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Day 24, U-turn, Weather has beaten me

Up a lot of the night weighing up the options.

So many tabs open on my chrome browser, lose track of what I'm doing.

Weather is getting worse not better, with no end in sight to the wind and rain right down the Spanish and Portuguese west coast.

Was going to sit tight and let the bad weather pass if it was just a couple of days, but this is more than a week with no change and that means we're getting closer to November with worse weather, shorter days and more businesses closing.

The option is to take the train to get back along the Spanish north coast to the ferry and from there back to Portsmouth. There's a ferry from Santander on Sunday afternoon, sadly all cabins booked, but I now hate Bilbao, so I'd rather go from Santander and sit in a chair all night.

Made the decision, booked the ferry. Will still do some cycling to get back to Santander after using the train to make a big jump east where the weather is a lot better. In the end I'm just too late in the season.

So today the plan was to catch a train at 11.30am from Ribadeo to Oviedo, scheduled to arrive 15.45. Stay there overnight.

This will be the first time I've used a train in Spain with a bicycle so a little anxious. Got to the station at 10.30 as I like to be early and had to work out how to buy a ticket. The station only had a machine and it didn't speak Irish.

It's dry but very windy and the bike nearly fell over. Just as well I'm running away.

This coastal train is a tiny two carriage thing joined together. None of the staff wear uniforms, it seems more like a community project. Couldn't work out which platform to wait on. I think if one of the staff wanted to watch the TV, they'd just cancel the service.

Anyway a train arrives at the expected time. I get on and get this guy shouting Spanish and waving his hands, It's not the right one, it's terminating. Have to change platforms, which with the bike is a major exercise.

Finally off, in the right direction on the right train. I didn't know what to expect, but after 2 hours, we arrive where I stayed the previous night. Hang on, that's 75km in 2 hours. That's just less than twice the average speed I do on my bike dragging 3 tons up the hills. So not a high speed service.

Blimey, perhaps I should have walked it.

I notice these guys who are dressed in jeans and polo shirts keep walking up and down the carriage and going in the driver's compartment. I can't tell if they're staff or passengers. It all seems incredibly informal. But I'm becoming sure somethings not right.

The other passengers are moaning, but I don't understand a thing.

Sometimes we're stationary for ages for no reason, then we set off. I wondered if the driver had forgotten his lunch and he's waiting for his mum to bring it.

After 4 hours we arrive at Pravia and everyone else gets up and walks off the train. I stay sat down. I've bought a ticket, I'm Irish and me and my bike want to get to Oviedo and this ain't it. One of the train guys speaks to me in Spanish obviously telling me to get off. I ignore him and put on a stupid face. He says English to his mate who comes over and explains the engine has packed up, they're terminating and there's another train coming along. I've got to switch to the opposite platform, reached by two sets of stairs. I point at the bike. He shrugs his shoulders. I walk it down the end of the platform and across the tracks.

The only massive benefit of the forced removal is that there's a toilet on the platform and after 5 hours I'm bursting. Bliss.

A new train does arrive so we all board and then just sit there. 20 minutes maybe. Finally another guy, who I thought was a passenger gets on, goes in to the cab and off we go. Perhaps he is a passenger, perhaps this is how it works. Perhaps you get a free ticket if you drive the train.

This one is going a lot faster, but there's still a long way to go. We end up arriving in a place.

After a few minutes the driver comes out of his cab, locks it and walks off. Oh no, perhaps they're on strike.

After about 15 minutes the train unexpectedly starts going backwards. I panic. I just assumed the replacement train was going all the way to my destination. Perhaps I'm going back to Ribadeo. After a while panic over. This whole network is bizarre. That was like a spur end and we're now on another line. That driver just had to move to the cab at the other end. I look over at my bike tied to the disabled passenger strap. It's thinking - I go faster than this, what on earth have you wasted the day in this train for?

We finally get to Oviedo after 6pm, that over 2 hours late. I've had nothing since breakfast, so I'm starving.

Oviedo is quite a big station, so first obstacle is to get from the platform up two sets of escalators to the station exit at "ground" level.

Haven't taken the bike and 3 tons of luggage on escalators before. Almost lost it. That would have been an incident. Might have caused the station to shut. Going to have to repeat it again in the morning with the escalators going down - I think that will be a lot worse. There doesn't appear to be any provision for wheelchair access in Spain. Perhaps they die of starvation at the bottom of steps.

I've made it to Oviedo, I'm checked in to the hotel, had dinner, de-stressed. The train tomorrow leaves before 8am, I've got to cope with the escalators, buy a ticket and not miss it. If I do I'm in the s**t. Earliest start yet, so I'll need multiple alarms.

Distance today 2 km - and don't tut, they were hard work and life risking

Total so far 1892 km


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