September 15-16, 2018: Matosinhos to Povoa de Varzim
Before I began this Camino, I promised myself I would travel only what was a bit farther than comfortable . . . I’ve done two full Caminos in the past and have nothing to prove to myself or anyone else . . . Ria has walked more than twice the number of Camino paths than I have done, and she agreed. Not only do we agree, but there are not enough days in my travel plans to allow either of us to walk the entire way to Santiago de Compostela (SDC), so we already know that buses or taxis are in our future for the next two weeks. We will walk and then leap frog from here to SDC.
I also told friends that if I find a nice little beach town, I might settle in there for an extra day, just because, and I hope I will find that along the way. So here we go!
Saturday, we began just north of Porto on the coast at Matosinhos, the suggested start for this Senda Litoral (literally the “coastal path”), with beach, boardwalk, families swimming, playing in the sand. Children with brown bodies and board shorts, little dogs walking everywhere, running to catch up with their owners, then stopping to sniff and sniff again.
Beach bars/cafes one after another for awhile, all with the same “toasta” with butter or “mixed” (with melted ham and cheese). Then a span of just beach, rocks, native grasses and flowers, the boardwalks, hard sand paths, cobblestones and pavers stringing towns with one another through the sea wilderness.
The boardwalks don’t do well with walking sticks unless one has those rubber caps on the ends. Mine do not, but Ria has an old pair she loans me. Unfortunately, a few yards down the way, the boardwalk slat eats one of my “new” caps, so now I’m sort of a limp-along walker, because otherwise I’m pulled backward about every other step, left stick stuck in the space between the boards. Sigh.
No matter my great effort, my backpack seems too heavy, because it’s my first day. I did no training for this Camino, so I’m definitely waiting for the Camino to train me. But two Granny Smith apples and two wedges of Parmesan cheese do not help lighten my load.
I see very few pilgrims today, perhaps a dozen or so, all German, it seems. Ria and I part after half a day because she still walks faster than I do, But we will meet in La Bruge tonight at a private guest house at which I have reserved a room for us. Very nice, newly renovated, but unfortunately the owner forgot to “renovate” the barking dogs out of the neighborhood. They kept us awake on and off throughout the night. At one point, I (very ineffectively) shouted, “QUIET!” out the window, but perhaps the dogs only spoke Portuguese.
Speaking of the Portuguese language, it doesn’t sound like any language with which I am familiar. Sort of Spanish Russian, and all I know is “obrigado”, the Portuguese word for “thank you”, and “bom dia”, the typical greeting, so similar to Spanish. But to listen to conversations as I walk, still, PortoRuski with a lot of “x”s and extra “h”s in the words!
I’m again trying to get the hang of inserting photos into the posts, so my imperfect efforts will have to do at this point. A clump and then more narrative.
First walking day – 16.8 km. Matosinhos to LaBruge
Sunday – Good breakfast at Casa de Praia in La Bruge, and then off again to the boardwalk, headed for a bed in a small hotel in Povoa de Varzim. Again, Ria and I waved good luck to one another, and her speedy little body put more and more space between us.
I see already that I can’t escape my Colorado life, because I have had to schedule a phone appointment with my Vermont attorney for some real estate business. I stop in Mindelo for more toastas and a sparkling water, retrieved my computer from my pack, and had my conversation with Bill. Buiness accomplished. But before and after that call, my walk was comforting in its repeat of yesterday. Boardwalks, stone paths, hard sandy paths, towns and then no towns, towns and then no towns, The families still out for their weekend excursions with little ones, both children and doggies.
I am tired, though I realize I’m constantly tired, no matter what country I’m in, so nothing for it but to keep walking. Sometimes a change of shoes, from my Keen Targhee IIs to the Teva hiking sandals, which does give some relief. Now that I have a new pair of orthotics, I feel my first two toes pushed more to the front of the shoes, which doesn’t help when I have 20+ pounds on my back as well. Changing to the sandals does help, though I can’t just carry the Keens . . . adding even MORE weight to my pack. I suppose this computer could be ditched, but it’s not going to be my first choice . . . maybe my swiss army knife will have to go, along with the sunscreen (hey, I’m Italian/Lebanese), the arnica cream, and my compass (I have one on my phone anyway).
Just as I thought I was getting to the end of the day’s walk, I approached Vila da Conde, whose coastal path takes a detour around a river port in the middle of town, adding another 6 km to the journey. Lovely walk, but more than I was prepared for. Stopped for another “toasta mixta”, basically two pieces of Wonder Bread, toasted enough to melt the ham and cheese inside, but not the bread itself. Then spread with butter on the outside, making for a greasy mess of basic sustenance, along with a fruit drink of some sort. The anxious-to-please young man behind the counter assured me, “You will like it, you will like it, yes?” And I did like the juice. What was not to like about this sandwich? But for the Wonder Bread . . .
By the time I found the water again, I was done for the day. A taxi on a Sunday is hard to find, but a nice hostess at an oceanside restaurant got one for me. Not sure it was worth it, because the man looked like Wally Shawn without the intellect . . . he kept turning around to ask me where he was supposed to go, all the while driving in the Sunday traffic out of Vila de Conde. In Povoa de Varzim, my destination, he was completely flummoxed by the address (on a main street, mind you), and I finally just asked him to stop the car. I could walk. He made mincing apologies, took my money and I headed for the centro.
My Google Map pointed in the direction, but I was stopped by 1) an ambulance headed for a very crowd-lined street, and I saw a woman in a Sunday dress lying on the street with people gathered around her. Apparently too hot for her, so I skirted the chaos, prepared to walk through the crowd (obviously some sort of Sunday celebration or parade), but I was stopped by a policeman, who pointed to a parade of priests walking down the middle of the avenue.
No way was I going to wait for this parade. A Peregrino on her own mission, I stepped as close to the curb as I could, passing the line of waiting pedestrians, and ultimately crossing the path of rows of holy men, virgins in sparkly dresses with long trains, and at the head of the line, six men hoisting The Virgin Mary on a flowered pedestal. I almost blindly walked across the entire thing, trying not to bang anyone with my backpack or sticks.
Finally arrived at the hotel, Réve d’Or, a tall green building with a marble staircase.
I knew Ria was already settled in the room, because I had received a text from her, but the man who wanted to put me in a different room could not understand that. Both of our names were on the reservation, and still, I am standing in room A, while Ria is in Room G. Finally, I hear Ria’s voice echoing through the stairwells, “Joannah? Where ARE you?” And the man’s wife, presumably, hustles up the stairs behind Ria to motion us to the correct room, and we are settled. Ria has broken the stem of her glasses and will go scouting for an optician, I need to find a post office to send “a few things” on to SDC, and we agree that we will get a bus schedule so we can hopscotch 45 km tomorrow to catch ourselves up to the number of days we have remaining. Now that’s settled. On to more imminent needs.
Shower. Naptime. Then dinner.
(NOTE TO FELLOW GRAMMAR GEEKS: I am completely aware that my tenses change from present to past and back again. For today, my choices are two: change all to present, which is how I typically write these, or throw up my hands and make a face. I choose the latter.)
I am so amazed at what you are doing. Safe travels
This so interesting …. and fun …. to read. Thank you for letting me hike vicariously :). Carol Ann
I don’t mean to sound negative, but when does the peaceful part start? P
Ha, dear Pat, that is the question, isn’t it. It isn’t negative, it’s just a pragmatic question and a wistful one. When I see you in Austin at the end of next month, maybe we can carve out a bit of time to Muse about that.
Having followed your two prior (full) Caminos’ blogs, and now this first big entry, I want to say the beginnings are always hilarious to me as a mere reader. The frustrations and realities of this “romantic” pilgrimage. The weight of the backpack. Changing footwear…rubber tips coming off in the slatted boards, 6km detours when you are ready to stop! Kudos! Ten minutes to read, but ten HOURS for you to do.
A delayed reply here because I was on my own retreat hiking in the redwoods. So wonderful to once again read about your journey. I could just visualize you saying enough is enough after a hard day and walking right through the religious procession. That made me chuckle. And the hard days sometimes make the best stories afterward, eh?