24 May 2014
Total distance walked 540.5 km
Average daily distance 23.50 km
I’m quite afronted as I write this, but I shall explain why later.
I slept a very comfortable night at albergue Ninho in Rubiães. I felt a little negative about the place last night because the wifi wasn’t working, the owner tried to rectify the problem by calling someone in, but alas it wasn’t to be. This means that I have to get the blog uploaded in a bar or restaurant. Almost all bars and cafés now seem to have wifi, even the ones you would least imagine to have it. But uploading all the photos is quite time consuming, and I don’t get a chance to answer comments if my time is limited. So apologies for all the typos in yesterday’s post. I just didn’t have time to proof read thoroughly.
I suspect I shall encounter a lot more pilgrims today. The Aussies stopped off at the municipal albergue first yesterday and didn’t stay because the only beds available were two top bunks – the place was packed, as was the restaurant last night. This town is an end of stage in the Brierly book, and lots of people keep to the prescribed stages. I think I shall plough on today and walk over the spanish border and halway across the next stage to avoid the crowds.
The walking environment has been good again today, but hard under foot with yet more cobbles and stoney paths.
The village gardens continue to be an absolute delight. The Portuguese in this area seem to be very fond of topiary, and bushes that have not yet been trimmed to a very precise shape are just waiting to be big enough to follow in their garden-fellow footsteps. There are also many ‘cloud’ trees in evidence – mostly olives. Quite beautiful.
There has been an abundance of wisteria all along the route, which unfortunately had already finished flowering by the time I passed through. It must have been an amazing sight six weeks ago. And it is also an area filled with hydrangeas, not many in flower yet, but those I have seen in colour are a beautiful lavender blue or creamy white. So I am between seasons for two of my favourite cultivated plants, but bang on time for the wonderful roses that tumble over every garden wall. I just love the Portuguese gardens, both the flower and vegetable variety.
And I want to voice gratitude for the humble fox glove, that has been my constant companion practically every day of my walk, even when every other wild flower deserted me, the digitalis was ever present and always reminds me of my cottage garden in England.
I stopped at 15 km for a boots off break. I can feel a possible hotspot on my heel and want to investigate. This is the first dry day since arriving in Porto and it is difficult to take breaks when it is damp, unless there is a strategically placed bar.
Entry into Valença (population 14,000) was not unpleasant, the suburbs are not a chore to walk through and I soon enter the city and walk through pedestrian shopping streets to the castle wall where there is a lovely view of the surrounding countryside. The arrows direct me through a long and very dark tunnel to the other side of the wall and then on a magical mystery tour through the outer grounds.
Then I am walking over a long expanse of bridge high above the Minho / Miño river. A pedestrian walkway runs alongside the vehicle access with a train line running above. Then bridge is such a vast length that I feel a bit disorientated crossing it. I can see a view of the cathedral in Tui through the criss-cross of the structure and below the clouds are reflected in the wide waters of the river.
And then I walk off the other end of the bridge and I am in Spain. It feels very peculiar and a bit of an anti-climax. I didn’t really want to leave Portugal but the arrows have led me across the border.
I had thought I would walk another 16+ km’s to Porriño but after a couple of 30+ days I am feeling quite tired today and decide to stop in Tui.
I call into the information office for a stamp in my credencial and am given directions to the municipal albergue, which I manage to completely miss and have to retrace my steps back to the cathedral, where I eventually find the albergue discretely tucked away. It feels a bit like what I imagine checking into a detention centre would be. I am issued with a disposable sheet and pillow case, am read the riot act about closing time and directed to read the rules of the house. I am one of the early arrivals luckily and am allocated a bottom bunk. The place is a newly converted ancient building, very nicely presented and very clean. My shock comes when I go to take a shower in the ladies’ only bathroom and find that the showers are totally communal, no division between the four shower heads and not even a curtain between the shower area and the toilet facilities. I am fortunate that no-one else wants to use the shower whilst I am in it. I find this treatment totally disrespectful. I can’t imagine that anyone of any age wants to be seen taking a shower. I think it is outrageous and shall certainly enquire about facilities in other municipal albergues before committing to them. It makes private albergues seem cheap at twice the 6 euro price for the municipal.
Rant of the day over
I managed to wash and dry one set of t-shirt, pants and socks yesterday. (Pants, for those non English readers means knickers. I know a lot of you call knickers panties, but that word has rather risqué connotations for me, and believe me there is absolutely nothing risqué about my merino wool walking knickers!)
My clothes were threatening to carry on walking on their own as it had been a few days since I had been able to do any washing with even a chance of it getting dry. I have to say that merino wool is very forgiving, and can actually go for days of wear without getting any tell-tale signs. But enough is enough and I took the chance yesterday afternoon and was rewarded with fresh clothing today. I have washed the other set today. But I don’t dare wash my trousers as I only have one pair. I shall have to wait until there are drying facilities of the electrical kind.
I am now sitting an the Museu Cafe, where the charming barman keeps up a lively conversation in a mixture of spanish and English (although he is French) and he provides me with some delicious tapas on the house.
I finally left the bar and popped into a supermarket to buy some healthy salad ingredients for supper. I just hope that the albergue bye-laws allow me to eat it. And having bar-hopped to a sunny cafe I shall now commit my post to the blogosphere.