I managed to sneak out of the albergue at 4:45 without waking anyone. The Way continues downhill, across the bridge than left… with a railway track to the right and a river to the left. Well marked strech of the Camino… with fine white pebbles that make it more comfortable to walk on than hard pavement.
I hear some voices behind me… its Veronica, Ann, Stella and Ruth … the English girls I first met at Alvaiázere. Interesting company. At the next roundabout Veronica demonstrates a “Camino shower” under the sprinkles watering the grass. We continue on together, discussing politics and religion. Unlike most young people of my acquaintance, they seem remarkably well informed on the issues of the day and even more surprisingly, actively engaged. Too bad they are wrong on Brexit. … speaking of course, from my own personal perspective with a perfect record of never, ever being wrong on anything whatsoever.
Another Camino truism … talking while walking makes the km go faster.
As we all take a break near a small bridge, Ann does a reenactment of a scene from a movie “The Way” with Martin Sheen. Instead of a backpack she lost her hat to the river… fortunately unlike Martin Sheen she didn’t have to swim for it. The hat was saved but a short dip in the river made it a bit… smelly.
We are passed by Adriano, a Portuguese guy I first met at Fatima. There are two flags stuck to the sides of his backpack … white one for world peace and a national flag of Portugal.
At the next road crossing we nearly took a wrong turn. Fortunately a kind driver stopped by and patiently kept hammering at me in Portuguese until I figured out we were about to go the wrong way. There goes my perfect record of never ever being wrong on anything.
The right Way is naturally uphill… now isn’t it always. We came across a Portuguese couple from yesterday cycling quickly past us. A bit further uphill… through one town.. than another…. Signs of yesterday’s fiesta are everywhere. It actually looks like entire Portugal had some kind of celebration last week with a grand finale yesterday. I’ve seen posters announcing the local fiestas prior to Fatima.
The English peregrinas are taking frequent breaks due to feet problems so I leave them behind me and continue to the next crossroad.
Although the Camino route winds away from the main road I decided to take a shortcut following the main road. The path alongside is wide enough and I wear a reflective vest so I should be visible from afar.
Reached Mealhada around 11 h. At the optician store nearby a kind lady fixed my broken sunglasses … for free… one of many acts of kindness I’ve experienced from the Portuguese people.
I also found THE ultimate Camino luxury a heavily discounted hotel room… with its own bath. After a standard Camino routine I recovered my strength sufficiently for a stroll around the city. First I needed to find a post office to return the from the Alvorge albergue that I forgot to leave behind.
At the main street I come across an Italian, German and a Spanish lady who are quite exhausted and looking for an albergue.. I managed to point them in the right direction. Later in the store I found Simona, Andy and Amarilla.
That was day no. 12.