The day didn’t start too well. There were eight of us staying at the albergue. When I arose I could see that the bathroom in the accommodation was in use so I went outside to use the facilities off the terrace, only to find them locked. Now, one loo and eight pilgrims all wanting to make an early start is not a good equation. And the washbasin was in the same room as the loo so people were doing their morning ablutions whilst the rest of us were trying to distract our needs with frustrated jiggling.
The problem is that we all get very uptight about these things when they happen, and then set off on our next day’s walk without being able to tell the operators what the problems are, so perhaps they don’t really know. There are 12 beds in this place so heaven only knows what will happen when they are full. I shall make it my business to write them an email to say they should at least keep the terrace facilities open at all times, and consider installing further loos and basins.
One good thing about distracting myself this morning – I took this pic of the sunrise!
Oh, and whilst I am at it (moaning that is), the Danish couple that we met a couple of nights ago told us that they had stayed at the church albergue in Alvorge and they asked if they could remove the plastic covers. They were told that they could remove them, but that they must replace them after use. What is the point in that???
Ok, that’s the morning rant over!
We are having a virtual day off today. There isn’t any other accommodation for a further twenty km’s beyond where we have stopped. We shall then split the next two long 30+ km stages into three! which will give us a relatively short day into Porto so that we can have a good look around. I prefer taking these shorter days rather than have a complete day off to rest and sight-see.
It means we will arriving into Porto on day 18, rather than 14 as suggested in the guidebook. Maybe if it had been cooler we would have been inclined to walk longer days. But my feet are continuing to hold up. I still have my original blister behind the second toe on my left foot, but I am managing it ok. I also have one on the outside of my right heel. So far neither of these are much of a problem. I realised today that I have not taken a single painkiller this year, whereas last year I was popping them all day long for the first couple of weeks.
Although the walking was mostly on roads again today, it was much more interesting, walking through towns and villages with fabulous old properties, almost all abandoned and in disrepair, but with the former glory shining out. This must have been a wealthy area in days gone by.
These guys seemed as interested in me as I was in them. And the structure in the bottom picture seems to be for drying hay – or do you know better?
We stopped off for a breakfast picnic halfway over an ancient bridge – some say medieval, others say Roman. Whatever period it is from it provided a very welcome shady ledge for us to perch on. We had read that we could get to a small island in the middle of the river, but whatever means of access had existed in the past, was no longer in evidence , so we enjoyed the view of it, rather than from it.
We got off the roads for a while and set foot on what must be very walker’s perfect path – through a forest, flat and even with a sandy surface, shaded by the trees. By the time we had finished extolling its virtues it had changed to a rough and rutted track – but we enjoyed it whilst we could. After a moment of searching for the direction I spied this innovative and welcome sign.
We came to the outskirts of our destination before mid day and as we were looking around for an arrow, a local couple approached and after studying the map for a while they did an about turn and escorted us to find the albergue the guide mentioned. Unfortunately it is not operating so we continued until we found the Residencial where we are staying. The Alameda is a huge property, once very grand, now rather sad and in need of repair. However we have a very adequate twin room with shared shower and loo for 12.50 euros each. There are also rooms with ensuite for 35 euros. The bathroom facilities leave something to be desired but are clean-ish and functional. I can’t say I would recommend it, but it is cheap and adequate.
Arriving early into a destination can be a very different experience depending on the town. For example, into Tomar or Coimbra or some of the smaller villages, it is a delight to explore and find a cafe to while way the time. But today for example is a bit depressing. Albergaria was obviously once a prosperous town with some very grand buildings, but now, despite a very pretty garden in the main square, it looks and feels like a place lacking a heart. All the streets have been dug up to make way for a new sewerage system, almost all the impressive buildings are in complete ruin, leaving just the concrete boxes in use, and a lot of those could do with some maintenance.
It was another very hot day, with a fierce heat to the sun from before 9:00 am, but the weather is due to cool down over the next few days, so that should make the going easier.