Walking Day 4: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis

Continued from Pontevedra: A Peregrina Paradise

Stage: Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis
22 km

After our wild night out with peregrinas at the Parador, Karin and I were both slow to get moving. The lobby of the albergue has an awesome map of the Camino Portugués on the wall, so we took a few photos.

We started walking through town and at one point Karin said to me, “You walk faster than me. Go ahead.” Instead of taking this personally, I thought to myself, she’s right, I do walk fast. We got along great, but we didn’t walk at the same pace, and I like to stop and take photos whenever I have the whim. And that’s okay on the Camino – everyone should walk at their own pace. So, I responded, “Okay, I’ll probably see you again along the way.” Sure enough, we saw each other a few times throughout the day, and a few days later in Santiago. Continue reading

Pontevedra: A Peregrina Paradise

Continued from Walking Day 3: Redondela to Pontevedra

A Parador, pulpo, sidra, tapas, and a Camino-themed chapel. What more could a peregrina want?

I was glad I had decided to walk all the way to Pontevedra that day. When I checked into the albergue, I was surprised to see two of the five Italians I met on the first night in Ponte de Lima. They were early risers and must have walked more than 35 km a day to get this far. Speeding through the Camino is not my thing; I feel that walking 18 to 22 km a day is a distance I am comfortable with. I had just finished walking 22.5 km when I arrived at the Virgen Peregrina albergue in Pontevedra so I was ready to rest my body.

This albergue has two large dorm rooms with fifty-six bunk beds. When the hospitalero asked if I preferred a top or bottom bed, I said bottom please. “As everyone does,” he replied and walked me to a bed that was super close to other beds. In fact, a guy was sitting on my assigned bed and looking through his backpack. I dreaded the thought of sleeping in those tight quarters. I know that I would feel claustrophobic. Continue reading

Walking Day 3: Redondela to Pontevedra

IMG_8072Continued from Walking Day 2: Rubiaes to Valença

Stage: Redondela to Pontevedra (O Porriño stage skipped)
22.5 km

I woke up in the Valença albergue to find the other pilgrims looking a bit panicked and flipping through their guidebooks. The skies were gray, and a big storm was in the forecast. Alas, it’s not all sunshine and flowers on the Camino.

Galicia Tourist Train

RENFE to the rescue!

I saw the same German guy I’d slept above in Rubiaes, Mike, and asked him what the concern was. He had walked this route before, and he told me about some detours around O Porriño; some people were talking of skipping that stage altogether.

Warning about stage rerouting

Warning about Camino rerouting

I was bummed about the rain and didn’t feel like walking through Tui (having already enjoyed it the night before) or crossing the border bridge again. I too had seen the warning signs about route detours and even heard about arrows being removed to confuse pilgrims. I felt the need to skip this stage and avoid navigating through the mayhem in the rain. It would also allow me to arrive in Santiago on Friday, in time for the pilgrim mass at the cathedral. I had given myself the flexibility to skip a stage if needed. (see My Camino Portugués Stages)

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Walking Day 2: Rubiaes to Valença

TrackedMap-Rubiaes-ValencaContinued from Walking Day 1: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes

Stage: Rubiaes to Valença 17 km
+ 11 km Valença fort to Tui for sightseeing and dinner, roundtrip
28 km total walking

The Rubiaes albergue was much more crowded than Ponte de Lima’s, so the room was very stuffy in the morning. When I cranked open the window next to my top bunk, I got a few nods of approval from the groggy people waking up. The metal bunk beds were a little squeaky, but I managed to get a decent sleep. I was so glad my sleep sack was treated with insect shield because a girl two bunks over was bitten during the night. She spotted a bedbug on her mattress and notified the albergue staff. Yikes! That was too close for comfort. I checked my mattress and bag liner and there were no signs of bugs. It seemed like a very clean and well run albergue. Below are a few photos.

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Walking Day 1: Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes

Tracked hike from Ponte de Lima to RubiaesContinued from Bom Caminho: A Ponte de Lima Jazz Serenade.

Stage:  Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
22 km

(additional 3 km due to a “Camino provides” situation described below)

IMG_7498

Sunrise on my first morning of walking

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.

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Bom Caminho: A Ponte de Lima Jazz Serenade

A light rain was falling when I arrived in Ponte de Lima around 8 p.m. after my train and bus rides from Lisbon.

A lone kayaker gliding along the river

A lone kayaker gliding along the river

Approaching the beautiful arched bridge built by the Romans in 1125, I heard jazz playing. I wondered where the sound could be coming from, because the small village seemed rather quiet and empty of people. The music became louder as I got closer to a street light on the bridge, and I realized the jazz was coming from speakers concealed inside the lamppost! I was mesmerized by the beauty and the feeling of that moment—crossing a bridge and being serenaded by jazz. It was as if the Camino had rolled out a welcome mat and said, “Come here child; we’ve been expecting you. You are exactly where you need to be.”  Continue reading

Pre-Camino Logistics: Getting from Lisbon to Camino Starting Point

The logistics of getting to your Camino starting point should ideally be figured out in advance. It’s hard enough dealing with lack of sleep on a long flight and the jet lag without the worry of making more travel arrangements once you reach your destination. Fortunately, I was acclimated to Portugal’s time zone before I began my Camino, because I had already been touring the country for 11 days.

Wherever you plan to start your Camino, the Rome2Rio website is an invaluable resource for figuring out the best way to get from A to B. It will show you train and bus routes, taxi companies, and different transport combinations , as well as  the costs involved. The Rome2Rio website works well and so does the iPhone App, and you can use it to research your journey beforehand or book transportation on the fly. As we know, there are many different Camino routes and starting points. This post is about my experience getting from Lisbon to Ponte de Lima.

Avenida Liberdade's mosaic stone walkway was a nice way to begin.Avenida Liberdade’s mosaic stone walkway was a nice way to begin.

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My Camino Portugués Stages

The route I walked on the Camino Portugués Central is highlighted in red and the cities I stayed in are underlined on the map below.

Caminho Portugues Central (See below for map without highlights)

* See below for a full map without highlights

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Gayle Takes A Hike

Hats off to Gayle from Australia for documenting her Camino Portugués on her blog Gayle Takes A Hike.  I walked through many of the same places she did, and when I saw this Stop sign in particular, it brought a smile to my face.

Gayle (pictured center) at the same sign I saw on my longest day of walking, from Padrón to Santiago.

Gayle (pictured center) at the same sign I saw on my longest day of walking, from Padrón to Santiago.

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My Pre-Camino Tour of Portugal

Trafalgar Tour Best of Portugal Map

Before I started the Camino Portugués, I traveled with my mom throughout Portugal on our annual Mother-Daughter trip. Six years ago, we celebrated Mother’s Day by taking a tour together in Europe, and we have been doing so ever since. It’s always been with Trafalgar Tours, my mom’s favorite tour company. She’s done twenty-plus tours with them and loves all that they offer. She lives in Las Vegas, and I live in the Bay Area.  And although we get together with family for the holidays, we both look forward to this one-on-one quality time with each other. She will be eighty-one in October and fortunately is still mentally sharp, though physically she is slowing down. I cherish every moment with her.

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