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Path Less Travelled

Experiencing the Portugal Camino

Feet Don’t Fail Me Now

We said goodbye to our room with a view before the sun could remind us what it was we would be missing. This was a necessity, as eight days of walking have taken a toll on the feet. Today was no exception. Yet, when I look back at everything we saw today, I am amazed at how rapidly the scenery changed. We literally saw it all.

Our goal for today was to reach Pontevedra (the capital of this region). Little did I know, today’s walk would show me the vast variety of life styles Spain has to offer.  We started the day with a bit of a climb that we knew would take us down to the seaside town of Arcade 

  
What we didn’t expect to find was the shell sign board, various pilgrims signed as they followed the same route.

  
If it hadn’t have been dark and I had been less in the moment, I would have pulled out my permanent marker and signed one of the shells as well. But, in the moment, I was more concerned with finding my way as opposed to leaving a mark. (I could spend hours on that statement, but that’s not what this post is about so I’ll leave that train of thought to you should you choose to follow it.)

On to Arcade, a beautiful seaside town with a bridge built by the Romans that is still in use.

  
The climb out of Arcade, took us through the forest,

   
That brought us to a stone fence with gates made out of old bed springs.

 the mountain pass dropped us into a lush valley populated by farms. 

   
The valley, in turn led us to Pontevedra. A very modern city.

 As we moved further and further into the city center, we began to see the old city. When we passed through the gates,

   
We were greated by dragons!

 As we made our way through the old city, we came to our final destination.

   

The former residence of the Baron of Pontevedra. Now a hotel where will will rest our feet and prepare for another day of walking.

 
109 miles complete with 41 more for my feet.

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There are Many Ways

Once again we were up before the sun. Luckily, we had done a bit of scouting prior to going to bed last night so we knew the basic way out of town. The problem was, the signs that mark the way seemed to be nonexistent. We found ourselves wondering whether or not we were headed in the right direction.  This was a problem that plagued us the entire day. 

  (me looking for a sign)

We would go what seemed like miles without seeing a sign. We would consult our guide book, look for markers or at least something the guide book said was in the area and proceed. In one instance, we had been unable to determine whether or not we were on the correct path when we ran across a police station. The police officer who gave us directions noted the fact that there were multiple paths. What he actually meant was that we were not on the marked path but walking a parallel path that would eventually intersect with the route we should have been on. 

In the end we found our way.

We ran into Sabine and Klemon. (A couple from Germany we met a few days ago.)

  When we stopped for coffee.

We made what we thought would be our destination for the day by noon so we decided to forge on. And, are we glad we did. We are 11 miles closer to our destination and staying at a private pension with a fabulous view.

  

98 miles down with 52 to go!

On the Road Again

It wasn’t easy, especially after a day of rest and relaxation, but we were up before the sun and once again on the road. The way marker we passed on our way out of town, stated we had 114 kilometers (about 71 miles) to go. 

 
As in the past, our walk took us down country roads, through the forest, along highways and into neighborhoods. 

 
   
This particular stretch offers very little in the way of food or rest areas. However, one very kind and entrepreneurial women, greets travelers with open arms. She’s set up a small cafe in her garden that caters to pilgrims. 

 

For a small fee, you can order coffee, pull up a chair, and buy something to eat or not. Rachel and I opted for a piece of fruit and headed on our way. We move faster in the morning and we had already had breakfast prior to leaving the hotel.

Our path also took us through a relatively industrial area. Yet, there was a beauty to it. 

 

While there is an abundance of beauty in the physical surroundings here, I think the thing that impressed me the most today was the generousity of the people. As we were literally walking along the highway this morning, a car of young men pulled over and asked us if we wanted some tortillas (basically, a breakfast quiche). They were eating their breakfast as they were driving to wherever they were going, but wanted to make sure we had the sustenance needed for our journey.

Later on, and at different points during the day, three different gentlemen, went out of their way to ensure we stayed on the correct path. You see there was a lot of road construction going on and the way markers were not always as clear as they could have been. 

Spain is a very unique and wonderful place. While people go about their business all day long, it doesn’t really come alive until after 5. That’s when everyone comes out and socializes. It’s a quarter to 9 in the evening as I write this and the street below is alive with a variety of individuals of all ages socializing. Kids are playing, the young and old are interacting. There is a true sense of community. 

  
I wish I could bottle it up and bring it home with me.

83 miles down 63 to go.

And Then We Rested

When we rolled into Tui we were exhausted. As we discussed our progress and plan for the next day, we realized just how tired, sore, and worn out we were. I wanted to visit the Cathedral de Santa Maria. 

  

It was magnificent!

  
There is a chapel dedicated to Saint James and a statue of the first black Saint. Saint Ypiigenia (Iphigenia)

  
While I was in the cathedral, the priest asked me, “What are you?” I was a bit confused. I wasn’t sure if he was asking what my religious practices were or my nationality. It turned out to be my nationality. There was a younger Priest training under him who needed to practice his English. Rachel and I chatted with them for a few minutes and proceeded with the rest of our day. 

We explored the rest of the “old” city and strolled by the river. It was a very relaxing day.

   
 
We head out bright and early tomorrow. Next stop, Porrino.

The Long and Winding Road

  As we headed down the mountain and into Rubiaes, we started hearing music. At first it sounded like the Vienna Boys Choir. It only added to the beauty of the Forest. As we got closer to town it sounded more like a Polka. It eventually turned into the Macarena. Fortunately, that was after we had found a place to rest and get something cool to drink. We made our way to the Albergue we were staying that evening and went to dinner with some of our fellow pilgrims.   

 While we enjoyed ourselves throughly, it did make for a late night. This, in turn, made for a late start. But we were well fed and rested. 

The walk out of Rubias was beautiful.  

 

We passed waterfalls.

   
Walked on the roads the Romans built.

 

Found a house to buy

   
And did our best to find a place to rest, refuel, and cool down. Just when we were getting to the point of exhaustion, we came to Quinta Estrada, an Albergue run by two former pilgrims. It was a life saver!

After about an hour, we headed out. Making our way down country roads 

 
and city streets 
 

With Rachel carrying Helga and Richard on her back. (No wonder we were tired! : ) 

We eventually made it to Valenca and into the fortress Fortaleza.

   

 Where we made our way to the dungeon, making sure to have a little fun along the way.  

 

We entered the dungeon

  

And successful emerged on the other side. 

 

The dungeon offered relief from heat and a spectacular view once we emerged.  

 

While the fortress was interesting, we knew our day’s journey was not complete. We still had to make it into Spain. By this time the heat had, once again, overtaken us. So we said goodbye to Portugal and hello to Spain.  

  

We made our way to the 1st of 2 Paradores we want to stay at, checked into our room, admired the view 

 

and collapsed in exhaustion. 

The day was good, but long. 

72.2 miles down with only 78 more to go!

She’ll be Comin down the Mountain

 Today’s trek included a 405 meter (1,328.4 foot) climb.  

 The climb was arduous, but beautiful. 

One of the things I like the best about the Camino is the comradery. Pilgrims tend to run into each other over and over again. This familiarity combined with a shared experience, builds a special kind of bond. We watch out for each other. A 1,300 plus climb is not easy. As is the pattern of the walk, someone would pass us, then later we would catch-up and pass them (usually when they had stopped to rest; we’re the tortoises on the trail) Each time one of us passes the other there is a brief exchange to check-up on how things are going. Four other pilgrims actually waited a bit longer at the top of the mountain to ensure Rachel and I made it to the top. (We had stopped about a 1/4 of a mile from the top to rest and refuel.) We all ended up staying at the same Albergue and having dinner together. 

By the way, the view from the top of the mountain was magnificent. 

 But I must say the moments that will stay with me are the ones we have shared with the individuals we have met. 

61 miles down down 89 more to go. We’ll be leaving Portugal and entering Spain tomorrow!

Sometimes You Get What You Need

Walking, even with someone else, give you time to reflect. As I looked back on the events from the last few days, I thought of the following Rolling Stones’ lyrics “You can’t always get what you want, But if try sometimes, you get what you need.” The yellow and blue arrows that point the way on the Caminos are a purfect example of that.  
 Whenever two or more paths merge, these arrow point the way. They aren’t always easy to see; some are hidden in plane sight, but they are there. It might not be what you want, like pointing you in the direction of a steep hill, but it does tell you what it is you need to know.  

 As I walk the Portugese Camino, I have been given gifts that I have needed over and over again. A perfect example is today’s journey. If you read the entry titled, “Lost in Translation” you know Rachel and I got lost and were generously rescued by the proprietor of, for lack of a better discription, the Bed and Breakfast we stayed at last night. His staff also did our laundry at no extra cost. While we absolutely needed and appreciated it, the draw back was that we were unable to head out at 6 am the way we like because we had not gotten our clothes back. This meant we had to stay until atleast 8, at which point we knew we would be hungry. In the end, we had much needed prep and rest time and were able to begin our trek fully hydrated, well fed, and with an energy level we would not have otherwise had. 

It also meant that we missed the early morning rain. Unfortunately, we did have both humidity and a 170/180 meter climb. Luckily, the climb was gradual with a lot of areas that flattened out giving us time to recoup before the next climb. It also gave us time to really enjoy the scenery.  

 

50 miles down and 100 to go.

 Lost in Translation

Do to what we referred to as a rain delay, we bid goodbye to Pedra Furada about an hour later then we had planned.  

 It was pouring when we woke up and we wanted to wait in the hopes that it would clear up. That didn’t happen so we put on our rain gear and headed out. 

Our pace was extremely slow due to the fact that the cobblestones were quite slippery. Still, that didn’t stop us from enjoying the views.   

    
We spent atleast an hour trying to get American currency exchanged for Euros. The bank told us we needed to go a Travel Agent, the travel agent told us we needed to go to a bank, there was a tourist center involved who told us to go to a specific bank, who told us to go to a travel agent, and repeat. It was quite humorous in retrospect. In the end we decided it wasn’t going to happen and continued our journey. 

Four hours later, we literally came to a fork in the road and could not figure out which way we should go. After attempting to get directions from several different individuals, we called the proprietor of the establishment we were staying at to get directions. In the end, he came and picked us up. We were feeling a bit let down until we ran into a few other individuals who got lost and were picked up as well. All-in-all it was a relatively good day. 

36 miles down and 114 to go.

Over the River and Through the Woods

While we weren’t headed to Grandma’s, we were going to Pedra Ferada’s. My grandmother would have loved him (Antonio, the proprietor). He welcomes Pilgrim from all over the world with open arms. No sooner had we walked in the door then we found ourselves in the middle of a group picture. With 8 other individual (2 Sweden  1 Austria 2 Germany and 3 others who were from – Oh, don’t remember.)  it was a great way to end our walk for the day. 

We definitely saw it all today. 

As we looked back over the square toward the hostel we stayed at the night before, we wondered what the day would bring. 

   Little did we know we would be scared to death on a couple of the roads. We knew there would be some busy roads, but we weren’t prepared for what we encountered. Some of the roads were so narrow that we hardly had room to walk.  

 It kept us alert and made us greatful for the cobble stone roads we were complaining about only 10 minutes before.     But, as the title notes, there was a lot more to our journey then scary narrow roads, we walked over a river  

 and along forest roads where we met Oswald who is from Austria.  

 We walked together for a couple miles, sharing stories and telling each other about our lives. We also ran into Josie.  The four of us are staying at Pedra Ferada’s Albergue tonight. I’m looking forward to spending more time with them. 

That being said, the highlight of my day was visiting the Megalithic Mounds that are in a forested area next to one of the highways we walked on.  

The Anthropologist in both Rachel and I came out. We knew this because we both felt it was worth backtracking to see. 

Tomorrow we head to Quintiaes. 26 miles down with only 124 to go.

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