Day 1: Alpriate

I left the hostel at 4:45 …  approximately.

The Italian girls proved as pianissimo as I expected …  such an intense discussion and planning for an excursion to Belem … one might think the operation’s scope is similar to Normandy landings.

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I step outside into a sleepy city streets.  Just a few street cleaners and people heading home from a night out on a town.

An uphill street leads to the church of St. James.  Naturally, just what kind of Camino start would it be without an uphill climb…  steep uphill climb.  Fortunately its a short stretch …  just enough for a bit of deja vu feeling,  reminding me of the first day across the Pyrenees on the French route.

Here I am … next to the church …  right …  here we go …  the moment I’ve been waiting for two loooong years,  ever since I finished my last Camino. Down the street is the cathedral with the first arrows.

Funny thing about these arrows. One would like to see them frequently for reassurance.  Just when one thinks they are gone…  is usually when one sees them again.  Even if certain sections are less well marked one can have a smartphone app with a GPS and a route  track pre-loaded.  Even if one is not too IT skilled there are paper maps and guides. One can get lost,  but there are always ways to find the Way.

I leave Lisbon through a Parque de Nationes (Park of Nations),  so named because this is where world exhibition was held.

Next up,  a small town with an interesting monument …  a gigantic head. Followed by the bridge … followed by the footpath along the the river that quickly turns into a tiny jungle. It almost makes me wish I brought a machete with me…  but no … my backpack is too heavy as it is.

The track clears out close to the farm and than it hits pavement.  Next to the road a rider and a horse exercising behind the fence.

I’ve  reached Alprirate around 10:00.  Brand new new albergue, barely 3 months old. Great location because it allows for 20 km day from Lisbon instead of 30 km.  One of the reasons I suspect that relatively few people start from Lisbon.

I am welcomed at the albergue by Celeste,  a hospitalera from South Africa. She looks happy to finally greet someone because over the last few days just a few pilgrims dropped by.

Later we are joined by Spanish guy,  Italian guy, a Slovenian girl and a Lithuanian girl. The Spanish guy Daniel looks like a marathoner and is doing his 5th Camino.  The Italian guy whose name I forgot is on his 12th Camino,  Slovenian girl is on her 3rd and Lithuanian girl Simona is on her 1st.

Alpriate is a small village with two bars and a supermarket.  One bar is for drinks and another one is for meals.  A highly generous portion,  cold beer and low prices,  good WiFi …  what more could a pilgrim wish for.

Celeste is visited by a couple from Via Lusitana..  a Portuguese Camino association that tuns this albergue. Wonderful people…  the association even operates a 24/7 pilgrim hotline for any emergencies or Camino issues.

During a wide ranging discussion on all things Camino we mention how Camino used to be assigned as a penance. It looks like there is a modern version as well.  In Belgium and Holland when teenagers get in trouble with the forces of law and order in some cases the punishment can be the Camino (wow…  Camino as a punishment,  now there is a concept I can’t wrap my head around) in a Church organised group.  At the end of the Camino the priest writes a formal report based on which the judge can reduce or annul the sentence.

Speaking of judgements,  it is generally known how enjoyable it is to sit in judgement on people…  for things large and small.  That exquisite feeling of moral and general superiority over others …  raising yourself and lowering others … it’s a special kind of satisfaction.  Sure, there are other musings on the topic …  like …  judge not lest ye be judged …  why should you scold others for sinning in a different way than yourself … but that is hard saying,  who can accept it. There are purists on the Camino that criticise those that use backpack carrying services,  sleep in hotels,  take taxi… etc. So during our talk I heard a story about a peregrina who was dropped off by car right in front of the albergue door. The woman walked in,  wanting to stay with “real”  pilgrims,  so the hospitalero righteously replied that albergues are only for the “real” pilgrims that walk.  To which she said ” I have polio”. Apparently she was only able  to walk a little while,  but wanted to experience the Camino as much as she could.

Yep ..  playing the role of express judge and jury is enjoyable indeed …  or maybe not…  who knows.

The Lithuanian girl,  Simona,  likes all things Japanese,  even has a Japanese nickname.  She left Lisbon around noon and discovered walking in midday during Portuguese summer is no fun.  She liked my  policy of sun avoidance with early morning starts. Not a fan of organised religions,  the talk evolved into an interesting theological discussion on the nature and consequences of free will.

Having met my quota of evangelization for today, I decided on the early nap.  The heat is quite oppressive and only a occasional breeze makes it bearable. But in spite of the heat,  falling asleep at the end of the Camino day isn’t a problem.

That was the day no. 1.