Ponferrada to Leon ~ Almost end up in hospital in Hospital de Orbigo as my stomach casts me astray in Castilla y Leon

June 13th – 16th 2017 (Days 36 – 39) This week’s photo shows a lorry tipped over on it’s side on the A6 motorway near Manzanal del Puerto. I tweeted the photo the following day saying I needed a rest day or I would end up like the lorry on the motorway. But the day after that, I ended up looking exactly like the lorry in the photo. I was as sick as a dog due to a stomach bug and spent the whole day lying under an empty caravan trying to get some shade and barely able to move. My stomach is normally pretty reliable and in 3 years of touring with Travoy, I have never once got sick. The stomach bug was almost certainly caused by drinking contaminated water at the Hospital de Orbiga campsite or possibly some other campsite. You can never be too careful drinking water when on tour and it was a horrible lesson to learn on what was also one of the hottest days I have ever experienced.


Total cycled Wednesday June 13th from Ponferrada to Hospital de Orbigo – 95 km (includes 1,400m of climbing). Total distance so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 2,380 km. It was much cooler today but still the sweat was pouring out of my arms. My resting heart rate was over 90 this morning whereas normally it is around 70. When you RR heart rate is sky high, it is a sign of extreme fatigue and I should have rested for the day. But I wanted to take advantage of the cool conditions and strong tailwind so kept cycling.


Ponferrada castle. This castle was built by the Knights Templar in the 13th Century and is one of only a few Knights Templar castles in Europe. The site the castle was built on was gifted to the Knights as a reward for protecting pilgrims on their way to Santiago. The castle was the headquarters for the Knights Templar in Spain but it was only built a few years when the organisation was disbanded and it’s leaders executed in 1307 by the king of France.


Nelson Mandela mural on a building in Ponferrada. The writing on the mural translates as “Talking to one another is more powerful than violently attacking one another”


Yoni Colada from Team Mitto. Yoni is a lovely guy who cycled with me for almost an hour from near his home town of Bembibre to the start of the climb to the Puerto de Manzanal.. I was telling him about my travels and he was telling me about the cycling team he manages called Team Mitto. The team predominately races in mountain bike races and have competed all over Europe including some races in Ireland. He works for Mitto Custom Wear who design and supply the cycling kit to many Spanish club teams. He has been to the UCI headquarters in Aigle in Switzerland on a number of occasions and I was telling him about my visit there last year on the same day as a crunch meeting between the UCI and ASO who organise the Tour de France. His English was much better than my Spanish but at times he had to use Siri on his iPhone to translate from Spanish to English. When I make it back to Ireland in September, I will try and contact Yoni about designing a custom Tour de Travoy cycling jersey. It might not be possible as I would only require 2 or 3 jerseys whereas most of the orders his company gets would be for dozens even hundreds of jerseys. Custom cycling gear is not cheap but I will see what he says and if the quote is reasonable, I might have my own cycle jersey for next year’s Tour de Travoy.


The Torre del Bierzo tunnel. There are a number of tunnels on the climb to the Puerto de Manzanal including this one which was over 1 km long.


2nd highest climb so far on this year’s Tour, the Puerto de Manzanal. Unlike the Alto do Poio, which is steep in places, the Puerto de Manzanal climb is more a constant gradient but the climb goes on for ever. 3 times I thought I had reached the top only to go around a bend and see the road climb up even more.


Bull statue near Combarros. These statues are a common sight throughout Spain but this one was the first I had come across on this year’s Tour de Travoy.


Cathedral de Santa Maria in Astorga. The battery had gone on my main camera-phone so I had to use my Moto G phone to get this shot. The phone is set to HDR in its settings whih I can’t seem to change. For long distance photos, the HDR results in a very poor image but for close up shots such as the cathedral above, the HDR creates a wonderful grainy effect.


Camping Don Sueros in Hospital de Orbigo. Camping Don Suero is a massive campsite with space for over 200 tents, caravans and campervans. I had decided to stay 2 nights here to get some rest after cycling 350 km in 3 days but ended up staying 3 nights as I got very ill due to a stomach bug.

Water pipes in Camping Don Sueros. Normally, at a campsite, I fill my water bottles from where the dishes are washed. But in Camping don Sueros, there were signs in the dish washing area saying “Aqua Non Potable”. So instead, I filled my bottles from these water pipes which were dotted around the campsite. The water was cold and tasted fine so I thought it would be OK. That was a big mistake as after a rest day on Wednesday, I got really sick on the Thursday.


Empty caravan at Camping Don Sueros. This is where I spent most of Thursday lying under this caravan trying to get some shade from the sweltering sun all the time as sick as a dog. I was so ill I couldn’t even work on the computer and could barely lift my arms. I ended up going to the toilet 6 times and vomited twice. As I had nothing to eat all day, I only ended up vomiting water. The temperature was over 30 degrees and it made my sickness even worse as I was struggling to breath with the heat. At one stage I even though of calling an ambulance. That would have made a good headline from Hospital de Orbigo to a real hospital probably in Leon. But in the evening, it got a lot cooler so I bought an ice-cream from the campsite cafe which I managed to keep down. It was the only thing I had to eat all day.


Total distance cycled Friday June 16th from Hospital de Orbigo to Leon – 50 km (includes 400m of climbing). Total distance so far on 2017 Tour de Travoy – 2,480 km. I felt a lot better Friday morning but decided to only risk cycling a short distance in case I got sick again. I was really queasy on the road to Leon but fortunately there were hardly any hills and I got through the day OK.


Some Camino pilgrims in Hospital de Orbigo. There were quite a few pilgrims in Hospital de Orbigo though they all seemed to be staying in hostels and I didn’t see any at Camping Don Sueros.


Spanish water tower near Villavante.  Anyone who has been reading my blog will know I often post photos of French water towers. This is the first Spanish water tower I have posted on this year’s tour and it is my new favorite water tower, even better than the one I came across in Everly in France last year.


Dead snake on the road near Villadangos. This snake looks like it split in 2 after it was run over as there was no sign of it’s head. This is the first snake I have ever seen on the Tour de Travoy and hope it is the last I ever come across.


Pilgrims on the Camino trail near Villadongas. It was really hot so I stopped at a garage to get a carton of apple and orange juice from the fridge. I was only stopped for 5 minutes or so but counted about 50 pilgrims trickling by in that time. All these pilgrims still had 400 km to walk to Santiago a distance that takes at least 2 weeks. Every village I passed through today there was little sign of any local Spanish people who may have been having a siesta but there were loads of pilgrims out in the afternoon sun.


Plaza Guzman El Bueno roudabout in Leon. This roundabout is located beside the Bernesga river and is simply stunning to see on a hot afternoon. The temperature was around 35 degrees but the sight of all these fountains made me feel a lot cooler.


Leon cathedral. Santa Maria de Leon cathedral is just lovely to see and so much nicer looking than St. James cathedral in Santiago. It dates from the 14th Century and has 125 stained glass windows.


Sculpture opposite the cathedral in the Leon’s main square. You rarely see a town or cities name spelled out to form a sculpture but here in Leon, that is what they have did. Such a simple concept yet very effective and practical too by including a backdrop that doubles up as a table..


Dinner of chips, salad and grilled beef at the campsite restaurant in Leon. After eating barely anything for 2 days due to a stomach bug, I was really hungry when I made it to the campsite in Leon. The campsite has a lovely restaurant and the menu is in both Spanish and English. I really wanted to order a paella but it cost €20 so instead went for some chips, salad and beef. The beef was delicious and tasted like steak and with wine, it only cost €12. It was the perfect meal to settle my stomach after what had been 2 very rough days.


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