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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.

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

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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The signs along The Way are many. When I first started planning my Camino I joined a number of Facebook pages and groups and started reading blogs. And, although I saw a few photos of the Camino waymarkers and some of the yellow arrows, I didn’t realise how plentiful they would be.

camino portuguese coastal route

Bom Caminho Buen Camino Good Journey

My initial impression was that you would HAVE to follow the guide books and to that end I bought one about the Portuguese Coastal Route, which I studied intently, meaning to take copies with on the journey, but forgot. So, while in Porto, in a panic and before I started, I had my daughter photograph each relevant page and whatsapp them to me. For no reason. As it turned out, the signs were virtually every 500 meters.

The Way is incredibly well marked with arrows, the Camino scallop shell signs and waymarkers showing the distance in kms, until they didn’t – weirdly they came to an abrupt end just as I reached Santiago.

Update: 24/11/2017 – I just found out who paints all those arrows and maintains the various markers along the routes. They’re on Facebook as: Asociación Galega de Amigos do Camino de Santiago. A big shout out to them for all the hard work they do to keep us pointed in the right direction.

Leaving from the Sé Catedral in the old town of Porto, a remarkably historic building in it’s own right, it made a fitting location to start my journey. It was also recommended in the book. Now I didn’t go in ‘blind’, I sussed out the route a few days before – didn’t want to get lost on my first day on the Camino LOL. So, on the day I left, at approximately 07:30, it was easy to follow the downward spiral of steps to the riverfront.

camino portuguese coastal route porto

Sé Catedral, Porto, Portugal, view of the river and of the route, San Tiago, a pilgrims shell and hat, my passport with stamps from the 8th

1. ancient route

The route down from Sé Catedral to the riverside

Although I didn’t see any arrows or markers at that juncture, and since I took the bus to Foz do Duoro, having already walked that section beforehand, the first time I saw anything resembling a ‘sign’, that I recall anyway, was well after I had left Matasinhos at about 14:13 – a yellow arrow painted on a lamp-post. Now, I’m almost certain that there were many others before then, but either I didn’t see them, or was so intent on walking that I didn’t stop to photograph them…that aspect changed further along on my journey.

camino portuguese coastal route

The first arrow that I noticed on the Portuguese Coastal Route

Truthfully, what I did was ‘follow that pilgrim’. For most of my journey and where applicable, I followed the pilgrims up ahead.

camino portuguese coastal route

Follow that pilgrim

There was one place where I came unstuck, on the road to Esposende, and I’m still not at all sure how, but I just trudged along following the footsteps in the sand. There was one set of shoe tracks that I could recognise, so I followed those all the way through along winding sandy paths, and shrubby land till suddenly I could see, in the distance, a road and some buildings…at last civilisation. I was beginning to think I’d be wandering around there forever!! And at some stage along the route I ended up walking through thick brush and undergrowth with zip, zero, nothing and nada around me except for undergrowth, thick brush, trees and deep sandy paths. I did see a few diggers and excavation equipment but no people. It was weird and a little unsettling.

But to get back to The Way and the arrows. They are plentiful. In some areas there are 3 or 4 and in other areas you have to have faith and search.

camino portuguese coastal route

Tilting at Windmills – spot the arrow! If you’re not concentrating…

Most of the time I walked I was enjoying the scenery or in a day-dream, so occassionally I ended up suddenly stopping and realising I hadn’t seen any arrows or scallop shells or waymarkers for quite some time. This usually brought me to a standstill and a panicked look around! Did I miss the arrows?

camino portuguese coastal route

How could you possibly miss this!!

At that point I’d stand still, take a deep breath and having faith that I was still on the correct route, I’d walk on and sure enough there it was; whether a small arrow painted on a rock, or a faint outline on the road, maybe even, as in one spot, painted on an ivy covered wall…..the ivy carefully cut away around it like a frame! The Signs were there. Marvellous.

camino portuguese coastal route

Learning where to look and eventually knowing where to look

There was one day however that I did seriously go way off and as I was swinging along, I heard distant shouts “Senora!! Hello. Hello. Hello.” Eventually I stopped to look around and see what all the fuss was about, and about 500 yards away, distant figures were shouting and gesticulating wildly in my direction then pointing along a path that was not where I was on? LOL Initially a tad confused, I suddenly realised that I had been so deep in thought that I’d not kept my eye on the route. I scurried back laughing and we all agreed I could have ended up who knows where, but it wouldn’t have been Santiago. I still wonder that if they hadn’t drawn my attention, where on earth I’d have gone to?

camino portuguese coastal route

In case you were not aware…this is the Camino de Santiago..weirdly these signs were all in Spain

But on the whole, the route was amazingly well marked. People have been really inventive in where they painted the arrows and or made the markings to show which route you’re on.

8. fields and houses

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

10. I spy with my little eye

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

11. blink and you'll miss it

Camino de Santiago – signs along The Way

In fact I often wondered about the person/people who painted the arrows and made those markings, or put up the scallop shells and installed the waymarkers. All I can say is ‘thank you’. Whoever you may be, you were in many instances blessed by me. 😉 I got really excited when I came across the Caminho Beach Bar. I’d seen photos of this on the Fcabeook page and the board of shells (behind me), so I stopped, bought a shell, put my name on it and hung it up…@notjustagranny was here 🙂

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Caminho Beach Bar – Santiago de Compostela 265 kms!!

As I said, most of The Way was very clearly marked and I seldom had any problems, especially after 3 or 4 days, in locating them up ahead…although some were far between, if you just keep walking you will eventually discover them. One of the things that I enjoyed was discovering the yellow X! Sometimes you’d be walking and what looked like the logical route, is not. Then you’d see a big, or as in many cases, small yellow X – this not The Way. So you’d look around till you found what you were looking for…a Yellow marker…this is The Way. My favourite markers were the brown metal plates with yellow arrows.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

X says “no, this is not the way” – even though you may be tempted, but no…this is not The Way

As you wind your way along the Potuguese Coastal Route the signs are varied. Once you get into the forests and hills, you have to be a little more inventive in where you look.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

keeping your eye on the route, sometimes you had to just be a little more aware, they were not always pretty

A tiny yellow arrow pinned to a tree trunk, a scallop shell attached to a wall,

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

show me The Way to go home…oh wait, this is my home!! I loved these ceramic wall plaques

and frequently just two little lines, one yellow, one white to say ‘don’t worry, you’re going the right way’.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Crossing Paths – the Portuguese Coastal Route blends with the Littoral Route

I loved seeing the different signs, some were freshly painted, others a very faint outline that if you were not looking you could miss it altogether, and others were right across a busy road that needed to be traversed.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

sometimes it was right in front of you, and others …..well suffice to say, you kept your eyes peeled

The waymarkers were the best, I loved seeing the kilometers measured out, and note my progress… my steps eating up the miles.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Santiago 165kms – my 4th day of walking and I still had 165 kms to go. Ouch

I think I photographed about 95% of them all the way from Valenca in Portugal to the last one at Santiago. Weirdly though, the very first concrete waymarker I saw showing the distance, was in Valenca; 117,624 kms to Santiago. I saw countless after that. Perhaps they only have them from that point.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Following an ancient route in modern shoes – leaving Valenca, last town in Portugal before crossing to Tui in Spain – 117.624 kms to Santiago

I loved the many many scallop shells that decorated O Porrino, one of my favourite overnight stops.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

The scallop shells of O Porrino, Spain

And I really loved the signs that showed there was a rest stop nearby!!

Camino de Santiago - portuguese route

Refreshments along the way…

One of my favourite places (of which there are quite a few) along The Way was Mos.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese route

Mos. Oh what a delightful stop this was. A small but pretty little town with a church, restaurant and shops.

Admittedly though I was very disappointed coming into Santiago from Padron. All along the route I had seen yellow arrows, scallop shells and waymarkers, and then suddenly I didn’t.

camino portuguese coastal route

the signs along the way. I found these to be most helpful. It was also fun to see how the kms were going down. down. down 🙂

I was expecting the countdown to continue right up until you reached the 000.000 kms to Santiago and frequent arrows or scallop shells….but no….the last one was the last one and it wasn’t 000.000 kms. The last waymarker I saw on the perimeter of the city said 2,329 kms. After that, the scarcity of arrows and scallop shells was very disappointing. I think perhaps they feel that once you reach the outskirts of the city, you can jolly well find your own way LOL.

camino portuguese coastal route

I saw very few signs after this. They seemed to get scarcer the closer we got to Santiago

But a few pilgrims felt the same way I did…or did I just walk the wrong way? I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that they were a life-saver. There was something incredibly reassuring about finding/seeing the signs. I’m on The Way to Santiago de Compostela.

Camino de Santiago -portuguese coastal route

Camino de Santiago – I’m on The Way

Trust, that was one lesson I learned on the Camino, to trust in the signs, to trust in the route, to trust in myself. And I made it. 🙂

 

 

 

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Day 13 Tuesday 2017.09.19 Arcade to Caldas de Reis

I must give Miguel of Albergue O Recuncho Do Peregrino a shout out. Such an amazing host. If you walk from Tui, then I can recommend a lovely albergue on the stage between O Porrino and Arcade. Just a few kilometres after Redondela and just 1 km before Arcade. The place is spotless and bed comfy. €10 per person per night. Breakfast is €2.50. Laundry €3 to wash. €3 to dry. (these were the rates at the time of my stay). Excellent value. Albergue O Recuncho Do Peregrino, Estrada de Soutoxuste, 45, 36810 Redondela, Pontevedra 617 29 25 98

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a band of pilgrims at breakfast and our lovely host, Miguel

A band of pilgrims at the fantastic Albergue O Recuncho Do Peregrino. I had planned on getting up at 6.30 for breakfast and an early start, but I decided to hold off till the more reasonable hour of 7.30 and so I got to join a lively lovely band of Spanish pilgrims. Even though I could barely speak their language, one of the group Antonio, who was a delight, translated for me and them. We had a lively breakfast. Then it was time to go.
Just said goodbye to Miguel and the band of pilgrims. I was to see them on and off over the rest of the day and one last time in Santiago…but more about that later. Aww I’m going to miss Miguel, he was genuinely lovely person. What a great host.

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buying a cup of coffee and getting your passport stamped along the way. 77.870 kms to Santiago

By 08:30 I was on my way and at Miguel’s suggestion I stopped at the roadside café; Conchas del Camino, just 250 meters up the road from the albergue, and had my passport stamped, a cup of coffee and a chat then started my walk into Arcade – Destination today is Caldas de Reis. 35 kms or so. 😱😱😱 I’m feeling very emotional today. I cried a lot today. I’ve only got 3 days left till I reach Santiago. It’s too soon. I’m loving this journey.

Crossing back over the N550 ‘Precaucion Interseccion’ I set off somewhat lighter than the last few days…Pepe had been left behind at the albergue for transport with Tuitrans to my motel in Caldas de Reis. I’m missing him already 😉 No not really.

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Taking care on the Camino and following the signs along The Way

Today was tough. I was looking forward to reaching Arcade. After leaving the N550, pretty soon we were onto the Rua de Portas, another decline. I saw so many wonderful quirky features; scallop shells strung across the wall and gate of a house, beautiful tiled pictures on walls, a delicate shrine, the Fonte da Lavandeira, along the Rua das Lameirinas, and into the Concello de Soutomaior. A tiny church (just begging to be explored – but no time), suburban streets, an hórreo (I just love them)

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walking through Spain on the Camino de Santiago Portuguese Route

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I loved these ‘lavandarias’

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Concello do Soutmaior

At some point I decided to phone ahead to the Motel to let them know that I was sending my backpack with Tuitrans and my eta.

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wonderful Spain. The landscape and terrain changed dramatically once I left Portugal

But the lass who answered the phone had no English and I had my minimal Spanish. So I hurried into an hotel nearby; Hotel Duarte on the Rua das Lameiriñas, and asked if anyone could speak Spanish…no!! Panic. I had asked the lady in my best mix of Italian and Spanish “excusi Senora una momento grazie”, so the poor girl was still holding on. Then in my best South African voice I yelled “does anyone here speak Spanish?” to which a young man in the garden in front of me replied, “I don’t, but you see that lady walking there (in the distance), she does”. He yelled after her, she stopped, he explained, I ran, she indicated ‘slow down’, so in my best hobble I caught up with her, explained the situation, handed her the phone and she spoke to the ever patient lady at the motel and explained what I had wanted to tell them. Whew. Panic over LOL Lesson #1 – learn the language. Tut tut. I had been lazy.

Not too long after that, I reached Pontesampaio, already in the municipality of Pontevedra. Its Roman bridge used to have 10 arches, although the current bridge dates from medieval times. It crosses the River Verdugo and played a key role in the battles that ended the French occupation in the 19th century. Nearby, you can find the river beach and several miradors over the Ría de Vigo. Oh I wish I had time to explore!

Tah dah!! Puente Sampaio Bridge the 10-arch Roman bridge (what you see today is the medieval structure), crossing the river Verdugo. Finally!

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reaching Arcade and the Ponte Sampaio. marvellous

This was one of my ‘must see’ points along the Camino and I was delighted to finally be there. It is stunning. I diverted off the road and onto the wooden platform that runs alongside the river and approached the bridge from that angle. Apparently Arcade was the setting for an important battle during the Napoleonic Wars. Between June 7 and June 9 in 1809, The Battle of Puente Sampaio was fought at the mouth of the Verdugo River. Wow, talk about walking in the footsteps of history.

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the fabulous Ponte Sampaio, Arcade

Arcade is a pretty little town with houses scattered across the hill tops and along the slopes down into the town. Walking across the bridge was exhilarating and we’re still on the Via Romano XIX. Just mind-blowing to think that this was once a Roman route.

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walking in history

Needless to say I took lots of photos.

And then, once over the bridge we were suddenly in the Concello de Pontevedra.

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crossing metaphorical boundaries

After Arcade the route once again had us climbing a mountain. Camino Xacobeo Portugues.

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Camino Xacobeo Portugues.

From here we went up and up and up and up and then down and down and down, along narrow lanes between gorgeous houses, a number of hórreo – practically every house had one. Along gravel paths amongst fields of bamboo, shady trees, and vineyards. We passed another scallop shell installation and climbed some hellish boulder-strewn paths.

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following the Portuguese Camino through Spain

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me. a scallop shell installation. resting on my walking poles…exhausted. 73.813 kms to Santiago

See this path with the large rocks, well just behind me was a lady on a mobility scooter. Two gentlemen were carrying her and all their equipment up the mountain and over all that. I can’t comprehend that. I just complemented them and said “bravo”, buen camino.

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climbing this path was tough going…it’s here that I did some real damage to my right ankle

On top of this hill (mountain) at the 72.020 kms to Santiago marker, there was a table set out with some gentlemen giving information and selling trinkets and fruit. I bought an apple and they reliably informed me that it’s all downhill from here and 7 kms to Pontevedra. Hurrah. Lunch. They also told me about a tiny church at the bottom of the route where I should stop to stamp my passport.

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71.687 kms to Santiago. Maybe like Dick Whittington I could persuade the cat to go with me 😉

And it’s now 71.687 kms to Santiago and we’re on the flat again. Thank the lord, those hills were a killer. I saw a beautiful black cat sitting on the path, but it didn’t cross my path so I should be okay LOL

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70.955 kms a-sing-a-long in progress and then just 70.273 kms to Santiago

Despite my aching ankle, I was eating up the k’s. 70.955kms to Santiago. At a bend in the road a group of Irish pilgrims with whom I had walked, chatted, shared stories and crossed paths with all morning had stopped for a rest and a spontaneous sing-song. As I walked past they were singing ‘Molly Malone’ so I picked up on the chorus and sang along as I walked past. Too much fun. 70.273 kms to Santiago. 🙂

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69.971 kms to Santiago

Finally, now we’re below 70kms; just 69.971 kms to Santiago. I was getting really excited now. The k’s were flying by and I eagerly awaited each marker along the way.

And there it was; Capela de Santa Marta c1617, just like he said it would be. A number of pilgrims were standing in a queue waiting to enter and stamp their passports, so I joined the back and eventually made my way in. It was simply beautiful. I did feel for the local lady sitting at the front, clearly in quiet contemplative prayer, her peace disturbed by all these noisy pilgrims in and out. I made a point of leaving a donation at every church where I got my passport stamped and always bought coffee or food of some sort at any café where I got my passport stamped.

11:49 Now we’re in the Concello de Vilaboa. Walked 3 hours and 20 minutes

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17th century chapel; Capela da Santa Maria

Not long after leaving the church there was a diversion that would take the route along the Rio Tomeza, a tiny stream that meandered beneath cool green shady trees…yes 🙂

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Rio Tomeza

I crossed paths with a group of pilgrims from the UK and struck up a conversation with a gentleman; Gregory. We enjoyed a most interesting conversation right along the diversion chatting about Geoffrey Chaucer, the Canterbury Tales, the Camino and walks in the UK. It seems his mother named him Gregory after Pope Gregory. How cool. The time passed quickly and my mind was diverted from the pain in my ankle.

Once we reached the edge of Pontevedra I decided to stop for a rest at Taperia Casa Pepe, something to drink and a pee. Not in that order. LOL The best part of the day. Super Bock. I’m having the Negra today. It’s delicious. Quite strong and should go some way to numbing the pain. My poor poor feet. 22 kms to go to Caldas de Reis 😱😱😱 Sending Pepe (my backpack) ahead with Tuitrans, although really hard to let it go, was the best decision I’ve made so far.

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you have no idea how delicious this beer tasted after hours on the route

Not long after that, and there were a lot of pilgrims. The route got really busy from here onwards and I was seldom alone for long. I also bumped into the band of pilgrims from breakfast 🙂 Awesome.

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O Camino Portugues a Santiago – Tui (Tuy) to Santiago de Compostela – can you see how far I walked!!! Insane

Then finally the city of Pontevedra. With the River Lérez at its feet, Pontevedra has been given many international awards for urban planning due to revitalisation in recent years and the prioritisation of pedestrians over cars. The old town is considered the second most important old town in Galicia after Compostela where you will find the church of the Virxe da Peregrina, and many small and lively squares: Praza da Ferrería, Praza da Leña and Praza da Verdura. I spent about an hour in this lovely city.

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A fantastic fountain in Pontevedra, Spain

I stopped at the chapel of the Virgen Peregrina; Capilla de la Virgen Peregrina de Pontevedra, circa 1753, an absolutely beautiful church with many reference to Saint James; scallop shells; symbol of the pilgrims adorned just about everything. I spent quite some time here, had my passport stamped and bought a memento. Afterwards I sat outside on a stone bench just resting and looking – it’s so beautiful. As was the day.

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Capilla de la Virgen Peregrina de Pontevedra

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Capilla de la Virgen Peregrina de Pontevedra

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architecture of Pontevedra, Spain

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scenes of Pontevedra; loved the pedestrianised streets

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I loved the ancient architecture of Pontevedra.

Soon it was time to push on. I will however definitely plan this as one of my sleep overs when I walk the Camino Portugues again in 2021.

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decisions! which way to go to Santiago…..

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Ponte de Burgo, Pontevedra, Spain – originally it had 15 arches

The first references for this bridge date from 1165 , when the kings Fernando II of León and Galiza and Afonso de Portugal signed a peace accord. Ponte de Burgo crosses the river Lérez near the estuary, a 60 km river born in Serra do Candán. What a thrill to finally see this bridge. I had seen so many images on Facebook, and now I was here!!

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Ponte de Burgo, Pontevedra on the Camino de Portuguese. what a thrill to see this 🙂 Note the scallop shell reliefs carved on the bridge

Crossing this bridge was really exciting. I was nearly half way to Caldas de Reis and just 63.183 kms to Santiago. By now I had walked 14.69 kms over 6 hours including rest stops.

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Camino Portuguese a Santiago

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still on the Via Romana XIX 🙂 amazing. 62.086 kms to Santiago

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follow the signs along the way

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Santiago that way

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after walking for quite some time I came across this lovely little statue and church. Igrexa da Santa Maria del Alba

Located in the parish of Alba, an area through which the Camino Portuguese passes, the place is known as Guxilde. In days gone by it housed a large number of pilgrims, one of whom was the Queen of Portugal, Doña Isabel, who in the year 1325, made a pilgrimage to Santiago to pray for her late husband. The little statue is D. Juan Lopez Souto, a parish priest. I sat for a while and kept him company, wondering what he saw with his stare.

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a ramshackle house along the way; I wonder how many pilgrims it has seen over the years

One thing for sure, the ever changing terrain kept you on your toes….

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cobbles, stone slabs, muddy paths, rock strewn and gravel

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Supper time. It was just on 5pm when I stumbled into Barros. I spotted a cafe and stopped for something to drink and eat. Got my passport stamped too. The orange juice is like nectar

I was shattered by this stage and still had quite a way to go. I could quite easily have just curled up in a ball and slept….. 54.786 kms to Santiago. Whew.

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slowly slowly the km’s went down down down….

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Hoorah!!!! 49.995 kms to Santiago

OMG finally. I’m at the 48.995 kms to Santiago marker. Hallelujah. Thus means I’m very close to my destination for tonight. I hope 🙏🙏🙏 I’ve been walking since 8.30am except for a few rest stops. I’m so looking forward to my bed 😂😂😂💞💞

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49.121 ms to Santiago and the shadows are drawing in

The sun was beginning to sink towards the horizon, the shadows were lengthening and I was beginning to get a bit panicky. I still had some way to go to Caldas de Reis but I simply couldn’t walk any faster. And then whoopee

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oh my gosh….the very first roadway sign for Santiago that I saw 🙂

My excitement levels escalated exponentially and suddenly I was infused with a renewed energy; Santiago 🙂 I cheered.

After safely negotiating this horrible road, the N550, the path steered into a vineyard. As I walked along the dusty path between rows of vines hung with thick juicy red grapes that smelled like thick syrupy juice, I saw what I though looked like a small snake on the path ahead of me. As the thought went through my head that it looked like a snake, it moved. IT WAS A SNAKE. I ran. I was exhausted. But I ran. I didn’t even stop to take a photo for proof, I just ran LOL Up until that very second it hadn’t entered my head that there were snakes in Spain!! I mean seriously?? Why wouldn’t there be? It’s a hot sunny country. After I recovered my equilibrium I continued on my way, somewhat more alert now. Just beyond that I happened upon an elderly couple snipping bunches of grapes off their vines. I greet them “ola, buenas dias” and was rewarded with a reply in English 🙂 Seems their daughter lived in London and the lady had been over to England for 6 years…hence her English. We exchanged stories and they offered me a bunch of those heavenly grapes. Oh yes please, gracias. 🙂 They tasted as amazing as what they smelled.

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my heavenly bunch of sweet, juicy grapes.

After my brief encounter with the snake I decided that there would be no more visits to the bushes LOL. My bladder would have to wait.!!

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46.787 kms to Santiago. Concello de Caldas de Reis. Capela de Santa Lucia

46.787 kms to Santiago – As I approached Caldas de Reis I started to see more and more suburban habitation. I passed a tiny little church; Capela de Santa Lucia and a farmer on his tractor. There were more and more scallop shells to be seen.

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Igrexia de Santa Maria de Caldas de Reis

Days end. Time 20:20 and after a very very long day of approx 32 kms I literally staggered into Caldas de Reis as the sun set. Not a recommended distance if you want to be able to walk the next day.

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Finally: Caldas de Reis. Crossing the Rio Umia at sunset and the town centre is in sight

When I arrived in Caldas de Reis, I discovered the Motel I had booked to stay in was another 1.6 kms outside of town. I simply couldn’t walk another step, so hailed the very first taxi I saw. Because my Spanish was so bloody bad, he couldn’t understand me. Finally I showed him my calendar with the details noted. Thankfully I had had the foresight to do that. When we arrived at the massive, unwelcoming red metal gates of the motel I put my phone down on the seat while I paid the driver…..and forgot said phone in his car. I only discovered this disastrous mishap after I had located the reception, been shown to my room, had Pepe delivered, had a drink and something to eat and lay down on the bed to send a message to my daughter to say I had arrived. MAJOR PANIC ensued. All my photos and phone numbers were on that phone. Thankfully I had my 2nd phone with me and had obtained a receipt from the taxi driver, so I phoned him and he agreed to bring it back… I had to pay another €7 to get it delivered. Expensive end to the day 😱😱😱

Panic over, I settled down. I had a lovely room, a huge bath (bliss) and Pepe had arrived safely via TuiTrans. Hoorah. I’m sending it on again tomorrow for the leg to Padron. I may just smuggle myself in the bag too 😢

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Despite being really really long and very tough with lots of hills to ascend and descend, it was a most enjoyable day, lots of pilgrims to chat to – the groups ebbed and flowed, ever changing scenery, beautiful buildings, churches, towns and villages, a few animals, a tiny capella for a pilgrim’s stamp, a few rivers and thousands of steps. And not forgetting I crossed paths with that snake; and despite being exhausted and barely walking I jumped and ran… I also used a lot of South African swear words. White girls can run!!! LOL It never entered my head there would be snakes, but of course there are. I just hadn’t yet seen any 😂😂😂😂😂

Thankfully I only have 19 kms to Padron tomorrow.

In case you wondered where Ponte Sampiao was…. https://mapcarta.com/18571126

 

 

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O Porriño was an absolute delight. I meandered aimlessly here and there, down this alley, through that square, along this lane admiring the older and characterful buildings and houses, a small church; Capela San Benito tucked away behind some trees, some fountains, the regal castle-like council building and just rejoicing in the wonder of being in this amazing place. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude that I was able to walk the Camino, to experience all the trials, tribulations, surprises, hamlets and towns and breath-taking scenery it has to offer. There is nothing quite like travelling and exploring a new country.

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O Porriño – The Spanish sure took The Camino in their stride…every where you looked there were Camino shells or references to Pilgrims. I loved it all.

Being Sunday there were, much like I found in Italy, families walking through the streets; different generations arms linked and chatting away, children running about shrieking in play; dashing around on scooters and bicycles, the air filled with laughter. That is one of the aspects of Mediterranean life that I absolutely love…..it’s such a joy to see family groups out and about enjoying the mild evenings, church bells ringing in the background, calling the faithful to pray. Along the pedestrianised part of the town, Plaza del Generalísimo and in the squares, cafés and restaurants had their tables spread out in the mild autumn evening, peopled by residents, tourists and pilgrims alike, waiters scurried back and forth trying to cope with the ever increasing demands. A cacophony of sound; people enjoying life.

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evocative churches, pedestrianised streets, care-worn buildings

I noticed that much like towns in Portugal, there were a number of ramshackle buildings interspersed amongst others in better repair, albeit very old.

O Porriño it turns out was in the province of Pontevedra. It seems that we cross over into the different districts without much notice and you think you’re in one place, but are in quite another, the route a mix of hamlets, nature reserve, rivers, forests, towns and industrial parks. The area around O Porriño is a fairly industrialised due to the proximity of Vigo’s sea port. Most of the buildings and churches in the town and surrounding areas were built using granite, and apparently O Porriño’s granite is known worldwide as Rosa Porriño (Pink Porriño), and exported via the Port of Vigo mainly to countries like China, Italy and Japan.

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the castle like council building, children playing, pretty fountains and quaint houses; O Porrino was a delight

Eventually, I reached Plaza de San Benito where I turned around to make my way back… by now with my tummy grumbling, I walked back through the centre of town towards the albergue. None of the cafés or restaurants on the way appealed and after looking at various menus I decided to chance my luck and eat at the lively Restaurant; Paso A Nivel I had seen just before the railway line near to the albergue.

There I was to not only meet up with the fellow who was occupying the bunk above mine at the albergue, but a lovely English gentleman who saw me sitting on my own and came over to offer me a place at their table. Although I declined the offer, we did strike up a conversation and he went on to say that his group had had a torrid few days; it seems they lost their Priest in Valença 😦 This shook me up somewhat because I knew that Mel, whom I had met just outside of Porto on the 11th was also travelling in a group led by their Parish priest. I sincerely hoped it was not the same person.

I ordered a substantial meal (the menu was thankfully also in English) and sat down at the back of the room. Suddenly, to my delight, there was my Dutch room-mate. He came over and I invited him to join me. We had a wonderful evening, chatting about the Camino, the experiences we had had, the places we had seen and the people we had met. He was intrigued to realise that I was travelling solo. Not the first time people had expressed surprise at this. I wondered why, since I had read about so many women my age who travelled solo. Perhaps it was more common on the Camino Francés.

Finally after gabbing back and forth for over an hour, we walked back to the albergue which was in the same street, albeit further along and quietly crept into the room.hostel

With 6 occupants and a tiny room it was difficult to move about and not disturb anyone, but I think I managed fairly well and all too soon, with a bonne nuit (French LOL) I, with ear-plugs firmly installed, slipped into the heavenly land of slumber. It was just after 10.30pm and I didn’t stir till morning. Bliss.

Read more about Part 1 of my journey: Valença to Tui
Read more about Part 2 of my journey: Tui to O Porriño

addendum: Sadly, as I was to discover just a few days later (22nd) after I arrived in Santiago, the Priest who died was indeed Mel’s priest and friend, and to my horror, it seems that on the evening I bumped into Mel in Valença, was the night he died. Of which at the time I met Mel, she was as yet unaware. I felt sick to my stomach.

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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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Day 11 Sunday 2017.09.17 – Valença to Tui and onto O Porriño (part 1)

A Sámi proverb states, “How it goes with the first day’s travelling, so it will be with the rest of the journey.” – and in this instance that proved true; I had an awe-inspiring journey, an mix of early mornings, beautiful albeit tough terrain, cool air, peaceful forests and joyful greetings. I was on my Way.

This was day 1 of 5 walking from Tui to Santiago de Compostela; no rest days inbetween. With my alarm set for 6am, I woke with an overwhelming sense of anticipation, finally the day had arrived for the push through to Santiago de Compostela and excited beyond belief, I felt like I wanted to run every mile and jump with joy. I didn’t of course 🙂

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117.624 kms to Santiago – this was the first of many such route markers I saw along The Way.

I set off really early at 06:43 while it was still dark, and made my way to the walled city. Thank goodness I had found the route last night. Thanks to Mel for the heads up!

Although still quite dark I could see the sky lightening in the east. The streets were eerily quiet and while navigating the city I saw only 3 people the whole time I was walking through. The air was fresh and cool with the wonderful stillness of pre-dawn. I faffed around taking photos of each section of the route, recorded the church bells (because I am like that!) and took a few selfies while keeping an eye on the time. I was keen to watch the sunrise from the bridge into Spain.

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Fortaleza de Valença do Minho (Valença do Minho Fortress) boasts over 800 years history.

The city felt timeless as I made my way along the quiet streets, stopping briefly at the Roman milestone and Santa Maria dos Anjos church. If you walk this way look out for the Roman milestone dating from the 1st century AD. It marks 42 Roman miles (62 kms) on the road from Braga to Tui, and has the following inscription:

TIBERIUS CLAUDIUS CAESER AUGUSTUS GERMANICUS PONTIFEX MAXIMUS. IMPERATOR V CONSUL III, TRIBUNICIA POTESTATE III. PATER PATRIAE BRACARA XLII.

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A Roman milestone dating from the 1st century and Igreja de Santa Maria dos Anjos; the mother church of Valença do Minho consecrated in 1276

Finally I set my compass for Spain, my ‘Camino eyes’ carefully scanning for the yellow arrows as I trod gingerly along the cobbled lanes, down numerous stairs, through tunnels and beneath the fortified walls; muralha primitiva. It felt primitive.

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along the narrow lanes of Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century and relating to the reign of King Sancho I

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Fortaleza Valença – a fortress started at the beginning of the 13th century

It was thrilling thinking about all the thousands of pilgrims who, through the aeons, have walked that route before me. The history of this awesome place is mind-blowing.

Then suddenly I was on the bridge and standing on the border, with one foot in Portugal and the other in Spain. My excitement knew no bounds. 🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣🚶‍♀️👣👏👏👏

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Tui International Bridge (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge), completed in 1878 is on the Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela

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Tui International Bridge leading to Spain (known in Portugal as Valença International Bridge)

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Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. In the distance to the right you can see the cathedral of Tui on the hilltop

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In the past, pilgrims coming from Portugal had to reach Galicia, Spain by crossing the river Miño on a boat, but lucky me I could walk across via the bridge 🙂 These shoes are made for walking…

Tip: when you walk across the International Bridge from Portugal into Spain, be sure to walk on the right-hand side looking upstream, for the markings on the walkway. A footnote (pun-sorry LOL): I was so impressed with my walking shoes; a last minute buy a couple of weeks before I left, these shoes have done me proud: 123 kms so far…good support and no blisters!! The socks; brilliant combination of IsoCool liner socks and double layer anti-bacterial socks worked really well for me. But back to the sunrise…..

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The river Miño flows between Portugal and Spain.

Tui International Bridge leading to Spain crosses the River Miño from Valença in Portugal. I watched a magnificent pink-hued sunrise, took dozens of photos and finally once the sun peeked above the horizon in Portugal, I walked the final yards into Spain…. Hurrah, now I was on the Camino Portuguese Central Way to Santiago de Compostela. (Compostela (comes from the Latin “Campus Stellae” (i.e. Stars Field) – love that!!! ❤ 

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España 🙂 finally I was in Spain for real and on my way to Santiago de Compostela – Camino Portugues – Camiño de Santiago

Unbeknownst to me at that point, I was also going to be walking along sections of the old Roman Road ‘Via Romana XIX’ – see pic in top right hand corner. I just liked the design without realising the connotations 🙂

Tui, one of the seven capitals of the ancient Kingdom of Galicia, is the first town in Spain on the Camino Portugués Central Way and has an awesome cathedral just waiting to be explored. I met two ladies who told me the hotel; Parador Nacional San Telmo, would stamp my passport so I popped in and got my first Spanish pilgrim’s stamp. There was no way I was going to leave without visiting and getting a stamp. Hint: It’s advised that you get your credential (pilgrim’s passport) stamped at least twice a day between Tui and Santiago de Compostela to qualify for your certificate. This is not too difficult as there are so many churches and restaurants etc enroute where you can get a stamp (sello).

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Tui was the capital of a province in the Old Kingdom of Galicia, Spain.

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Parador Nacional San Telmo where I got my pilgrim’s passport stamped, the view across the River Miño and a final photo of me before setting off

Then it was a strenuous but picturesque climb up steep winding streets to the cathedral.

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Benvidos a Tui – Welcome to Tui on the Camiño de Santiago Camiño Portugués : 115.454 kms

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Tui, Galicia in Spain – 1st town on the Portugués Central Way to Santiago de Compostela

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the medieval narrow cobbled streets and lanes of Tui. I loved it 🙂

Tui has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Evidence of this are the sites found during construction of the highway Vigo-Tui, on the border with Porriño. The medieval city was composed of three elements; the cathedral, its hamlet of dwellings, and its city walls. After a very steep climb I finally reached the cathedral.

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Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui. On the top of the hill, the cathedral, begun in the 12th century, preserves Romanesque elements and has a Gothic façade.

Wowwww what an awesome church. Begun in the 12th century, during the Romanesque period, it has a Gothic façade, one of the first in this style in the Iberian Peninsula. The interior is, like most of the churches I had seen so far in Portugal, very elaborate with a number of chapels, altars and shrines to various saints. There’s a fantastic scallop shell as you enter the church and a number of references to St James and decorative scallop shells. In a corner near the front of the cathedral interior is a statue of King Alphonso.

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I explored every corer of the church and the museum. It’s absolutely beautiful

The cloister is also of Gothic style; the oldest in any Galician cathedral. Along the walls and over the archway of the 12th century Chapter Room are a number of intriguing Roman numerals.

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The Cloisters and Romanesque Chapter Room of the 12th century, the primitive meeting room of the canons of the first temple of the city. Just mind-blowing.

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The Cloisters of Catedral de Santa Maria, Tui

I had my pilgrim’s passport stamped at the Tourist Information Centre next to the church, my 2nd of the day in Spain…too exciting. I paid the €4 entrance fee at the cathedral which gave me access to the church, museum, cloisters and battlements, and spent a good 45 minutes exploring and, despite saying no more climbing towers, I climbed the tower battlements for some amazing views. The steps were so high you almost needed a step ladder to get up them!!! Going down was tricky. 

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climbing the church tower of the Cathedral of Tui

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the view across Tui, the river Mino and in the distance the International Bridge and on the hilltop, the walled city of Valenca, Portugal

I was, at about 9:20am, startled to discover the time!!! Wow, I figured that I had been exploring the church for 2 hours, but in fact I had forgotten that the clocks went forward by 1 hour between Portugal and Spain LOL. Whew. Nonetheless, it was time to get going. As I was leaving I stopped to photograph the elaborately carved doors and noticed the cross pattée (?) carved into the walls on both sides of the entrance…intriguing.

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A cross pattée carved into the walls and the elaborate doors

As the bells chimed 10, I reluctantly left the cathedral area and made my way along steep winding picturesque streets, only this time downhill. I looked out for the Camino markers, which were plentiful and believe it or not, I photographed every one of them all the way through Tui and just about the whole 18.39 kms to O Porrino…just because. 😉

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looking back at the cathedral, charming little pilgrim sculptures, streets of Tui

I just loved the little pilgrim sculptures on the walls.

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a little pilgrim sculpture shows the way. if you look above his head you can see a faint yellow arrow

I passed the Hospital for the Poor and the Pilgrim’s, past the Convent of Las Clarisas where I saw my first rather large groups of pilgrims,convent of saint domingo tui, church of saint bartolome tui, Camino Portugues, Camino de Santiago, tui, spain, camino de santiago, portuguese coastal route, portuguese central route to santiago, walking the camino, porto to santiago, walk 1000 miles, over the hill and still travelling, baby boomers, silver surfers, the boomer generation, things to do in your 60s, bucket list for the older generation, walked down stairs, through tunnels and along deserted downward sloping streets and lanes. It seemed spookily deserted!

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Tunel das Monxas and following the Way through the streets of Tui in Galicia

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the route is so well marked with yellow arrows, scallop shells, shell tiles and various other markings, you can’t fail to find your way. I walked completely sans maps or guide books.

I saw only a few of the locals along the route, and occasionally a few pilgrims, certainly not in the large numbers I was expecting.

There was one sculpture and cross that absolutely intrigued me; located on the wall of the bridge that crosses over Rúa Canónigo Valiño, it looks like a sculpture with religious connotations; souls burning in the fires of hell?? Intriguing.

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an intriguing sculpture

I have not been able to find out more information about this despite extensive google searches.

(2017.11.13 – addendum with huge thanks to Maria of  ‘Spanish Tuition Services‘ “I can help you with the “intriguing sculpture”. This type of construction is called “peto de ánimas” (roughly translates as souls’ money box) and they are quite common in Galicia. They represent souls in the fire of purgatory, with some figure watching over them (in this case, the dove/Holy Spirit). They also have a “peto” or money box for passers-by to leave an offering for the salvation of those souls. When a soul is saved and goes to Heaven thanks to your offering, they will later intercede on your behalf, so you can go into Heaven too”. – so there you have it; I’m so delighted to finally know what it signified)

Passing a number of fascinating historical buildings and churches I was longing to tarry awhile and explore further, but O Porriño waits and I can tarry no more.

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The Judaic Tower, the Convent of Saint Domingo (built 1330),  Praza San Bartolomé bandstand, the Church of St Bartolomé and an ancient communal washing area.

I was absolutely amazed to discover that I was also walking along the Via Romana XIX!!

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walking along a section of the Via Romana XIX

It always gives me a thrill, no matter where I am walking, when I discover links to Roman times…the thought of those Roman soldiers marching along the roads…I can almost hear the tramp tramp tramp of their sandalled boots on the cobbles….ahead of me was the tramp, tramp, tramp of the modern day pilgrim in their special super duper gortex, arch-supporting inners and uppers, special lace-up, isogrip boots in leather, fabric and waterproof, with  performance soles and protective toe bumpers!! I wonder what the Romans would make of today’s hiking footwear. – according to wikipedia:  Caligae (heavy-soled hobnailed military boots) were constructed from three leather layers: an outsole, the middle openwork layer which formed the boot’s upper, and an insole. They were laced up the centre of the foot and onto the top of the ankle. Additionally iron hobnails were hammered into the soles to provide the caligae with reinforcement and traction – okayyyyy, not quite what we wear today then. 

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a few pilgrims on the way; Bom Caminho – 114km to Santiago de Compostela

Suddenly I was out of urban Tui and into fields and the rural landscape of Galicia.

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and suddenly I was in the countryside…..

I was seeing more pilgrims now as well as locals. I called out “ola, bom dias” or “ola, Buen Camino” to everyone I saw and got many a cheery wave and “Buen Camino” in return. I’m on the Camiño de Santiago 😁😍🚶‍♀️

Continued….Part 2 Tui to 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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