The Camino pilgrimage team in Salamanca

06 October 2014
Ballymena Road Club Chain Reaction Cycles member Trevor Thompson recently completed a marathon 1000 kilometre charity cycle ride over the famous Camino pilgrimage route in Spain.
Trevor gives a fascinating account of the Camino sponsored Cancer Centre trip. "We arrived in Seville on Saturday 13th September on a very early flight from Dublin. 
The temperatures were in the mid-forties and this was a bit of a shock even with the good weather at home. 
We were collected by our guide, Antonio Malvar, and taken to the hotel. We had a trip briefing, assembled the bicycles and pre-loaded all the subsequent days' riding maps onto the Garmin bike Satnav computers. Thus it was impossible to get lost even if a rider got separated from the group. 
Next morning began the greatest cycling trip of my life. Ten days riding - covering 1000km and climbing over 10,000 metres from Seville to Santiago. Each day required plenty of factor 50 sunblock and plenty of fluids to drink. 

We all wore the black and yellow "Friends of the Cancer Centre" jersey complete with scallop shell motif. This is the symbol of St James (Santiago) and the Camino pilgrimage. We were given "pilgrimage passports" to get stamped at each stop to provide evidence of progress along the route.

We headed north along the Ruta de la Plata. This was a Roman road built in 139 BC to transport silver from northern Spain to the southern coast before shipping to Rome. Today it is the Silver Camino route taking pilgrims north from Seville to Santiago de Copestela. There was little traffic and a perfect, smooth riding surface - cycling heaven. Each day our luggage was transferred by van to our next hotel or hostel. Other than punctures there were, thankfully, no mishaps or spills. 
We passed through the parched, yellow, dusty farmland of southern Spain and climbed onto the richer agricultural lands of the Spanish plain.
I can confirm that the rain in Spain does fall mainly on the plain - we got a few good soakings! 
The half-way point was at the magnificent, ancient University town of Salamanca. From there we began to climb into Galicia. This was a familiar green and hilly region. A bit like the Glens of Antrim but warmer! It is part of the pan Celtic nations and it did feel (almost) like home. 
The last day was a 104km ride with a 2000m climb through the last of the Galician hills into the pilgrimage centre of Santiago. We arrived in the cathedral square in two by two formation and in good order. Most of us shed a tear as we met other pilgrims from all over the world who had also completed journeys either by foot, by bicycle or by horse back. We attended the pilgrim's service in the Cathedral and were awarded our certificate of pilgrimage after our pilgrimage passports were verified.

The reason behind the cycle Camino was to raise monies for the Northern Ireland Cancer Centre. We set a target of £50,000. The monies are being collected in at present and we should have a final figure by November.  We hope to have our exceeded our target. On behalf of those who took part in the ride and also "The Friends of the Cancer Centre" charity I would like to thank members of the Ballymena Road Club and also the people of Ballymena and district who have given sponsorship monies to this fund raising effort. Thank you for your generosity and Buon Camino! concluded Trevor.

Trevor Thompson is second from the left in the photo. This was at the half way mark. In the background is the Roman bridge and beyond that the old and new Cathedrals of Salamanca.