Since there was a forest fire nearby lets first check is it still burning … hmm.. it appears there is some smoke on the horizon, but nowhere near critical levels.
I leave the sleeping suburbs behind me, passing through the villages along the old railway track. Or at least it looked old and unused until I saw the train passing by.
The Way leads through the cornfields and some bamboo fields as it enters the next town. Throughout the the town small groups of people appear to be waiting for something.
At the last bar at the edge of the city I took a short break and chatted a bit with the waitress. She works two jobs because the perspective for youth employment isn’t so great in Portugal. She is longing for the holiday but a return flight to Madeira for 500 euros is too expensive for her. So I mentioned that the return flight from Lisbon to Zagreb can be found for 200 euros. Having done my daily bit for the promotion of Croatian tourism I moved on.
The French and Luxembourg license plates I keep seeing on cars parked in the small villages along the route appear to be Portuguese economic emigres who came back home for the summer vacation.
The Way leaves the city through some outskirts… than a forest, where I ran across the Portuguese couple walking to Santiago. After a bit of round and round section… and a bit uphill… I reached San Joao de Madeira.
My GPS file led me directly to the marked location for the albergue … there is just one minor problem… there is no albergue in sight. I double checked… same thing. When technology fails its time for tested plan B.. ask the local… who points a bit further up the street.
There it is … a big sign Santa Casa de Misericórdia (Holy House of Mercy). Its a clinic / nursing home with two rooms in the basement for pilgrims that have mattresses on the floor. Together with the toilets and the showers.. its all a pilgrim needs.
I arrived first as usual since I had the earliest start but soon enough the old gang of mine showed up.. with some new Italian faces, Andrea and Paola. The English girls regale us with their tale of the close encounter of a fiery kind during their stay at the monastery.
Though among the younger pilgrims, Ann is the one with the most pilgrim mileage … in addition to the Camino Frances she actually walked the full Via Francigena route from Canterbury to Rome.. wow.
Jorge is reading a book … original Greek tragedies… and he is also interested in Herman Hesse and George Orwell … quite a range of literary interest.
That was day no. 15