Why do we do certain things? Things such as long distance hiking, which is what we set out to do. For some it is the adventure of it all, the unknown. For others it is setting the goal and then going out and achieving it. for me it was simple - I am getting older and my opportunities to do something like this are getting fewer.
For those who don't know, the Camino de Santiago is a series of pilgrim trails, leading to Santiago de Compestela in north western Spain. As complete (well, almost) novices to the hiking world, we decided to do a shorter one - only about 250km (we ended up doing over 300km, with meandering around towns after each day's walk was complete). The route we chose is from Porto in Portugal, about one third of the complete Camino Portuguese.
The airport at Porto reminded me of the ribs of a whale carcass! It was airy and cool and I really enjoyed it. A quick cab ride saw us to our hotel where we dumped our backpacks and took to the streets.
Some buildings had beautiful flower decorations on their balconies - possibly left over from a previous festival, or in preparation for the next one, who knows?
Brothers in arms. Ian and myself with the holiday feeling coming on strong!
As usual, old towns in Europe are narrow slits between tall buildings, and we delighted in wondering through them and ended up at the dockside.
Porto is on the Duoro River, the main link to the port growing region upstream. I suspect that the British taking a liking to Port led to the (increased) prosperity of this, the second city in Portugal. There are still a number of warehouses along the river where this delicious stuff is stored before being exported worldwide.
The city boasts a number of bridges over the river. This is arguably the best looking of them and is now used for tram and pedestrians. The large building, top and centre, used to be a monastery until Porto in 1832 when it was taken over as a barracks and remains so to this day.
Along the bank of the river there were schools of mullet spawning. The white in the water is all the milt.
We had our dinner al fresco in a square alongside what seemed like half of Porto. There were some interesting statuary on the buildings
Of course, we could not eat without a jar of sangria! Tapas was the fare we chose and enjoyed a chorizo sausage, sliced and on a skewer, then placed over flames, as well as bread and olive oil.
SOMEONE was eating salads........
After that meal we had to walk up some steep streets to get back to our hotel. Along the way we came across the railway station which has some large panels of tiles depicting historical scenes. This has featured in a TV program presented by ex-Tory MP, Michael Portillo, which Elseline and I watched.
It is a really impressive building, the scenes grandiose, if almost meaningless to the pass-through tourist. I would have loved to have spent a little time to understand what the depicted scenes are about and how they fit into Porto (& Portuguese) history.
And as we found, the tiles are used outside too. We came to understand that the tiles are there to reflect the heat and help to keep the interior of the building cooler - a big thing when the temps get to upper 30's maybe lower 40's.
On Monday we headed out to get our Credencial del Peregrino (Pilgrim Credentials), which we had to get at the Porto Cathedral. It is this document in which we needed to collect the stamps of various places we pass through or stay at, to prove we have covered the distance. To start, we set the scene with a selfie of Los Tres Amigos, as we did every day from then on. Notice the sharp sunglasses and natty hat! My sunglasses got broken in my backpack (why did I put them there?) on the flight over and I left my hat behind. The hat cost me the enormous sum of €5.99 and is made of paper in China. I have it to this day and still use it, even if it is a little worse for wear.
Pipers are not only Scottish! Wherever a Celtic nation is found, you will find pipers and northern Portugal and northwest Spain are both Celtic. While the sounds are similar, they are different enough to not be mistaken for skirling Scottish pipes.
Looking out over the roofs of Porto you see a mass of roof tiles of mainly the same colour. It is lovely to see few glass & steel edifices, but all the older style buildings. Progress is all very good and well, but there is nothing like a bit of ye olde worlde charm to add to the delights of visiting a new city.
The cathedral was very interesting and had some beautiful gilded wood carvings, which as a carver, I could not resist. This is me in action.
And this is what I was capturing. The detail is stunning, the gilding still quite evident after all these years - really a lovely carved piece.
Of course I couldn't resist all the geometry of this and the lovely contrasting going on.
And the obligatory tiling, of which there was plenty.
Leaving the cathedral we were back in town with all of it's businesses and I could not resist taking this photo and sending it to Martyn (my daughter's man) as he is a guitar man.
There are a number of port warehouses along the banks of the Duoro, where it is stockpiled, and in some cases aged, before being dispatched. Here a tour boat is passing some of the warehouses. We took a trip on one such boat, called the 5 bridges tour, as it takes you under all 5 of Porto's bridges, as well as going downstream getting close to the river mouth.
A lovely display of Morning Glory splashed against the old walls. There were also plenty of jacaranda trees in bloom too. Maybe not as profusely as seen in Pretoria as they were not massed along the avenues, but a very nice reminder of South Africa for us.
Someone took a long time to do this graffiti! It amazes me how much time some people can spend doing these images. And then they look so lifelike - nothing out of proportion, even though they work so close to the wall that they cannot see the whole image to judge for themselves. I watched such an image being done in London and the artist took a couple of weeks to complete it.
Sangria again - mmmmmm!!! Ian and I partook of a regional speciality - a francesinha - ham and sausage sandwich with fried egg on a bed of chips, drizzled in a slightly spicy sauce. Pleasant enough, but to be quite honest, it isnt something I will rush to repeat,
while Lynda had a vegetarian option again. I felt sorry for her as it seemed that all she could get was tortilla (baked omelette with potatoes in it). However, she managed to survive!
The view from the tower of the Brotherhood Of Clerics
It being a hot day, we rested at a tea house.
Leaving the tea house we found a number of pavement decorations , all individual faces
This town has a lot of steep steps!
And narrow alleys
There is no denying this is the Port capitol of the world - there are a number of warehouses all along the river bank
So we just had o try for ourselves. If we didn't have 250km ahead of us, I would have bought a few bottles...
This is the document in which we needed to collect stamps from wherever we could, to prove that we have walked the required distance
On Tuesday we took the underground to the far end of the line, instead of walking from the city centre - a wise decision, although purists will tell you you have to do the whole thing.
And so the pilgrimage began - Day 1 from Porto to Vila do Cosende. We caught the underground from our hotel to Matosinhos, which is where we really began from. Maybe not the city centre, but down at the coast.
A boardwalk exists along the coast for many, many miles and this led us along some pretty scenes.
But initially, we were flanked by many apartment blocks.
And we finally found our first Way Sign - the clam shell of The Way of St James.
Many small churches graced the way. Not sure if/when they are open for worshippers.
There were many different ways that dune stabilisation was being practised, but finding ghoukem was not one I expected. My dad used to make the most wonderful jam from the seedpods of this plant.
Entrepid travellers patiently waiting for the photographer to finish doing the touristy thing!
Another delightful surprise was discovering red hot pokers in bloom.
Here the photographer is taking a photograph of a photographer taking a photograph....
And this is what I was shooting. Loved the yellow arrow (we fondly named them "yella arra") with the green background
The boardwalk crossed a number of small rivers. This was a rather more spectacular bridge than most, especially given the size of the river it crossed.
But oh boy, the scenery was beautiful!
Looking back. The little house at bottom right was in an enclosed plot with a large vegetable garden which had a delightfully large array of crops in it.
First day's lunch was at this cafe. There was a single patron who spoke English and he negotiated for us as to what we could eat, as Lynda has special dietary needs.
This was what Lynda got to eat, while Ian and I shared a plate of large pork chops.
There are lots of different Way markers......
This one was the last before we reached our overnight point in Vila do Cosende.
Hard to believe that the Portuguese crossed oceans in tiny ships like these.
On June 14th we wended our way to Fao
But first we had to get through the streets of the town
with some interesting statuary
and, behind us, an ancient Roman aqueduct.
Soon we left the old town and were walking through modern areas with parks
and pretty wisteria
before reaching the beach, with the pathway leading ever north, once more.
Tiling is a common site for building decoration and also for commemorating events
Not sure what was being remembered but it is definitely of a nautical theme
And what is this tiny old lighthouse doing down a side street, in amongst all of these buildings?
and still the scenery of the coast remained as beautiful as ever
and we were never far away from some splash of colour from a pretty flower
Always, we followed the ubiquitous Way Signs
There we go - keeping to the (not so) straight and narrow. These boardwalks allow the vegetation, scant though it was, to recover and do the job of stabilising the small dunes
Interesting grasses were alongside the pathway
as well as some that were rather prickly - sea holly, Eryngium maritimum.
What a spot for lunch and a rest!
A theme is beginning to emerge - freshly squeezed orange juice at every meal.
Almost immediately after lunch, I had to tend to a blister, so Lynda took the chance to enjoy the view.
Seaweed is harvested and dried, then collected into these heaps before being taken off.
We began to see little patches of vegetable gardens, becoming larger. Each one had some curly leafed kale and garlic and onions.
And then there were also large numbers of poly tunnels. These were surely used to protect the soil from being dried out by by winds which blow q lot along here, according to people we spoke to, but we did not experience anything but breezes the whole time we walked.
Yet another stop. This time Lynda managed to get Ian to drink some water!
Helpful aerial photos showing where we are were useful!
The church at Apullia - nice and white to reflect all the heat
This elicited some debate, until I finally remembered the name - lantana!
Where I grew up, around Port Elizabeth, we had these grasses too. We named them Bunny Tails, for obvious reasons.
It wasn't only boardwalks, streets and roads we walked on, but this must have been about the first "off-road" path we tramped along
We had come a long way, just a few kms to go now.
Having reached our hotel for the night, tired feet were rested!
in any style that suited!!!
Lovely view from the balcony.
June 15th saw us continue on to Viana do Castelo.
Oy! How dare you!!!
An overcast, almost misty, day beckoned.
A larger than usual Way Marker.
And a very different sign too!
Having reached the far side of Esposende, we stopped for ice creams and filling the water bottles and bladders for the day.
In Marinhas, this little church had a short, if delightful, avenue of lime trees.
By this time we had left the coast and climbed up the hillside that runs parallel to the coast. It was a hot, hot day and Ian and Lynda dodged from shade to shade, while I muttered "shed is over-rated" and carried on.
Luckily, and for the first time, the path took us through a forest which was significantly cooler.
At the bottom of the valley was a river with a narrow bridge. Of course, what goes down must go up, so we had to climb all the way back up to the top of the hill again. Phew!!!
This is a rather large communal washing area. Clothes etc, not people! Shows how it wasn't that long ago that washing machines were not readily available and had to be done by hand.
Now we are really offload again.
Does this look like a man enjoying himself? Huh? Huh?
The distant sea. we were suffering in the heat and could have done with some cooling effect from the cold water.
Our destination is in sight - Whoo Hoo!!
We stopped for a snack (and orange juice of course) and to check where our accommodation was. Surprisingly it was a mere 500m away!
Amazing what a few hours of good sleep can do for the body. We were raring to go.....
Our gracious BnB host, Peter, had told us of this dolmen which was almost on our path so we took a tiny detour to take a look. Incredible to think that before the days of metal tools or block and tackle, they were able to move such massive blocks of stone.
Another day traipsing along the pathway next to the sea. We started making up book titles, at which we became quite proficient. The best was "Walking to Caminha". There - someone can take that and use it for their next masterpiece. You're welcome.
We knew we were crossing the border into Spain today, but didn't realise that the pointy thing over there was Spain!
At the ferry crossing, we had (yes you guessed it) an ice cream and orange juice, before boarding for a lovely experience of sitting and travelling for a change!
Goodbye Portugal! It was a wonderful visit and I am sure I speak for all three amigos when I say we will be back.
Suddenly we had upmarket Way Signs, carved from granite.
Not to say that the "yella arras" weren't still around. It does say go up, doesn't it?
Yikes! That was a long steep hill on a still hot day! Taking a break, looking back over the lagoon to Portugal.
We were now in a eucalyptus forest, with lovely smells and soft sighing of the breeze in the leaves above
Tired feet needed a rest, so we stopped in a patch of grass with some shade.
About a kilometre or two further on and there we were. The BnB had a washing machine so all our clobber was washed and Lynda did the hanging out -- thanks!
A short nap later saw us wandering downhill to the harbour area where, we were advised, we would find the best fish restaurants in the whole of Galicia. Galicia being the province of Spain in the north west corner of the country.
Up bright and early the next morning, we encountered this flower petal covered plaza, done for the festival of Corpus Christi.
The dark borders between the colours id grass. The blues and pinks are hydrangea petals.
Lynda, being Lynda, chatted to one of the ladies working there and was taken up to get a view from the balcony.
There was even a token clam shell (or was it the rising sun?)
What a wonderful thing to do!!!
But we weren't there to only admire the beautiful display, we had a walk to complete, so we took the daily selfie and were off.
Of course, lets not forget to pay homage to our feet which so bravely carried us through some tough times.
We had left before sunrise and were greeted with an exquisite view as we crested the hill to see the coastal path for the day
Looking back after a bit, we could see the rising sun illuminate the mist.
Not only Cornwall or Yorkshire have stone walls. These however also have yella arras!!
Oh no! We had run out of yella arras and were desperately casting about (some on Google) for the way back to the path.
Which we found and it took us to meet the main road. Today we walked along it for many miles.
Stopping for a quick snack, Ian and I attempted to kill Lynda, by making her laugh so hard while we did Monty Python sketches. For some reason I am glad we failed.
Wherever we went there were magnificent hydrangea bushes.
And yet further along the road, we had to take another break.
Doesn't this look magnificent? Wow - we were so lucky to have walked past all this beauty!
Coming into the village of Oia, we found a teahouse which has not changed much in many years, apart from the inside which was wonderful.
And there is a monastery where pilgrims can stay. We had chosen to keep going to the next point of call though.
But not before passing the Glasgow Hotel, where we popped in for lunch - three smelly pilgrims - and ate a scrumptious meal.
Having had our afternoon nap, we sat down to the important part of the day.
Los Tres Amigos - again an early start. Best to do that and get the majority of the walk done before the heat becomes oppressive.
Not long into the day and I was complaining about my boots.
And then I was sorting out my next blister
At this point we climbed up a hill and followed the Way overland to Baiona
But not before seeing a lot of wild flowers
and encountering some misty roads
as well as a strange Pilgrims Spring. We had read that these were abundant and safe to drink from.
The church at Baoina.
With wonderful light and feeling in it. I lit a candle to Elseline here.
Lunch was not the most nutritious of meals, being crisps and pastries, but it sure fuelled the inner person.
We briefly investigated the local market. Always nice to see these.
And lovely to have a beautiful bougainvillea along the way too
Having booked in at Nigran, we wandered over to the hotel, where we arranged for a cab to take us into Vigo the following day, as otherwise we would have walked good few miles through industrial areas and this idea did not excite us.
Waiting for the cab.
Our cab driver was amazing. He would stop the meter, drive us off to some spot of interest, tell us about it, before going back to the route and turning the meter on again. He did this several times - what a wonderful chap!
So we included him in our morning selfie!
He had skilfully dropped us off right opposite a bakery, where we got croissants to give us some calories for the forthcoming hardships.
And so we were off. The day was roughly along a general contour line for a long part of the morning. This was in towns,
in the woods
overlooking the bay and the city of Redondela,
and a massive new bridge which is being used long before construction is completed.
For floral delight we had a large plumbago bush in full bloom.
Finally we needed a break from the stifling heat and settled down for a nap in a mixed woodland, to the sound of birdsong and dropping pine cones.
Shorlty after this we came across this, where pilgrims write messages of hops, prayers or wishes on their shells and leave them tied up with hundreds of others.
It was lovely to see that the locals put out bottles of water for the pilgrims (and any others) who may need a drink in the extremely hot weather (37/38C)
We were advised not to go down to the lagoon and soak our feet, so we used this tiny bath/shower contraption instead.
After one too many spanish omelettes, Lynda felt the need for something different and as there was a grocery store right round the corner from us, we bought a bunch of fresh ingredients and had an really tasty home cooked supper.
Leaving Arcade on the way to Pontevedra
It looks like it is beginning to become all hilly
The promise of (yet another) gorgeous day ahead.
Many houses have flower pots outside that provide a splash of colour
It was around this time that our coastal route joined that of the central route and the number of pilgrims was noticeable.
We were traversing more agricultural lands now.
Having arrived in Pontevedra, we booked in at our hotel, showered and napped andthen for some reason Ian and I decided to practice our Trump-like handshakes
Followed closely by a snack - how toasted cheese and egg sandwiches.
We then headed out to see the bits of the city we could
Los Tres Amigos, ready for supper! Now where and what shall we eat?
Down this street, al fresco?
Or in this plaza?
We eventually found the one which appealed to us all. Mmmmmm - octopus, croquettes, whole roasted garlic
This is the face of a man enjoying his garlic!
Behind us, the bridge over the Lerez river, as we leave Pontevedra.
All across Galicia, there were mausoleums (mausolea?) as well as family ones on stilts in the gardens of some homes.
The fields are steadily becoming greener and more luscious, as befits the area known as Green Spain (Galicia)
It was a cool, grey day as we finished our first stint and were beginning to think of breakfast
But first walked through some woods with a bit of a confusing sign, to me at least. A traffic light for trains???
Breakfast was taken under a grape vine.
Shortly after leaving our breakfast stop the drizzle became heavy enough for us to cover our packs. This gave us the Dedicated Follower Of Fashion: orange, pink, purple and red!
We saw a number of tiny tractors, which are ideal for the small fields and narrow paths
The drizzle persisted for a few hours
Until we came to where lunch was to be taken and here they had their own cellar with large barrels of wine
If I owned a house and had herds of hungry pilgrims coming walking on by, I also would turn it into a lunch stop!
A short detour away were these waterfalls.
And Ian, ever the gentleman, helped provide a reminder for fellow walkers
The first roadsigns we saw indicating Santiago. Now we knew we were getting close.
Stone bridge over one of the rivers in Caldas de Reis
And i found some street art.
All roads lead to Santiago de Compostela
Looks like my choice of evening meal was the good one!
The cathedral in Caldas de Reis.
Penultimate day starting in the usual way.
I am sure that Obelix would have been pleased to see this!
It is the simple things in life - a field of grass, a grape vine and a black cat.
Then, much to Ian's chagrin, Lynda and I spotted a stonechat on a bush!
A photograph of a photographer taking a photograph of a photographer taking a photograph. Confused?
Here are some professionals doing the BOB - Bend Over Break. Do not try this at home..
As ever, there were pretty flowers to cheer us along the way
And bridges to cross, much to Ian's delight
Reaching the town where we were staying for the night (Padron, where the peppers come from), we stopped for - you guessed it - ice cream and orange juice.
A lovely long avenue of lime trees leading down to the cathedral at the far end
Tonight Ian won the best meal of the night award!
And Lynda didn't care, as she had several gluten-free beers.
At this lovely pulperia - a restaurant specialising in serving octopus.
Looking back along the river, past the avenue of lime trees.
Now this is what my local supermarket is missing!!!!! Delicious Serrano hams.
Leaving Padron, destination Santiago de Compostela. Ian and I decided to do a selfie without Lynda and make no comment about Lynda at all, just to elicit some reactions from those following us on Facebook. NO-ONE NOTICED!!!!
So we did another one with the dear lady in question.
The day started out with a little mist.
And some more farmers fields.
Even the Way Signs are becoming more and more fancy!
All along the way, we had been bumping into a trio of Italian ladies who couldn't say a word of English which was as much Italian as we could utter. The lady in picture with us would come and chat to us, saying whatever she needed to, but somehow the meanings were conveyed.
And still we found great hydrangea bushes, this time on a church building
This is what the communal washbasins look like. The larger ones have more slanted slabs for rubbing the clothes on
The nearer we got, the more often we would see crosses in gardens
Mid morning rest in a shaded area, after a bit of an uphill
Is this some specie of scabius?
Our lunch stop was at the top of the last major hill before the final push to the cathedral. Lynda, being Lynda, took the opportunity to make new friends.
And the Way Signs became REALLY fancy, although I suspect this was a badge for a school.
If you look closely in the circled part of the photo, you will see the two spires of the cathedral. This was our first view of the end of the trail.
But first we had some narrow streets to navigate
and a few paths to wander along
until we started seeing Way Signs with distance markers on them - the excitement was mounting!
Our last sit-down rest before reaching the cathedral. Hoo Boy!!!
And then, suddenly, we were there. Just a few metres to go....
There is a plaque in the centre of the square and it seemed important to stand there and capture our feet which had gallantly carried us from Porto, 300 kms to Santiago (including the few kms we walked every night getting to restaurants and back).
of course we were knackered and need to sit and rest and start to try and take in the enormity of what we had done. I am not sure that i have a full understanding even now, a month later.
The usual procedure was followed: book in, shower, nap, then head out and see what this town is all about. This is the cathedral from the western side.
And here it is from the University grounds
Now, dear feet, where shall we go next?
This is the exterior of our hotel, used to be an old monastery but was converted some time back
The next few photos show the rooms and corridors of this luxurious place.
Our one day of rest before splitting up of the most wonderful partnership was spent wondering around tow, eating here, drinking there, buying gifts for loved ones, you know - the usual tourist stuff.
In the queue to receive our Compostelas. This is the certificate to show you have completed your Camino.
The last group selfie. I used to despise selfies, now I am a fan. This is such a simple thing that I have taken away - be more flexible about things.
Wherever you go there are always people providing some form of entertainment - even Gandhi apparently.
it being a Sunday there was a mass. A Pilgrim's Mass, so we attended.
The swinging of the incense burner no longer takes place as a matter of course so we did not see it in action, but did get to see it.
Fancy organ pipes sticking out and standing up
and a massive dome.
The backstreets were rather quiet on a Sunday.
But we found a place selling churros and hot chocolate - something I an and I had been gagging for, for many a long mile.
As before - all paths lead to Santiago. I can recommend anyone wanting a holiday to Spain with a difference walking a Camino, or visiting Galicia, there is plenty to see and do!
About to leave for the airport. Wow! what an adventure.
Not sure if I will do another Camino (never say never), but where shall we go next?
Italy? Corfu? Kilimanjaro?