The tricky thing for me was to get myself and bike reliably to a place in Spain where I could meet my brother, and not be too close to Santiago!! When I arranged my plane in January, I was aiming to meet him in Leon. I could not get a Saturday flight, so booked for Friday. This was handy, as Chris beat his schedule! When he sent me his revised route, Burgos looked more likely. The week before I left, I was making plans to rendevous in the little town of Santo Domingo de la Calzada which doesn’t even have a railway station! Finally, in a prearranged phone call two days before I left, we agreed on Sahagun – small, with a station, and conveniently placed between Burgos and Leon.
So Friday 31st May saw me setting off to London by car, the bike with its bulky packaging taking up much of the space behind the front seats. Leeds to Heathrow is pretty straightforward, M1, then M25. I broke the journey to phone CTC to arrange insurance – a little item which had kept slipping down the “to do” list! The M25 was busy but moving, and I reached the airport long stay car park with no difficulties. I did a final luggage sort out (small Spanish phrase book makes the trip, bulky Spanish text book stays in the car..) before walking to the bus stop. Strapping the panniers together was a good idea; having a shoulder bag as well as a handlebar bag was essential to carry all my stuff but three bags and one parcelled bike are too much for two arms! Checking in and boarding at Heathrow were fine. From my seat, I could see the baggage being loaded into the luggage bay, so I knew my bike was at least on the plane! I enjoyed the flight – people were speaking Spanish and I could understand them!! (sometimes!)
After touchdown, I was pleased to be reunited with my panniers and bike. I thought the next phase of the journey was by underground to Madrid Chamartin railway station, but it was actually along what felt like several miles of walkways and travelators…. I realised that this was the bit I should have been sponsored for! Lugging everything was hard work – so en route to the airport’s metro station, I was pleased to try out my Spanish and buy a beer and sandwich. Fortified, I reached the underground station, and found out that the metro trip was easier than I had expected – the line had been extended since I’d taken a map from the internet the previous week! I only needed to make one change, not two. At the railway station, I headed for the information desk, and sweetly asked “Hablo Ingles?” The helpful lady explained that there was no train from Valladolid to Sahagun, arriving 3.52am, despite what I’d seen on the internet! But there was one from Burgos, leaving 6.38, arriving 8.02. So all I needed was to contact Chris, to let him know he didn’t need to lose his beauty sleep to meet me. I phoned – number not available!! Aaargh! Even though the number had worked from England, maybe it could do with a +44 prefix. That was the answer! It was great to speak to Chris, and let him know when I’d arrive. Time for more beer, and more sandwiches – readily available from the bar in the station.
I was careful to make sure I really did know which platform I needed, having
heard of travellers caught out by last minute platform changes. All was straightforward,
though, and at 22.30 I was putting the bike on the lower bunk, and me on the
upper one. I asked the cheerful carriage attendant to wake me half an hour before
we arrived in Burgos (3.15 am), and he did. I had a lovely few hours sleep –
there’s something especially soothing about the sound of train wheels
I washed and dressed and got me and the luggage off the train, then settled into the waiting room. In Spanish, waiting room is "la sala de espera"– "room of hope"….. I unpacked the bike from its cardboard and bubble wrap home, leaving it just in its bike bag, then tried to get some more sleep. A passing policeman stopped to explain I was welcome to sleep, but not on the cardboard from the bike box! When the booking office opened, I realised that my way of pronouncing Sahagun was completely unintelligible to the clerk. However, pointing at the name written down worked. The station café served a good strong espresso, then it was time to wait on the platform. The train arrived promptly, and the somewhat less bulky bike was easy to manoeuvre into the corridor, and the sun was shining. After an hour or so, I changed into cycling gear (yes, even though I’m over 50, lycra!!!). When the train stopped, there was Chris waiting on the platform, looking suitably tanned, fit and healthy. We were very pleased to see each other.