El Camino

May - June 2022
A 610 kilometer walk from Lisbon to Santiago de Campostela along the Portuguese coast Read more
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  • 20.2kkilometers
  • 19.7kkilometers
  • Day 1

    El Camino

    May 1, 2022 in Canada ⋅ ☁️ 14 °C

    No, not the funky Chevrolet half car, half pick-up truck from the '60s and '70s. The Camino de Santiago, the Way of St-James, the pilgrimage routes that end at the cathedral of Santiago de Campostela in Northern Spain.

    Over the winter, Brenda and I met Karen, a woman from Calgary who was on sabbatical and had just recently walked the Portuguese Camino. Because of the pandemic, she said the route was quite deserted and she sometimes went days without seeing any other pilgrims. Brenda immediately began researching the Camino and the desire to tackle the 610 kilometre walk was soon deeply entrenched in her heart.

    Preparation for the trip began while we were still in Thailand: the booking of our flights, buying new backpacks, ultra-light weight clothing, hiking shoes and various other gear. Once we got back to Vancouver, we packed our bags as they will be for the journey and began taking hikes around the city with our loaded packs on our backs. Our departure date, May 1, rapidly approached and we frequently tweaked the clothing we were bringing with us. Do we bring rain pants? How about a poncho instead of a rain jacket? Hmmm... maybe we don't need to bring a long-sleeve merino sweater. Which water bottles do we bring? Maybe our litle umbrellas?

    And so it went until April 30 when Murphy's Law struck. I started feeling a little tickle in my throat on Friday the 29th. Just to be safe, I self-tested for Covid and got a negative result. Saturday I woke up and felt like a truck had run me down, backed up and hit me again for good measure. "Uh-oh", I thought. This isn't good. Another swab of the nose and, the day before we're ready to leave, I get a positive result. Brenda, fortunately, has tested negative at home and at a clinic so she's good to go.

    For me, I'll self isolate for five days while the virus runs it's course. I'll fly out to join Brenda and our friends, Ernie and Anita, next Sunday, a week late. By the time I get to Portugal, they'll already be a couple hundred kilometres into the trip, so I'll only be walking about 400 kilometres.

    Alas, sometimes our very best plans are waylaid by the universe and there's nothing we can do about it but roll with the punches and let the anticipation and excitement build. Which is exactly what I'm going to do for the next six days.
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  • Day 4

    Day 1: Lisbon to Santa Iria de Azoia

    May 4, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Our first day on the Camino. 22 kms down and a lot of kilometres to go. Last night when we were looking at accommodations for our first day, everything seemed to be booked or was filling up fast. We ended up booking rooms at the VIP Executive Santa Iria Hotel, a 4-star hotel that is hardly an "albergue" but we were lucky to get the rooms because when we checked in, the front desk told us they were fully booked for the night.

    We started walking at 8:00 am this morning, beautiful blue skies, maybe even a little too warm once the morning chill burned off. Our first stop after the Cathedral Sé was for coffee, our second stop was to use a washroom which meant pastries. I can see when Roch joins us, he's going to go home with a little "pastel de nata" belly.

    Overall, an easy walking day. When we turned off the trail to go towards our hotel, we saw something I didn't expect to see on the Camino: an ostrich!
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  • Day 5

    Day 2: Vala do Carregado

    May 5, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 24 °C

    Day 2 on the Camino. Our intent was to walk 25 kms to Vala do Carregado and, from there, take the train to Azambuja where we had confirmed reservations for the night. We would then take the train back to Carregado the following morning to pick up walking where we'd left off.

    It was another hot day, 27+ degrees, and there were many stretches of walking along roads with a fair bit of traffic, but very little shoulder room for pilgrims. We stopped for lunch in Vila Franca de Xira where I discovered that "sopa pedra" (stone soup) is a very bad choice for vegans since it contains a mishmash of meats including bacon, chorizo, and pork rind just to name a few.

    We arrived at Carregado to discover we had just missed a train and so we had to wait half an hour for the next one, which arrived an additional 12 minutes late. When we finally got to Azambuja, we were all looking forward to a nice shower and a glass of something cold and wet. However, when we got to our accommodations, we discovered that our confirmations were bogus and they had no room at the inn. In fact, there was no room at any inn in Azambuja. We had no choice but to go... and drink beer... as we searched for something a little more comfortable than a park bench for the night.

    In the end, Anita found us something a short Uber ride from Carregado so we hopped back on the train to go back to where we were and when we finally made it to our new accommodations it was well past my usual dinner hour and we were feeling tired, dirty and very hungry.

    We were rewarded with a delicious meal at X Food - Anita and I both had a scrumptious mushroom and asparagus risotto.

    We never imagined it would be so difficult to get accommodations, especially since we've hardly seen any other pilgrams on the Camino. As much as I would have liked to have the freedom of booking rooms as we go, we decided that to be prudent, we'd better book several days in advance.

    I wish I could say that all's well that ends well but the truth is, none of us had a good night's sleep due to the incessant barking of a neighborhood dog. It was ruff, ruff, ruff...
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  • Day 6

    Day 3: Valada

    May 6, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 19 °C

    We are now 71.8 kms into our Camino. The weather continues hot with a high of 30 degrees. It's forecast to get even hotter in the coming days. Yikes!

    Today, the Camino took us initially along a trafficked road, followed by the relative quietness of a path parallelling the railroad tracks, and lastly, along flat farmland roads.

    We saw what looked like an infestation of snails on our travels today. They were covering everything from plants to walls to Camino waymarker signs.

    We arrived in Valada around 3:30 pm, too early for our 4pm check-in, so it was vinho Verde time!
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  • Day 7

    Day 4: Valada to Santarem

    May 7, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 24 °C

    We had a relatively short walk today, 19.8 kms mainly through flat farm lands that have recently been sown. We also saw quite a few vineyards, especially as we neared Santarem. The 16-kilometre stretch from Porto Muge to Santarem was without amenities so we just motored along until our last 2.7 kilometres, which was completely uphill. Talk about heartbreak hill.

    We were happy to finish walking before noon since the weather forecast for the afternoon was for blue skies with the temperature peaking at 31 degrees.
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  • Day 8

    Day 5: Santarem to Golega

    May 8, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 25 °C

    We started our walk to Golega shortly after 6:30 am this morning, knowing we had about 31 kms to go and a weather forecast of 31 degrees. Today's walk was also mainly through farmlands but with only 2 possible stops for breaks.

    We stopped at the Val'Doce Pastelaria in Vale de Figueira after almost 3 hours of non-stop walking. We all had freshly squeezed orange juice for a mere 2 euros a glass. Anita and Ernie also had pasteles de nata that were still hot since that just came out of the oven. It was a moment of pure pleasure, enjoying the small but sweet indulgences of life. Thus re-energized and with water bottles refilled, we set off for the 3-hour trek to Azinhaga where we planned to have lunch, stopping only briefly to admire all the swallow nests under the eaves of one building as we were leaving town

    When we arrived at Azinhaga, we saw signs that indicated that Golega was only 7 kms away so we took the decision to just have a cold drink to freshen up and push onwards. The day was already very hot and only getting hotter and we were anxious to arrive.

    We stayed at Casa da Tia Guida, a grand and beautiful Manor house that contains 2 private guest rooms with ensuite bathrooms. The guestrooms are on the ground level and the family live upstairs. There's also a games room with a pool table and an outdoor swimming pool for guests to enjoy. I'm starting in the "single" room which is bigger than many "double" rooms I've stayed in. It's full of charm, has the comfiest bed and it's my favourite accommodation I've stayed at so far on this trip. At 35 euros/night, it's also the least expensive.
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  • Day 9

    Day 6: Golega to Tomar

    May 9, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ⛅ 30 °C

    The walk from Golega to Tomar was another long 30+ kilometre trek in 30+ sunny weather with nary a cloud in the sky.

    We started gently to ensure any potential sore spots didn't develop into something full blown that would quash our Camino. The first third of the walk went by pleasantly and we enjoyed the relative coolness of the morning. The second third took us through a eucalyptus forest that offered dappled shading and some good climbs. We then slogged through the last third on mainly open roads that mercilessly offered no shade.

    We were so happy to arrive in Tomar, and even happier knowing we were going to take a rest day tomorrow.

    We felt a great sense of accomplishment having accomplished 2 long days in a row under such heat, but we agreed that we would do our best to avoid 30+ kilometre days going forward.

    Total kilometres walked since Lisbon: 152
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  • Day 11

    Day 8: Tomar to Cortiça

    May 11, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☁️ 22 °C

    Today's walk was my favourite up till now. Almost the entire distance was spent on trails and walking paths or quiet country roads with very little traffic. We did have to contend with a fair amount of hills however, accumulating an elevation gain of 751 m over the 28 kms walked. The steepest hill was upon entering Calvinos, a 10% incline which mercifully did not last too long.

    The highlight of the day was when we walked through the town of Sorianda. As is our habit when we pass locals along the way, we call out a "Bom Dia". Today, not only did we get a Bom Dia back, a kind lady picked oranges from her tree to give us for our travels. It was the first time I'd ever eaten freshly picked sun-ripened oranges. They were so incredibly juicy and sweet.

    The Camino trail splits shortly after Calvinos and we decided to take the longer and more scenic route through Areias. We therefore walked closer to 28 kms today but the weather was relatively cooler (a high of 28 degrees only!) so it seemed much more bearable.

    We're staying at the Quinta da Cortiça tonight. The accommodations are fairly new and they're right on the Camino trail. There's a pool for guests to use as well as washing machines, though I wouldn't have enough for a load of laundry even if I were to wash all the clothes I brought with me. The only negative about whether we're staying is there aren't any restaurants nearby so dinner was a small microwaved meal and a salad.

    Total kilometres walked since Lisbon: 178
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  • Day 12

    Day 9: Cortiça to Ansião

    May 12, 2022 in Portugal ⋅ ☀️ 27 °C

    We had a relatively short walking day today, a mere 19 kms. The morning was quite cool and overcast which was great for walking. We passed through some very pretty villages with cobblestoned streets and homes with impressive flower gardens.

    We walked with a fellow pilgrim, Wil from Holland who is on his 5th Camino and although he's in his 70's, I literally couldn't keep up with him. We arrived in Ansião before noon and after eating a rather mediocre lunch, we hung out with 3 other Canadian pilgrims (Luc from Montreal, Mike and Leon from Toronto) who, like us were all waiting for the magical hour: 3:00 pm check in.

    We are now 197 kms into our Camino.
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