3 May 2014
Not a good night for sleeping. Preacher lady was rustling around searching for something at odd times during the night and lovely Portuguese girl wasn’t quite so lovely when she returned to the room at 3am. I was up at 6am and found that Elly was more or less ready to leave. By the time I had sorted myself out, we left at 6:45 and headed for the Vasco da Gama tower, built for the Expo 98 exhibition, and then along the riverside and under the Vasco da Gama bridge, which at 17.2 km is the longest bridge in Europe. The sun was rising and the effect was quite lovely.
After this pleasant riverside walk for about 4km we arrived at the town of Sacavém and spied a cafe for some breakfast. We were very well looked after by Odete the proprietor, who produced the best toast ever and insisted I have a tea bag in my hot water. It was easier to submit to the tea bag than try to convince her that I actually prefer just hot water. I always have problems getting hot water, and am always offered tea or lemon or sugar. I just want the simple option but every cafe owner thinks I am mad. Anyway I took a photo of Odete and told her I would tell other pilgrims about her lovely service. The cafe is ‘Gruta do Trancão, tel 219 416 572, and is situated about 50 meters along the left side of the river at Sacavém
After our pitstop we crossed to the other side of the river and followed a delightful path bordered with lovely wild spring flowers. In places the path turned into a muddy bog and we had to negotiate our way around or through it, but generally it was dry and fairly easy under foot.
The camino Portuguese shares the route from Lisbon with the Fatima pilgrimage as far as Santarem, so there are double signs along the way, yellow for us and blue for Fatima.
We took a ‘boots-off’ break after about 13 km and phoned ahead to book accommodation in Vilafranca de Xira. The next section of walk was varied between country paths and minor roads, mostly very pleasant. We then joined another riverside path, this time on a raised boardwalk through lush green marshland. It was very hot by now and this long walk had no shade whatsoever and nowhere to take a rest, but we soldiered on (didn’t have much choice really) until we reached the town of Alverca do Ribatejo where we had to enter the station, take the elevator over the railway lines and back down the other side. We stopped for lunch here and discretely removed our boots and socks under the table.
After lunch was a bit of a slog. It was very hot and we now had to walk through some industrial areas (that were deserted, it being Saturday) and then out onto the busy N10 main road. No pavements, just a narrow hard shoulder, but I didn’t feel under threat from the passing traffic. Elly and I are walking at different paces. I am faster, which is ok because I can have a rest every now and then to let her catch up. When we saw a small patch of grass shaded by a palm tree just off the road, we decided to take a break and rested our heads on our packs for 20 minutes’ shut-eye. The trouble is, you don’t really feel refreshed after resting, just stiff when you set off again because your muscles have tightened up. I was feeling very tired by now but the last 4 km of today’s walk were once again alongside the river on a paved path which was very well used by locals who were out walking, cycling and roller skating.
We arrived at our accommodation at about 6pm. Pensáo Ribatejana, tel 263 272 991, email firstname.lastname@example.org is set in a large period property above a restaurant of the same name and has a variety of accommodation including small mixed dorms and twin bedrooms. Our charming host Mariano has recently bought the business and is doing his utmost to please his guests. He couldn’t be more helpful, escorting us to a restaurant and explaining the menu and showing me where the supermarket is.
As there was already a pilgrim in the dorm, Elly opted to go for a twin room because she wanted to ensure a peaceful night to catch up on sleep. I just hope I don’t let myself down by snoring louder than the pilgrim in the dorm! The shared dorm is 10 euros, a twin room is 25 euros and we get a special rate of 6 euros for dinner at the restaurant across the road. And Mariano has put our laundry in the machine so that I can have some clean clothes for tomorrow.
We are planning to break up the next few days’ long stages and will take a short stroll of about 18 km tomorrow.
Our special priced restaurant closed early so we ended up at a different one and had a meal of grilled cuttlefish (complete with the cuttle!)
Here’s hoping for a peaceful night…..