5 May 2014
Last evening we wandered around the pretty little town of Azambuja, where there were piles of heavy duty fences awaiting erection, which we worked out must be for a forthcoming bull run through the streets. We found an adequate restaurant and I ate what may well become my staple meal, thinly sliced loin of pork fried, with rice and a fried egg. Luckily I’m using plenty of calories to counter the intake.
We set off this morning at 6:30, with a short stop for a hot drink and for Elly to have her mandatory two pasteis de nata for breakfast, and were on the trail by 6:45. After crossing the railway line we were directed along a pretty country road with the sun rising to the left
After crossing a river we left the road for a dirt track along side the river bank.
The guide book told us to look out for the cobbles of the original Roman road, and here they are.
It was a beautiful walk, with the dew drops dripping from the cane leaves. I have to thank Elly for inspiring me to take these photos
After a few km’s the path widened and curved around vast ploughed fields and after about 5km it emerged onto a country road.
And we are now walking through tomato-land, where tiny plants have been put into the ground over what must be scores of acres, and tractors are racing up and down the road transporting yet more plants. They are planted very close together and I assume that they will have to be thinned out in a few weeks. I remember reading a blog by a guy walking at harvest time and he said the smell was amazing. We walked by what at first sight looked like a lush lawn, but on closer inspection turned out to be trays of baby tomato plants.
A little further on we came across the unexpected sight of a pen of ostriches (or could have been emus – I’m no expert on the matter). I have to say they looked a lot healthier than the poor pair that have been living beside the goat track in Cómpeta for many years – do any locals know how long they have been there?
Once again there was an abundance of pretty hedgerow flowers that I couldn’t resist snapping, and I did literally snap a piece of strongly perfumed broom and popped it under my pack strap to counteract the effects of walking in the very hot sun.
We then came to a long, long stretch of flood barrier going on for many km’s. It varied from stone built bank, sometimes patterned concrete, sometimes natural earth with pretty flowers and most of the time it was possible to walk along the top of the barrier, some 4 metres high, with a lovely view over the river Tejo on one side and a great vantage point to look out over the fields on the other.
We had a boots-off break after 10 km and sat down in the shade provided by the flood barrier and ate the roll that I had bought in the cafe before we set off. The rustic bread had tomato and pepperoni baked inside it – very tasty!
There were so many interesting sights today. The river, the guys harvesting cabbages, a stork with its chick (or possibly it’s mate) on top of a dead palm tree, the majestic gates to the quintas.
But it was very hot, with almost no opportunity for shade and we were glad that we had arranged with the owner of the hostel in Santarem to collect us from Morgado, where he will return us in the morning to finish this stage of the walk. We didn’t want to trek this last stretch into the town in the feirce heat of the afternoon, and we arrived to the beautifully presented hostel at about 1pm.
As I’ve probably already mentioned, the first part of the camino Portuguese from Lisbon to Porto has very long stages without options for accommodation between. Several of the hostel operators along the way have set up a ‘pick and drop’ service, whereby pilgrims can arrange to be collected mid stage and taken to a hostel, and then dropped back where they left off the next day. In this way the long stages become more manageable and pilgrims can walk every step of the way without over stretching themselves. A few good people have worked hard to set this service up, and Laurie Reynolds has produced a useful document to explain the options. You can see it here. This service will make the first part of the CP accessible to many more people.
I have discovered this evening, from a pilgrim who is sharing our room, that there is actually an option to stay overnight in the middle of this current stage, in a Quinta for a cost of 20 euros. If we had known this we would have stayed here. I will endeavour to get details and post later.
Tonight and tomorrow night we are staying at Hostel Santarem, hosted by Mario who collected us this afternoon. It is a beautiful place with really comfortable and stylish rooms. There is a great deal of communal space with lounge, kitchen and extensive courtyard with hand or machine washing facilities, and all areas are decorated with thought provoking original art work. I would highly recommend a stay here, you won’t be disappointed, and Santarem is a characterful town, population 50,000, with pedestrianised old quarter. Take a look at Mario’s website here. Mario and his wife often drive the last portion of this stage to check for flagging pilgrims and to offer water on this otherwise completely dry journey. Don’t hesitate to telephone if you have a problem (+351) 965 832 702.
I am surprised to say there are many pilgrims walking at the moment. We are sharing a room with a Swiss woman who lives in the USA, also here are a Dutch and Australian woman walking together who met a couple of years’ ago on the Frances route, and Martin from Ireland. There are four spanish or Portuguese guys from last night and we came across a couple of German guys today, and the American couple we met on our first day – so not nearly as lonesome as I anticipated. Excellent news for the hostel owners en-Route.
Just shared a lovely dinner with the Dutch/Aussie girls. It’s a shame they will be walking ahead tomorrow whilst we will be going back. But that is the way with the camino – friendships made, company enjoyed, and move on to the next experience.
Gosh, these posts are getting longer and longer. There is so much to show and tell. I have found it a bit quicker to upload photos on the grid, so will probably do more of this in future. How does it work for you?