Monday, April 23, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 11 - Branca

23 km. It was only 17 km to Albergaria de Velha so added another 6 km to Branca's albergue.
Menacing sky but in the end no rain.
More trails, less tarmac, which is good. Idyllic countryside with some great vista and people fishing. The broken bridge from a flood a few years back was supposed to be our route but now replace by the bridge along the main road as seen from the map with the overlay.
Still can't get over the small scale farming here. This has got to be the smallest vineyard I have seen, just one 20 meters row of vines..
Like in Galicia, eucalyptus trees,
(Import from Australia). These can be dangerous in hot dry weather.
A short day's walk (we were in the albergue by 2 pm). The albergue is essentially a house besides the main road. Bar/cafe and supermaket are quite far away. They do stock up basic stuff like beers, chips, drinks with a price list and a money box for us to pay (self service with trust) outside in the patio. The hospitalero brought a few of us in her car at 5 pm to the supermarket. Lucia has volunteered to cook pasta again for dinner. Today's menu is pasta with shrimps and broccoli. I volunteered my two cans of mackerel and cod fish for hors d' oeuvres, and strawberries with lemon and sugar for dessert. Too many cooks to help, but the main cook is Mama Lucia. A potential short day tomorrow so big expectation as we will switch to the other Italian Carolina for the cook, that is if there is a kitchen in the albergue tomorrow. Can't write anymore, must be the wine.....

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 10 - Agueda

The rain's back! It started in the late morning until late afternoon. Distance about the same as yesterday, another 26 km.
The old Korean couple got up really early at 6 am day and despite making as little sound as possible, I decided I may as well get up, get  prepared (forgot my laundry still outside) and said goodbye to them 
After a tearful goodbye to Julie and leaving the albergue, it was a nice walk in the woods. Had the first coffee 2 plus km later (the albergue's cafe wasn't open till 8 am).
Except for the first 2 km of walking in the woods, the rest of the day's walk is on tarmac. Sunday flea market outside the football club. Was going to complain about hard surface walking when it rained at around 11 am. Still wet but at least no mud in the hard surface.
Got an email from Ryan. He's in Porto. Must have taken a bus/train there from Coimbra. Probably decided to skip this part and continue his walk from Porto.
Nice city center of Agueda by the river. The albergue is situated uphill right outside the city when I arrived at 2:15 pm, followed shortly by the other three and Jim. Little by little it was almost full. Two other French ladies (one has a bad cough, poor thing), and a girl from Japan walking Camino Frances then down towards Lisbon (even more aggressive than the old Korean couple).
The last were the three Frenchmen from the early days of walking, separated at Santarém as they headed towards Fatima and now back on the same track towards Santiago... like a reunion.
No dinner at the albergue (12 euros, breakfast 5 euros) but it has a kitchen and the ability to order for food delivery. The supermarket is a 5 hundred meters before the albergue and downhill. I ordered a delivery meal for 8.50 euros instead. Next thing I know the three of them came back from the supermarket with stuff to cook, including for me. Too late! Bad coordination, sigh.
Never thought that they will go downhill and up again.
Jim outside the reception waiting for our food delivery.
Lucia making spaghetti carbonara later.
Could only take two mouthful, was too much after having my food delivery. An excellent spaghetti given the fact they could not find the right cheese and bacon.
No laundry today, just hope the shoes, socks and the pant's bottom cutoff are dry in time for tomorrow.
A cute blue eye cat joined me outside enjoying the Sun after the rain stopped (right around the time we arrived at the albergue). That's life...

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 9 - Mealhada (Sernadelo)

Shorter 26 km today.
At the first stop spoke a bit with a woman (Brideen?) from Ireland. She does the walk with shorter daily distance from Lisbon and will be stopping in Porto. Also, an English guy Jim starting his first day from Coimbra.
Second stop in Mala, the whole from yesterday except Julie (still behind) at the same cafe for food and drinks. I left first and before Mealhada, reconnected with Brideen on the road. Last opportunity to chat as she will be staying in Mealhada and given her daily mileage probably the last time I will see her. That and one more stop in Mealhada for coffee with her. The Italian ladies and Ricardo passes by. The albergue is in Sernadelo (1.5 km outside Mealhada). Saying bye to Brideen (she's got a hotel in Mealhada) and a short walk later and day's walk is over at 2:40 pm. Good day to do my laundry. Ryan was not here (no idea where he ended up).
I like it that many of the albergue here in Portugal are actually hostel that normal cost 30-40 euros for a private room but have pilgrim level beds for 10-12 euros. Usually that means also the same place for food especially when it is a small village.
Julie came in later. I helped her again (last night too) to puncture her blisters (difficult to reached heel area) with my needle. Like Carolina, they got them when the weather turns hot while mine was way back during the wetter days.
Today's walk is not as good (hard road walking) as the previous few days from Tomar to Coimbra.
Nice roast pilgrim dinner menu with roast pig. Superb, and only 9.50 euro. This time with Jim from UK with us.
Julie decided to take a bus to Porto tomorrow.
And then there are four...
Maybe five again if Jim join us at the end of tomorrow's walk.
There are other French walkers here too but they pretty much stayed to themselves. Then came an old Korean couple came today. They walked the Camino del Norte from Irun to Santiago then head south here. That's around 1100 km in 46 days. Tomorrow they will end their walking days in Coimbra, then a bus to Fatima and Lisbon in the coming days to end their trip.
Suddenly it is now 10 pm. No idea where all the extra hours went, probably from all the.merry making with the pilgrims.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 8 - Coimbra

30 km or 31 km? Excellent weather for walking. Sun, some clouds and gentle breeze along villages, people working on their small plot of land, streams. Underwater plants swaying with the currents and their flowers rising just above the waterline. Amazing....
Two stops for coffee before Coimbra. Weaving under and over the highway visiting more small villages. Before Coimbra an aqueduct (looks medieval, not Roman).
Finally, after a couple of up and down, a panoramic view of the city of Coimbra. A beautiful city and also a university town. The albergue, run by the Convent of Santa Clara (8 euros) is on my way down to the river, still very high up the hill.
With Ricardo ahead of the pack and usual social media it is easier for pilgrims to coordinate cheap/good pilgrim friendly lodging, even though I would have splurge after the last 3 days of over 30 km. Typical camino, in just a few days and we are already a family. Ricardo arrived first, Carolina directs Ricardo to book the lodgings, and when I arrive at the river bridge, Ricardo was already there to lead me to the hostel. What service! 😁
4 pm and both of us are ready for our showers. Everything perfect again. They have those showers that can also shoot water sideways for a back massage. Cool...
12 euros, nice tiles, sheets (no towel, cost extra), best of all very central with a great view of the other side (where we came down). With sheets I don't have to take out the sleeping bag. With precise coordination, all 5 of us ended in the same room. The Italian ladies came in next after an hour and finally Julie half hour after. Ryan, as usual walked very early and was here much early coincidentally also in the same hostel. Not much  communications with him. Maybe he just want some 'me time'. We had dinner up the street with a nice view of the river. Another great menu for 11 euros.
Some blister management for Julie and Carolina.
Tomorrow will be an easy day just 25 km and flat, I hope...

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 7 - Rabaçal

Another long day around 32 km on the road. Started at 7:30 am (after self service breakfast) which is better than 9 am the day before. At least I should end an.hour and a.half earlier today assuming similar distances.
I was wrong to say that those who chose the Fatima way will join back in Tomar. It is actually at this sign on the path before Ansiāo, with the blue and yellow arrow in opposite direction. Wonder if many will continue here from Fatima or will most just go to Porto and continue there.
Saw Ricardo right before Ansiāo (12 km mark) before noon. He ran out of water (temperature rises very fast from the morning today) and he was anxious to get there to a cafe to buy water. Just as we were entering Ansiāo, we bumped into Ryan walking towards us (he was gone when I woke up, probably started 6:30?). He was distraught and was looking for a dog. Apparently a black dog walked with him the whole of the 12 km in the morning. He went in the butcher in Ansiāo to buy some chopped meat but the dog had already disappeared when he got out. He love dogs and was almost in tears. I told him on my Camino del Norte I had a smaller dog walking with me for 6 km. In my case the dog stopped walking with just outside the next town, bark at me twice and turned back. Despite the distance, I think the dogs are okay. They already know pilgrims walking a particular path and some enjoy having the company to walk. I guess the bunch of uncooked raw meat is going to waste....
Before the second stop a water wheel. Basically a pump to draw out water from a well. It works after many rotations. My app says it is a drinking place. Not sure if the water is drinkable though.
Everyone except Ricardo (he makes.very short stops if ever) gathered at the second stop in Alvorge. First me, then Ryan, then Julie, finally the Italian ladies which by then it was time for me to go. The bar owner made sure everyone signs his guest book and was proud to show me entries of 200 and 45 pilgrim groups that passes by his little town.
As I was leaving the Italian girls told me to go to the second lodging in Rabaçal for today's stop 6 km further. I told Ryan the same but when I got the small town of Rabaçal, Ricardo shouted for me from the first cafe/lodging. I checked the place (10 euros, no covers, have to use our sleeping bags) but it was great! Washing machine for 2 euros (shared by both Ricardo and me), drying line outside (I arrived at 4:10 pm with the Sun still glaring  so no need to pay more for the dryer), incredibly a swimming pool (those small elevated ones), and the cafe even serves food in the evening. A one stop shop! Ah, the convenience. Decided to stay there instead. Didn't use the swimming pool though. Later we when over to the second place to check on the girls. The girls pays the same price but no washing facilities. They took their clothes over our place to do their washing and also the dryer instead. So nice to have nice smelling machine washed clothes!
Julie came later and after having look around stayed here too. Ryan is over with the girls but no.answer when I called out for him. Hope he is not mad that I switched places. Thought he would come over for dinner with us but he never came. He must have ate at the only other restaurant in town. There is French old man with us. He came up from Fatima. Didn't see anyone else from the alternative route. Ricardo and I in one room and Julie and him in the other room that has more beds. Today it's just the four of us here. Again, great dinner for all of us except Ryan. Collected the laundry from the cloth line and ready to wind down the day.
I love the last few days, small villages and great view despite the distances. Love that they have everything in a self-sustaining mode. One sees small olive patches, a few houses thathas their own mandarin orange and lemon tree, small plot of land for vegetables, a couple of sheeps/goats in enclosed garden for them to graze, chicken coop, etc. Can't get more organic than that...
Tomorrow, potentially another 30 plus km to Coimbra, the university town...

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 6 - Alvaiázere

A long 34 km and a late start at 9 am after the 8:30 am breakfast at the pension. Hard to described the day. On one hand cold in the morning, no clouds, the sun hot as hell in the afternoon starting to engage my climbing muscles from the rolling hills. On the other hand beautiful trails and/or small single lane road through small towns, streams, fields, cats under the cafe table, donkeys, interesting chimneys, etc. Met an Australian Tony at the first break cafe. He is not carrying much, says it is training for him just 10 km from Tomar and back. He is with his wife who is on a course in Tomar and in a few days he will going down to Lisbon to start walking up until Porto. I told him why bother walking back up to Tomar again, just start his walk there. Actually if I had known how nice it is from Tomar I would have started from Tomar instead. He said he has already booked all his casa rurals (rural homes, which is more expensive) lodgings. Well, to each their own Camino. He gave me a satchel with beads and a cross. The religious type....
Didn't walk with Ryan today. Most of the time it is better to walk alone, no need to talk, just enjoy the view and think.
Withst 5 km to go and almost 4:30 pm there is guest house. It's new, but a blessing from heaven as the road has become an oven. I had a coke (too hot for coffee). Even dipped my legs on the foot bath they had there with cold water. There are bunk beds accomodations there too. Didn't ask for the price but when I asked for business card I was.given a postcard. That place looks like a castle (probably expensive). Was tempted to stay there but if I did 5 km shorter today tomorrow will be 32+5 km.
Glad I chose to move on. Arrived at 5:40 pm in Alvaiázere (town's name sounds like a tongue twister, only the Portuguese can pronounce it properly). The lodging in Alvaiázere is good, 10 euros + 4 euros (breakfast with is prepared early so.we can eat anytime (yay!). Ryan, Ricardo and me all had our own rooms with 3 beds so if no one else arrive later we all would have the our rooms to ourselves (so late in the day in this nice small town, not!). Also the stamp for the credencial is the most unique I have seen in all my caminos. Actually 3 stamps (an aluminum pressed, a wax seal and a patch for us to glue on ourselves when we get to Santiago.
Met an American Julie from Montana. Said she is just doing easy bits of walking plus alternative transport (taxi?) to Porto and maybe a bit of the coastal route. No Santiago for her. As for me even though I mentioned I might take alternative transport here and there, I haven't done so. I guess once I started walking (just me), psychologically it is hard to give myself any advantage.
Dinner at the grilled chicken place, the gang plus Julie.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 5 - Tomar

Another 30 plus km day. Misty morning again but the rain was gone today and maybe tomorrow. Hot enough that by the afternoon I am walking with only one layer on top. I hope it stays that way. Today on the road the Italian girls Carolina and Lucia, Ricardo from Catalan, Ryan and me (non-Fatima group). Walked all the way with Ryan. He is crazy but in a funny way. Like when he tried to bargain with the guest house reception on the price as a joke.
Ricardo has the nickname now and he is the turtle. We are all the rabbits. He always the first to leave in the morning but his pace is very slow. Also he doesn't stop for coffee or food. We always catch up to him but falls behind again when we found a cafe. And everyday he is always first to arrive like in the turtle and the hare story. 70 percent road walking today.
In the morning Ricardo mentioned he booked ahead for his accommodation in Tomar. With 8 caminos under his belt it worries me when an expert like him does that. The intended hostel is 15 euros with breakfast, a great deal for a historical city like Tomar. My fears was confirmed when me Ryan and me arrived at 5 pm and place full. At least we were told there are two other pensions along the main street with a good view of the castle. One is closed for renovation and the other is 40 euros for a double with breakfast at 8:30 am. Ryan and me shared the double room but not before he started to bargain as a joke. Even as a joke he can be embarrassing (for me, not him) like that. The Italian girls booked a double room 2 streets away for 35 euros. The advantage of staying on the main street is worth the extra 5 euros.
After a quick provision shopping for tomorrow's walk we had an excellent dinner at a place with a smiling lady attending to us. No menu but with soup, main course and coffee around 12 euros.
Tomorrow is going to another long day especially when breakfast is at 8:30 am. C'est la vie...
Foot is slightly better slowly getting adjusted to the new shoes but the area above my ankles were swollen and a bit painful at the end of the day. Managed to get vaseline at the household stores (pharmacy would be more expensive for sometime as basic as this). Felt better now. Hopefully the swelling will be gone by the morning.
Tomar is a Templars city (like Ponferrada on the Camino Frances). This being Portugal, one can expect a mosaic tiles of the Templars' cross on the streets.
Wish I can stay longer here, but like any camino, the purpose is to keep moving on....

Monday, April 16, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 4 - Golegā

Best deal so far yesterday at Santarém at the N1 hostel. 25 euros for bed with fantastic dinner last night and this morning with a big breakfast spread at 8 am. A bit late to be starting after 9 am when the distance today is around 35 km. The weather didn't help either. The view of the city yesterday at the porch was covered with fog this morning and the weather report on the screen are not promising. Luckily the rain is of a misty sort, not big but one can still can get wet when exposed for long.
All the French walkers I believed (including the two sisters) are going to Fatima (the fork is here in Santarém). So we might see them tomorrow in Tomar if they don't stay an additional day.
Bumped into the two Italian ladies on the way, one of them asking me to pose from my back as my poncho matches the vineyard leaves. Sheesh...
The thought of the muddy trails scares me, but with the app and their guide we managed to find alternative route via the small roads. This I let Ryan the Danish guy know when he pop up at the bar we were at about a third of way at Vale de Figueira. His shoes were soaked and a little muddy (apparently trail runners like my old pair). Luckily he had another drier pair. Moving on one can see the lakes and plains flooded, and nothing else worth mentioning except the cherry blossoms around midway. Wind was cold and I had to keep my second layer on throughout the day's walk. The rain stopped at the first stop (sort of).
Another break in Azinhaga after a long walk for Pastei de Nata and coffee to fuel me up for the last 7.5 km. Funny how many complained had complained about road walking from Lisbon and when there is a trail we go back to the road. Mind you, the drivers here are different from Spain. They are fast even on the small roads.
Finally at Golegā, took the app and found me the albergue Ademas, recommended by Migel yesterday. 10 euros with kitchen with lots of items already there (some from the establishment and others probably from pilgrims who had stayed there). It's actually a house. With pasta, egg and sauce I just cook my dinner there, same as Ricardo from Catalan who arrived earlier (same room again). Clean sheets and blanket (Yay! Another night without our sleeping bags). With too much exposure from the wind, I don't even have the energy to move 500 meters to the center for dinner. The Italians ladies came later, followed by Ryan who requested his own room as he can't sleep when distracted (hence his 3 am walk from Lisbon's dorm hostel to Azambuja (60 plus km). At least now he is covering a more sane distances with normal start time. Forgot to ask Bowie (HKG girl) which road she is taking today as she is not here (but she could be in another hostel here in Golegā). We tried to put each other on Facebook but the 'add friend' button is greyed out.
Anyway, just want to lie down and rest and sleep early. Another 3 German bikers ladies just popped up. Only Ricardo and myself have the downstairs room. The rest are upstairs.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Camino Portuguese - Day 3 - Santarém (dinner)

Almost everyone was here (the girl from HKG and the Danish guy), except the 2 Italian girls and the two Canadians. They stayed somewhere else but made a trip to our N1 hostel. Migel the guy who gave me the flyer today dropped by during dinner to say hi. His family's wine is 16 percent alcohol, almost like Port but without the fortification. Must say that the Canadians have so much solidarity spirit as they also drop by to say hi although not eating with us. Ryan, the Danish guy left the abigo yesterday morning at 4 am because he couldn't sleep well. Can't imagine him walking with a headlamp. I told him that although he want to enjoy the spirit of the camino, if sleep gets too much in the way it's okay to pay for a single room at the hostel/hotel. A person's well being is more important.
No pictures of food until today because I was so hungry the previous evenings and to late to take any pictures. For 10 euros the food here is way better than on the caminos in Spain, and not only just for the price. Soup, sangria, wine, meatloaf with veg/rice, ice cream/chocolate tart, coffee, water. All that for only 10 euros.

Camino Portuguese - Day 3 - Santarém

33 km today despite having blisters yesterday due to.wet shoes.
Should have worn the new pair.
The weather is nice today. Threatening dark clouds but no rain with the Sun out in the afternoon, and for the first time able to walk with just the top layer.
The road is still muddy in places. Mid point break around Valada and Porto de Muge along the Tejo river. Had a conversation with Ricardo from Catalan. He said he is shy to join us for dinner last night as he can't speak English, which I said isn't reall all English since there are 5 French last night at the dinner table. We had a short conversation with a blend of my terrible Spanish for a while before I slowed down and let him walk ahead due to my feet. We talked about the number of caminos we had done, Catalan Independence, Paella Valenciano (long story) and the crazy Danish Ryan yesterday who walked all the way from Lisbon to Azambuja (over 60 over km! Crazy!).
The second half is a 17 km with no services to Santarém. With the feet issue I could detour for 1 km or so to take the train but decided against it. Called it penance for Day 1 or maybe I just need some time walking alone to clear my mind. After the girl from Hong Kong and the French sisters left me at the last bar, I was probably the last person walking the stage today. Slowly worked my way towards Santarém. Nice spring flowers and vineyard (wonder if one can pick the grapes in the autumn like what I did on Camino Levante?). Bumped into Migel handling flyers for a private abigo in Santarém. 12 euros and if I have dinner there, the wine is from his family's vineyard. That's an option I'll decide when I arrive.
The city of Santarém is up a steep hill. The abigo is actually run by the church. There was nobody there and I am in no condition to climb the stairs to check so I just walked another block or so to the private abigo. Turns out it is a hotel with provisions for pilgrim accommodation. Very upmarket including the reception. The French  (all 5 of them) were already there and my room is with Ricardo from Catalan. Wow. 6 beds to one toilet (in the end just 2 of us), key card, sheets and blanket (no need to use our sleeping bag), very hot showers. The room is still freezing cold though (no heat). Didn't want to move much (want to rest my feet and check on the blisters) so for another 10 euros I also took the dinner option. The nice lady Maria at the reception says is the cook. It looks like a nice city but I will see more of it when I walk out tomorrow. No idea if the girl from Hong Kong is here....