Today’s distance 32 km
Elevation gain 789 m
Elevation loss 1,044 m
Total distance from Almería 1,185.5 km
I didn’t take the time to ‘discover’ Mesāo Frio yesterday evening, but on walking out this morning it appeared to be a quite charming town that even boasted an open bar at 07:00, where we stopped for hot drink.
2 km out of town we swapped asphalt for cobbled track which headed in only one direction – up – and then up a bit more! The one saving grace was that the track conveniently passes under some low hanging cherry trees. These were very ripe and a good proportion had ended on the ground (which is why I don’t feel guilty about scrumping – I hate waste). The cherries I ate were still wet from last night’s rain.
From the outset we are walking through low cloud and as we swiftly climb (the climb is swift – not necessarily the pace) visibility diminishes until it is no more than 30 m.
At around 3 km we are walking on a quiet road, but there are many tight bends. Walking in this type of road in very limited visibility is very intimidating. I am glad my jacket is cream coloured, my poles are bound with fluorescent tape and by pack cover is orange. If anyone knocked me down it would be intentional! My fellow pilgrims are wearing very dark colours and as I am bringing up the rear, I feel they are putting themselves at risk in these conditions.
The climb continues and we are glad to reach the village of Estrada at 6 km where we stop for a second hot drink. I buy a couple of small bread rolls and a tomato for my lunch (I have half an avocado left from yesterday).
After exiting Estrada we are walking on a cobbled road and I find myself wishing for the tarmac. Not only are cobbles themselves uneven and uncomfortable, but the road gets worn and undulates, making for a much less than pleasant underfoot experience.
At 9.3 km the road runs into sand track and the climb continues on rough moorland – higher and higher. There is a distant eerie whine of an unseen wind turbine. Unseen because the thick mist is obscuring any distant view.
I am far behind the others because I have been stopping to play with my camera and talk to passing locals – although I have not much idea what they are saying, but several lovely elderlies have been keen to communicate and seem genuinely interested I what I am doing.
I find myself walking entirely alone along this cloud covered mountain (hill?) and I am loving it. Sometimes it is just fabulous to be alone with the elements. It was happy, happy walking. I plugged into my camino sound track for the first time in weeks, picked up my speed and sang aloud, happy in the knowledge that I was only disturbing the occasional slug. I climbed to the summit, almost dancing along the track. At 11.5 km the descent began and it was as constant as the ascent had been and I had to slow my pace or I would have met a very ungainly end!
2 km later I rejoined the road and noticed new signage in the form of metal plates on poles. I caught up with the others and Aurelio told me that from now on the signage was very reliable.
Once over this mountain the landscape changed. No more vineyards or orchards, but back to small parcels of land and much more woodland. Aurelio told me that this was Vinho Verde territory, where vines are grown high above the ground on trunks of maybe two metres, around the outside of a plot, with other produce being grown in the middle of the plot.
I was on a roll and paced on, not bothering to stop when the others had a coffee. I was really enjoying striding out and eating up the kms. As I stopped to chat to a delightful old man a taxi passed and I had to move out of the way a bit sharpish. A few hundred metres down the road the taxi drew up alongside me on his return journey and the driver told me he was the president of the local association of the amigos of the Camino Torres in this region. He said that he was working on a project to open an albergue in an old school building in the area of Loivos about 15 km from Mesāo Frio, not expected to be ready for a year or so.
I continue to eat up the kms until I find an inviting rock under a tree at 23 km where I make up a couple of avocado and tomato rolls – really delicious. And then continue on cobbles or Tarmac until I make the decision to ignore the new sign directing me to the right, in favour of the track shown on maps.me. I’m not entirely sure this was the right decision, but having made it, I was destined to stick with it. I missed a turn somewhere along the way and pretty much made up the route for a few kms through pretty woodland and interesting country roads before working my way back on track. I probably increased my distance by a couple of kms but I had the bit between my teeth and was happy to go with the flow. The entrance into Amarante was sudden and before I knew it I was crossing the bridge over the Rio Tamega and was faced with the charming church of Sāo Gonçalo, and found my way to our accommodation just a few minutes away.
In the Hostel & Suites Des Arts we are staying in dormitory accommodation with beds that fold down from the walls – each with a power point, light and lockable shelf. There is a huge kitchen which we can use, a very nice bar that sells food (I ate toast with hummus) lots of outside space right alongside the river, and probably private rooms as well. On chatting with the receptionist I learned that the property was originally the first hotel in the town in the searly 1900’s – the only hotel for 40 years. It has remained in the ownership of the same family since it was established and the current family members spent three years renovating the building, reusing all of the original materials to great effect. 15 euros for dorm bed including breakfast, great showers and facilities. We are lucky that we are the only residents in our dorm. I bought food for a cook-up. This is what feeds three people including leftovers – one onion, one tomato, red pepper, courgette, 2 cloves garlic, heart of cabbage and some tasty leafy greens plus a jar of chick peas – cost about 5€, cooked up with veg stock cube, some wine, some quinoa and rice that was left in the kitchen, some spices and magic ingredient nutritional yeast. Absolutely delicious. Eli and I ate it as it was, and Aurelio added a tin of tuna – and we all thoroughly enjoyed it – washed down with a very tasty fresh red wine.
Amarante is a very beautiful town with a fiesta going on. There are fairy lights, street markets and a lot of noise. I think I will take a quick whizz around and see what’s going on.
Been there, done that! Just a noisy fair at the moment, but market-type stalls are being set up along the streets and whatever they are celebrating will get into gear over the next day or two.