After posting my blog yesterday I continued to wander the streets of Oliveira de Azeméis. It was a lovely afternoon and evening. All the savoury food available involved pork, either spit roasted or braised in oil. There were also many cake and fruit stands, and various craft stalls. I bought myself a pork roll for next day’s brunch and went back to our bombeiros lodgings. Here are a few more photos of the festivities.
The town was very clean and tidy when we left this morning, just this rather charming sign of what had gone on the night before. Not like the carnage those rowdy students left in Coimbra.
I have to say, it was one of the strangest nights I have ever spent. It seems that the place is not entirely disused by the bombeiros and there was a lot of coming and going throughout the night of people (men and women) who I presume called in to use the toilet facilities. I also presume they were fire personnel, although I have no way of knowing. Access to the building is by way of a bit of string threaded through a keyhole and attached to a sliding bolt on the other side. Pull the string and push the door and you are in – as easy as that! So there was much pulling and pushing and as I was sleeping on the other side of a curtain, not many yards away from the door, I have to admit to feeling a bit vulnerable, particularly when someone actually pulled the curtain aside at some point during the night. I didn’t speak out and whoever it was didn’t come in, and that was that. However, as you can imagine it was another night of poor sleep and I was up at 5:30 am, not long before a cockerel started crowing – which was somewhere in the building! The whole event was totally surreal and we set off on today’s walk before 6:15 am.
The first third of the walk was very pleasant, through quiet villages and a couple of forest tracks. For the last few days there have been very few wild flowers alongside the roads and tracks. Virtually none really. It is strange because we are still walking through forests of eucalyptus where there were previously masses of flowers in all directions, and now none at all – maybe a change of soil? Whatever the reason, I really miss them. I did find these few today.
I also took this photo a couple of days ago, of a woman ploughing a field with a hand tool. Such a contrast to the mechanised ploughing of the vast fields we passed by at the beginning of our walk.
We set foot on some Roman roads today. Those Romans have a lot to answer for – their roads are most uncomfortable to walk on. I would have expected them to have taken more care in the construction so that their roads would have stood the test of time!
Also included in this medley is an horreo, a railway crossing – we have zig-zagged over the rails many times in the last few days, and a rather interesting sculptor’s workshop that we passed this morning.
Lots of elevation on this stage. We passed through São João da Madeira after 10 km, a large city with a population of 21,000, and stopped for a hot drink and a pastry. The signage through this city was virtually non existent and it was fortunate that we had the notes that Laurie Reynolds has written to guide us through. I recommend anyone contemplating this camino to download her guide which is very detailed where necessary. It is published via the Confraternity of St James website and a donation can be made to this organisation for the download if you wish. Lisbon to Porto, I can’t find the link for the route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela but I am sure you can track it down if you want it.
It is strange that when I become unsure that I am on the correct route because I haven’t seen any arrows for a long stretch, I subconsciously slow my pace right down. And when I eventually see the longed for sign, I speed up again.
The second two thirds was very uninspiring, through larger towns with busy roads, even on a Sunday. The extreme low point of this walk was when I could see from a distance that a dog sitting in the gutter of a busy road was in trouble and my heart sunk. As we got closer I could see that it had been hit by a vehicle and it’s entire hind quarters were paralysed. It looked as if it was sitting on its haunches, but when it moved it was pulling the rear part of its body along the road with its front legs. We asked a couple of people to phone the police to come and sort it out, but both refused, even when I offered to use my phone. A lady tried to help and got bitten for her trouble, but would not phone for help. We were making the poor thing more anxious and all we could do was make sure it had some water within reach and walk away. It broke my heart, imagining how confused the poor thing was, not understanding what had happened to it. And it took me back to the agonies I felt on discovering my beautiful black cat Tibber had been torn to pieces by my neighbour’s dogs a couple of years ago. At the time I kept imagining what was going through his mind as he was being ripped apart. I can only hope that the dog pulled itself back into the road and was killed, rather than suffer a slow death from pain and dehydration in the gutter. (Please, no comments about the dog – I would rather not be reminded of it.)
After I had composed myself I started to look for somewhere to sit in the shade to eat my roll and take my boots off, but it took another six km’s before an opportunity arose. There’s not much shade to be found at mid-day and not many places on such a stark route that would entice you to stop.
I still have not come across any English pilgrims on this journey. Yesterday I met a couple from Lithuania, and an Italian guy. Today I spoke to a couple of pilgrims who spoke perfect English when saying good morning, but they are from Malta. And a couple of guys that we have seen on and off for a few days but never spoken to, and assumed they were French, have turned out to be Brazilian. We are getting quite a roll call of nationalities.
Anyway, after 32 km we arrived at our destination of Grijó. We didn’t see any sign of the albergue we were looking for so phoned the number given in the guide, to be told that it was closed for works. After some discussion the man I was talking to – we were both using spanish and there was a lot of room for misinterpretation – told me to wait were we were, outside the cemetery gates, and he would come and meet us in ten minutes. Within just a couple of minutes a guy pulled up alongside us, got out of his car and started to communicate with us. He said the albergue will be open on 1 June, but in the meantime there were no other alternatives in the town. He said he had to wait for his wife and then he would take us to some accommodation back along the way we had come. His wife duly appeared, our rucksacks were stowed in his boot and we all piled into his car, he turned around and started driving in the opposite direction, and kept on driving for what seemed like an alarmingly long way. I really didn’t want to have to walk all that way back in the morning.
We eventually pulled up outside a Residencial when my phone rang and a voice on the other demanded ‘where are you?’ I just passed my phone to our friendly driver and a long conversation ensued during which realisation dawned that this man was just a guy trying to be friendly and helpful, not the original man I had spoken to on the phone. Luckily we all saw the funny side of the situation and we all piled back in his car and we returned from whence we had come, where we were met by a woman who spoke good English. She explained that because the albergue was closed, we could stay at the priest’s house in the neighbouring village of Sermonde, and she would lead the way in her car and we would follow with the kind man who had somehow got involved in the kerfuffle. Why we didn’t just get into,the woman’s car I really don’t know, but our lovely chap and his wife were keen to take us themselves. Only problem was that the woman leading us didn’t really know the way and we drove round in circles for a while before finally finding the right place, where we were welcomed and shown to a guests’ room with ensuite shower room, and told we could join them for dinner at 7:30 pm.
Our poor guy only went to collect his wife from the cemetery where I presume she was visiting the grave of a loved one, and they ended up getting involved with carting us around the countryside for more than half an hour. More kindness from strangers.
The place where we are staying is huge and is some sort of children’s home. It is surrounded by lovely gardens, a vegetable garden and swimming pool. It is all rather odd, but we have been made welcome and the young woman we are dealing with is most kind. Not necessarily a good idea to invite unknown adults into a children’ home for the night…..
I think this might be a very sober night, and I doubt if I will be able to send this post because I can’t detect any wifi signal here.
We were treated to a supper of soup and hamburger, which reminded me why I don’t eat hamburgers. And then there was nothing to do except bring in our still wet washing and hang it around our room and then have a very early night. We had to share a double bed and so Elly and I both steadfastly kept to the very outer edges to avoid any accidental contcact. But meanwhile some of the boys living here decided to congregate outside our window and surreptitiously glance in from time to time, there being no curtains and as the shutters only partially closed, there was no obstruction to their view. But if they were hoping to see any woman on woman shenanigans, they were sorely disappointed.