Continued from Bom Caminho: A Ponte de Lima Jazz Serenade.
Stage: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
(additional 3 km due to a “Camino provides” situation described below)
On the first morning, I learned that the pilgrim lifestyle is early to bed, early to rise. Although I had earplugs in, I was woken at 6:30 by the rustling of plastic bags and loud whispering from three Spanish women a few bunks over. By the time I had dressed, the bigger co-ed dorm, occupied by the Italians and loud snorers, was empty. The only sign of life in the women’s dorm was a sleeping girl in the bunk bed between mine and the window, who shielded her eyes from the sunlight with her slender arm. Only that girl and two older French men were still at the albergue when I left.
On my way out, I couldn’t resist taking a few more videos by the bridge on that beautiful sunny morning.
The walk started out on narrow cobblestone streets and alleyways that passed between farms. I was fascinated by the grazing cows beyond a beautiful wrought-iron gate. I walked on gravel and dirt footpaths, and also on big stone blocks next to a stream. Here are a few photos.
It was all so vibrant and colorful, and I was in heaven until I discovered my day pack was missing. It wasn’t strapped to the bottom of my backpack! I panicked because that bag contained three essential items: my sleep sack, rain jacket, and umbrella. My phone showed me I had only been walking for 15 minutes, so it wasn’t too far to backtrack.
Heading in the opposite direction, I thought about how it would suck if the bag had been run over by a car, stolen, or dropped in a creek. I asked a couple of girls if they’d seen a black bag. They replied, in a German accent, “Yes! It was back by the cows!” Relieved, I remember thinking, It will be there; have faith.
Then I prayed as I walked back to the cows, but I didn’t see it. I kept going towards the albergue and finally spotted something black in a doorway…was it my little bag or a cat?
I got closer and was so relieved that it was my day pack! A Camino angel must have must have put it in the protected alcove. I looked inside and all the items were there. That was certainly a “Camino provides” moment. I learned a good lesson in strapping the pack more securely to the backpack using mini bungees.
My walk continued through farmlands, vineyards, and quaint villages and beside creeks. With every turn there was something more beautiful or fun to see: a group on horseback, a lady feeding her kittens, fuchsia-colored foxgloves, and rushing creeks.
I stopped for my first café con leche of the morning and saw the German girls, who asked me if I found the bag. They said they were so worried! As I left the café, I met a young woman who turned out to be the sleeping girl from the albergue! We were happy to talk to each other and walked the rest of the way to Rubiaes together.
Diana had started from Barcelos a day before me. I learned she was originally from Poland but had been living in Lincoln, England, for a few years working as an anesthesiologist. Stuck in a windowless office in a bleak wing of a hospital, she longs for nature and hiking and misses the beautiful countryside of her homeland. She told me about a pilgrimage in Poland, somewhat like a Camino, that occurs every year. Residents along the route take in pilgrims for the night and give them a meal. She and her mom did it once. I told her that I’m half Polish and had just toured Portugal with my Polish mama. Maybe I’ll take my mom to Poland on one of our mother-daughter trips.
We had a very steep climb through pine forest to Alto da Portela Grande, what I later learned was called “the beast.” An appropriate name, since my legs were killing me! At the top we took a break, had some snacks, and enjoyed the breathtaking views.
By the time we got to Rubiaes, we were both exhausted, but only I checked into the albergue. Diana was hoping to make it to Santiago by Thursday and planned to walk all the way to Tui that day. But first things first, for we were two hungry hikers! We had a hearty pilgrim lunch together at Bom Retiro, a restaurant recommended by the hospitalero in the albergue. After lunch we exchanged info, said “buen Camino,” and she went on her way. What a sweet girl—and she walks the Camino in sandals!
When I got back to the albergue, I showered, did my laundry, and wandered over to a great café across the street. A glass of good red wine cost just one euro! I met an Australian and we swapped stories over a few glasses. He stayed up and partied with others, but I was too tired. It was then that I truly understood why pilgrims are early to bed.
The albergue dorm was huge, and the metal-frame bunk beds were rather close together. I chose an upper bunk in a corner by a window and spread out my sleep sack, thinking how grateful I was that it hadn’t been lost earlier that day. I slept above a German guy, and I can tell you that snoring sounds the same in every language! There were a lot of revelers who stayed out drinking, but I had my earplugs and eye mask, so I slept like a baby.
Here’s a nice passage about this stage from the The Portuguese Way to Santiago de Compostela – My Way guidebook that I bought at the Libreria Lello in Porto.
Training Tip: Be prepared for steep climbs! Make sure you have tested your hiking shoes on all terrains with elevation gains. The passage above is true, there were parts of this stage that were so steep that bicyclists had to carry their bikes. The Alto do Portela was a challenge, as shown in the spike below the tracked map:
Download the PDF: alltrails-ponte-de-lima-to-rubais
Here are my notes on the cost of that day:
€11 for the pilgrim menu at Bom Retiro: –This included two beers, a generous portion of vegetable soup, fried hake and fries (way too many so I took them to go).
€5 to stay at the albergue
€4 for wine at the cafe and a delicious omelette sandwich for dinner
Up next: Walking Day 2: Rubiaes to Valença