said, it’s your best friend and your worst enemy. Well, he was right.

I’ve ended up in farmers’ paddocks, goat tracks and riverbeds. And you know what, it’s been damn good fun.

A goat track near Vega – excellent for pushing shit uphill off road.

During one of google’s detours around Embalse de la Granda, a lake in Asturias, Spain, I found myself on another boggy track. After pushing the bike through a mud pit I stopped to wipe some muck from my hands on a thatch of grass.

Snake!

Serpiente. It turns out that St Paddy had driven the snakes out of Ireland and into Spain (the small ones, anyway). Had I just disturbed Seoane’s Viper? Or perhaps Lataste’s Viper? Only the Good Lord, in His infinite grace, shall know.

My reptilian friend made for the bushes and I kept on truckin’ through the morass. At the end of the track, I stopped for a drink. A guy driving a van pulled up and said, “You came through there on that?

Or at least that’s what I made out from the few words I know in Spanish and his wild gesticulations. He looked at his passenger, shook his head, and took off.

I looked up.

There was a painting of the good Samaritan scene together with a syringe smashed apart: I was at the gates of a drug rehabilitation center. And the guy that had just left must have worked there. Even he thought I was mad coming down that track with my load on. Hey buddy, I thought, it’s not my idea, blame google!

Anyway, enough of that malarkey. Here’s some shots of me at the beach.

Playa del Silencio
Playa del Silencio
Playa del silencio
Playa del silencio
Salinas, Asturias.
It was blowing onshore at Salinas but a few guys managed to get a few rides in.
It was blowing onshore at Salinas but a few guys managed to get a few rides in.
La Caldeirina
La Caldeirina