Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Day four Barcelos to Ponta de Lima. 21 miles

It sometimes feels as if I have slept in the company of more women than the normal amorous
film star. Take last night for example. Three men in a dormitory with twenty women. But that does have it's benefits. Some men snore for their countries, others suffer from sleep apnea and you are constantly waiting for them to take a breath and when they do the explosion of air sounds like marbles rattling around in a metal pan. Women, on the other hand, have a gentle way of snoring, more of a sigh followed by a mellifluous expelling of wind between their lips. So what I'm trying to say is that I had a jolly good night's sleep, which is just as well because it was an 0600 start to walk the  21 miles to Ponte de Lima, the longest stage on the trek.

At that time of the day the air is fresh and the streets deserted, except, of course for the obligatory street washing. As this was a big town it required a large vehicle with two men holding the hose. There is always one guy it seems above all this. He sits in the cab smoking, making phone calls and scratching his bits while eating a sandwich. I think they call it multi-tasking. 

I was soon out of the suburbs and into the country having bought my lunch of tinned tuna in vegetable oil, a banana and two rolls. See, I know how to live. Not only was this to be the longest stretch it also had two climbs of varying degrees of difficulty. It was a dull day as I came to the top of the first climb and there was a noticeable downwards change in the temperature. But it soon warmed up when I met madam, who was ninety if she was a day. She was in her garden using a hand pump to fill a huge concrete wash tub the size of a small swimming pool. I asked if I could fill my water bottle and she invited me into her garden. I gathered that this was mountain water, the best around, and I could take as much as I wanted for it was free. I asked if I could photograph her and even at her age she was able to offer a coquettish drop of the head before rushing into posing action. I then asked if she would take one of me filling my bottle. I showed her how to hold the iPad and what to press. After the fifth attempt she got it. What a trooper who giggled all the time.

On leaving the village I noticed pictures of elderly people who had recently died. I had previously seen the same thing in bus shelters and on shop walls and even on lamp posts. It was the local obituary column and a good way of telling those that met that person most often in that particular place that they were dead.  After the climb came the descent, and when I was half way down the hill I suddenly realised I had not seen a yellow arrow for some time, and the simple explanation for that was because I had taken the wrong route. I was walking on the 204, not a problem as it would take me where I wanted to go, but it was dangerous. I looked back up the hill and then down it, which way to go? There was only one choice, down. 

As I reached the bottom a shop owner beckoned me in and tried to sell me a bicycle, he knew I had taken the wrong route. It was irritating, I knew the camino was no more than 500 yards away, I just couldn't  get to it. A little further on I came across a butchers shop that also sold cheese. Fortune from misfortune, at least I would get my goats cheese. I went through the usual routine, fingers either side of the head and prancing around like a good un when one of the two butchers caught on. He beckoned my over and produced a side of frozen goat the size of a small village. I pointed at the frozen goat and then at the cheese, finally the euro dropped. 'Ah', they said in unison, at last, I thought, then they both went, 'No!'. So that was that, the search for goats cheese has become the Holy Grail for me on this trip. 

But they did give me directions to the camino and within no time I was striding once more along a country lane, only stopping for a short while to tuck into my gargantuan repast in the grounds of a magnificent country church in warm sunshine.  The afternoon walk was a delight. Wooded country lanes, sleepy hamlets, all surrounded by mountains where red pan tiled houses covered the slopes. The approach to Pont de Lima was thorough a stream of little  villages populated, it would seem, only by  hoopoes, lazy dogs and hungry swallows, and with the air permeated with the sweet smell of decaying silage, which I happen to like.

It was time to fill my water bottle and I approached an elderly man working in his garden. He took my bottle to a trough in which lay a hose wallowing in rancid water. Taking the hose out he turned on a nearby tap filled the bottle and gave it back. I thanked him and when I was out of sight tipped out the water and ditched the bottle. I preferred thirst to simonella.

Ponte de Lima is described as the most beautiful town in Portugal and I see no reason to disagree. Wide sunlight squares and a long and very old bridge though which flows the languid river Lima. I  had taken a room for the night in a local dwelling house in the old town as a treat for the days walk. It had a no wi-fi which is the reason I ended up sitting in chair kindly provided by the lovely ladies of the local tourist office who allowed me to piggy back into their wi-fi

Tomorrow is a short 11 miles, but thunder and lightening are forecast. hum, looking forward to that

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