We didn’t go out to supper last night, but ate provisions we had bought earlier. Señora – Luiza, came to talk to us and it was discovered that one of Elly’s relations had the same (Croatian) surname as some of our host’s family. There was great excitement and Elly is now invited to a family get together to be held here at the beginning of June. How amazing!
It is also amazing that members of Luiza’s extended family own the Quinta da Cardiga. And if we had gone out for supper, we probably wouldn’t have learned that fascinating information. I asked about the palm tree in the garden that was possibly hundreds of years old. She told us that there had been five other palms planted around the towering central one, but that as they grew they cut out all light from the upper floor of the house. She gifted them to the local authority who came and dug them up and re-sited them in the town. They are all thriving, whilst her magnificent example has been wiped out by the palm beetle. She said that she and her husband cried when they realised what had happened, but that they have since come to terms with it – all living thigs have to die sometime!
It occurs to me that I haven’t come across any other English pilgrims yet. We have met with Germans (3), Irish (4), American (3), Australian (5 including Elly), Dutch (2), spanish (1), Portuguese (4, but they may have been going to Fatima), French (1). I wonder how much longer that will last.
Today’s walk started at 6:45am through a eucalyptus plantation. I have just looked up on Wikipedia what the wood is used for –
In continental Portugal, the Azores and the North of Spain (especially in the provinces of Cantabria, Vizcaya, Asturias, andGalicia) numerous oak forests have been replaced with eucalyptus, which are farmed for pulpwood, with severe effects on wildlife and the regional environments. Most of the wildfires that have raged the Iberian Peninsula in recent years have taken place in plantations of eucalyptus rather than in the more humid indigenous woods that are left.
There were terrible fires in this area last year and some firefighters lost their lives in trying to control them (I have researched, but could not find the number involved). It seems that arson was the cause. The results are here to be seen, including a burned out fire engine abandoned in the forest.
This part of the camino has been difficult to negotiate in the past because the nature of the eucalyptus is to shed its bark, so any markings painted onto tree trunks eventually disappear. However thanks to the guardians of the Portuguese route, an organisation called ‘Via Lusitania’ a new programme of permanent marking has been undertaken and it is now difficult to go wrong.
The walk was very pleasant, if a little windy, with strong gusts keeping us cool. There is an abundance of beautiful wild flowers in the forest, most of which are familiar, but some are new to me. It was quite difficult to take photos in such gusty weather, but I managed a few.
Some pine trees had also been burned and showed no sign of life, but the eucalyptus were sprouting new shoots from the base. Some of the land had been felled and there were piles of thin logs dotted around the area.
I came cross a dog in the forest, sleeping in a pile of dumped rubbish on a foam mattress. It ran off when it saw me approach, but I stopped and tore my breakfast roll in half and left it for his return.
After about 9 km we reached the small village of Asseiceira where we stopped for a hot drink, and once I persuaded the barman that I did actually want just hot water, no tea bag, no lemon…… I got it free of charge.
There followed a variety of tracks and minor roads and a stretch on a very fast through road with heavy speeding traffic, and then we peeled off along a very narrow track which was quite hard work to walk on, and then alongside a railway line, until we eventually rejoined the main road into Tomar. We realised that we had been taken around three sides of a rectangle in order to get us off the highway, although we would probably have preferred the highway to the extra km’s!
We are both looking forward to exploring Tomar, which is a major Templar town, with magnificent castle and beautiful streets of ancient properties.
We first visited the 500 year old synagogue, the oldest synagogue in Portugal with a really interesting history, and then made our way up high above the town to the castle. Unfortunately we were too late to gain entry inside the doors of the castle, but we were free to roam around the grounds for a while until all were ushered out by the bell-ringing attendant. It was worth the steep climb on weary feet to see such a marvel.
Back down in the town we stopped by the main square where we looked inside the 13th century church and I caught a timely photo of the founder of Tomar, Don Gualdim Pais, with the sun behind his head, making him look rather holy.
Then we bought supplies for the long slog tomorrow and found a restaurant for dinner. When my first hot meal in two days arrived at the table I thought that I would never get through it, but the only thing left after twenty minutes was a bit of raw onion. I hadn’t realised how hungry I was.