Today’s distance 22 km
Elevation gain 311 m
Elevation loss 244 m
Total distance from Almería 1,095 km
Last night we stayed in a Residencial that was about 1.5 km off camino. This morning, the most sensible way to regain the route was to walk 7 km along the minor road EN226 to Vila da Ponte, a winding road that necessitated crossing from one side to the other to avoid oncoming cars taking right-hand blind bends very tight and putting our lives at risk. It was a misty and still morning and we could just make out the wind turbines on the hilltops, lazily deciding whether they could be bothered to turn. A lot of this section was alongside the Rio Távora, between pine woods, vineyards, small crop fields, and many fruit orchards.
The camino track today more or less follows the road, but takes diversions here and there that add kms and probably a good deal of elevation. Being a Sunday and relatively quiet, we opt out of the diversions and stay on the road for 17 km. Here we take the final diversion which gives us 4 km of delightful track walking, past wild cherry trees, dog roses and honeysuckle. Passing by vineyards, dipping into a valley and back up the other side through a pine wood, giving shade from the increasing heat of the early afternoon sun. The track is bounded by moss covered stone walls and I notice a beautiful cross built into a high wall, dated 1776 – what stories these stones could tell – such history constantly surrounding us.
We have passed through many small villages today and witnessed locals attending church, a señora attending her immaculate garden in her dressing gown, a never-ending procession of two wheeled motorised vehicles heading off for a scramble through the woods, countless dogs barking at the end of horribly short chains. Smart new stone buildings, beautiful old stone ruins, impressive churches and many fountains. Gardens of all descriptions, full of neatly clipped hedges and topiary, overflowing with roses of many colours, allotments with neat rows of onions, beans, cabbage, peas, and always potatoes. The Portuguese obviously love their potatoes!
The track takes us directly into the large town of Moimenta da Beira. A town of two halves with beautiful and impressive ancient civic buildings but also with a modern quarter, which is where we are staying, at the Residencial Pico de Meio Dia. Nice room with reasonable bathroom. There is a restaurant and bar below but both are closed on a Sunday as are all shops. 17.5 € for room only, 20 € with breakfast. When we go down to pay, our host offers us home-made cake (which I am told was delicious) and a hot drink on the house.
Marilyn, Eli and I have been out for dinner at a restaurant just down the road. A place with a simple menu of meat and fish options. We explain our diet and are offered a salad, but don’t hold high hopes of a great meal. But how wrong we were! The best salad of the camino was served, with lots of fruit and delicious green beans – really tasty, followed by a few potato fries, accompanied by a half carafe of vinho verde and topped off by a small glass of port dispensed from an interesting container.
Tomorrow will be a sad day for me, as I am losing my great camino buddy Marilyn who has run out of time on this adventure and makes her way back to Cape Town tomorrow morning. Although we have been in communication for a couple of years, I met Marilyn for the first time last year when we walked from Madrid together. The woman is a walking machine. I am full of awe for her strength and tenacity, for her generosity of spirit and her wise words. I will miss her dearly – but only until the next time. THANK YOU Marilyn for being you, the best walking partner I could wish for.