The End of the R19

Day 11 | Arcade to Combarro

Last night’s supper was superb. We walked along the water, stopped for a cold drink before seeking a restaurant. We found one in a little back street which according to Google had reasonable reviews. We asked if we could eat now (7.00pm is early for dinner in Spain)… yes yes of course came the reply and we were escorted inside. The lady of the house spoke only Spanish but somehow we conversed… if Gerry’s mum had a Spanish counterpart, this senora would have been her… oh she was wonderful.

Her husband also had a birthday today but he was 78… she said Gerry was just a baby. She took his hand and showed him the fresh crab, just delivered and together they choose one. He ordered fresh oysters to start, followed by crab… and a bottle of local white wine. Senora was suitably impressed with his choice. I ordered steak… she seemed OK with that too.

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Day 10 | Mos to Arcade

There’s a certain joy in having a cup of hot tea in bed on the morning.  Covid-19 gave us all many things we didn’t want but it’s also given Gerry and I fresh ideas about how we like our caminos… and hot tea in the morning before a shower is one of those things.

There were still no cats this morning and worse than that there was no sello either.  Yesterday when we arrived there had been no check-in.  I realised last night that we must get our credentials stamped, so this morning we tried the owners house.  The doors and windows were open, cars were in the garage but there no sign of life at all.  It was 9.00am and we knew we had to get walking but the lack of a stamp was troubling, it could even cost us our Compostela. But … tant pis… as they say in France…  There was nothing that we could do but walk on.  And another lesson for us; don’t book accommodation almost a kilometre off the trail, particularly when it’s an extra 800m uphill!

Thankfully today we felt good.  The heavy feet and heavy heads of the last few days had gone.  We meandered along admiring the gardens and flowers and greeting cats and dogs as we walked.  As with yesterday we noticed so many more pilgrims walking and of course this meant more greetings and hellos too.  We stopped for a coffee as soon as we were able but sadly there was no warm (or cold) tortilla for us today.  Ah well..  there was still coffee. 

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Sun Through Trees

Day 9 | Tui to Mos

We had a nice stay in Tui. For dinner we enjoyed a few Tapas in a bar opposite the cathedral; the padron peppers were very nice indeed. We’ve lost an hour crossing over to Spain so decided on an early night. However, Tui had different plans as the town seemed to be in party mode. Our room was above a restaurant and it was busy. As well as the bustle from downstairs there was also an occasional burst of distant crowds chanting… it sounded almost like a football chant? And to add to the general cacophony the bedroom doors had automatic keypads. Everytime you arrived and started to enter your PIN a (loud) automated voice would say “Door Locked”… followed by a series of loud beeps… followed by “Door Unlocked”. This happened every time someone returned to their rooms and it felt like there were a lit of rooms! I know I was still awake at midnight as I heard the chimes and I don’t think either of us slept well.

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Entrance to Georgia

Day 8 | Pencene to Tui

Last nights hotel was yet another gem. It was a shame we felt so out of sorts because it was fabulous. The room was spotlessly clean and big and bright and airy. It was a room for three so again great value for three sharing. The garden was lovely and there was even a pool. We had use of the kitchen and lounge and seating inside and out but sadly we didn’t feel in the mood. We had a light salad for dinner, chatted with another pilgrim from Chicago before turning in for the night.

We slept. We clearly both needed to sleep. We woke around 7.00 and Gerry made us both tea. We both felt better today. My head still felt fuzzy but my sickness and pain had gone and Gerry felt the same. He said at one point in the forest yesterday he was trying to figure how he would get me out as I looked so pale and clammy. Neither of us had been well so it was a good job we were able to keep walking.

We ate a hearty breakfast today. I had my GF crackers with homemade marmalade and local honey followed by banana and fresh melon… and several cups of tea. Gerry had the same but with fresh warm rolls and ham and cheese. For even bigger appetites there was also cereals, yogurts, cake, biscuits and fruit… all included! The cost for the room was 60 euro, breakfast was included and it was fabulous. We would come again to Casa de Capela… stay here! You won’t regret it.

We left around 9.30am. Both of us feeling better than yesterday. It was misty but sunshine was promised and our rain gear was at the bottom of the bag. Thankfully my pack today went unnoticed on my back… no hidden rocks in there to cause me problems.

I remember this path from last time. Before it was November and autumn was in full swing. The forest had been ablaze in colour and for the first time on that walk the sky had been blue. Today we had walked through eucalyptus trees and as we reached my favourite section there was a tree that had fallen over the path. I said to Gerry it was like the doorway to Georgia… because I played that song as I walked here last time. It wasn’t quite as glorious today, the autumn colour has yet to arrive but it was sunny and nonetheless pretty… so I sang Summertime to his nibs as we walked.

The kilometers dropped away. It was easy walking today. The sun shone and the sky was so blue… and my pack felt like a feather pillow on my back. It was great to be walking. We stopped for more refreshments but as we left the bar in the shade we felt cold. Gerry said “its a little bit chilly” and as he searched for his long sleeve top we both sang “it’s a little bit chilly” to the tune of Your Song. And then we laughed. It was a good day.

Onwards we walked and the kilometers fell away. We met Robin from Chicago and chatted a little before walking on. We reached Valenca in time for lunch. I remembered from last time a great restaurant just before entering the old town. We grabbed a great table over looking the old city walls. Thankfully both of us had our appetites back… although I stuck with chicken and rice today. We also opted for one last glass of a Portuguese vinho tinto from Ponte de Lima… one last glass before we left. I’d really enjoyed my visit in Valenca last time and so we allowed ourselves a few hours to wander and soak up the atmosphere of this walled ancient little border town. And when we’d wandered enough there was nothing for it than to walk on.

We left the city through its mighty walls and wandered down to the equally mighty Minho river. I let Gerry walk ahead. I wanted to see his expression as we left Portugal… I wasn’t disappointed… that little look of surprise as we approached the bridge he turned and spotted the border sign We’d left Portugal. All we had to do now was walk over the bridge to Spain.

Goodbye Portugal. We loved your glorious coast line. We had a ball in Porto and today was just a great day to be walking. Tonight we’re in Tui…onwards to Santiago through Galicia… and were promised sun every day!

Deja View

Day 7 | Ponte de Lima to Pencene

This blogs is a little late but that’s because there’s always a story when we walk the camino… and this walk is no different!

Our Casa in Ponte de Lima was really excellent… we’d thoroughly recommend it.  We had breakfast from the remains of yesterday’s shopping and had plenty for a packed lunch.  Indeed we ended up taking a rather lot with us that morning.  We left later than we had planned because Gerry was feeling a little off; nothing major but he wasn’t 100%.  So we took our time and had an extra cup of tea.

The clock struck 9.00 as we walked away from Ponte de Lima.  It was raining and I felt a twinge of sadness.  The last time I walked here  it had rained almost everyday… so much so that the trail was lost under water where rivers had broken their banks and we had to find alternative paths to walk.  I was hoping for sunshine this time but instead we had clouds.  So we left town feeling under par and I felt cheated by the weather… I also started to feel a little ill myself.

We came to a section of path that was just wet, sticky mud and we had to make our way along a raised section of uneven slippery paving stones.  It was slow going and we both felt kind of puffed and weary and were very happy when that section ended.  We walked on in silence.  Neither of us knowing that we both felt out of sorts.  After a few kilometres I told Gerry I felt like someone had put rocks on my backpack.  I was cross that we had brought so much extra food with us… I did that once before on the via de la plata and paid for the extra weight all day.  We walked on but gosh I felt terrible and my pack felt like it was pulling me down.

At the first opportunity we stopped for a drink and to make use of the facilities and we jettisoned anything in our pack that wasn’t needed (like a carton of milk for Gerrys morning cuppa and a 300 gm pot of salt another of herbs de provence… and several other items that had no place in a Rucksack!).  Gerry said I looked a bit sickly and pale; I was cold and clammy and my head was pounding and I had an underlying feeling of nausea.  We walked on and my dear husband took the extra lunch food that I was carrying and put it in his own pack… he also took my spare shoes.  Honestly my pack must have weighed less than 3kg at that point and yet I still struggled.  I even emptied it to make sure I hadn’t left something heavy in it… I just can’t explain why it felt like such a dead weight.

Onwards we walked.  Gerry confessed he also felt bad and it slowly dawned on us that maybe we were both suffering from the not so great supper the previous evening at Ancora.  I had said at the time that I felt my pork had been cooked a few times too many and Gerry really didn’t like his cod.  When we left that restaurant I’d joked as we walked to the hotel about how bad the meal had been and I sang ” when will I see you again” as we walked home… it wasn’t so funny today. I think maybe we both had a touch of mild food poisoning.  But regardless we kept walking and at least the rain stopped.

The stage today was the one of the hardest days on this walk but it’s not hard compared to day one of the Frances or the Norte but there was still a bit of a climb.  It shouldn’t have been a problem for us… just a few weeks ago I took a group from St Jean to Burgos, walking over the Pyrenees, my legs should be strong and yet I felt terrible.  We stopped often.  Trying to make jokes and make light of how we felt but honestly we felt awful. I sat on a rock part way along the trail. Gerry said he thought I looked so ill at that point that he’d have to try and find a taxi or some way of getting me down off the trail as I was such a pale shade of green.

Looking back now I’ve no idea how we coped on that day but slowly slowly we made it up the hill and down the otherside.  We stopped at ever opportunity and apart from feeling ill we also missed the coast and questioned our reasons for coming inland.  We’d walked through a lot of forest today; farmed forest too which was just pine and eucalyptus.  It was hard walking today. 

We reached a village and stopped again to rest. As we left I noticed a small flock of sheep in a field and two of the group had their feet tied with string… I guess to stop them making a run for it?  i said that’s how I’d felt all day… someone had tied my feet together! As we watched it became clear that the ram was feeling rather amorous and was making a nuisance of himself with one of the ladies. She was clearly having none of it and as he sniffed she wee-d on his head.  He moved pretty quick but his face left us in hysterics… it was like the poor chap was gagging.  He was clearly not impressed but the ewe wandered off in a kind of victorious fashion and the ram was left to stew.  We laughed… for the first time that day we laughed until we cried.  Even looking at the photo we laughed again… its the simple things that amuse us and we needed some laughter today.

On we walked through Rubais and into Pencene.  We’d only really walked around 24km and only had about 600m elevation in total but gosh we were totally and utterly exhausted.  We checked in but it was 5.30pm… much later than planned. I made Gerry a tomoato and egg salad for dinner and then we crashed. We were in bed asleep before 8 o’clock and slept soundly. Today wasn’t our most favourite camino day ever. Although the weather improved I felt like I’d seen it before… and I think it will be a while before I can eat pork … and I suspect Ger feels the same about Cod!

Ps Big hooray for Casa de Capela in Percene… another glorious little hotel with big comfy bed, gardens, pool, kitchen, lounge and lots of quiet corners to sit in the grounds… such a shame we couldn’t use it.

11 Minutes

Day 6 | Vila Praia do Ancora to Ponte de Lima

Sadly dinner last night was not as good as we’d hoped.  Gerry had imagined a fabulous fish supper over looking the sea but of course it was Sunday night and our choices were very limited.  In the end we settled on a small restaurant a few streets back from the coast (actually it was all we could find).  Gerry chose Bachalau… the celebrated Portuguese salted cod.  My choices were limited to a pork chop.  We ordered a glass of wine and a side salad, which was lucky as they were the most enjoyable parts of the meal.  Poor Gerry missed his seafood dinner yet again. 

We returned to our hotel, the Meira.  It’s just a hop, skip and a jump from the seafront and the camino.  It was wonderful and we’d thoroughly recommend a night here.  Our room overlooked the pool, but it was quiet and comfortable… Great shower too! 

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Off Piste

Day 5 | Viana do Castelo to Vila Praia de Ancora

Neither of us slept well. Our bed was lined with those little granite cobbles that we’ve been walking on today and the pillows felt like they’d been stuffed with the remnants of yesterdays bread. To add to our comfort there was a very handy light feature on the headboard, just immediately behind the pillow. Everytime Gerry turned over all the lights would come on and we’d wake with a start. In the end he said he was too afraid to move so lay on top the granite trying to shift his weight around when his hips felt too sore. In short… it wasn’t the best night we’ve had.

Earlier in the evening we’d planned on going to an Indian restaurant for dinner. It was 900m from the hotel but as we walked the rain came down and the wind was still howling so we jumped into a Chinese restaurant instead. It was an OK meal but not as nice as we’d hoped and the owner was way more interested in the Brighton vs Arsenal match on the TV than two cold pilgrims.

Returning to the hotel we watched the end of a James Bond movie before sleep (obviously using that term loosly). In fairness to the hotel, it was a great location, a lovely building, helpful staff and the room was spotless… and the shower was magnificent. There weren’t many gluten free choices at breakfast but I carry a small GF loaf and had this with some of their homemade quince jam and a few slices of melon… Ger said the croissants were very good too. Apart from the bed, Hotel Jardim was actually very nice. However I would feel a bit heavy headed all day.

We only had 17km today so we dawdled. We meandered down to the waterfront, so calm after yesterday’s storm. Gerry searched for fish and I took photos of the reflections. We walked by fishing nets and fishermen and explored the aptly named Forte Santiago do Barra before heading back to the coast.

The sandy beaches were replaced today with rocky pools. As we walked we watched dark clouds form on the horizon and a faint rainbow appear over the dark sea. It was raining out there… we hoped it would stay there. We picked up our pace and wondered if we could out walk it.

It’s a warm Sunday morning and the beach front promenade is clearly popular with the locals. Old couples walked along rubbing shoulders, young couples on bikes, joggers and dog walkers and even the occasional pilgrim all taking in the views. It was a good day to be walking.

Along the path are information boards. We learned that this land was shaped by glaciers and ice and that the sea was once 35km further out and an incredible 130m lower. There were traces of early humans and iron age salt collection, of Romans and Visigoths, pirates from North Africa and boulders littering the beaches following ancient prehistoric volcanic eruptions. Its amazing what you learn when walking the camino.

We reached our half way point. We weren’t sure which path to take. Go inland and join the Coastal or make our way along the coast using a GPS trail I’d downloaded. We stopped for a drink in Carreco and considered our options. The coast won. We set off heading back to the sea, following the trail in the Wise Pilgrim app. As we walked the skies darkened and we felt the first drops of rain. We reconsidered our options. We didn’t really want to be right on the beach if a storm rolled in but by now had walked quite a bit away from the Coastal route. We decided instead to plot our own route. We followed a track and then a small road into Afife. We bought a few supplies in a supermarket and headed for the church. There was always a seat by a church… Gerry’s bench requests are getting more complex everyday… quiet, nice view, not too low, in the shade and now cosy as well! I reminded him of the road we had to sit on when walking the Primitivo but he scoffed. To be fair the church did have a wall that made the perfect bench… in the shade, under an enormous tree, looking out to sea. The threatened rain never came or it blew in a different direction, so we sat and enjoyed our picnic and congratulated ourself on our choice.

But time as usual was marching. We had to walk on. Our plan was to keep following the road until we joined the busy main road. From there we crossed beside a campsite and followed a tiny road down to the sea. As we crossed we spotted a yellow arrow. We were nowhere near either route but it was good to see it. At the coast we switched into our tevas… we planned to maybe paddle our way along the coast. We stopped on the giant rocks beside an old Fort and looked ahead to Ancora and the hills of Spain beyond. We’d almost reached the end of our Littoral camino.

The waves were quite mighty with the wind and we had to choose our spot carefully. Gerry went first and shrieked when the cold water lapped around his feet. I went next and laughed… the water was far from cold. I would have swam if it had been calmer.

On we walked, sticking to the wet sand and then moving to a flatter part of the beach and dry sand. The last 4km were quite hard, sand walking isn’t as easy or as romantic as it sounded. We could see boardwalks on the dunes above us so we scrambled up to walk on those. Sadly due to works on the beach the boardwalk came to an abrupt end. There was nothing for it than to retrace our steps and head back to where we were. Getting down from the dunes was quite steep so the only way back to the beach with a pack was to run… it was actually good fun!

Back on the beach we bumbled along the last kilometre before reaching the little bridge into Praia do Ancora. Tomorrow we change direction… we’re not quite done with Portugal yet.

Spirits Were Dampened

Day 4 | Povoa de Varzim to Viana do Castelo (27km)

It was raining when we left the restaurant last night and was raining as we walked out of town this morning. It was going to be a coat day, I guess if we walk in October we have to expect some wet weather. It was just as well today took is away from the coast and inland along the coastal camino (we’ve been walking the littoral camino sticking to the beaches).

As we left the beaches behind Gerry told me about his horrible dream. He said he was falling and a voice whispered to him unless you wake up you’ll fall down to hell. He said in his dream he tried so hard to wake but kept falling… until suddenly he woke with a start. Oddly he also said I had a bit of a night terror a little later and cried out in my sleep… although I have no recollection of this. Anyway I told Gerry we had to stop at a church and I’d say a little prayer for him.

As we walked on 4 cyclists passed us. We’d already seen them leave town so how come they came by again? I joked to Gerry and said they were the four riders of the apocalypse… and horsemen were just too old fashioned. He gave me one of his looks and just as he did they’d turned round and came by again. The last one smiled and wished us a Bom Caminho; I told Gerry he was looking at him.

Not much further on we entered what felt like the longest suburbs possible, for many kilometers we wandered along a cobbled road lined with houses. I bet on a clear day we’d get a good view of the coast as we’d walked up a fair bit. Today there was only rain and grey and mist. Before long we found a church and thankfully it was open. We both went in and Gerry took a seat. I wandered a little before finding a statue of Jesus; I reminded him that Gerry was one of the good guys and asked him to keep him safe. We turned to leave and an old chap called me towards the altar. He told me to follow him into a little office off to one side. He stamped our credentials, then gave them a 3D watermark with a special little machine and then he gave me a prayer from St Micheal and another from Joseph. He wished us a safe journey and we left. It made me feel happy.

Onwards we walked between the houses. The rain continued. Sometimes just a fine mist and other times proper rain. It was never cold so we tried to take our jackets off whenever possible to avoid over heating. But it felt like no sooner had we removed them the rain would start again. We spotted a sign for a bar but the bar looked very closed. Not much further on we spotted another. Bar O Lampiao 90m. We weren’t sure whether to risk the detour but decided it was only 90m and it was raining. It was a good decision.

Bar O Lampião in Belinho is an eclectic mix of memorabilia… lots of Porto football items, a great many photos of Che Guevara and then lots and lots of newspaper cuttings and photos of musicians… from Bob Marley to Sid Vicious. Everywhere was spotless and I decided I would not want to be the person who polished it all. We sat outside and ordered coffees. They arrived with peanuts and biscuits and honey and jam. What a treat. I visited the ladies and paused to look at all the items on the wall. The owner tried to talk but we were limited with Portuguese and English. I tried French and he told me his son lived near Perpignan. He asked if I liked music and I told him I was a singer. I showed him a photo and from there I got the feeling he assumed I was a famous French singer. He told all the old guys in the bar I was a singer. He showed me more and more photos of singers and then asked for a photo… of me behind the bar. There was a ripple of excitement with the three old guys sat the bar. I had no idea how to get them to understand that I’m only a wedding singer.

He asked us to put a pin on his map… we placed the white pin near Bordeaux. We said our goodbyes and wandered on. Regardless of the singing confusion Bar O Lampiao was a fabulous little oasis and you should drop in and say hello. Tell him a singer from France recommended it.

Back in the rain and the suburbs and the path rose up. Up we walked and imagined the view without the mist. We could just about make out the sea amongst the grey. We walked up to a church and there was a sign that said pilgrims could get a stamp but the car park was full and there were a number of people in black and we assumed it was a funeral so we walked on. Back into the forest walking amongst the pines and eucalyptus trees. After a few minutes a bell tolled. Then several bells. It lasted for many minutes and was kind of eerie as we walked through these mighty trees. There was a pause and they started again. Then another pause before a bang. At first it sounded like gun fire but later sounded like fireworks. It was again a few minutes before they stopped. Gerry said that’s how he’d like to be sent off… bells, bangs and plenty of booze.

The forest walk continued and we felt we were walking along an ancient path. Huge stones placed intentionally along the trail, certainly these days a road less travelled. We crossed the river by means on an old stone bridge and walked up into a village. A flicker of recollection reminded me that there was a bar about 250m off the camino. It would be a while before the next village so we tested my memory and thankfully ended up with another wonderful chicken lunch… 5 Euros complete with bread and coffee. Fabulous!

Back we wandered into the rain. We’d felt we’d made good time. Google seemed to have a different distance to the app but I felt as we had walked through the forest it would be different. Onwards and upwards we walked with more forest and more little villages. After an hour or so we decided to stop for a cold drink. I checked the app. It was only three o’clock and we only had 3.5km to go. We both agreed it would be good to get out of the rain. Gerry again said that Google maps showed further. We double checked the app… nope not too far left. I opened the map on the app just to make doubly sure. I immediately wished I hadn’t. The Wise Pilgrim app was missing a 4km section. Instead of 3.5km we had 7.5km. All day we’d been saying that we’d had a lovely day despite the weather and that our spirits weren’t dampened. I can tell you sat outside that little bar there were two pilgrims with very dampened spirits.

A couple of cyclist’s had overheard our conversation and smiled… the kind of sympathetic smile which said I feel your pain. But… there was nothing for it but to march. The rain eased off and I said that we should at least be grateful for the break in the weather. I shouldn’t have said that. A few minutes later the heavens opened and it just rained and rained and rained. We put our heads down and marched.

Finally the huge bridge that crosses the Limia estuary came into view. By now the rain had eased but huge gusts of wind pushed us across the tiny pedestrian path. I was quite pleased that I felt not a whisper of fear, even when a train rumbled along below us and made the bridge tremble and shake. The bridge is huge… almost a kilometre in length but it wasnt the height that bothered us but the wind. We felt like turtles with packs on our backs and were just glad to get out of the gusts!

Thankfully our hotel was just a few hundred meters further along. And we’ve both showered in one of the most powerful showers I’ve ever had and I’m feeling much warmer and more human again. I learned that my RAB jacket will keep me dry in heavy rain… and that no matter the weather (or extra kilometers) my spirits are still quite chirpy.

Big Sky

Day 3 | Povoa de Varvim to Esposende (23km)

Last night’s room picnic was a big success with plenty left over for our picnic today. Our hotel included breakfast so I also managed to stow away a hard boiled egg for my sandwich; I didn’t feel too guilty as I took my own gluten free bread for my toast.

We had a really lazy start to our day and we heard the clocks chime 9.00 as we left. I don’t think I’ve ever started a camino day so late but it felt wonderful. The hotel was just a few hundred metres from the coast so it was a mere hop skip and a jump and we were there.

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