Much as I’d hoped to be able to walk the 260km from Porto to Santiago in ten or eleven days, another interrupted night with the Tedious Cough saw me slow to rise and more aware of the likely folly of my original ambition.
I’d set myself a bit of a physical challenge, which might have been achievable if I was currently less unwell, but I was no longer very interested in that aspect of the trip.
Instead, I was beginning to understand that it was much more important to focus on the spiritual and emotional reasons for walking another Camino – giving myself time to think and to process recent Events and Things was the original reason to come, after all.
Focusing my mind and soul on absorbing the natural beauty all around me, rather than wondering how far down the road I needed to get today was suddenly blindingly obvious.
Quite why it had taken me four days to remember this rather obvious point, I don’t know.
I’ll have to work on that.
But when you stumble into a woodland glade filled with white orchids, your desire to linger and savour the moment overtakes any other thought.
Beyond this little oasis lay mile upon mile of gorgeous vineyard country, which steadily reinforced my refreshed connection with my immediate environment, rather than any other priority. I was now noticing more and more Things In Front Of Me and thinking less and less about anything else except being aware of what might come next, which enabled me to properly hear an Actual Frog Chorus, without having to put up with Paul McCartney as well. As I approached the magical medieval town of Ponte de Lima and its singing lampposts, this little transformation led me to An Obvious Decision.I could either attempt to walk on another ten km and then try to scale a big hill at the end of the day and then hope to find somewhere to sleep – or I could catch a bus to jump a couple of stages to Valença and to allow myself a bit more time to reach Santiago in a less rushed manner.I wrestled with my conscience over this while wandering through the pretty market town, as the idea of utilising mechanised transport for any part of a Camino was clearly anathema. But then I remembered what I would say to new Peregrinos on the Francés last year, when they inherently reduced the status of their Camino if it hadn’t started in St Jean Pied de Port.
Everyone does their own Camino their own way and nobody else gets to tell them how to do it.
Over a very nice lunch of scrambled eggs with chorizo (very nearly the best thing I’d eaten in Portugal), I finally allowed myself the same level of acceptance.
Technically, so long as I still had more than 100km left to complete before reaching Santiago, it would still count and Valença is 118km away.
So there we had it – on the bus I got.
Not long later, 34km had been swiftly deleted and I had arrived at Valença, the final Portuguese town on the route, which is encircled by enormous fortifications, known as the Fortaleza.
The last few scraps of remorse for skipping ahead by bus finally disappeared as I now had the time to properly savour the spectacle of this magnificent stockade town, cobbled streets and ramparts and all.
An excellent Pilgrim dinner of bacalhau, green cabbage soup, chicken and chips and fruit salad set the seal on the Portuguese stage of my second Camino.
Next – Espana awaits.
Estábulo Valinhas, Lugar do Corgo
Modern-built rooms in converted stables in a beautiful vineyard setting. Comfortable accommodation, a decent Pilgrim dinner, efficiently run by Rosa
The Tedious Cough Continues
Blisters: 1 (1)
Right Hip piped up once or twice, but I think it’s actually a muscle that’s complaining, rather than the hip itself. All fine.
Trips, Slips and Falls: 0
Applications of Factor 50: 2 (5)
Filling of Water Bottles: 2 (6)
Number of times “Buen Camino” was said: Another quiet day – seven
Unnecessarily Scary Representations of Jesus: 1
Random Songs Played By My Brain:
Jimmy Mack, Martha Reeves and the Vandelas
We All Stand Together, Paul McCartney and the Frog Chorus (annoyingly so)