Today’s distance 35km
Elevation gain 681 m
Elevation loss 452 m
Total distance from Almería 1,050 km
Last night’s accommodation had good and bad points. The bad was the bed, which was like sleeping on a slab of the granite found on the hillsides hereabouts, and it creaked so badly that even the gentlest of movements would cause a cacophony. I estimate I slept no longer than a couple of hours. The good point was breakfast which was included in the 15€ price, there was a selection of cheese (although obviously not for me), toast and home made membrillo (quince jelly) and very nice service by the lady of the house.
We walked 2.8 km through the city and country roads to reach our first track through woodland were I saw wild roses and honeysuckle. Occasionally the view opens up to include vineyards with neat rows of vines stretching into the distance. There are quince trees dotted about everywhere and whole orchards of quince trees. I even saw them growing amongst the vines.
After a huge thunder and lightning storm with rain bucketing down last night, the day dawned rather cloudy but bright with some blue showing through. And when the sun did manage to show its face, it became quite hot, although rather humid.
Just before 8 km we reach the village of Valbom and are walking on the road again. Marilyn and I walk to the petrol station just outside town where there is a cafe for a quick drink. The others found a bar in the village, next to the church which I am sure was more pleasant than the petrol station. We stayed on the road for around 2.5 km after the garage, ignoring the track we were supposed to take as it looked very uncomfortable and a bit boggy, favouring the road for a bit longer and taking a wide comfortable track to meet up with the camino. This diversion may have added 500 metres.
We are soon walking between boulder strewn mooreland and vineyards with occasional stands of pinetrees – still lots of lavender and broom.
As we start to climb we can see there has been a recent fire – last year I think. What would have been a walk through a corridor of broom was now a corridor of dead black sticks.
We see butterflies of all sizes and colours and hear lots of bird song
The track is mostly wide, sandy and comfortable, but there are stretches higher up that are just single foot-width trails, and when we get beyond the area devastated by fire we have to fight our way between wayward broom.
After considerable rumbling of thunder we get a little rain at 13:30, enough to put on our rain gear, but not enough to cause any discomfort. It is over quickly enough.
Aurelio has received news that his ageing mother is poorly and so he leaves us at 25 km at the village of Ameal where he calls a taxi to take him to our stage end and a bus back to Lisbon. He hopes to rejoin us in a few days.
Once our destination comes into sight high on a hill across the valley, we are walking through woodland again and then make a descent to pass under the E802. We are briefly on a minor road before being directed to an invisible track above the road. Determination wins out and I finally locate the way and we climb up a narrow track to the last village on our journey.
Once again on a quiet but winding road for a few kms before dipping into yet another valley and slogging up our final difficult climb to the castle of Trancoso. The steep track is made of very large loose stones, no earth between and is very uncomfortable, but onwards and upwards we go – a very tough finale to another 30+ km stage. But the reward is waiting with this very pretty, very ancient walled city and we quickly find ourselves a cafe in the main plaza where I have a celebratory white wine and Marilyn treats herself to a couple of pasteis de nata, the famous Portuguese custard tart.
We find our accommodation just outside the city walls at Alojamento Dom Dinis. We each have a private room with fabulous shower room ensuite, it is spotlessly clean, the double bed doesn’t creak. I flop into bed and watch the 10 o’clock news for a while and then fall into a deep and dreamless sleep without having made any effort to prepare this blog post. Unusually I sleep through until just gone 05:00. We had arranged to meet at 06:30 to take a pre-breakfast stroll around the walled city which was delightful. The narrow streets are full of hydrangeas, sadly not yet in flower. It must be spectacular when they are in bloom. We climb to the top of the city wall to survey the surrounding landscape and then return to the accommodation for the included breakfast which is not normally served until 08:00 at weekends, but they have made a 07:30 exception for us. The buffet style breakfast is worthy of a a good hotel and we tuck in to bread, cakes, cheese, ham, yoghurt, cereal and fresh fruit (just bread, jam and fruit for me). Bed and breakfast for 18€ – highly recommended.
Our hosts were also extremely helpful in arranging our accommodation for tonight. Our intended stage end is Sernancelhe where pilgrims can usually stay with the Bombeiros (at the fire station), but a phone call establishes that there is no room at the inn tonight and the other accommodation on our list is not open. So we decide to stop 6 km short at Ponte do Abade.
I’m sure you will be interested to know that I have been extremely pleased with the toe socks that I purchased for this camino. My only gripe is that they are not made for people with long toes and I have been regularly sewing up small holes on top of the big toe. I have not had any blisters thus far (shssh! It’s never too late to speak too soon). And the boots have been wonderful, other than the soles wearing a bit thin, but I always get that. The only issue is that they tend to flick grit up inside the boot and I have to stop and empty them out regularly. A small price to pay for such comfort.