Thursday, 5 June 2014

Day five. Ponte de Lima to Valenca. 22 miles.

I had forgotten what the portions were like in the local restaurants in this part of the world. I ordered grilled pork chop and soup. The soup was delicious and came in a bucket, and the two pork chops covered a huge portion of sautéed potatoes and the whole thing looked like a house. Then I was brought the rice and the bread, plus two bottles of mineral water and they had the temerity to charge me 10 euro. I won't go there again.

I had rented a room for the night and it was great to have a shower to myself, but the bed was about 4 inches too short and I ended up sleep diagonally. But at least I was the only one snoring. When I woke I thought I was experiencing a miracle. For the first time in countless years I could see without my glasses, everything. The time on my watch the writing in a magazine and the room was crystal clear. It truly was miraculous. I imagined that this room would be a new destination for pilgrims to come to and was busy designing the direction arrows when I realised that I had slept in my daily disposable contact lenses.

I had washed out a couple of pairs of socks and pants the night before and as they were still wet tied them onto my rucksack,  I must have looked like Mr Woo's Chinese laundry as I strode out over the bridge and out of the town. 

After a few miles I was once more deep in rural, Portugal and got caught up in a church  triangulation. Three churches several miles apart were chiming out the hour (0700 as it happens), but they were out of sync. It was obvious the respective vergers had not synchronised watches and what I got was a  cacophony of bells trying to compete with each other as to who could get the mos attendees at early Mass.

Deep in some woods I disturbed one the many chained dogs in Portugal who started barking, which set up a chain reaction of barking dogs across the valley. In fact, it could have reached you by now.

In an isolated village I came across a very old lady with her head in one of those big green refuge bins they use in isolated outposts. She fished out an old bottle and for one moment I thought she was going to drink the dregs. But she took the cork out and dropped the bottle back in the bin. Seeing my quizzical look she proceeded to explain exactly what she did with these corks. I have not the faintest idea what she was talking about but I thought it involved her husband at some stage.

I knew today I was to be faced with a climb. And after 8 miles it started. It was only 1250 feet, but it was virtually straight up. On the lower slopes I noticed sap being collected from the pines. Then the path became a dangerous mixture of large boulders and small stones, the type that act like ball bearings if you get them rolling. Every time I thought I was near the top another treacherous pitch presented itself. Half way up I was feeling every one of my 67 years, and the quadriceps in my left leg that I had ripped off my kneecap a year ago was now the size of a small lemon. I normal times it is like walking with an ironing board stuck in the thigh but this was the first time I had put it to this test, and it didn't like it. What would have normally taken me a hour took ninety minutes. But if you keep putting one foot in front of the other you eventually get to where you are going. And I did. 

On the way down I met a 28 year old American from Pheonix. He was a pharmacist who worked for a large company on a freelance basis, six months on and six off. Where were those jobs when I needed one? As we descended he gave me his views on the gun problem in the USA. He was passionately opposed to guns and told me why. I though his views were enlightening but stood no chance of seeing the light of day.  The other good thing about him was that he thought I was 58 years old. As I say, a very nice individual. 

I had set my trek out in stages to get to Santiago in time to do what I had to before flying out. This stage was to be 11 miles to Rubiaes where I arrived at 1100 to discover a very small village. Now I am sure that if I had dug under the surface I could have found some very interesting things to see. But I didn't have a shovel with me and the thought of hanging around there for 15 hours filled me with horror. There was nothing for it but to head for the last town in Portugal, Valenca, another 12 miles away. 

I had a brief lunch and set out, new vigour and a fresh challenge. I knew I had another climb but this was only around 800 feet and was a shallow drift upwards on footpaths. I also knew that rain had been forecast for today but so far there was no sign of it. I was now pounding out the miles in the same rhythm that has enabled me to walk the 480 miles of the Camino Frances three years previous.

At the top I crossed the road and disappeared into a forest of oak and pine. Down through rough track,  across streams, and along medieval country lanes. At 1500 I broke out of the vegetation. Hot, sweaty and a bit pleased with myself. I had gained a day. Now I would not be rushing when I got to Santiago but would have a complete day to do what I had to. I had also managed to get my Pilgrim's passport stamped as you can see below. 

Tomorrow would I cross the bridge over the river Minho into Spainish time and will have to put my watch on one hour for the 19 mile walk to Redondela.  Now, before I get my dinner, I'm going to take out my contact lenses.

1 comment:

  1. I returnd a week ago from walking the camino Portuguese from Lisbon. It is great to see so many familiar images. Even if you had been carrying a shovel you wouldn't have found much interesting in Rubiaes. I can highly recommend the albergue in Portela, near the village of San Amaro, 33 km from Redondela, see my post for the day if you want details,