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Posts Tagged ‘Postcards from Portugal’

It’s exactly 2 months ago today since I arrived in Porto and although it’s taken a lot longer than I expected, I’ve now written about my fantastic stay in Porto, a wonderful day visit to Coimbra (recommended) and the first 6 days of my Camino 2017 from Porto to Valenca. Before I continue writing about the final 5 days walking in Spain, I thought I’d pause for reflection and consider what I learned and discovered along The Way on the Portuguese Coastal Route and The Portuguese Central Way (via Tui) from Porto to Santiago.

portuguese coastal route mapacoastal

The Portuguese Coastal and Central routes; Porto to Santiago de Compostela

Firstly I must just clarify that I didn’t walk the Camino for religious reasons, but rather to learn more about myself, and for the sheer adventure. I love walking and I love travelling, so the Camino was the perfect opportunity for me to combine the two. I’ve wanted to visit Portugal for ever such a long time and Porto was my desired destination, as well as which I love the ocean, so it made sense to start there and walk the Portuguese Coastal Route. But because I wanted to visit the walled town of Valenca and of course cross the famous bridge that I’d seen in photos and to also visit Tui, I decided to start off on the coastal route to Caminha and then head inland to Valenca and finish off along the Central Portuguese route to Santiago.

inspirational quotes

I just wanna go on more adventures….

My goal was all about discovery. I wanted to see if this was something I could actually do. I’m a creature of habit and I love my home comforts. I get really grumpy when I have to get up early and/or go without my first cup of tea (usually preferred while relaxing in bed – with a couple of biscuits).

 

So it was going to be interesting to see how I would respond to both rising early and forgoing my cup of tea. I did take a packet of teabags with me….but in all the 21 days I was in Portugal and Spain I only used 6 teabags, and 4 of those were in Barcelona AFTER I finished the Camino 😉 So teabags won’t be on my packing list for 2018 then!

So although I didn’t walk for ‘religious’ reasons, I walked in the ‘spirit of learning’; about adventure and discovery, about what I can or cannot cope with, about the countries I walked through, and about their history. I walked with the aim of finding out how walking long distance, under sometimes challenging circumstances would affect me relating to my human spirit/spirituality or soul as opposed to relying on the usual material or physical things and my comfort zones. I could have planned a similar long walk in the UK but that would have fit in with my comfort zone….so Camino it had to be.

inspirational quotes

When it feel scary to jump….

I knew of and had read about the Camino in the past. My father had cycled various routes in his 70’s and 80’s and in 2005 we had toyed with the idea of doing a Camino together – except he wanted to cycle and I wanted to walk. So that never got off the ground. He died a couple of years ago, so that’s that in that area. In retrospect though, I doubt we would have made a success of it, we never really got on very well most of my life and being together day after day would not have been a picnic. However, my younger brother and one of my many younger sisters have cycled The Camino with my father, which is good. I have of course watched the 2010 film, The Way, with Martin Sheen and loved the idea of, but had no desire to walk the Camino Frances (then). Besides all that, I had been inspired to walk the Camino by someone I knew from 2009/2010; a lady in her mid 60’s who had walked the Camino Frances a few years before and loved it.

But because I planned on walking a different route, I didn’t have any preconceptions of how or what the route would be like beyond the fantastic photos I had seen on facebook and the many blogs I read before my September trip. I had read about how some people have major insights, or epiphanies, or religious experiences that changed their lives in a big way, but I wasn’t anticipating any of those and as it turns out, I didn’t have any.

But what I did have, was the joy of walking and being alone. I am a loner, I don’t have a large circle of friends and I am most certainly not a social butterfly; preferring my own company, social events are anathema to me. Even a tea-party or dinner out with a crowd gets me hot under the collar and I’d rather be ill in bed than have to attend a party. LOL

I had read that at certain points you encounter large crowds of people and apparently at the 100km mark (minimum distance required for the Compostela), the route is inundated with other walkers, but I didn’t find that at all, except for one day in Spain when I encountered a group of oldies on the way to Mos. But we soon parted company and in fact at many times I walked for up to 3-4 hours without seeing a soul except the odd local as I meandered by, or the occasional walker who whizzed on by at speed. So in all, the hours that I walked completely on my own suited me perfectly.

However, I did meet some wonderful people along the route in Portugal and spent an hour or so walking with a lovely couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata between Vila do Conde and Esposende. I was really sorry to lose touch with them after we parted ways for breakfast. But as mentioned in the blog, they were a lot younger than me, walked faster and were with a group of friends, and I dawdled a lot taking photos.

It was also going to be really interesting to find out how I felt about not having much by way of home comforts, about wearing the same clothes, not having the convenience of a washing machine, and carrying my belongings on my back day after day. My day job takes me all over the UK and I often get fed up with living out of a suitcase, so living out the backpack for 11 days was going to be a challenge…could I cope? How would I feel about not eating a proper breakfast? (you know what us English folks are like!! Full English and all that, or scrambled egg on marmite toast, but if not possible then oats and fruit, or granola and yoghurt with banana etc etc LOL). And I am not usually a coffee drinker…although the thought of pastries for breakfast every day filled me with joy!! 🙂 🙂 How would I manage? Weirdly it was these type of thoughts that I fretted about most prior to my Camino. Not would I be safe, not would I get blisters, not would I mind a mix-sex bathroom. No. My biggest worry was food!!

I am a magpie and a hoarder. I collect stuff all the time. I love books and am continually buying them (or should I say used to). Apparently my wealth profile is: ‘Accumulator’ – just a shame that didn’t apply to money!! If you saw my house in South Africa in 2001 pre UK, you’d know for sure that I collected ‘stuff’ – a lot of stuff. Since living in the UK the last 16 years, things carried on much the same…even though I arrived with very little, before long I was accumulating stuff; mementos, household items, linen, clothes and books; home comforts. But since I arrived back from my Camino, that has changed substantially. I had already started a few years ago cutting back on ‘buying’ and rather spent my money on travel and experiences like zip-lining. 🙂 which is quite simply awesome, and a must do again.

zip lining with zip world in london

zip lining with zip world in London. My daughter and I had so much fun

Cutting back on spending last year is the reason I had money for my Camino Journey, but now I’ve become quite militant about it. My daughter had already been discouraged from buying me things and has now been seriously encouraged/reminded to not buy me anything that I can’t eat, wear or experience.

inspirational quotes

Take a walk, not a pill….

So what did I learn along The Way?

  1. I can get up early and manage to not die without my first cup of tea…or any tea AT ALL for that matter. For someone who usually drinks 5-6 mugs full a day…
  2. I am fitter than I thought and certainly more agile.
  3. I can climb a mountain and survive.
  4. I can walk in the rain and survive, and I still loathe temperatures above 20 degrees centigrade.
  5. I really do love just being on my own and never once did I get lonely.
  6. I am not afraid.
  7. The scenery and the history of the places I walked through was more amazing than I imagined.
  8. I didn’t have any major epiphanies or insights or spiritual experiences.
  9. I’m still not religious.
  10. Although….I do and did love visiting the many churches along the two routes – so peaceful, real repositories of history, with a strong sense of spirituality.
  11. I can manage to live with only a bare minimum of life’s ‘necessities’.
  12. I loved calling out ‘Bom Caminho’ in Portugal and ‘Buen Camino’ in Spain, and getting a response in return…usually with a smile, especially from the locals.
  13. I enjoyed the brief connections I made with fellow pilgrims and locals; just enough to be fun, but not that long it got tedious.
  14. I can, if I make the effort, learn more of the native languages and managed to pick up quite a lot of extra words enroute. I’m currently learning more Spanish and my daughter is going to teach me to speak and listen comfortably before I go next year.
  15. I’m still an accumulator…..over 5,500 photos between 7-28th September bears witness to that LOL At least they’re light, albeit filling up my Dropbox.
  16. I really don’t want all the stuff I still have in my storage – in fact I nearly had a nervous breakdown when I returned home and saw all the boxes waiting. urgh.
  17. Food wise, I still stuck to what I know – like eating ‘tosta misto’ just about every day because I knew what was in it. And because I’m a ‘food coward’ I didn’t try the local ‘pulpo’ or anything too adventurous. LOL
  18. I left the maps behind, found my ‘Camino eyes’ on day 3 and never looked back.
  19. Despite my initial dislike of them, my walking poles became my best friend and my #1 item for future walks.
  20. After I reached Santiago, I could quite literally have just carried on walking…a bit like Forrest Gump, except I had a ticket to Barcelona booked for the 24th 😦
  21. Although it was tough at times, I loved every minute of the journey and even though I had NO PLANS AT ALL to walk a 2nd Camino before I started, I’m already planning for 2018, 2019 and 2020 – Camino Ingles, Camino Norte and Camino Frances respectively. Oh and not forgetting The Portuguese Central Route…I’m guessing that will have to be in 2021 hahahaha. Then there’s the Primitivo Route to think about…..hmmmm. The Camino bug has bitten.

So, having walked 240 kms through Portugal and Spain, would I recommend walking the Camino? Oh absolutely YES!!!! Is it for the faint-hearted? It can be if you allow yourself to open up and experience all it has to offer. It’s not a ‘walk in the park’, it’s tiring, and tiresome, it’s exhausting (especially if you mistakenly plan for long days e.g. 32 kms), but it’s interesting – the history is phenomenal and I really wish I’d had time to explore some of the towns more thoroughly. I’m planning shorter days for 2018. I have read about two nonagenarians (91 and 93 respectively) who have recently walked the Camino Frances, so pretty much anyone can walk it if they are of a mind to.

inspirational quotes

You are not too old and it is not too late

I would recommend packing light – somehow I managed to pack 11kgs which increased to 13kgs with my water-bladder filled. I don’t know how this came about as I weighed everything so carefully and totted it all up. But somehow I think in the final packing frenzy I bunged in a whole lot of stuff I really didn’t need. I won’t make the same mistake again and next Camino I will be militant about packing a maximum of 8kgs. In fact Pepe (my backpack) is already packed and ready for 2018. This is still to be reviewed.

I would recommend training first before setting off. You may think you’re fit. You may think it’s adventurous and fun to set off impulsively without proper preparation, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I’ve read of walkers getting severe blisters, straining their knees or ligaments, damaging their feet or backs and one gentleman I met in Portugal actually had his stomach lining suddenly tear a few days into his walk which landed him in hospital for 6 weeks. It’s not just the distance you walk, it’s also the weight of the backpack that can cause injury.

Personally, I think the reason my walk went so well is because I spent 18 months in training prior to setting off and walked a total of over 800 miles in the 8 months preceding my Camino. Besides my almost daily 5 mile walks, I did two long walks; 1 of 60 miles and 1 of 19 miles in July before I left, and those gave me a really good insight into what I could cope with, how much I could comfortably carry and taught me to 90% read a map. The other 10% I made my own route when I got lost LOL. I also learned that it’s not a good idea to walk in wet socks!!!

I would recommend buying good equipment; a light-weight backpack – I bought the Osprey Tempest 30 L that weighs only 1.01kgs, the right shoes (I tested 3 pairs over the 18 months before leaving), 3 or 4 pairs of really good socks and 2 pairs of inner socks, and my absolute Number 1 essential – a good pair of light-weight walking poles. I absolutely would not have had as good a walk as I did or been able to negotiate those cobbled streets, sandy roads, steep inclines and declines without my walking poles. I most certainly would not have been able to climb those mountains in Spain.

As mentioned, some days were exceptionally long, and by the end of those days I was practically using my poles like crutches. Of all the equipment and gear I had, those would be the one thing I would recommend most highly.

portuguese coastal route from porto to santiago

a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I would even recommend walking The Camino to people who are afraid of being alone, of walking in a foreign country, or just fearful of travelling beyond the borders of their own country. The whole experience was wonderful. I was exceptionally lucky in that I didn’t have any unpleasant experiences, no illness, no tummy bugs, no bed bugs, no bites (despite an encounter with a very small snake in a Spanish vineyard), no theft of personal belongings, no dehydration (although I did get very thirsty on one day after running out of water), no sunburn, and only one small issue with my right ankle, a contracted muscle acquired while climbing those mountains in Spain, that soon righted itself after being massaged and strapped up. One thing I did suffer with, was swollen ankles. This unfortunately was not a new issue as I generally get swollen ankles when I’m at home too, but it was exacerbated by the heat and being on my feet the whole day, so by the time I reached my accommodation each night, they didn’t look good – however, I survived!! A hot bath/shower and a good sleep does wonders.

How did I feel when returning to ‘civilisation’? Overwhelmed!! I recall with clarity the shock and horror I felt as I entered the old city of Santiago.

I arrived at the old town via the Parque de Alameda and approached the Cathedral de Santiago de Compostela and the Praza do Obradoiro via Rúa do Franco. The sea of pedestrians walking towards me, the crowds bumping against me, the beggars shoving cardboard in my face asking for money, and the sheer volume of noise was overwhelming. I was already exhausted, extremely emotional at having finally arrived, struggling to hold back my tears, and the noise and sounds were too just too much. I nearly turned and ran.

arriving in santiago, santiago de compostela, walking to camino, porto to santiago

arriving in Santiago old town

I stayed in bed, in my hotel room the next day until I was starving and had to get out for something to eat. It took a lot of energy just to face the crowds of people again. If you’re expecting peace and tranquillity when you reach Santiago…dispel the thought. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like at the height of summer.

When I got to Barcelona 3 days later, once again I was overwhelmed at the crowds and the traffic noise of the big city. It nearly spoiled my visit on the first day, fortunately I immersed myself slowly and with 4 days to explore I didn’t rush about too much, sticking to quieter roads and areas where possible.

Arriving back in the UK was also overwhelming. The rush and the crush of commuters at the airport, on the trains; being on the tube between stations was a living nightmare. Oh where was the wonderful peace and tranquillity of walking through forests and along deserted roads, the sounds of the ocean as I strolled along the boardwalks, sorely missed.

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a good ocean breeze and a tumble down fort…what more could I ask for?

Thankfully my base is in a fairly quiet seaside town and the house in a cul-de-sac.

broadstairs, viking bay, isle of thanet, english coast, seaside towns of britain

a winter’s sunrise – Viking Bay, Isle of Thanet

Even so, being back in civilisation was a shock to the system. And as for my store-room; I took one look at all my possessions and nearly had a nervous-breakdown. Time to downsize once again.

The most important lesson of all that I learned on the Camino? I didn’t need 99.9% of the possessions I own in order to survive and be contented and happy.

Bring on Camino 2018.

To read more about my #Camino2017 adventures, my journey started here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Day 11 Sunday 2017.09.17 – Tui to O Porriño Day 1/5 Camino 2017 part 2 (read part 1 here)

After leaving the city of Tui behind me I was mostly on my own walking through fields and wooded areas, sometimes on asphalt, or along sandy lanes, setting a good pace, all the while looking for the arrows. Sometimes they are elaborate and sometimes quite faint and obscure. But I know now what to look out for; my ‘Camino eyes’ are open.

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and suddenly I was in the countryside…..the Ponte Romano in the distance

As I reached woodland and found the Ponte Romano along which the Via Romana XIX route continues crossing over the River Louro, I noticed a stunning rock sculpture; a cut out pilgrim and a delightful water fountain where some pilgrims were filling their water bottles. “Ola! Buenas dias” …. I walked to the middle of the bridge, just because 🙂 and then continued on my way into cool green refreshing forests.

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a stunning sculpture on the Via Romana XIX near the Ponte Romana, a place for pilgrims to fill their water bottles and the Ponte Romana over the Louro

Walking through the beautiful landscape of the River Louro valley in Galicia, a 700 ha nature reserve, I noticed that the weather was a lot cooler, the landscape was greener and not as arid as Portugal. I felt absolutely joyful. The day was cool with a faint breeze and as usual I shouted a greeting ‘Ola’ or ‘Buen Camino’ as I went. I saw quite a few pilgrims today, but was never in a crowd.

Once again the terrain was variable; all change please…asphalt, gravel, cobbles, paving, mud…repeat…

10:50 Passing beneath a substantial bridge I saw this writing on the wall (I only photographed one side of the message)….

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whizzing through the Galician countryside, the route was variable

Peregrino: que véxalo ceo na terra cando teus ollos divisen as torres de Compostela.

Onde vai aquil peregrino (?), meu peregrino onde irá(?)
Camiño de Compostela. Eu sei que alí chegará.
Bo Camiño e un desexo CONCELLO DE TUI

Which roughly translated means:

We hope you see heaven on earth when your eyes spot the towers of Compostela.

Where is THAT peregrino going ? Where is MY peregrino going?
He is going to Compostela. I know that he will arrive there.
Buen Camino and a wish TUI MUNICIPALITY

Just on 11am I took a small diversion I stopped at a cafe; Bar Muniz just off the N550 for a visit to the loo (by now I learned how to use the loo with my backpack on!! 😂😂), then ordered a café con leche (no longer café com leite) and cheese on a very big roll; which was never what I was expecting.  Soon satiated, with Pepe on my back, I set off once again. Along the way I visited a tiny chapel; Capela da Virxe do Camino, an 18th century basilica building built on the remains of a previous church, which had a simply beautiful interior. The polychrome image in the sacristy depicts a seated Virgin with a baby boy at her breast.

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11am café con leche and the Galician version of toasted cheese LOL Still on the Via Romana XIX, and the delightful Capela Virxen do Camino

Not long after that I encountered one of those places where I stopped with a wtf exclamation… where to now? It happened from time to time…. I was on the verge of a very busy road with a 70 kms per hour speed limit 😲😧 and it appeared as if I was meant to cross over the bridge in front of me (in my mind I was thinking ‘seriously’ are you F@%$ kidding?)

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….seriously??? I missed that marker altogether

…after walking a few yards towards the crest of the bridge I soon realised that no! this was definitely NOT the Way, so I retraced my steps and lo and behold there across the road was a Camino marker…hallelujah! I had missed it altogether. I scurried across, and carried on. As I walked it felt like I was taking strain on my left shoulder and right hip, which was weird as I had been very careful to balance out my packing, but realised, from a similar experience a few days before, that a strap had loosened. I stopped and removed Pepe to tighten the straps up and suddenly heard a cry of “hello Cindy!! ” To my surprise and delight it was my group of 5 that I’d crossed paths with a few times since Porto. Coincidentally they had stayed at the same hotel in Valença as me last night and we had bumped into each other in the reception. I thought for sure they’d be well ahead by now, but no, it seems I was ahead 🙂 So for the next few kms right through to O Porriño I walked with them. It was lovely and lively as the conversations ebbed and flowed. As we traipsed along through the gorgeous woodlands and wetlands of the national park, Gándara de Budiño, we came across a small granite cross and shrine; this marks the spot where San Telmo, the Bishop of Tui, died of a fever 750 years ago on his return from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela. The inscription reads as follows: ” Caminante, here he was sick of death in Telmo in April 1251. Ask him to speak with God in your favor .” It’s a beautiful place so we, like many pilgrims before and I’m sure also since, stopped for a rest by the stream. You will notice the granite blocks used to pave the path. Not easy to walk on.

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A small cross and shrine marks the spot where San Telmo, the Bishop of Tui, died of a fever on his return from a pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela 750 years ago. The horseman riding by was surreal to say the least

Enroute at about 12:20 we stopped at a marvellous little roadside cafe; O Chiriringo in Ribedelouro, where we had café con leche, a sugary bun and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice; nectar of the gods. They also stamped our passports 🙂 I love all the little pilgrim reliefs and sculptures on the walls; pilgrims, a pilgrims staff and the ever present scallop shells.

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the wonderful garden cafe of O Chiriringo Ribedelouro, my group of 5 from AUS, and the best orange juice on the planet

After a lovely relax and a chat with a delightful Scottish couple who had also stopped (I met them again a couple of times along the route) we set off again. It was here that I saw my first hórreo; a Galician granary, built up off the ground to discourage rats and mice. The first of many I was to see eroute to Santiago. The oldest document containing an image of an hórreo is the Cantigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X “El Sabio”. The oldest of these date from the 15th century, are listed structures and therefore protected under law. I just loved the direction board in their garden – O Porriño 9.5kms and Santiago 107kms.

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An hórreo; a Galician granary, a fabulous sign board; O Porrino 9.5kms and scallop shells decorate a wall at the garden cafe of O Chiriringo Ribedelouro

At 13:16 in the neighbourhood of Orbenlle, where the Camino Portugues leaves the municipality of Tui and enters the one of Porriño, at a bend in the route of the Camino de Santiago, we came face to face with a magnificent reproduction of the (The Portal of Glory) ‘Portico de la Gloria’ of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral made by the painter Xai Óscar. The ‘Portico de la Gloria’ is the Romanesque portico, the cathedral’s main gate, created by Maestro Mateo in 1188.  Xai Óscar, invested four months of ‘nights’ to capture this in the mural. Next to that ‘The Old Pilgrim’ by the same artist; Xai Óscar. Stunning!!

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the fabulous mural, a reproduction of ‘Portico de la Gloria’ painted by Xia Óscar at a junction on the Way to Santiago and the Old Pilgrim

Continuing on our way, by 13:52 we left the quirky houses, rural lanes and sleepy villages

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walking through the Galician countryside, nearly there….just over 6kms to O Porrinó and 105.519 kms to Santiago

and the route took us through the horrible industrial area of Las Gándaras, along Polígono das Gándaras a 3.5-4 km straight stretch of road of dull, harsh tarmac and pollution. Yuck. Glad it was Sunday or it would have been very busy. (you can take the alternative Camino through As Gándaras and the River Louro valley to avoid crossing the industrial park.) It was terribly hot by now and humid. I longed for the cool forests.

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3.5-4 km without any shade and along an asphalt road through a horrible industrial area.

While walking along this stretch, I suddenly found myself in ‘the zone’, and head down, my walking poles rhythmically swinging I just walked and walked, looking neither left nor right I was soon through the industrial park and as I neared the end I found one of the group at my side and steaming ahead – Joan was on a roll (pun intended LOL) – she knew of a cafe nearby; Café Adele. Hurrah, a place to stop. It was hot and I needed an icy cold drink….I knew just what would fit the bill 🙂 Unfortunately the cafe was closed 😦 Onwards……

Then, just when you feel like you want to lie down and die, the route takes you over a steep bridge LOL. It took 30 minutes to get from one end of the industrial park to the other. But the reward was just on the other side in the form of Café Neuvo.

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just when you need it least…a bridge. …and now it’s 101.379 kms to Santiago

And finally at 14:20 Hurrah!! Café Nuevo Eidos Bar; not exactly The Ritz, but it offered a place to sit down, as well as food and drinks. We hurried inside, nature calling loud and clear, and then it was time for ‘Super Bock’. Damn that beer tasted good. The break offered some respite and we all removed shoes and socks and compared/massaged our achy feet. My Aloe Vera Heat Lotion was, as ever, my salvation. So far I have no blisters, but 2 of the ladies from the group of 5 had nasty blisters. Ewww, painful.

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and finally Café Neuvo Eidos – time to rest, drink a Super Bock and compare injuries LOL

After a brief respite, with just 4 kms left to go we set off at a good pace, and with my head down, walking poles swinging, for the next hour and 50 minutes I didn’t stop for photos or anything else except to capture the Capela de Angustias (the chapel of Sorrows) on the edge of O Porriño

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The chapel of Angustias (the chapel of Sorrows) on the Camino through O Porriño

…and then suddenly there we were, in O Porriño. It was now 99.408 kms to Santiago!! Hoorah, less than 100kms to go. Although exhausted, my spirits soared.

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tah dah!! O Porrino and now it’s less than 100 kms to Santiago de Compostela – 99.408 kms

I was caught by surprise that we reached O Porriño so quickly and sad to say goodbye to my group of 5. They were staying at a pre-arranged hotel and I still had to find my albergue. We made a loose agreement to meet up on the road to Arcade in the morning and said goodbye. As it turned out this was the last time I saw them. With no idea where my hostel was I sat down on a nearby bench and gathered myself… Where to next? I had no idea. But with occasional help from the locals, Google maps, and the Camino signs, I was guided to my destination.

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following the signs through O Porrino and finding my bed for the night; Albergue Alojamiento on the Camino Portugués

I didn’t make a pre-booked reservation for the night, but instead I’d taken note of an alburgue; Albergue Alojamiento recommended by someone on Facebook, and phoned ahead earlier in the morning. Yes, they could accommodate me. Awesome. What time will you arrive? Oh about 6pm maybe 7pm. Okay, we’ll wait for you.

As it turned out, I arrived at 4.25pm. I’d wanted to experience the Camino way of not having accommodation sorted months ahead but just phoning ahead on the day and hoping to get a place for the night. I was very happy they had a place at the inn for me 😉

Soon I was checked in and reclining on a very comfy bed in a mixed dorm close to a very busy noisy highway. Thank goodness for my foam earplugs.

Alojamiento Camino Portugues,

Alojamiento Camino Portugués

What a marvellous day. I’ve seen so many wondrous places, enjoyed amazing scenery and all the place names that I’d seen on the maps, researched and wondered about, are now coming alive.

End of Day 1 of my Spanish #Camino2017, and day 11 since I arrived in Porto. So far I have walked/travelled 140kms or so and I am astounded to realise that by Thursday night, all being well, I’ll be in Santiago. Buen Camino.

Walked 18.39 kms. 8 hours 47 minutes and 2 seconds door to door (of which at least an hour was spent in the walled city of Valença and on the bridge over the River Miño on the border between the two countries). Steps taken: 45,382.

After making the acquaintance of my room-mates; an elderly gentleman from Spain, 2 young Korean girls, a young man from the Netherlands and a young woman from I don’t know where, I made my bed and a had brief rest – socks airing above me, then a quick shower, and after repacking my bag and getting my clothes ready for the morning, I grabbed my phone and set off to explore…….

Day 11 exploring O Porriño

Read part 1 of my journey from Valença to O Porriño.

Exploring O Porriño

 

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2017.09.16 Day 10 – an evening in Valença.

Walked 4.5 kms / 8563 steps

After leaving Caminha, I soon arrived in Valença 🙃🙃 – only 20 minutes by train but a whole days walking. Sadly this was one of the sections I had to cut off my route once I completed the #SouthwarktoCanterbury and #WayofStAugustine walks in July and realised that with the backpack on, my pace is almost half what it normally is and I’d have no rest days.

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Valença station and the apartment block I stayed

instagram post: So the section from Esposende to Viana do Castelo and Caminha to Valença were my rest days. I’m glad of the breaks, it helps me physically and mentally to prepare for the next day. I finally located my lodgings and checked in at Residencial S Giao (graded #9 on my list of places I stayed on the Camino). I have a private room and ensuite bathroom for €30. The prices in this country are astounding, everything is so cheap, even the train ticket was only €2.95. Valença is a whole lot bigger than I anticipated so I’m guessing I won’t be exploring as much as I’d like to. Cest la vie 🙃🙃 I’ll have to come back for another Camino 😂😂😂💞

I was delighted to finally arrive in Valença after reading so much about it. I had read that it was a walled city, but by the time I arrived I was so tired that my brain didn’t really clock the ‘walled’ part of the city that was right in front of me when I arrived at the hotel. I thought it was just the wall of another fort, albeit a very well preserved fort in comparison to the others I had seen enroute from Porto to Caminha. So I didn’t really think much of it. As mentioned I was really tired, so as soon as the proprietor shut the door behind him I whipped my shoes off and crashed on the bed. I tried but couldn’t sleep. The noise from outside was horrid so I decided to close the windows (I’m a fresh-air fiend and usually love the windows open). As I leaned over the sill to close said window I happened to notice the wall properly and the turret I could see intrigued me, so I thought I’d at least make the effort to go look and possibly get something to eat. Woww.

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Fortress walls of Valenca – similar to what I saw from my hotel window

I was enthralled! Initially I could not quite get my head around what I was seeing. Then suddenly the penny dropped…ping!!! THIS!! was the walled city!! OMG. My head was spinning, from tired and surprise. Suddenly I was like “Oh no, I only have a few hours before sunset…will I have enough time to see it all?” I tried.. I think I pretty much succeeded.

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Porta do Sol, Valença Portugal

Valença; Northern Portugal’s fortress town, contains a settlement and has origins that date back to Roman times.

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descendants of those Roman horses?

Initially known as ‘Contrasta’ which means ‘village opposite to another’ – in this case Tui, across the river Minho in Spain – the name was changed to Valença by King Alfonso III during the 13th century.

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Entering the Fortress of Valença, Portugal

The ‘walled city’ is actually a fortress built across two hills with an enormous military advantage and cannons still adorn the ramparts facing across the river towards Spain; a reminder of Portugal’s military history in the days when the invading Spanish were not quite as peaceful as they are today.

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cannons; quite impressive. decorative rather than useful now, but still quite awesome

The first walls, a piece of gothic and baroque military architecture, were built in the 13th century and upgraded during the 17th and 18th centuries, and form the current bulwark design.

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Acougue Gate above and the walls that look pretty impregnable to me!!!

D. Afonso or Acougue Gate in one of the best preserved sections of the medieval fortification in Valença built during the 13th Century. Opened on the western side of the fortification is provided access to the Fonte de Vila located on the exterior. Archaeological excavations have yielded ancient remains dating back to Roman times.

The fortress walls have been destroyed several times; variously by the Barbarians, then the Moors, the armies of Asturias and Leon as well as  French troops in the 19th century.

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can’t imagine they would have been that easy to destroy

They were restored each time and are very well preserved. On 12 June 2009 Valença was officially made a city. It was absolutely thrilling to discover this place.

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Porta do Sol; entrance to the walled city of Valença, Portugal

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Paths of the Sacred Way of Valença.

There are a number of churches and chapels within the walled fortress of Valença. I managed to see a few of them in the short time I had.

1. Capela Militar do Bom Jesus and São Teotónio the first Portuguese saint was born in Ganfei near Valença, and was the confessor of King Afonso Henriques. The statue of S. Teotónio is a sculpture from the 20th century and evokes the figure of the 1st Holy Saint – the inspirer and protector of nationality.

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Capela Militar do Bom Jesus and statue of São Teotónio, Valença Portugal

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Capela Militar do Bom Jesus

Born in 1082 in the Valencian parish of Ganfei,  St. Teotónio died in Coimbra on February 18, 1162.  He became the first Portuguese saint to be celebrated as the reformer of religious life and is known as the patron saint of enslaved Christians, for having supported 1000 Mozarabic men, women and children, captured in an incursion to Andalusia by D. Afonso Henriques. Cannonised 1163, by Pope Alexander III, Rome.

2. The church of Santa Maria dos Anjos is the parish church of Valença built inside the medieval fortress.

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Santa Maria dos Anjos, Valenca, Portugal

This is where I bumped into Mel.

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Santa Maria dos Anjos, and Capela da Misericordia, Valenca, Portugal

Capela da Misericordia Valenca. Next to the altar of Christ aux Outrages, there is a niche added in recent times to highlight the Triptych das “Almas Pertencentes”.
This triptych, is listed in the parish registers since 1758. It represents a Last Judgement with a spectacular representation of Hell, in the flames of which are consumed the rich and powerful among which a king , a pope, a bishop, a monk … and many others! 

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Capela da Misericordia Valenca, Portugal

Founded on the eighth day of July of 1276. In the church are several altars and altarpieces built in a rich Baroque style. Although the church has a funeral chapel, the wooden panels that pave the floor of the entire church are the burials of wealthy families of the city. This was an absolutely fascinating church to visit.

3. Church of Santo Estevao, a 13th century temple located in the historic centre of Valenca. Reconstructed in the 18th century to a neoclassical design.

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Church of Santo Estevao a 13th century temple
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Capela de São Sebastião – The chapel of San Sebastián represented the last of the four stages of Via Sacra de Valença.

instagram post: Well what a surprise I got today. When I initially arrived at my hotel I wasn’t really in the mood for exploring and thought I might just rest. Hah!! Till I put my head out the window and glimpsed what looked like the edge of a fort. I immediately decided to get out and go see what it was. So at just after 5pm I set off….. Well, were my socks ever knocked off!!! 😳😳😳😳 It wasn’t a fort, but only a walled city!! Yes!! A whole city within the walls. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Of course my poor camera worked overtime as I whizzed around this marvellous place just revelling in the sheer amazingness of the place. I had my passport stamped at the main church and after wearing my feet out, I finally settled down to some supper and then went to watch the sunset. Eventually my battery died but not before I managed to capture my last Portuguese sunset 😊😊😊 I Sat on the ramparts for well over 30 minutes just enjoying the quiet and reflecting on the journey ahead. At some point in the city I bumped into Mel who I met on my first day out of Porto. What a delight to see her again. Andddd she told me that you can walk through the tunnels and walled city to reach the bridge that crosses into Spain 👏👏👏👏😀😀😀💕 So from tomorrow I’ll no longer say #bomcaminho but #buencamino as I start on my final 100 kms to #Santiago following the #CentralWay through #Spain Hurrah 😊😊😊 I’m so excited. 

The international road and rail bridge, inspired by Eiffel (as in the Eiffel Tower) across the River Minho was built in 1879, once invasions had become a thing of the past.

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The bridge to Spain; The Way to Santiago de Compostela – Tui in the distance

And what an extraordinary city it was. I can highly recommend that if you pass this way and have the time, you spend at least a few hours exploring this amazing place! People actually live there and have for centuries.

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ancient cobbled lanes and houses.

There are churches aplenty, restaurants, markets, outdoor eating and cool green squares and fantastic cobbled lanes (hell to walk on, especially when wet) and narrow streets lined with houses and shops offering a variety of goods from clothes, to marvellous embroidered linen, gorgeous painted china and tat (the £1 shop kind of tat LOL) and lots and lots of souvenir shops with an array of things to make your head hurt.

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scenes of the Fortress city of Valenca, an important city on the Camino route

The architecture is absolutely amazing and the houses are built higgedly piggedly virtually right on top of each other. I was seriously blown away. As mentioned in my instagram post, my poor camera worked overtime and eventually the battery ran down and the phone switched itself off just after the sunset. I was so mad at myself for not having my battery pack with. urgh. I always carry it. Anyway there it is. I think I captured pretty much just about every street, corner and building in the city that I passed along.valenca, fortress city valenca portugal, camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, santiago de compostela, walking the camino, notjustagrannyvalenca, fortress city valenca portugal, camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, santiago de compostela, walking the camino, notjustagrannyvalenca, fortress city valenca portugal, camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, santiago de compostela, walking the camino, notjustagranny

The views were spectacular and I so enjoyed my few hours walking around the walled city of Valença. As mentioned I bumped into Mel near the Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos at the far end towards the river. We chatted briefly. She was looking for their Priest who was to conduct the service at this church later on. Before saying goodbye again with the promise to meet up in Santiago on Friday, she told me that there was a Camino route through the walls and tunnels of the city!! What???? Seriously!!! I was totally intrigued by that snippet of information. Okay, so that was right up my alley (pun!! LOL) She didn’t have time to tell me more and where etc. and I was determined to find this route and follow it in the morning.

Time was marching on, so before heading over to watch the sunset, I decided to have something to eat. There was a little cafe nearby so I made my way  there and had another (the umpteenth) tosta misto and coke. The only thing I could order in Portugese that I was sure didn’t contain chicken or octopus LOL. It did contain ham, but cest la vie….a girl has to eat. I am so going to make sure that I speak and read a lot more of the language before my next Camino.

But first the sunset…..

I was just enthralled to be in Valença. It was totally surreal sitting on the walls of the fortress, aeons old with stories to tell that I couldn’t even begin to imagine. Besides that, I couldn’t quite believe I was actually there. It felt like a dream. I climbed right up onto the walls and sat in a gap between the ramparts, totally on my own – I felt so chilled, relaxed and amazed. What a life.

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sunset over Spain viewed from the Fortress in Valença. Isn’t life just amazing.

After sunset and before it got too dark, I walked back out the walled city, down to the river, so excited that I couldn’t wait for the morning….so I crossed the bridge on the downstream side to Spain (just because I could 🙂 ) and then back again on the upstream side, and on my return I looked carefully for the exit from the fortress. To my delight I found it quite easily and climbed a long, steep set of stairs and into the tunnels. The route was intriguing, twisting and winding through the tunnels, along ancient cobbled lanes, across the walls and arrived eventually back at the church where I had met Mel. Delighted that I had managed to trace the Camino route, I made mental notes of where to go; landmarks for the morning. I am soooo glad I did. What an extraordinary feeling to be walking in the footsteps of countless pilgrims who had followed this route over the centuries. I can’t describe fully how I felt….it was extraordinary.

The route; Valença is also a passage for the Way of St. James on the way to Santiago de Compostela, although many pilgrims now follow the road; Av. de Espanha that skirts the fortress (a real shame in my opinion. If more people knew of the route through the fortress I’m sure they would rather walk that way and enjoy the intriguing route). See Day 11 – my 1st Day of 5 from Valença to Santiago. – post to follow shortly.

After that little adventure, and totally excited that I’d found the route, since my battery was flat and I couldn’t take any more photos, I went shopping….as you do!! 🙂 From the next day onwards, I used the bag and wore the cap 😉

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time for a bit of shopping

And then it was time for bed. I had earlier, on arrival, bumped into my lovely group of 5 from Australia in the foyer of the hotel…seems they were also staying there. We had tentatively agreed to meet up later but when I knocked on the door there was no answer. Instead of a natter I had a fantastic hot shower and before long I was tucked up snug in bed. Goodnight Valença, I do wish I had another day to stay….next time 😉

Although my mind was whirling with excitement and thrilling in the knowledge that on the morrow I was to cross into Spain, I was really tired and despite the traffic noise I was soon fast asleep….my alarm set for 6am!! Whoooo!! Tui, Spain in the morning and the final 100kms to Santiago de Compostela…I could hardly wait to discover what adventures lay ahead?

In case you missed my morning in Caminha; a gorgeous town on the Portuguese Coastal Route of the Camino de Santiago.

(addendum. Unbeknownst to both of us at the time we bumped into each other outside the church, sadly Mel’s Priest had died. There in Valença. So tragic. I only found this out much later when I was near Padron in Spain by a very strange coincidence.)

 

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2017.09.15 Day 9 – Viana do Castelo to Caminha – sunrise to sunset

“Bom Dia” a cheerful, jaunty greeting that sums up every day I’ve had so far in Portugal.

Walked 30.28 kms / 65573 steps

Along The Way, I walked through a number of villages; Areosa, Afife and Carreço along old narrow roads that split several 19th Century farmhouses, until the old fishing village of Ancora on the Rio do Paco, through Fontela and finally into Caminha.

So yes, another very long day from Viana do Castelo to Caminha, after which I still had energy to rush over to the estuary and watch the sunset and take a brief exploratory walkabout 🙂

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from sunrise in Viana do Castelo to sunset in Caminha. what a fantastic day.

I’m insane, truly. I need to learn the meaning of……

Rest: verb : cease work or movement in order to relax, sleep, or recover strength.

rest: noun : an instance or period of resting. LOL – difficult!!

Seriously though, I wanted to make the most of my Camino, to see as much as possible without being hospitalised for exhaustion LOL. I have a philosophy in life; when I visit a place, I extract as much as possible from myself to see as much as possible before I move on. I never know if I’m likely to pass that way again, and being of an exceedingly curious nature, I find it impossible to be somewhere and not explore it thoroughly. So cest la vie…explore away.

Once again I met some lovely people along The Way, greeted everyone left, right and centre with “Bom Dia” and a big smile, or “Hola, Caminho?” and a huge grin when they responded with “si! Buen Camino”. The feeling of camaraderie on the Camino is amazing. I loved meeting people from all over the world, but today I just greeted, exchanged brief details and didn’t stop for any meaningful conversations.

Today I decided to instagram more often and to keep track of my distances as I went. I think I succeeded 🙂 So instead of writing a whole long epistle about my ‘step-by-step’ guide along the Camino from Porto to Santiago, I’ll let my instagram posts do the talking! – addendum (I did try, but verbosity overcame me once again, sorry LOL).

1) It’s 07:15 and incredibly, not only is it almost the exact time I left Vila do Conde on Wednesday, but the weather is gorgeous, I’m seeing the sun rising and I’m walking today… Wish me luck, I hope it bodes well. #bomcaminho #Camino2017 #VianadoCastelo to #Caminha

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07:21 sunrise on the banks of the River Lima, Viana do Castelo, Portugal

I took a walk down to the riverside to watch the sunrise. The colours were exquisite. I could get used to this. I’m not usually an early riser, but being on the Camino was such an incentive to get up early and enjoy walking before the day got too hot or busy. Saying goodbye to the Eiffel Bridge and a sad farewell to the town as I walked alongside the river, I soon reached the harbour.

2) It’s 9.15am, I’ve walked 5.28 kms and only now leaving the precincts of VdC. 😀😀On the way I stopped to capture the sunrise, a group of fishermen preparing their net, visited a church and got a stamp in my passport, then crossed 2 fields, a hedge, a ditch and a wall to get to the ocean and visit a tumbled down 18th century fort.

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fishermen in Viana do Castelo preparing their nets

Once I left the harbour I decided to visit the church I could see in the distance; Capela de N. S. a da Agonia, Viana do Castelo. It was still closed when I got there, so I sat on the bench in the gardens and ate my breakfast, and after a short interval, by a stroke of luck someone came along an unlocked the doors 🙂  Said person was also kind enough to stamp my passport….after much gesticulating on my part and showing him my pilgrim’s passport, with the word ‘caminho’. voila.

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Capela de N. S. a da Agonia, Viana do Castelo

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Of course by taking this little diversion I totally ended up on a road where I didn’t want to be; the dreaded N13. I wanted to walk alongside the ocean, not along a busy highway. So spotting a sliver of the ocean on the horizon, I headed west….and as the instagram post says….’2 fields, a hedge, a ditch and a wall’ later I finally reached the ocean.

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detours…..getting from here to there was like an obstacle course, although it looks flat, it wasn’t

I was undeniably unimpressed with myself. But it was worth it. Walking alongside the ocean was wonderful with the sounds of the waves crashing on the rocks and a cool ocean breeze blowing over me. And I found my first fort of the day….

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a good ocean breeze and a tumble down fort…what more could I ask for?

Never one to pass by a good ruin, I stopped briefly to explore. wow. 1703!! awesome.

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Forte de Rego de Fontes (1703), Viana do Castelo, Portugal

Then stretching my legs, and with Pepe settled comfortably on my back, and my walking poles, nicknamed ‘Gemini’ by now (twins haha), in full swing I strode along a superb pathway of gravel; ocean to the left, heading north. I absolutely love Portugal.

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following The Way

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following The Way

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

following The Way; both Coastal (red) and Littoral (white)

3) 9.58 kms walked. It’s just on 11am and Pepe and I have had enough so we’ve stopped for 2 cafe com leite and 2 buns. I’m hungry. It’s been a wonderful walk along the ocean, sometimes gravel, sometimes cobbled paving (hell on the ankles) and sometimes boardwalks which are my favourite. This place was like an oasis in the desert. I need caffeine and sugar. 😂😂💕 According to the map I’m doing okay. Slow but steady with an ankle that keeps shouting rude words at me and a hip that’s not happy.

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

an oasis…Tea and buns never tasted so good. I was sorry I didn’t have my metal mug that I’d bought especially for the Camino. Left at home due to weight

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

back to the boardwalks….bliss to walk along

The scenery now was just majestic! I relished in the discoveries I made along the way; quirky round stone buildings, old windmills, tumble-down stone houses, ancient forts and scarcely a place to stop for refreshments. Hah! I wish I had known how scarce the cafes would be! I’d have stocked up on goodies to eat and drink. Although I did have my water…a life-saver!

4) Walked 14.58 kms. After leaving my oasis, I headed back on to the boardwalks. That didn’t last long and I soon found myself following some seriously challenging pathways. It’s just after 1pm, I left my hostel 6 hours ago, and I’m taking a rest stop in Afife which is almost halfway 😀😀😀👏👏👏. The heat is horrible, the path is tough and I’ve done rock climbing, traipsed along boardwalks and dragged myself along the beach and along winding, rocky, ankle wrenching sandy paths. I’ve no idea if I’m following the correct route most of the time unless I see a marker, which I haven’t for quite some time now, but when I do, it appears I’m following the coastal and Littoral route; a bit of both. After stumbling out the trees I saw red tarpaulins in the far distance, and diverted my course in that direction. It turned out to be a garage which is what I suspected and I’m currently sitting in the blissful cool air of a roadside garage cafe drinking a Liptons iced tea and eating what is a delicious pineapple tart which was a gift of the proprietess after we chatted about the Camino. 😊😊😊💕 She also stamped my pilgrim’s passport. I may just reach Caminha this century 😂😂#bomcaminho

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

tumble down fishermen’s cottages

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

follow the signs…..from and to….keep your bearings; Littoral and Coastal

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

I stopped off to admire this rock…it has a story but I forgot what it is LOL sorry. something to do with stone-age peoples

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

finding the signs along The Way

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

spotted….when I saw this I got serious travel envy. I mean look at all those places visited.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

absolutely NO fun at all to walk along these sections, but I was on the right path…

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

never boring….this way and that way, along The Way, the signs are there

The path was a bit like a switch-back route along this section. At one stage I passed an open-air shower stop…probably for beach goers, and the temptation to just strip off to my undies and stand under cold water was overwhelming…but I desisted. I had places to go. I also didn’t want to get arrested for indecency!! hahaha.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

Praia de Paco, the showers, fab boardwalk, Forte de Paco, information board

First gravel, then suddenly boardwalk, then ankle-tugging sand, surprises round the corner (another fort!), in the space of 6 minutes you could go from rocky, sandy terrain and gravels paths to walking on the beach to striding along boardwalks (Oh how much I loved those boardwalks)

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

a visit to the beach along The Way. Just beyond this point I was plunged into brush again

Then deep groves of trees that looked shady but weren’t, and hot, hot, hot hot…….I have to admit that although I was really loving the blue skies, the heat was horrendous for me. I cannot tell you how stressful it was walking through ankle-tugging sand, dust puffing up with every footstep, the heat and flies sapping your energy and totally deserted. The only way I could keep my spirits up was by observing the footprints in the sand… grateful in the knowledge that other people had been this way. Again I locked onto a particular set of tread-marks and followed them. There were no desiccated bodies or skeletons lying about, dried up from heat and lack of water, forever turned to dust, lost, unidentified, unknown,eaten by coyotes or vermin….hahaha, you get picture. That was my state of mind. Sometimes, walking through this terrain, was just.hard.as.you.know.what!!

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

not fun…it was hot and dusty with lots of flies but no dead bodies. LOL Follow those footprints?

And flies!!! OMG!! flies in my hair, up my nose, around my mouth, sitting like suction caps on my arms…fcking gross. I did have an insect repellent spray called incognito, which is a natural product with no chemicals, in my bag, but I simply didn’t have the energy to stop, take Pepe off (heavy old sod), undo all the 10million ties and clips, dig through my bag….and blah blah blah, then go through the reverse before carrying on. So instead I just stomped along swatting and cursing and suffered on. blergh. horrible. LOL

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

civilisation in the distance, a rest stop at Afife (I stayed here for about 30 minutes)

After my brief respite at the garage cafe, I walked along a busy tarmac road. As I crossed a small stream I saw my first memorial; a sobering reminder that people die on the Caminho, and to be vigilant despite being really tired. I had noticed on mapmywalk that there was a turn-off further along that would take me back to the ocean side, so that’s what I did. I had no desire to be dodging traffic. And tarmac is hell on the heels.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

the varied terrain was unreal. You just never knew what to expect round the next corner

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

I loved walking alongside the ocean. I stopped off in this area to rest and just enjoy the scenery

I didn’t stop for resting as often yesterday as I did the day before but I certainly did stop to explore this fort. It was so intriguing… People used to live there. It’s obviously very ramshackle and tumbled down now, but so fascinating. I think I saw 4 in all enroute.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

5) Walked 18.5 kms and now just 8 km to Caminha. Look how far I’ve travelled : 95kms from Porto!! Brilliant. It’s been a challenging day but a good day. I’m so glad I made yesterday a rest day. My mindset is good and I feel strong albeit tired. I’ve loved the challenges that have come my way, and it seems that I have chosen to not do this the easy way 😂😂😂 if there was a difficult route to follow, I found it. #Camino2017

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

Look how far I’ve come!! 95 kms from Porto and 8 km to Caminha. What I didn’t realise is that 8kms was till the outskirts of Caminha urgh.  We won’t even mention how many kms to Santiago!

I loved seeing all the little hamlets, windmills and forts along the way, and much of the route was easy walking, but there were sections where I just wanted to sit down and cry or have a tantrum. Surprisingly I hardly saw anyone for ages along this stretch

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

in the distance I could see buildings – it wasn’t Caminha LOL I still had another 8 kms AFTER that. The sands are reclaiming the boardwalks here

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

I loathe railway crossings. Literally 2 minutes after crossing here a train came racing through. Horrors.

If I had but known, the trail actually continued along the beach. But I didn’t, so ended up adding 2kms to my journey going through the above section 😦

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

Praia de Vila Praia de Ancora – not Caminha LOL urgh.

I was so disappointed when I realised that the town I had seen in the distance an hour earlier was not my destination but the fishing town of Praia de Vila / Praia de Ancora. The bridge you can see in the distance (bottom left image above), was where I would have crossed if I had but known the trail continued along the beach.

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

Forte de Lagarteira, Ancora, Caminha, Portugal –  a Small fortified naval fortification covering mouth of the Ancora river; attributed to the reign of Pedro II of Portugal (1667-1705)

Discovering this fabulous fort cheered me up no end. I spent some time exploring.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

and then it was back to the Camino; a pedestrian path alongside a side road, then past a tiny chapel; Capela Santo Isidoro and then left back to the beach ‘Bom Caminho’ 🙂

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

você está aqui – it was terrific to see my progress. these maps along The Way were brilliant.

I really enjoyed finding these maps along The Way. As you can see the trail, a mix of boardwalks and gravel paths, is being developed right along the seaboard from Esposende to Caminha. Magic. Green = completed sections. Black = under construction

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

Before too long I was back on cobbled roads and walking through fields.

If you look at the top middle image above you will notice a yellow X painted on the pole. These were so helpful. If you felt tempted to walk that way because it looked like you should, these tell you ‘NO’ this is not The Way. Although you can’t see it, at my feet was a painted arrow on the edge of the sidewalk indicating the direction…..Follow the Yellow Arrows 🙂 which is what I did, through the tunnel beneath the railway line, past a small holding where a couple were digging up crops from a small garden, then after passing some empty fields the arrows directed me onto a road, Avenida Santana leading through the town of Moledo.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

following the signs – the outskirts of Caminha

Urgh, Once again I had to cross the railway line. One of my worst nightmares. Gives me the heebie jeebies. The trail now took me through industrialised areas. I think I may have seen about 3 people in 30 minutes. Lots of ramshackle buildings and the much loathed tarmac. You’d think because its flat and smooth its easy to walk on, but the impact is hard on the feet. I was ever so grateful for the arrows. I was so very tired by this stage that I really couldn’t even think anymore. Suddenly I was onto the Avenida Dr. Dantas Carneiro aka N13 which is a very busy road that runs from Viana do Castelo to Valenca. Fortunately I didn’t cross paths with this monster too often.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, viana do castelo to caminha, visit portugal

and then finally… Caminha

I found a sudden burst of energy when I realised I was on the edge of Caminha; the town proper. The river Minho estuary is exceptionally beautiful and I was keen to find my lodgings and then head back to watch the sunset. The town of Caminha is marvellous. I cut away from the N13 at the first opportunity and by following my nose and mapmywalk, now I was passing real houses with people going about their business. I walked right through the old town centre, left and then right and left again and then suddenly there it was Residencial Anosa Casa 🙂 Hoorah!!

6) Well Pepe and I finally reached Caminha and the hotel after 30.28 kms : 12 hours 3 minutes and 14 seconds door to door via a few diversions 😊😉🙃 Absolutely shattered. After quickly checking in I raced back to the sea front to watch the sunset… (I know, insane. I could barely walk, never mind race anywhere). But it’s my last coastal route sunset. Tomorrow I will be inland at Valenca. By an amazing coincidence I popped in at a crepe restaurant for supper and there was my lovely Russian room-mate from the last 2 nights; Lina. I was delighted as I wanted a photo of the two of us and had been sending the universe some messages to say I wanted to see her again. It turned out she was staying at a horrible albergue, so I invited her to share the twin room at my hotel ☺️☺️☺️ So for one last night we’ll be room mates

37 sunset 19.34 caminha

19:34 and sunset in Caminha 🙂 12 hours and 30 minutes and across the estuary; Spain!!

As soon as I had checked in and settled Pepe, I grabbed Gemini and made my way through the town to the river front, just in time for the sunset 🙂 It was sooo beautiful and I felt truly blessed to bear witness to such an amazing sight. I had been blessed with amazing, albeit very hot weather the whole day and to witness both a sunrise and a sunset was extraordinary.

I had arrived in Caminha, my last Portugese coastal town. I had indeed taken that young man’s words to heart; keep the ocean on your left and head north. What an absolutely fantastic journey. I find it hard to find the words to express how I was feeling at that moment. Exceptionally tired, but amazingly blessed 🙂

camino 2017, santiago de compostela, portuguese coastal route, porto to santiago, caminha portugal, visit portugal

The wonderful walled town of Caminha. So happy to be able to add this to my Project 101

After watching the sunset I made my way back into the town centre to explore and find something to eat. The fantastic clock tower was once the main tower in the medieval castle incorporated into the city walls and sat atop the main entrance to the citadel and the Rua Direita (Straight Road) that sliced through the centre of the citadel (top left image). During the 17th century a timepiece was installed and it came to be known as the Torre do Relógio (Clock Tower). To the right is the Igreja da Misericórdia.

Caminha has a history that dates back to Roman and possible even Phoenician times.

I was seriously hungry by now and decided to treat myself to a really special meal. I noticed a creperie and decided that would be perfect. .noterreiro was the perfect place to eat. As I sat down, to my absolute delight and surprise I saw Lina. We had been room-mates the previous two nights and I was thrilled to see her. We chatted for a bit and she mentioned that she was staying at a horrible albergue so I invited her to share my room at the hotel. She hurried off to fetch her backpack and belongings and I ordered a cheese omelette which was very different to the omelettes in the UK. Still hungry I then ordered a banana and nutella crepe…delicioso 🙂 They soon disappeared into my tummy. I had thought of having a Super Bock, but truthfully they taste so much better when you’re hot and bothered. So instead I settled for a coke. Sugar rush needed.

camino 2017, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, porto santiago

.noterreiro, Praca Conselheiro Silva Torres, Caminha 4910-122, Portugal +351 258 728 017

And then it was time for bed. Lina and I meandered through the town chatting away. She was crossing into Spain on the ferry in the morning to follow the route to Santiago via Vigo. It was so lovely meeting her; a Russian lady from New York!! Awesome. Camino 🙂

Exploring Caminha 2.10 kms / 5364 steps

Tomorrow morning I would explore Caminha thoroughly and then take the train to Valenca for my final night in Portugal before crossing into Spain. I was well excited!!

 

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2017.09.14 Day 8 – Viana do Castelo

The bus ride to Viana do Castelo was wonderful. Besides the fact that I wasn’t walking (LOL), the scenery was amazing. So many stunning little villages and places I would have loved to stop off for and explore…but time was hastening on.

Even though I didn’t walk the actual route today, I still did just on 11 kms between exploring Esposende and exploring Viana do Castelo. The origins of Viana do Castelo date back to before the Christian era. It received its first foral from King Afonso III of Portugal in 1258, as well as the name Viana da Foz do Lima, because of its geographical location. In 1848, by a decree of Maria II of Portugal, it received the name of Viana do Castelo and became a city.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Fountain at Praça da República, at the Praça da República (Republic Square) – This granite fountain, richly adorned with carved figures, was built by João Lopes in the 16th century.

VdC is a very big city with what looks like the most beautiful replica, albeit a lot smaller, of the Sacré Coeur in Montmarte, Paris, on the hill above the city. The Basilica of Santa Luzia, on Mt. St. Luzia is exquisite. Perched on top of a hill behind the city and reached by funicular or car. I guess you could probably walk….I didn’t 😉

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Riding the funicular to visit Santa Luze. Basilica of Santa Luzia, on Mt. St. Luzia Viana do Castelo

I hopped off the bus at the depot just behind the train station and after crossing via a pedestrianised walkway I followed an intriguing passageway and straight onto a wonderful pedestrianised area lined with fabulous architecture, restaurants and bakeries.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Viana do Castelo Train station. Casa de Carreira on Avenida Conde da Carreira

This manor house was founded by Fernão Botelho, a nobleman who settled in Viana do Castelo in the year 1519, when he was distinguished by D. Manuel I with the commendation of S. João de Cabanas, due to services rendered in the North of Africa. Following this wide avenue I made my way to the riverside and from there headed upstream back towards the bridge we had just crossed on the bus; Eiffel Bridge.

2 bridge

Eiffel Bridge (designed by Gustav Eiffel)

The HI Hotel (? a misnomer if ever there was one), was situated a short distance beyond. Gosh, I came down to earth with a bump. This venue was not at all what I had expected. In fact it is last on my list of places to stay. It was an unpleasant concrete edifice with no attractive features at all.

camino de santiago, viana do castelo

HI Hostel, Viana do castelo

But there it was, I had already paid for it and anyway it was very cheap. Although to be fair, the other places I stayed were equally as cheap, however, they were of a much BETTER quality than this place. I disliked it intensely. Cest la vie eh! All part of the experience. If I wasn’t so impatient to get out and explore I may well have just written the money off and gone on to find something else more suitable.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

HI Hostel, Viana do Castelo – not my favourite place to stay

As soon as I had been allocated my bed, I stuffed Pepe into the locker that didn’t lock and sending up a wee request to the Universe to keep an eye on the contents, I set off. Wow. I have to say this right now…. Portugal on the whole literally blew me away. It has been high on my list of places I really wanted to visit and it did not disappoint. As I was climbing towards the funicular station I passed a wee bakery and bought myself a couple of the traditional Portuguese pastries that are so famous; Pastel de Nata (Custard Tarts). Oh my word. They are delicioso.

On my way I passed this beautiful church; Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo,

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Viana do Castelo

so popped in for a look…absolutely stunning. The interiors are all so incredible.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

interior Igreja de Nossa Senhora do Carmo, Viana do Castelo

Riding in funiculars are a particular favourite of mine and if there’s one in town, I always endeavour to have a ride. For this ride I paid 3 euro return. Absolute bargain. Up, up and up we went. And oh joys, the cathedral was open.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Riding the funicular to visit Santuário de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo

One word.  13 letters. – Extraordinary!! Wow, even now as I look back at the photos, I’m blown away once again. The exterior is stunning, the interior is breath-taking. Santuário de Santa Luziaalso referred to as the Santa Luzia Temple-Monument or the Sacred Heart of Jesus Temple in Santa Luzia , is located on the top of Santa Luzia mountain, in the district of Viana do Castelo in Portugal.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Santuário de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo. Constructed in 1903, it was inspired by the Sacré Coeur de Montmartre in Paris.

Construction started in 1903/4 and the Shrine of Saint Luzia is widely considered to be inspired by the Basilica of Sacré Cœur in Paris, but this idea has been disputed, since, at the height of the project of Ventura Terra (1899), the Parisian church was still under construction with no visible configuration. However, it looks like a mini replica of the Sacré Coeur in Montmatre, and absolutely exquisite. It has to be seen to be believed. The pure white exterior is dazzling and looked astounding against the blue of the sky. Free to visit, enter via the front steps and as you step into the round interior, prepare to be astounded. Tried to think of another word, but what best describes it; magnificent!!

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Santuário de Santa Luzia, Viana do Castelo

The ceiling is absolutely exquisite. I’d be hard put to find words that would sufficiently describe how beautiful the interior and exterior of this church. I’ll let the photos do the talking. All I will say is that if you’re in Viana do Castelo, do make a plan to visit this church. It is so well worth the effort. The funicular is only 3 euro return and they stamp your pilgrim’s passport too. You can also climb to the dome for 1 euro (at the time I was there). I didn’t because after climbing a multitude of towers and domes and hills I’d had enough and said no more. Hah. What was that I said about no more hills? Still had Spain ahead of me LOLcamino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelocamino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelocamino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelocamino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Back to VdC. The panoramic views from the church were stunning and you could see for miles and miles. I was blessed with a beautiful clear day.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

view of Viana do Castelo from the Basilica of Santa Luzia

From there I made my way back down into the city to explore. I spent a few hours meandering the streets, finding fascinating buildings of all shapes and sizes. I was wishing I had another day to spend in this fascinating place.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Antigos Paços do Concelho (Town Hall), Viana do Castelo – located in the Praça da República

This intriguing fortress like building; Antigos Paços do Concelho is the old 16th century town hall. In the facade you can see the coat of arms of the city: a boat and an an armillary sphere.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

scenes of Viana do Castelo – Porta de Santiago

I visited the cathedral;  Sé Catedral de Santa Maria Maior, also called Viana do Castelo Cathedral is a Catholic church and fortress built in the 15th century. A Romanesque church with a Latin cross, the facade is flanked by two large towers topped by battlements, and highlights its beautiful Gothic portal with archivolts with sculpted scenes from the Passion of Christ and sculptures of the Apostles.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Sé Catedral de Santa Maria Maior also called Viana do Castelo Cathedral

Inside, are the chapels of St. Bernard (by Fernão Brandão) and the chapel of the Blessed Sacrament, attributed to stonemason, João Lopes the “old”.

The interior was so beautiful I could have stayed for hours, so peaceful and ethereal.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

interior of the Sé Catedral de Santa Maria Maior also called Viana do Castelo Cathedral

 

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

The Cathedral of St. Mary the Great (Portuguese: Sé Catedral de Santa Maria Maior

One of the things that amazed me was that people hung their laundry up to dry on lines in front of their homes….clearly theft of laundry is not an issue in VdC.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

streets of Viana do Castelo

There was a lot of interesting graffiti that I wish I knew more about.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Graffiti or Street Art? – Viana do Castelo

One of the streets had colourful umbrellas hanging overhead.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

colourful umbrellas

I visited the harbour where I saw a ship built the same year I was born. Hello Gil Eannes, you’re looking mighty fine for an old lady…much like me I guess LOL

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Gil Eannes, Viana do Costelo Harbour, Portugal

The view of the church on the hill from this perspective was wonderful, and the setting sun bathed the walls in a soft pink. I walked all the way to the edge of the harbour, a beautiful evening. Sadly I just couldn’t find a way to the sea for the sunset.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

sunset in Viana do Castelo, Portugal Torre de Vigia – This is the old pilot station of the port of Viana do Castelo.

Fountains, churches, memorials, a fort, a lighthouse, ancient fishermen’s houses, beautiful tiled ceramics; a heady mix of old and ancient history, the streets of Viana do Castelo were just amazing.

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

sculptures and monuments

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

fishermen’s cottages

 

camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route porto to santiago, viana do castelo

Fort of Santiago da Barra, on Campo do Castelo. Consisting of an quadrangular outer wall with the Roqueta tower in the center, this fort was constructed during the reign of Dom Manuel I.

As I was walking back to the hostel I stopped off at a small local restaurant for supper. I chose the soup which was so delicious I had a 2nd bowl. Freshly made vegetable and lentils with fresh crusty bread. Yummy. And then it was time to head back for bed.

Altogether an amazing day. Tomorrow it’s the coastal walk to Caminha where I’ll spend the night before heading inland to Valenca and my last night in Portugal before heading over the border into Spain. I can’t quite believe it. I’m almost halfway thru my #Camino2017 I’ll be really sad to say goodbye to Portugal.

If you missed my earlier post; a morning in Esposende

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2017.09.14 Day 8 – a morning in Esposende and then onto Viana do Castelo

After yesterday’s marathon walk I was pretty much exhausted by the time I arrived at my hostel. I had decided to bus today instead of tomorrow and give my hip and ankle a rest. They were fairly painful and I didn’t want to do any damage. So after a quick meal, a lovely hot  shower and putting out my clothes for the morrow and repacking my bag (done at night so as to not disturb my room-mate in the morning), I settled in and soon fell into a deep sleep. The foam earplugs I carried with me were an absolute bonus. I could have slept through an invasion and not heard a thing! I loved that the bunk had a dedicated locker, so I could pack Pepe away along with all my valuables and not worry about any of it continuing along the Camino on it’s own. 😉

Come morning, I needn’t have worried about disturbing my room mate! By the time I woke up she was long gone LOL. I dressed and popped downstairs for a lovely breakfast and then checked out officially…but left Pepe at the hostel while I went walkabout. Having decided to bus to Viana do Castelo and discovering that the buses are not that frequent, I had time for a brief explore of this town of Esposende, which is apparently a city!! There you go then!! Esposende gained city status on 2 July 1993 🙂 In 1801 the population was 4,157 and in 2011 34,254.

What a delightful ‘city’. Just a short walk away from the hostel was the main square, the roads are mostly narrow and cobbled, gaily coloured awnings covering cafe tables set out for patrons, and brilliant to see artisan shops and local stores rather than streets lined with charity shops, one-pound stores and ubiquitous high-street grocers. #noTesco

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the streets of Esposende

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The main Square, the beautiful Teatro Club with a fabulous interior, a church, the fantastic cycle and pedestrian lanes, an interesting coat of arms, and the Maritime Museum

I was well impressed with the pedestrian and cycle lanes. They are light years ahead of Britain in this respect…although to be fair, these lanes were not in the city centres or older towns. Still I think our road people should have a look.

Occupation of the area of Esposende, dates back to pre-history, but nowadays there are only artefacts of stone or ceramic, with Roman occupation known through archaeological finds, including the barbarian kingdoms and Middle Ages.

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Esposende – Coat of Arms – The arms were officially granted on April 27, 1995.

There are some fantastic churches in the town, and as with all the churches I had visited so far, the interiors were stunning. One of the churches, the Church and House of Misericórdia dates back to 1579, while the current building dates back to the 1893 renovation works. The interior is of Rennaisance aesthetics and the chancel has a beautiful baroque woodcarving, surmounted by a 17th-century altarpiece where Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia (Our Lady of Mercy) is presented. The church had a pilgrim’s stamp set up, so you could just stamp your own passport, and to my delight I found a small statue of St James perched on a decorative sconce on the wall with a Camino sign beneath 🙂 So exciting!!! The ceiling was absolutely stunning, decorated with polychrome woodcarvings representing the prophets.

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Nossa Senhora da Misericórdia (Our Lady of Mercy)…so beautiful

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the mouth of the river, ship in the children’s playground, fantastic sculpture; Monument to the Men of the Sea, the town square and an intriguing sculpture; bust of a firefighter

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scenes of Esposende – note the stunning boat sculpture in the fountain. The statue is of King Sebastian who, on 19 August 1572, by Royal Charter, turned Esposende into a village

The boat sculpture was inaugurated in 2010 as a tribute to the Atlantic fishing vessel of the fishing community of Esposende. The Catrain is a traditional open boat (although in this instance they took the concept of ‘open’ a bit far ;). The tiled wall I saw inside the Teatro Club and the view of the square is from the balcony of the same building.

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scenes of Esposende – Capela do Sr. dos Aflitos, old buildings, a sea-side sculpture; Cavaleiro and map of the river and estuary

And then it was almost time to go. Esposende to Viana do Castelo. Sadly I would be missing out on visiting the Monastery and seeing the Ponte Sabastiao enroute. Oh well.

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Camino de Santiago – Esposende to Viana do Castelo – the signs are there 😉

After checking out of the hostel Pepe and I took a walk along the road to visit the fort and lighthouse. Set in front of the Forte de São João Baptista de Esposende. The 15 metre tall lighthouse that dates back to 1922 is unusual in that it is made of metal. The fort dates back to the late 17th century and was built to guard the mouth of the river Cávado just behind Esposende’s beach. The fort looks very derelict, but from the washing on the line, I’m guessing someone lives there.

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The Farol de Esposende (Esposende Lighthouse)

While exploring I noticed some tiny blue arrows and white metal church shaped insets in the paths and streets. Seems there’s a mini-camino route in town that takes you to the many churches in the area. To much for me on that particular day….but if I ever return!!

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The estuary and Camino dos Mareantes, Esposende…intriguing

On the bus to Viana do Castelo, my next overnight, looking out the window as the countryside and villages whizzed by nearly killed me…. seeing all the photo ops I’m missing 🤧🤧 But better to rest than not be able to walk at all by tomorrow. It’s 24kms from Esposende to Viana do Castelo. I’ll walk again tomorrow. Once I leave Tui on the weekend there will be no rest days.

I was blessed with another fantastic day of blue skies and sunshine……

Buen Camino 🙂 I’m loving my #Camino2017

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Bom Caminho

and whilst the road to Esposende was not paved with gold, the gold from Brazil reached Esposende during the age of the great Atlantic voyages 🙂

If you’d like to read more about my Camino adventures
Day 5 – Porto to Vila do Conde

Day 6 – Vila do Conde – rest day

Day 7 – Vila do Conde to Esposende

Don’t miss Day 8 part 2 – an afternoon in Viana do Castelo

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2017.09.13 Day 7 – Vila do Conde to Esposende – expected distance: 22kms (not!!)

Walked 27.71kms. 65029+ steps

The road to Esposende is not paved with gold.

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time to go – Vila do Conde to Esposende

My post on instagram: It’s 7:07 on 13th September and I’m on my way. This is my 2nd day of walking on the Portuguese Coastal Route. Sad to be leaving leaving Vila do Conde but I’m excited to be heading to Esposende, which is apparently 22kms away (as it turned out, it was substantially further, but that may be because I kept going ‘off-piste’ to explore LOL).

It was a stunning day on the coast of Portugal. I left the guest house in Vila do Conde at 07:07 and got my wish for the day; I watched the sun rise.

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sunrise in Vila do Conde looking upriver towards the Santa Clara Convent

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sunrise in Vila do Conde looking downriver towards the sea

Fabulous. I stopped here for a while and ate some of the breakfast the Erva Doce Guest House had prepared for me. Watching the sunrise is such a privilege.

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watching the sunrise in Vila do Conde

I eventually left VdC at just after 8am after faffing around taking photos of the various sculptures, my shadow (?) and then re-visiting the chapel on the seafront.2 vdc day 64 the chapel I particularly loved this sculpture….she looks stoic, resigned, and sad…waiting for a boat that never returned?

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waiting…..

This section of the route was so beautiful and I was hard-put to not stop every 5 seconds to take photos. I spotted a most gorgeous church with a beautiful memorial in tiles.

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Povoa de Varzim

Along the way I met a delightful couple from Poland; Jakob and Agata. We chatted all the way to Povoa de Varzim and I barely noticed Pepe weighing me down. We stopped to admire a fabulous tiled wall. I love that there are so many of these fabulous tiles right across Portugal; azulejo with Povoan boats and siglas poveiras marks; a form of ‘proto-writing system’ thought to derive from the Viking writing system known as bomärken from Scandinavia.  Archaeological finds in the area, including stone tools, suggest that the Póvoa de Varzim area may have been inhabited as far back as 200,000 years ago. 

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Me, Agata and Jakob in front of the Muro de Azulejos in Povoa de Varzim

Once we reached Pavoa de Varzim I sadly parted company with Jakob and Agata who rejoined their group to go find breakfast whilst I went in search of coffee. I spotted a little wooden shack on the beach, one of many, and stopping at the 3rd one along I ordered my ‘cafe com leite grande y croissant por favor’. Yummy; I really got into the strong coffee and pastry for breakfast thing. My language skills had by now gone from ‘hola, camino?’ and ‘gracias’ to a whole sentence hahaha. I was ever so pleased with myself.

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practising my Portuguese and asked for coffee at Jóse and Teresa’s shack in Povoa de Varzim.

Just on 11:22 after my coffee at Teresa’s shack I set off and soon saw my first Camino markers; now that’s more what I was expecting. 😉😉😉

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Finding the signs along The Way 🙂

I met some really lovely people on the route and it was most enjoyable just chatting away as we walked. The disadvantage of course was that I missed quite a few photo opportunities that I wanted to capture, but felt like I didn’t want to hold them up. Which is one of the reasons I prefer to walk on my own…even though it’s really lovely to meet folk from all over the world.

I’ve got 25.1 kms to Esposende and done 7.98 so far. Bom Caminho I’m loving my #Camino2017

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a tad overloaded would you say? Laundry drying, my food bag…I looked like a bag lady!! LOL

I had such a fantastic day. On the route I met two ladies from Ireland with whom I chatted for a while. When I commented on how little luggage they had, they laughed and told me about Tuitrans, they had sent their backpacks ahead. Hmmm…food for thought.

Waving goodbye I set off jauntily, waving at everyone and wishing them Bom diaz or Bom Caminho depending on how they were dressed; no backpack and boots = local – a backpack, boots and waking poles = pilgrim ;).

A young lady sitting on a wall chatting on her phone wished me Bom Caminho as I whizzed by which nearly made me cry. It was so unexpected and so wonderful. 💞💞🙃🙃🙃 I stopped in my tracks and with tears in my eyes; “gracias Senorita”. If she hadn’t been on the phone I would have hugged her!! I’m loving my #Camino2017

Getting back onto the boardwalks was fantastic. They were so easy to walk along and allowed you the freedom to enjoy the scenery while walking without having to worry about which way to go.

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such a gorgeous day and the boardwalks are fantastic

There were so many wonderful sights long the route; chapels, windmills, memorials….

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chapels, windmills, memorials

I loved these little structures….haven’t been able to find out what they were.

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loved this little building.

I really got into the spirit of the camino and wished just about every soul I passed ‘bom caminho’ Mostly they responded, sometimes not. In truth, the locals were lovely. Mostly pilgrims responded in kind, but the people I found the least friendly (sorry guys) were the German men. The German ladies on the whole were friendly enough, but the most friendly were the Irish, Portuguese, Eastern Europeans pilgrims and occasionally the Americans, who tended to be very focussed. I didn’t meet anyone from France.

Just after 11am I reached QuiAo; walked 9.73 kms. The weather was stunning, and I was blessed with a beautiful day, albeit already hot….which I did not enjoy.

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I was blessed with some wonderful days

11:15 and time for my first Super Bock of the day. Okayyy, I know, I know we hadn’t crossed the yardarm yet, but it was hot 😂😂😂

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QuiAo and my first Super Bock of the day

By this stage I was beginning to struggle with my backpack, but motoring on. I tell you what, my walking poles were a blessing. I was able to set an easy flowing pace and with the momentum I whizzed along the boardwalks…which btw are bloody marvellous. The poles will be my #1 essential item for any future walks, whether in the UK or EU.

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my wonderful walking poles….they were a life-saver

Suddenly to my delight I came across the Caminho Beach Bar!!! I had seen photos of this place on facebook and instagram and was hoping I’d see it too 🙂 And there is was!! I stopped and bought a shell on which I wrote my name and hung it on the board. I wonder if they take some down each night, wash them and sell them again LOL I also bought the first ice-cream of the day!! Magnum Double Framboesa. Delicioso 😉

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The Caminho Beach Bar 🙂

Whizzing along, in the distance I spotted the spire of a church. Never one to miss the opportunity to visit another church, I diverted from the track and made my way along a narrow winding road. I didn’t see many people except for the occasional car going by…usually at speed!! Hello!! narrow roads? Slow down buddy. The houses were painted a delightful array of pastel colours, and some a brilliant white that hurt the eyes. The area is very dry and the fields don’t look as if they could support any sort of vegetation, never mind anything useful. I found a whole new appreciation for England’s green fields, trees, bushes…you get it 😉 Mind you the blue skies….heavenly!!

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Aguacadoura, Portugal; blazing hot and very dry. I think the idea of siesta is very sensible.

The church was beautiful, albeit closed. Darn!! Opposite were the ruins of a beautiful chapel. Aguçadoura is a Portuguese freguesia (“civil parish”) and former civil parish located in Póvoa de Varzim. I spent an hour here, resting in the shade. If I saw 3 people, it was a lot. Siesta, maybe. Good idea 😉

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Igreja de Aguçadoura, in the parish of Povoa de Varzim, Portugal

Setting off just before 2pm, I found the boardwalks once again…they stretched into the distance. Betwixt and between, I was wishing by this stage that I had planned a shorter day, but I was still loving the walking and the boardwalks which went on and on and on.

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the boardwalks were marvellous, made following the route so easy

Just after 2pm the boardwalks ended and the track changed to road and paths, I didn’t like them at all!! The markers were still prominent and I had no difficulty finding them. I had stopped off at a roadside cafe for a drink and nibble, and another Magnum Double Framboesa, shortly before the boardwalks ended…thankfully. What lay ahead was not fun at all.

Still following the markers which were a welcome sign. It got hotter by the second and within no time at all I’d emptied my 2ltr water bladder and my 750ml water bottle was being used sparingly. There were no cafes, restaurants, hotels or lodgings to speak of and I didn’t want to divert in case I got lost trying to find a non-existent mirage.  But I carried on; staggered on more like – exhausted and overheating, I was soaked with perspiration. And sun-burned. 😦 Hot. Hot. Hot.

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I did not like this new terrain. I had been perfectly happy with the boardwalks…thank you!!

After an exceedingly long, tiring and energy draining stretch I back-tracked slightly and turned off along a side road, that I’d passed earlier, which lead to a caravan park hoping they’d be able to give me water. I was desperate by then. Thankfully they were open and bliss of bliss had a cool, shady cafe where I holed up for an hour downing a couple of delicious, ice-cold Coke-Cola (horrors! I usually avoid coke, but omw it does the trick when you’re dehydrated and exhausted). I removed my shoes and socks and rested my legs which were horribly swollen by then, the cool air on my feet was blissful. I topped up my water bladder and had something to eat.

An instagram post: “Apparently it’s another 9.8 kms to Esposende, so all told I’m doing okay. If I didn’t stop to take photos every 5 seconds I could be there by now 😉😉😉”

The Orbitur camp site was a blessing, albeit 1.6 kms off the route, I’m so glad I back-tracked and made the effort. As I arrived at the camp I met a lovely young man from Cyprus with perfect English who had the same idea as me, get out the sun…except he checked in to the camp and stayed overnight. Clever lad. Unfortunately I had booked accommodation in Esposende so had to crack on.

Setting off again just after 4pm, and an hour later, just before Apulia I saw a sign that made my heart go cold. A diversion!!! What to do? Oh lord. I had read on the facebook camino pages how some albergues change signs to divert you to their premises, or weirdos change signs around for nefarious reasons. So when I saw that sign I literally stopped in my tracks. I decided right there and then (excuse the french) “fck that, I’m carrying on in the direction I was going! No desvio gracias”, and anyway I could still see signs showing the way – not the diversion. And then a short distance later, the reason for the diversion became apparent LOL They were digging up the road. Bless them, the workers, they stopped everything and let me squeeze through.

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Diversion?! No thanks!!!

And then to my delight I spotted a church! Bonus. 🙂 If I’d followed the diversion I wouldn’t have seen it. But, if I’d followed the diversion, apparently, as I found out later, I could have not only found a cafe to buy water, but I would have walked back to the beach and avoided what came next!! I wish that I had thought to get some more water at that stage, even knocking on someone’s door would have been sensible!!

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Caminhos De Santiago – Apulia – Esposende

It was now just on 5pm and I had left Vila do Conde at 7am…I was tired, and hot and thirsty. What to do? Nothing except keep walking. I located the markers and carried on.

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not a happy bunny, but still taking photos LOL

The road to Esposende was NOT paved with gold. In fact it was, at some points, just bloody awful. But hey, I’m here writing to you so I must have made it through LOL. Still following the markers which were scarce and not always easy to see, the path went off into brush and trees with only a very narrow sandy road to follow; it was horrible. The profusion of footprints was encouraging. Pilgrims came this way…..

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seeing the signs, albeit scare was very encouraging.

It really was blazing hot and I could not bear the sun any more. It was also terribly dry and arid on this section and there had been no sign of habitation for about 6 kms and the worst was still to come. When I hit the next section I was about ready to give up and this was the first time on the Camino that I felt uncomfortable. I remember stopping briefly and looking around thinking that if I disappeared here, I’d never be found.

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this was not a happy place to be on your own

Thank goodness the signs were still there or I’d have thought for sure I was lost.

The distances were really confusing. Depending on which guide you read, or which site you visit, the distances to towns along the way were different. It would help if you knew from which point they take their measurements. And don’t even mention Google maps!!!

Then finally, just as I was getting really desperate….signs of civilisation! Hoorah!!

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Hoorah! Signs of civilisation – Portugal I ❤ you too

As I reached Fão, I got a phone call. It was the young man from Hostel Eleven who was calling to ensure I was okay and hadn’t had any mishaps – it was that late in the day. I assured him I was just a short distance away. The last 15 kms were sheer hell. Hot!! Dry! Dusty! So many times I was sure I was going the wrong way and then I’d see a Camino marker… And so it went, through very rural Portugal along deserted, cobbled streets, sandy lanes, thick dry brush, scrub and scrappy trees and sometimes a mix of both. It all started so well 😉

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Hostel Eleven. Fao. Esposende 2kms 🙂

I remember how excited I got when I saw the Hostel Eleven van…I thought I was near… I wasn’t. 😦 When I reached Fão I noticed the Camino signs taking the route across the road, past a church and presumably along the riverside. But I didn’t have the energy to cross the road so just carried on. Not my brightest idea as the pavements were scarce and I was battling a tide of vehicles coming from behind…some of which passed within a whisker….probably cursing this stupid woman walking along the road. I cannot tell you my overwhelming relief when I arrived at the bridge….nearly there. I was shattered.

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Ponte metálica de Fão – the bridge between Fão and Esposende – Cávado River

But the Camino wasn’t finished with me yet!! Just after I crossed the bridge I missed the turn, the safer route….and as a result I had to contend with traffic at a round-about, walk along a road with a 50 miles p.h. speed-limit and cross a very busy, narrow bridge. At times I had to step down into the water channel alongside the tarmac and squeeze myself into the bushes lining the road to avoid the traffic going by. Urgh. Horrible.

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despite the signs, this was not the best way to go….But I was in Esposende 🙂

I staggered into town stopping the first 2 people I saw and in my broken Portuguese (read: non existent Portuguese) I asked if they knew where the hostel was? Hah! Imagine my surprise when they replied in English with a very British accent; sorry but no. LOL. I finally arrived at the hostel in Esposende after wandering about a bit trying to find the place and finally resorting to mapmywalk. Hostel Eleven #4 on my list of places I stayed on the Camino. A nice little hostel, very clean. He welcomed me in and immediately gave me something to drink, saying that most pilgrims get in mid-day or early afternoon. Hmmm, yes, well not every pilgrim is daft enough to keep stopping to take photos…of everything they see; 100’s of photos. hahahaha.

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Hostel Eleven, Esposende. The 2nd place I stayed on my Camino

Time of arrival: 19:07 – Bless him, he had been really concerned about me. He showed me around and to my quarters for the night. Bright, colourful, breezy and clean!!! I was suitably impressed and rather glad I could use the kitchen to prepare a meal…finally the packet of 2-minute curry noodles I had been carrying around were put to good use. LOL

I made a very welcome cup of tea, ate my noodles, had a shower and went to bed and sleep. 😕😴😴😴😴 I didn’t even have the energy to go out and buy a proper meal or explore. The day had started so well.

27.71 kms Vila do Conde to Esposende. 12 hours 21 minutes and 15 seconds from the times I started walking. 😢😢😢😢

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the road to Esposende is not paved in gold

I’d made it, albeit very very tired. But today’s walk caused me to change my plans for the next two days. I had planned on walking to Viana do Castelo on 14th and bus to Caminha the 15th, but I swapped that around. Took the bus to Viana do Castelo and walked to Caminha. Good plan. It also gave me the opportunity to explore Esposende for a few hours in the morning. And a much needed rest day. The bus ride to Viana do Castelo was terrific and I saw more of the area than I would have walking along the beach.

My favourite people of the day were Jakob and Agata from Poland. I was so sorry to lose touch with them at Povoa de Varzim when I went off for coffee and they went to get breakfast, but I suspected that they would walk a lot faster than me, and they were with a group of friends, so I didn’t want to hold them up. Besides the fantastic conversation we had while walking, Jakob was wearing a pair of pants that I greatly admired…which he loved hahaha. I hope someone knows them and I can connect with them again.

Since I started my Camino on Monday in Porto (seemed much longer than that already) I’d met a couple from South Africa, and then in order of appearance I met people from UK, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Poland (the lovely Agata & Jakob), Ireland, Spain (Barcelona), a lovely Portuguese gentleman who lived locally in Povoa de Varzim with whom I had a most marvellous 10 minute conversation, and the young man from Cyprus. I had conversations, some just briefly, with all the people I met, mostly because I said “hello”. Wonderful!!

Today was a very tough walking day and except for the Camino markers I would have thought I was lost. At one stage there was quite literally nothing I could see in front, back, to the left or right except trees and dusty road…. I was grateful for the footprints in the sand; there was one set of prints I locked onto and followed, they were like a beacon in the night…I was going in the same direction. I’m mentioning this again because it was a very isolated section, between Apulia and Fão. and if you’re on your own like I was….so just a heads up. I felt really uncomfortable and remember thinking that if anyone with ill intent came along at that point, not only would I have not had the energy to scream or run, but there was no-one to hear. I could have disappeared and no-one would have known where I was. It was one of two days of the whole walk that I felt really isolated; perhaps I was picking up on some vibes. Who knows. The only other time I felt the same was between Viana do Castelo and Caminha where I encountered a similar environment.

I spent some time thinking about the pilgrims who had gone before me. We are like seeds, all in one place for a brief moment in time, then scattered to the winds. As hard as the afternoon was, I’m still loving this experience. My #Camino2017 ❤ 

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