Lugar de Corgo, Portugal to Tui, SpainJune 14 in Spain ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F
After the communal dinner with laughing and singing at Fernanda's and her big breakfast spread the next morning, I headed out.
The path passed through old oak forests, vivid green meadows and small villages, each big white house with an immaculate vegetable garden and grapevines over arbors. Everyone must make their own wine. At times, the trail followed 2000 year old Roman cobblestone roads, picturesque bridges over streams.
The next town of some size was Ponte de Lima, a part-Roman, part-Medieval bridge connecting the two parts of the city over the Rio Lima. A small city with fortified towers and lots of narrow, cobbled alleyways, mostly just for strolling. I'm not sure why I don't live there. If you ever visit Ponte de Lima, you will wonder that, too.
When I arrived, sitting at a cafe table outside the municipal albergue were John, the New Zealander water activist having a beer and talking with Jared, the Canadian motorcycle mechanic, debating the merits and pitfalls of different sources of alternative energy. They had just met. Two of my favorite pilgrims so far, so I crashed their party. I learned that electric cars are not really sustainable because of the batteries (wasteful to produce and to throw away), and that it's not that hard, with some new parts and tinkering, to adapt an inner-combustion engine to run on hydrogen.
I slept in the "municipal" albergue where one of the Austrian stork sisters poked me twice during the night because I was snoring. I don't want to be "that guy" (I too hate people who snore in the albergue) so I've decided to seek out private rooms after this. Not much more expensive for vastly improved comfort and often a private bathroom and shower!
Leaving Ponte de Lima, I fell in with Sean and the Dutch couple, Frank and Gabrielle. The three of them had developed a series of inside jokes and I was quickly brought up to speed. Together we climbed steeply 575 meters (almost 2000 ft.) on a rugged, rocky trail through pine forest up to Alto de Portela, the summit, and ate lunch. Many of the pine trees have a section of bark cut off and a bag attached below, catching the fluid. Turpentine? Sean commented that, without some level of fitness, this climb wouldn’t just be a piece of cake for a lot of people.
Throughout the climb and the long steep decline, Sean mewled about his blisters. No one wanted to hear about my knee, though.
At Rubiaes, I peeled off from my friends and found a comfortable hostel outside of town while they continued on. I think I was the only person staying there. I asked the hospitalero in Spanish about dinner options and, as usual, he understood me but I couldn’t understand him. But with some words in common and sign language, I figured out that I was to meet him in front at 7pm and he would drive me somewhere to eat. He drove me to a café down the road a ways, which apparently is his place too, because he went to work at the bar while I ate and then drove me home afterwards. I spotted the German amoeba pilgrim group at another table and they waved.
Leaving the next morning, next to the church in town I found an ancient Roman mile marker! These stones were placed by the Roman military to mark each 1000 paces (counting steps by the left foot). Later on the walk, I passed another one.
I hiked on alone through more gorgeous, rural Portugal for about 23 kilometers, meeting up and walking with Father John for part of it. I like that guy.
Finally, I entered the walled, Portuguese border town, Valenca, passed through the fortress tunnels to emerge onto a long bridge over the River Minho into Spain. Along the Camino, there are hand-painted yellow arrows to help with navigation. However there were long stretches without them, including at forks in the road and it’s not hard to get lost. So I thought it was funny that there were yellow arrows painted every few posts along the high bridge over the river, like there was anyway to make a wrong turn?Read more