10 May 2014
The hostel in Tomar is quite new, and we stayed in a pilgrims’ dormitory with four sets of bunks. The beds are very stable (not rickety and creaky like so many, with new orthopaedic mattresses, and we were provided with crisp bed linen. It is located directly in the centre of the town and I would highly recommend it. Hostel 2300 Tomar, +351 927 444 144
We were joined in the dormitory by a Dutch woman, a Swedish woman who lives in Australia, a Spanish and a French man, and another woman who I didn’t speak to and I don’t know where she is from, and the two German guys we have met from time to time were staying in the hostel but not in our room. They had made a diversion to Fatima the day before. Three of the guys in our room are seriously considering taking a hop and skip by public transport to Porto to rest for a few days and hopefully revive sufficiently to continue from there. Problems include badly swollen feet, tendinitis, and a fall that caused a badly bruised knee and a dislodged big toenail.
I was last to bed (as usual) and was pleased to see that the two sets of French windows had been left open to give plenty of fresh air. There is often a bit of a tussle over windows, but all seemed to be in harmony last night. Before I managed to drop off there were loud voices and much giggling drifting up from the street, and for some reason the group responsible had decided to plant themselves directly below our window. It went on for a long time, during which I considered getting up and chucking a bottle of water over them. I discovered this morning that Elly (and probably everyone else in the room) was harbouring the same thoughts.
This morning we had options at the beginning of tody’s walk – by road (recommended in wet weather) or by riverside track (for the summer months).
We opted for the riverside walk through a forested area, which was beautiful. Lots more lovely flowers today, including an orchid(?) that I have not seen before, foxgloves which are always a delight and remind me of (UK) home, and a tiny-flowered wild honeysuckle. Lots of people report getting lost in the eucalyptus forest, but the signage has been improved, except for a stretch when I was not at all sure if we were going the right way, but eventually we came across an arrow at an intersection of tracks, so all was well.
I have been considering the significance of the yellow arrows in relation to other walks of life, and have come up with the following analogy. As a parent, when out at what you consider to be a secure place, you sometimes relax and don’t keep a constant eye on the children. Suddenly you remember your parental role and glance up to reassure yourself that they are where they should be, but you can’t see them and a minor panic sets in. You know they must be safely around somewhere close by and keep calm, but a definite concern is bubbling under the surface. Just when you are really starting to worry, they suddenly appear in front of you, where you knew they were all the time. Well, that feeling of relief is how it feels when an arrow appears where you knew it should be but were not 100% confident that you were on the right track.
We walked a short way on quiet country roads and stopped after 9 km for a hot drink, and I joined Elly and ordered a pastel de nata to set me up for the morning. We had passed some walkers going in the opposite direction and there was a group of 6 or 7 in the cafe. It didn’t occur to us until later that these were pilgrims on their way to Fatima, where there is a special celebration in the next couple of days.
The Portuguese love their gardens and it is an absolute delight to wander through the tiny villages and bigger towns and peer over their walls. However it is not usually necessary to look over the wall as the abundance of flowers, especially roses, are not contained in the garden but flow over the wall in a riot of colour. They also tend their allotments with regimental precision, all the veggies in neat rows and standing to attention.
Although we walked on some roads today, perhaps 50:50 road to track, all were quiet with very little traffic. We stopped in a forest after 17 km for a boots off and foot inspection break. I was a little concerned that I had a bit of a ‘hotspot’ on my heel and applied a bit of tape. Whoever said the Portuguese route was flat, has been lying. Today we encountered many hills and were up and down more often than a tart’s knickers!
We found a lovely meadow to sit down and eat our lunch, but by the time we had passed through the long grass to a shady tree, I looked down and saw what I am sure was a tick on my trousers, so I hot footed it back out again and made a thorough inspection to ensure I wasn’t carrying any passengers. 500 metres further on, we found a tiny hamlet with a tiny church and we sat on the steps in the shade and ate our provisions.
We then had an interminable slog along the road with absolutely no shade and we were getting concerned at our diminishing water levels. It had been cool and cloudy when we set off, but by 10:30 the sun had burned the cloud away and it was hot, albeit tempered by a gusty breeze. By mid afternoon it was very hot and we were both on the last dregs of our water supply with at least another 5 km to walk. There were no bars to top up and no fountains, and no one around to ask, until we eventually saw a couple of elderly ladies sitting in their garden and we asked them for a top up. We were given cold water from the fridge by the lady of the house which tasted like nectar, and we attempted to chat for a few minutes with her mother and aunt, both in their mid eighties. They were happy to pose for this photo.
The last section went on forever, and we were definitely flagging. Just when we thought our destination should be coming into sight, the camino was cut in half by major roadworks – literally. There was a traffic diversion indicated but we didn’t fancy how many unknown km’s that might entail, so we scrambled over the bank and down onto the red clay below and picked our way to the road, from where it was just a kilometre or so to the albergue. We are staying at Albergaria Pinheiros where the accommodation is in separate rooms – we have a twin room with bedding and towels for 10 euros each. Our host and his mother are very helpful and kind – to the extent that when I asked where I could get a glass of wine, he sent his mother to fetch me one from his own supply. How’s that for service!
Just to give some appreciation that not all tiled buildings are equal, this has to be one of the worst examples of the many very ugly square boxes of houses that are tiled in hideous patterns.
Today was a hard walk, even though a lot of it was through beautiful countryside and charming villages. We have no major problems. My blister is well on the mend and I didn’t get any new ones today. There seem to be more people falling by the wayside on this route than I experienced on the Frances route. Maybe because it is flatter people are walking harder and putting too much strain on their feet. I am glad I have Elly to pace me and keep me out of trouble. We are getting on really well, and we even laugh at each other’s jokes – what more could you ask of a friend?