Today the day started at 3:45 because…
… the planed route is about 30 km. If I want to avoid walking in scorching heat… and I do… that requires getting up early.
The night receptionist is also a peregrino and asked me why am I going to Santiago. Ah … fortunately I have a diplomatic answer ready … in life one has goals but its difficult to know how far one advances daily… on the Camino one knows, one has arrows and it serves a reminder that goals are achievable no matter how long a journey it takes.
Both of us are in agreement that it’s about the journey and not the destination.
Since its too early for breakfast, the receptionist kindly provides apples and bananas from the kitchen. He also provides a word of warning to be cautious on the road sections, since the weekends have been known for occasional drunk driver. He bid us farewell with the first “Bom Caminho” of the day.
The path starts on the river promenade, that quickly switches to a “mosquito section” … swarms and swarms of mosquitoes are nicely illuminated by the headlamp … in fact the light seems to draw them even closer to my face. When I turn off the headlamp they are still there but slightly psychologically easier … out of sight out of mind. Some moonlight and white gravel on the path make it possible to navigate without the headlamp.
The Way leads on next to the power plant and and a bunch of cables. Occasionally you can hear the buzz of the electricity.
Next up, fields that appear to be rice plantations … naturally with accompanying swarms of mosquitoes. Looking at nearby puddles one might think its raining, from hordes of various insects that hop on the water surface.
The Way continues along the railroad track with a an occasional railway station. Every once in a while a train passes by and the loudspeaker blast a message for “caros pasajeros” (dear passengers) … of which not a soul can be seen this early.
A bit further on … a first obstacle. Iron gate barring the path ahead. No way around it… too high to jump across … no shovel to dig under. Fortunately the gate has widely spaced bars allowing a passage through the gate … with minimal contortions.
A small village ahead actually has some arrows pointing the Way … yea. The arrows lead to yet another railway station. This one used to be the first Portuguese military airfield. Most of it is now covered by a rice paddy.
After a longish stretch along the railway track… followed by something that looks like water reservoir … I finally reach Azambuja and take a longer break (mistake no. 1.). Ice tea and pastel de nata really hit the spot. Considering that the final stop for today is only 9 km away (mistake no. 2.) I didn’t refill my other water bottle (mistake no. 3.).
A group of cyclists bids a Bom Caminho. It looks like they are on the Camino as well, since few locals seem to be aware of the Camino.
The Way leaves the town to a roadside path in the shades of the trees, followed by the forest path.
Suddenly a shotgun shot is heard. Let’s see… how do you say in Portugese … Hey. Mr. Hunter I am not a pleasant nor am I a duck. After passing through a cornfield another shot is heard. Let’s see… how do you say in Portugese… Hey Mr. Hunter I am definitely not a rabbit either!
After that I heard no more shots. It might be because the path opened up to wide fields, a dirt road which leads to the paved road. Every once in a while I check GPS to see how much further (mistake no. 4.).. and since I check it frequently there seems to be no end in sight. The road winds round and round through the fields. I keep thinking… there it is … its gotta be close … alas it isn’t. But because the end seems close, I don’t take “shoes off breaks” (mistake no. 5.).
Somehow I managed to limp into a place called Valada and I somehow managed to find the place to stay. More good news … it’s closed. There is a note at the door with the phone number to call. Ringing … ringing… nobody picks up the phone.
OK let’s try the next albergue near the church. Ringing … wrong number. The lady who answers seems to know the correct number for the lady with the keys. She is patient enough to repeat it three times in Portuguese until I figure it out. Ringing … ringing… nobody picks up the phone.
I take a break in the shade, refreshed by two ice teas in nearby bars. Next try is a call to a rural tourism about 2.4 km further on. Nobody answers … again .. no luck with previous two numbers either. Despite repeated attempts.
I knock on the door of a house across the church and ask a kind senhora for a water refill (correcting the mistake no. 3.)
I move on … wagging like a duck. Finally I reach that rural tourism place, Quinta de Marchanta. The gate is open. Not a soul in sight and nobody is answering the phone. This is getting ridiculous … what on Earth is happening … a massive alien abduction … or is it a live episode of the Twilight Zone. The place has couches, water and toilets so the basic necessities are covered.
Nevertheless I decided to call Via Lusitâna SOS hotline. First to make sure that there are still people around and second to learn is there perhaps a nearby accommodation with actual people at the reception. Ringing… ringing… someone answers.. OK so much for the alien abduction theory … I learn that Quinta has changed owners and that its no longer open for pilgrims. But… there is another albergue just a “little” further on … heh, as long as as its just a “little”.. what’s another km… or two… or three… I call Casa de Rio and a guy picks up the phone immediately. I manage to explain that I’ll be there in five minutes. He promises to arrive in five as well l. Although it was closer to fifteen I certainly forgive him … even before I saw there is water in the fridge at his albergue.
So I finally reached Porto de Muge at 14:45. Today was a 36 km day … and felt even worse.
Stretched on the couch and stayed there for a while … quite a while. After an hour or so I managed to waddle to the shower first and then to a bed.
Next challenge … how to find something to eat … because naturally I am starving. First attempt with pizza delivery turned out to be a failure because they don’t deliver 15 km away. Fortunately there is a small bar nearby. The owner doesn’t “fala inglés” … but there is a silver-haired gent that does. After a sandwich, some fried cod fish balls and two beers I am reinvigorated.
Back at the albergue I felt asleep practically as soon as my head hit the pillow.
I seemed to have forgotten the lesson from the first trap, when Indiana Jones went to pick up the Holy Grail… only a penitent man shall pass. The fact that I managed to walk the Camino Frances without a blister and have walked additional 250 km since… does not mean I can indulge in a luxury of forgetting the main lesson … take it easy… with frequent “shoes off” breaks.
That was day no. 3.