Yesterday evening we took the advice of Aurélio, our new friend from Lisbon, and ordered for dinner sopa do osso, a soup consisting of pork bones, sausage, (and unidentifiable bits of meat), with cabbage, potatoes and some beans. It was lovely but came in a huge tureen that we could only half finish, but it was delicious – certainly walkers’ food. Aurelio had also recommended some almond cakes that Elly scoured the town to procure – and returned triumphant – excellent advice from one who knows.
We bade the lovely Mario at Santarém Hostel a fond farewell as we were planning an early start, and we were actually on our way at 6:02 am. It was fairly dark, but luckily we knew where the first arrow was located and we walked through this lovely town to the ‘Portas do Sol’ and made our way down a steep and uneven track to be greeted at the bottom by the lovely sight of the sun rising over the Rio Tejo.
It was a lovely fresh morning with a cool breeze and and a good covering of cloud.
We were soon walking on farm tracks, wandering through vineyards and then we had a few km’s on a quiet road. We have seen a few more pilgrims walking today and were passed by the American couple who we met in Lisbon who started a day after us (I was rather taken aback when he stopped in the outskirts of a village only a few metres in front of me and peed against a wall, not really what I would expect from a mature civilised pilgrim).
We had our first break on reaching the village of Vale de Figueira after 14 km and 2.5 hours, where we popped into the first cafe for a hot drink. After walking through the village we turned towards more farmland and a plantation of young eucalyptus trees which were so pretty with their new pinkish grey leaves.
The tracks varied from nice soft sand, to uncomfortable stoney ground, to dried mud that had been deeply rutted by tractor wheels.
We have now passed through tomato territory, walked by cabbage county and the borough of broccoli and come across many new plantings of beans, of the runner or French variety, all interspersed with fields of vines. There were also vast areas of what I think were cereal crops, probably corn or maybe even sweet corn. I love to see the geometric patterns of the ploughed furrows.
We also came across two different watering systems in use, which was a surprise for the time of day, I would have expected watering to be done either very early or in the evening not at 9:00 am when the sun would soon be getting strong and evaporate the water and burn the wet leaves. Maybe someone set the timer wrongly!
Not so many flowers today, but this beautiful corn flower (I think) caught my eye.
We stopped for boots-off and a bite to eat after 20 km and I shared my breakfast roll with Elly, and lightened my load by devouring my satsumas and a delicious little sheep’s cheese that I had bought in Santarém.
There were loads of tractors out on the land and buzzing back and forth along the tracks, kicking up the dust in our faces. The ploughing attracted a lot of attention from these birds (are they egrets?) who were competing for first place in the queue to be the early birds who get the worms!
Back onto the road where we pass through Azinhaga, a very pretty town with some interesting architecture. We fancy a cold drink but don’t stop at the first cafe (as we did earlier) expecting to find a nicer one further through the town. But, you guessed it – there was none and we couldn’t be bothered to go back, so trudged on for a few more km’s until we found a place to sit off the road and watch the farmers at work whilst we took a drink and wriggled our toes. We have now covered 30 km and force ourselves to set off for the final stretch, reaching Golegã at around 4pm.
We are staying in another charming accommodation with a mixture of rooms and albergue type accommodation across the courtyard, where we have opted to take a twin room rather than the bunk bed (6) accommodation. Bunks are 10 euros, and we pay 15 euros for our room with a bathroom shared by all.
The main house is very grand with beautiful furniture and we can use the lounge if we wish. There is a lovely courtyard with a couple of dogs demanding attention. Very nice and peaceful. Hostel Solo Duro 935 640 550. I feel I am spoiling myself with the accommodation where we are staying, but then again it is still very basic, inexpensive accommodation compared to normal travel.
I have picked up a small blister today, at the base of my big toe on the ball of my left foot. I taped it early on and it doesn’t hurt much, so I hope it won’t develop into a problem.
We are planning another short day tomorrow so that we can explore some of the lovely countryside. I am glad to be with Elly who is taking the lead with these plans. If I had been walking on my own I would most likely plough on with the long 30+ km days and wear myself out. She is keeping us well-paced and it is rather nice! (And I don’t have to think too hard about any plans, which is always good as far as I am concerned.) it is good to have a travel companion, but we both know that if one of us wants to go our own way, then that will be absolutely fine.
And finally, it seems that Mr B has short changed us again. He (John Brierly that is, author of the most used English language guides for the various caminos) has stated that this stage is 31.2 km, whereas my gps states 36 km. I shall be keeping an eye on him in future!