First, let me admit to a clerical typing error.
In the itinerary, I said today was going to be 18kms. An easy walk after yesterday’s 25-26kms.
Actually, I realised to my horror that today’s walk was going to be 30kms.
How did this happen? I can proffer numerous reasons – I’d prefer not to use the word “excuses” because that confers an element of liability – but needless to say when I announced this to the tour group last night, I was met with stunned silence.
Probably because I referred to it as a “data entry miscalculation.”
I’d timed my announcement after everyone had had at least two glasses of wine – hoping their slight inebriation would dull their senses – but they were onto me straight away, of course.
Angie asked cuttingly: Have you made any other “data entry misevaluations Bill?”
I told her evasively I’d get back to her on that one…
We decided to leave early the next morning, given that we had to walk such a long distance. I left at 7:30am, and went straight to the ATM machine to pull out some cash. This should have been my first warning.
Instead of using my cash-loaded Travel Card, I used my credit card by mistake. Which means I’m up fort a bucket load of bank fees. This should have alerted me to the fact that I hadn’t yet engaged my brain in meaningful and useful activity, like figuring out where to begin the day’s walk.
I checked the map of the route, which had me crossing the bridge, turning right, and following the river for several kilometres.
So that’s what I did – I crossed the bridge, I turned right, and I followed the river for several kilometres. I even had a bunch of yellow arrows to assure me that I was going the right way – even if some of them were on mobile garbage bins.
I was starting to feel good – even though I’d only had instant coffee from an urn in the hotel’s breakfast room before I left. In retrospect, I lay blame there…
I did though take some nice shots…
But then three things happened.
- The yellow arrows disappeared.
- The river disappeared. Or at least, it turned into a large puddle.
- I saw a road sign to Porto.
I’d walked from Porto two days ago. I like the place a lot, but I didn’t want to walk back.
I was going the wrong way.
I looked again at the map. Yes, cross the bridge, turn right, and follow the river. That’s what I’d done.
But hold on a minute….
You were on the north side of the river, not the south side, you moron.
I turned the map upside down, and then it all made sense. Instead of crossing the bridge and turning right, I should have not crossed the bridge and turned left.
The instant coffee from the urn had totally stuffed things up. I’d been walking for about 45 minutes, which means I’d walked about 3 kilometres. And now I had to walk 3 kilometres back again.
On a day when I had to walk 30 kms, to have to walk an extra 6 kms because I’d ingested bad coffee was not very uplifting. You’ll note here that I refuse to accept responsibility for my stupidity, I lay all the blame at the feet of Nescafe…
So I dutifully walked back, got to the bridge, crossed it, turned right, and headed off – now one and a half hours later, with a deficit of 6kms.
After walking for a further 5kms or so, I found a coffee shop and went in and ordered a proper espresso coffee, along with a Coke Zero with ice.
There was a pretty girl sitting behind me. She was staring at me. Why would she stare at me, I wondered. She was young, and very pretty. Surely she was not trying to ht on me.
And then I noticed something akin to disapproval in her stare. Did she think drinking espresso and Coke Zero with ice was gross?
Actually, I realised that she wasn’t exactly staring at me, she was staring at my backpack, on which I’d affixed my Bonds Comfy Undies to get them dry. They were splayed out on the dirty floor…
i downed the drinks fast and headed back out again.
I saw a pilgrim up ahead. I caught up with her, and we chatted. Her name was Sandra, and she was from Germany.
She’d stayed at the fire station in Vila do Conde the previous night – because she was a pilgrim there was no charge, nor did they charge her for the meal they cooked, and the beer they provided.
I told her to drop in at Caterina’s mum’s house – Villa d’Arcos – about 7kms further up the Camino. We had arranged to have morning tea there, and she could join us.
She moved on ahead, and I stayed back and took some more shots.
Caterina’s mother, Belmira, put on a fabulous spread. She told me that most of the group had been and gone. Because I was running an hour and a half behind, there was no way I could catch up to them.
Little did I know that they would take a wrong turn not long after leaving Arcos, and they would – like me – get horribly lost.
I went into an old Roman church not far from Arcos, in part because I’d now walked about 21kms, and i was tired and sore. The church inside was very simple, but it had an energy, a power, that was palpable.
Sitting in a pew, I began to ask myself some questions:
- Why am I doing this tour?
- Was Jesus just a wise young man with a lot of charism?
- How come I say I’m not religious and yet I always come in and sit in churches and ask myself questions which can never be answered?
A strange thing happened. I put my sunglasses back on, about to leave, and the heat from my body fogged the lenses. Everything around me suddenly shifted into another dimension. It was ethereal.
Yes I was exhausted, yes I was merely looking at everything through fogged up sunnies, but it was more than that. I was somewhere else. Time stood still. I couldn’t see anything other than the cross against a sliver of light from a window behind. It was transcendent.
It freaked me out. I took off my sunnies and quickly left.
I’d left Arcos without a water bottle. I’d given mine to Jennifer, because she’d been vomiting and she needed hydration. But I was now three hours from Arcos, walking in the hot sun in the middle of the day, and I was getting thirsty.
No, I wasn’t getting thirsty, I was getting desperately thirsty.
I kept walking around bends in the track, hoping to see a store or a cafe – but there was nothing. I walked another hour – four hours now since I’d had a drink, and I was starting to feel very woozy.
There’d been no villages, no stores, not even any taps in someone’s front yard where i could sneak in and gulp down some water.
I was starting to get worried. I was walking through the heat of the day, and I was beginning to suffer from dehydration.
Then I saw, as if a mirage, a house in the woods. It was a modern house, and there were some men outside doing some painting.
I walked over, and asked if I could get some water.
They looked at me oddly, as if asking themselves: Why would this bloke who looks like a serious pilgrim not have any water?
One of the young painters gestured to me to follow him inside into the house. There he went to a refrigerator, and pulled out a cold bottle of water. I gulped it down, thankfully, then he gave me some more. And he refused payment.
I walked off with my newly acquired water bottle full to the brim.
Today’s walk was largely over cobblestones or on roads. Hard surfaces. I’d estimate 90% of today’s walk was on hard surfaces. My feet were getting very sore.
I got a call from Caterina – a few more of the group had got lost. They were going to use the van to go through to Barcelos, where we were due to spend the night.
I kept walking. I was taking some nice shots.
But when I saw a cafe I decided that after 7hrs walking without a break, other than that time in the church and the early coffee with the Comfy Undies moment, it was time to sit down for a while.
I ordered two Coke Zeros, with ice – and a large bottle of water. I was still dehydrated.
It turned out I’d stopped at a famous haunt – run by Antionio. There was a pilgrim sitting inside and we had a chat. Her name was Cathy and she was from America. Virginia.
As we talked I saw Jennifer walking past, and I yelled out to her.
She’d walked all the way from Arcos – some 15kms or so, and was feeling much better. We decided to walk together into Barcelos, which was still another 9kms away.
I then broached a subject which I’d been considering while walking alone –
Me: Sweetheart, I’ve decided that for the duration of this pilgrimage, I’m going to remain celibate. I think that’s what a pilgrim should do.
Jen: (dryly) Suits me.
Me: (hurt) That’s not exactly the kind of response I was wanting.
Jen: (indifferently) Exactly what kind of response were you wanting Bill?
Me: (pathetically) I was wanting something like – Gee Bill, do you really think that’s necessary? I mean, I think you should seriously rethink that one…
Jen: (says nothing, merely stares at me…)
Me; (quickly) Or words to that effect…
Jen: (again, dryly) This is why I like walking alone…
We walked into Barcelos – across the bridge and into the old part of town. I ended up walking 36kms – Jennifer 20kms. We were both tired and sore.
We went out to dinner at my favourite Barcelos chicken joint, and we all had a great feed.
Coming back into the room after dinner, I realised we’d been given twin beds.
Me: (grumbling) They should have given us a double…
Jen: (smiling) Pilgrim…
Perfect response Jen!!! Still laughing!! I was reading this out loud to my husband and he didn’t think her response was funny. I guess all the girls do and guys not so much. Can’t believe after 36 kilometers you still had time to write this!
I do think this trip will produce a sequel to your book!
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I didn’t finish the blog till 1:30am this morning! Started at 10pm. It takes me a long time to get it just the way I want it…
And yes, I thought Jen’s response was a classic too!
As much as I hate to say it, maybe you should enjoy the trek more and not spend this much time writing the blog! We, still at home would not like it, but I bet Jen and the others would enjoy more time with you. We could wait for the sequel to your book. You must be exhausted! Is Jen all better?
I write the blog at the end of the day when I get back to my room after dinner. It’s in “my time” and I don’t short change the group any time with them.
The blog is important to me, and I’ve never once missed a day – on the previous Camino and I’ll do the same on this one. It just means I have less sleep than everyone else, that’s all!
But I don’t need much sleep. Five hours is plenty for me.
Jennifer is better, thank you. She said her illness was purely emotional, starting out on her first pilgrimage walk.
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But also Lynda,
I’m having a really good time!
The people on this tour are amazing! The food is glorious, and the country we’re walking through is spectacularly beautiful.
Why would I not be having a great time?!
Speaking of Jen… I still can’t bring myself to join Facebook or Pinterest but I just spent an hour going thru Jen’s boards. Beautiful! Still drooling from the padron peppers and the Santiago cake. Love the food,flowers and colors! Super job.
Hi Lynda, I’ll tell Jennifer. She’s put a lot of work into those boards! She’ll be thrilled that you like them. Thank you!
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What a day and what a range of emotions, Bill – the Four Seasons of Emotions in One Day!
Seriously though, your experience in the church sounds very powerful – much to contemplate on there.
‘Looks as though the Camino “provided” with those twin beds!
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Yes, big day for everyone. But they all are in very good spirits.
Catarina and the van are working a treat. When a few of the group got lost yesterday, they called her and she swooped in and picked them up and took them to the hotel.
We had a great dinner last night, and today is a rest day.
Be careful what you as for on the Camino I have heard…it will provide! 🙂
Great read Bill! I enjoy so much!
We’re all having a lot of fun. And plenty of laughs!
I think anything over 20 km/day is grueling! Very nice photos.
Thanks re the pics Clare.
Most of this group are previous Camino veterans – and some multiple Camino walkers. But this Portuguese Camino isn’t laid out as regularly as the CF.
We have a rest day today though- going to the famous Barcelos Markets, then we’re using the van to go up to Bom Jesus, and staying in a glorious 4 star hotel up there.
Hmm, what were all those plans you had? 😉 looks like you needed another “bootcamp” day. A whole weeks lesson in one day. Oh and I loved Jennifer’s answers! How about trying this for a change. When you start walking again in a few hours, open your arms wide, look up to the Universe and simply shout “I accept” and enjoy the day! ❤ to you all. Ingrid
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I’ll have to write a separate blog about lessons learnt so far Ingrid.
There are several – even after only a couple of days!
Why would you complain about having twin beds now that you are celibate? The Camino provides. Or maybe Jen had the room rearranged during dinner. Who could blame her? My goodness.
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So, Bill, still more Camino lessons coming in by the bucket load and glad to hear that after all these years of marriage, Jennifer still has your measure – being one of the girls, I sort of have to be on her side!! Love the photos 🙂
Bill, I refer to one of my recent comments – when the Camino speaks, be ready to listen. Only you will reflect on and understand your church experience. It may take some time, however.
After approximately 1000 km of Camino travel, you still follow a mobile garbage bin complete with arrow!! Methinks this is amazing. It provided a good chuckle, however.
Am getting a sense that walking the CP alone, could be difficult. Right? [2015 plans may need to be revised]
Enjoy the long walks, markets, rest days, good food and single beds!!