Day 4 Carvalhal – Ponte de Lima
Last night’s s alburgue was a little diamond in the rough. We never planned to stop there but we’re both now very glad that we did. Thereza and her family moved from Brazil to open an Albergue.
A few years ago, whilst her husband was walking the Camino Frances (half a day from Santiago) Thereza suffered an aneurysm and the doctors warned her family that it was unlikely she would survive. Message was sent to her husband and he and his camino family tried to find ways for him to get home to Brazil. She said that perhaps 100 pilgrims were trying to find the best way for him to get home. But he had to wait 2 days and in that time 100s of pilgrims walking the Camino prayed with him and for her. And those pilgrims asked their friends to also pray for her. She believes that God heard those prayers. She recovered. Not fully but enough for her to live a normal life. Her family decided to move to Portugal and open albergue so that she could help pilgrims. Her home was humble but spotless. The beds were super soft and the fluffiest of blankets kept us warm. She cooked a wonderful dinner and we ate at the family table… And we had breakfast whilst her children got ready for school. This is not the most glamorous of albergues but if you are looking to find the true spirit of the camino it lives in Casa Brasil!
We arrived in Barcelos at around 9.00 and the sky was blue and the threatened rain stayed away. We toured the ruins of the medieval castle and meandered through the city streets and stopped for a coke and people-watched in the morning sun. We decided today we would head for Casa Fernandez. This alburgue is a bit of an institution on the camino Portuguese. It was open all year, no need to reserve and they had a washing machine and dryer… If I didn’t wash my clothes tonight they’d be able to walk to Santiago without me! It was perfect. 23km in total so it was ideal.
We split up and agreed to meet later. I walk faster than Sheila, although to be fair I’m taller too so I take longer strides. Layers came off and I ended up walking in short sleeves with my coat tied round my waist. I even fished out my sun glasses from my pack, it was perfect walking weather.
Barcelos faded into the horizon and the trail started climbing. This was the first real elevation I’d felt. Nothing like the Primitivo but it’s nice to feel your heart pump harder as you stride onwards. The trail changed from tarmac to walking trails. They are often covered in gritty sand which is really comfortable to walk on. It rained a lot overnight and the sand absorbs the water and almost feels bouncy underfoot. It’s a lot nicer than cobbles!
Autumn leaves are everywhere and they sparkled in the sun. Onwards I walked just enjoying the views. I decided that I’ve been spoilt by the views from my last three caminos. St Jean to Logroño is beautiful, the Norte and that northern coast is stunning and the Primitivo is majestic. This route is none of those things but it has a charm and the Portuguese people are just so friendly… I decided I should just enjoy the trail and stop looking for the Wows.
I did find a rock. It was the perfect size for a stop. I paused and ate a few walnuts, drank some water and waited for Sheila. But she didn’t arrive so perhaps she’d found her own rock and was pausing too. I decided to carry on as we had agreed to meet for lunch in Portela de Tamel. Up and up the trail went and as I stopped to take photos of sheep with really big fluffy tails Sheila caught me.
We stopped at the first restaurant and bumped into a Portuguese couple who recommended the lamb! I wondered to myself if it would come with a big bushy tail too?
The rain arrived as we ate. I questioned our choice of alburgue. Maybe we should stop sooner? There was a great hotel about 5km before? It was pricey but we’re worth it. But Sheila had read about Fernandez and was looking forward to the ambience so we decided to see how we felt later.
So off we went again. The rain eased and again we drifted apart. I caught up with Selma, a young German student walking her first camino. We walked together for a while and the kilometres dropped away quickly. She’s perhaps only 19 but speaks perfect English and French and her outlook on life was wonderful… She made me feel like the world is in safe hands with the next generation. We reached the hotel just as Sheila caught us. We all walked by so I guess we’re going to Fernandez.
Ten minutes later the heavens opened. This wasn’t a shower this was rain and it wasn’t easing. Selma wanted a rest and sent me on. I said I’d save her a bed and put my head down and marched. The paths almost turn to rivers and PO ds there is so much rain. Only 2 more kilometres. As I marched Sheila appeared. I jumped as she surprised me but the laughter was short lived. This was Casa Fernandez and it was closed.
We walked on. In 2km there were other options. Another alburgue but it was closed. A hotel but that was closed. Even the bar was closed. I checked the app. There was a casa rural coming up. It was closed. And so it went. Not even a cafe was open. It was still raining and it was getting late. We saw a sign for an Albergue in 6km and Ponte de Lima in 14km! My app and Gronze and Sheila’s book suggested others so we just had to keep walking until we found one.
We didn’t find one.
The alburgue at 6km was in darkness. We never even saw the promised Lotus Bar but it was dark by now so maybe it was just closed too?
The trail led us into a small town and further down a road away from the camino we could see a bar. We left the arrows and headed to the lights and warmth. We ordered drinks and I charged my phone and searched for a hotel. The nearest was in Ponte de Lima 7 km away. We’d already walked 35km and apart from being wet and cold, poor Sheila was done. This is her first camino. She’s never walked with a pack before and here she is walking in the pouring rain in the dark having already walked 35km! We decided to call a taxi.
Five minutes later we arrived. I’ve showered and washed my clothes. I spoke to a rather worried Gerry and I’m skipping dinner and going to have an early night… Sheila is no doubt feeling pretty much the same in her room down the hall.
Regardless of the surprises I had a really nice walk today but on balance I really wish I had stopped at that earlier hotel.