Tuesday, 3 June 2014

Day three Vilarinho to Barcelos. 17 miles

To finish off last night I had a meal in a local cafe. Soup, spaghetti carbonara, grapes the size of ping-pong balls, all washed down with the local beer for £5. On returning to the hostel madam met me with a hugh carafe of port and some of her home made coconut cakes, all taken on a balmy night in the yellow glow of a flickering candle.

I left at 0600 hours the following day. I knew if I tarried the temptation to stay another night would have been too strong. The day was dull and cold but that meant it was good walking weather. I was now passing through rural Portugal, a mixture of tarmac, rough track and the ubiquitous cobbles. This is not a beautiful area. There are a lot of small farms and from what I saw many fields were being tended by extended families. The grapes I had last night did not come from around here as what vines there were snaked haphazardly around field boundaries and would probably only have supported the family. The occasional outcrop of eucalyptus trees added some spice to the air and to be fair the locals were very hospitable waving with the occasional bon camino thrown in for good luck.

At around ten I stopped for a drink at the top of another cobbled hill. A mile or so after I felt something was missing. It was, my Tilley hat, I must have dropped it on the ground at my rest stop. Uttering a few well chosen Anglo Saxon phrases I retraced my path and found it on the steps of the church where I has been resting. Apologising for my language I whipped it off the ground and went on my way. Now that might not seem too much of a problem to most and indeed it isn't, but I promise you when you are pounding out the miles having to back is the last thing you want to do.

So, having got that sorted I decided to try work out exactly how many granite cobblestones I would walk over during the course of this trek. They were horrid to walk on. Sunken, or at drunken angles, great dips where cars had gone over them through the years, or worse still missing. Anyway, I was working this out when I got the fright of my life as this huge black thing reared up to my left in the garden of a house I was passing. It had a roar that suggested it was being probed by a red hot poker, a nose like Concord and ears the size of wig-wams. It also had great teeth, I know that because it was showing them to me. It was on a chain that came within an inch of the gate and it's breath smelt as if it had gobbled the goats cheese I couldn't find yesterday.

I was already in the throws of needing to answer the call of nature when this thing almost did the job for me. Turning hastily down a lane I commenced to do the necessary as a snake slithered out of the grass bank and passed within inches of my right foot. I know it was my right foot because it was my right leg that was getting wet. It was brown with green diamond shapes and around three feet long and an inch around. (No, the snake.). It went off into the undergrowth while I went to the local fountain to wash my leg. 

Having survived all that I still has to endure the dance of death with the traffic. I swear drivers in Portugal get extra rewards for shaving the hair off a Pilgrim's legs. 

I found the hostel in the delightful town of Barcelos, which has proper square with large market place and plenty off nooks and crannies to explore. I will eat in the hostel, a dinner of soup, followed  by chicken from the oven. Not bad for £8 all in, including hot showers. 

Tomorrow is the longest day, 21 miles and requires an early start, so there will be no alcohol tonight. 

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