Day 9: Alvaiázere

Leaving Tomar proved to be slightly… challenging,  since the path is poorly marked. I left the hostel around 4 am and found my GPS app to be quite useful in finding a way out of the city.  Deserted streets as usual, before a dive into the pitch darkness …  its so dark that it feels like my headlamp battery died out.

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The Way leads under the road,  over the river,  over the hill through the forest into a quiet little town …  than to somewhat less quiet town.  Church bells are playing Ave Maria every hour.

After a bit of forest path and a series of paths and tracks I come across two guys cutting the grass near the road. A small bridge leads to the eucalyptus forest. I  would have stopped to admire it…  if the path wasn’t leading uphill.  The Way continues through a longish village stretching parallel to the main road.  There I got my first Bom Caminho today as a reply to my Bom Dia…  from a lady tending her garden.

A stray dog is coming my way but this time no diplomatic resolution is necessary …  we each continue our own way.  A bit further three guys are repairing a stone wall.

An older gent with two canes, that looks like he is doing a morning physical therapy session asks if I am going to Santiago …  sure,  for as long as my own poles will support me.

A bit of forest again. ..  poorly marked with arrows,  than across the main road … alongside another road,  than right, to a more narrow path.

As I passed the first house with a courtyard, three dogs ran out in a perfect interceptor formation.  Oh well… time for another round of ….  diplomacy.  I quickly reached a settlement with the first two but the last one kept trying to…  add amendments until I rounded the corner.

Final stretch through the olive groves until I reached the town where I park for the day.  Reached the albergue at noon and was rewarded by the ultimate Camino luxury …  a single room. The room is named after John Brierley…  author of the most popular Camino guidebooks in English. There is even his picture on the wall with the hospitalero.

I wasn’t the first to reach the albergue…  two English girls,  Ruth and Stella beat me to it. Since they were beat  after the first 15 km they hitchhiked here.

Little by little, more peregrinos showed up than there was available room at the albergue.  A lot of Italians…  Alessandra and Rafaela,  Paolo,  Simone…   Nino and his wife, Rosana, who just returned from the two week tour as hospitaleros on the French route and started walking from Fatima.

The local hospitalero Carlos is one of the Camino characters.  He offers not one,  nor two ..  but three stamps…  each a minor artwork.  You can’t pay immediately…  first sit down…  relax …  than a stamping ceremony…  try some 12 year old Porto…  here is your stamped credential … than you can pay.

Its getting dark and more pilgrims keep coming,  including a Ruta from Lithuania,  a short blonde who walked 40 km from Fatima today,  with the help of the GPS. Two more English girls Veronica and Ann … who got lost in the eucalyptus forest…  and a few times  afterwards,  so they arrived around 19:30.

There is also Alex the Englishman..  a pilgrim worthy of commendation.  After a day of  walking,  starting at noon..  he first went to the church and only than did he proceed to the albergue.

On a side note …  I  installed on almost everyone’s smartphone an offline map app with a GPS track for the Camino and an Excel file with an albergue list. I have pointed the right Way to so many people …  which is probably why Carlos the hospitalero mistook me for a priest.  It was either that or because he heard me preaching a lot…  get an earlier start …  don’t fry in the sun unnecessarily…  send your extra unneeded gear to Santiago by post… here is a GPS track file,  don’t get lost...  etc. etc.

That was day no. 9.

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