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The stages of my camino experience

24/04/2018
Walking the Camino Portugués.

© aNadventures

When I decided to walk the Camino Portugués, I saw it was possible to accomplish the two hundred something kilometre long route in less than two weeks. The guide I purchased in Porto before starting my hiking journey suggested either the Coast Way or the Central Way. I opted for a mix of both, walking up to Caminha by the coast, then heading inland following the River Miño that separates Portugal and Spain. I crossed the border at Valença and from Tui kept going north on the Central Way that eventually led me to my final destination, Santiago de Compostela.

My aim was to enjoy the experience without any rush. So I took my time. In the beginning, I didn’t walk much more than 15 km a day, to give my body the opportunity to adjust to the new circumstances. Then I increased the distances, according to my daily conditions. The weather played an important role as well.

There is no right or wrong route. Everyone can set up their very personal one. Eventually, all of them will lead to Santiago. In total, I walked 260 km in 13 days. Here’s my route:  

 

Day 1: Labruge (15 km)

Labruge - almost there.

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Labruge is a small municipality north of Porto. It’s close to the sea side and apart from a few cafés, a mini-market and a pharmacy, there’s nothing in particular to visit around there. After the excitement of the first hiking day, I happily fell into my bed after dinner (I finally tried the famous Francesinha) and a quick exploration of the vicinity.

 

Day 2: Póvoa de Varzim (15 km)

Tile work in Póvoa de Varzim.

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Póvoa de Varzim is a city right next to the Atlantic Ocean, famous for its beaches, the town hall and the casino. Upon my arrival, I noticed a wall full of tile work that showed the historic development of the place.  In the evening, I enjoyed strolling through a local supermarket and I also purchased a light fleece blanket that served me well throughout the remaining journey.

 

Day 3: Fão (17 km)

Arriving in Fão.

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Fão is a small town near the larger Esposende. This place was recommended to me by a fellow pilgrim who told me the youth hostel there was very good, which was true. After having walked all day and experienced some hardships in the woods, I was more than happy to have a hot shower and to try my first pilgrim menu in the evening.

 

Day 4: Viana do Castelo  (30 km)

Viana do Castelo in the distance.

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I remember my hike to Viana do Castelo being a particularly difficult one. Not only was this the longest stage I had walked until then, but the camino also led me through several woods and hills. The previously rather flat camino by the sea side was thus becoming more challenging. When I was almost there and could see the beautiful Santa Lucia Church on top of a hill, I had to cross the 645 metre long Eiffel Bridge to enter the city. Under regular weather conditions, this wouldn’t have represented any mayor difficulty, apart from my fear of heights and the fatigue from the day. But it was getting stormy out there and I could hardly keep my balance being pushed around by the wind on the one metre wide pavement with the cars rushing by to my left and the railing separating me from the water to my right. Fortunately, the weight of my backpack helped me remain steady as I carefully set one foot in front of the other, fixing a point in the distance. When I finally made it to the other side, I took a deep breath and spoke out a loud THANK YOU to whoever helped me cross this bridge undamaged. With my last reserve of energy and just before it got dark, I reached my lodging for the night where I was welcomed by two pilgrim friends with a huge plate of pasta. Life’s good.

 

Day 5: Caminha (29 km)

Near Caminha: Spotting Spain.

© aNadventures

The hike to Caminha turned out to be a challenging one as some parts of the way were slightly flooded from the rain and I needed to get creative (wet my feet) to pass through them. My efforts were rewarded though, as I got to enjoy the beautiful scenery in the woods and a wonderful final hike by the sea side just after reaching Vila Praia de Âncora. From there, I could already spot Spain in the distance which is just a short ferry ride away from Caminha, on the other side of the Miño River. With the Atlantic Ocean to my left and Spain right in front of me, I even got to see a new born little goat accompanied by its herd and their shepherd.

 

Day 6: Vila Nova de Cerveira (15 km)

On my way to Vila Nova de Cerveira.

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Leaving Caminha, I walked inland near the Miño River that marks the border between Portugal and Spain. I decided to split the remaining distance in Portugal into two stages, so I took it slow that day. I passed small villages on the hill side and was within an arm length to people’s front doors and backyards. White and blue tiled churches, bright lemon trees, several sheep families and the familiar yellow arrows indicating the camino accompanied me on my way to Vila Nova de Cerveira, a small city by the river side.

 

Day 7: Tui (17 km)

The bridge linking Valença (Portugal) and Tui (Spain).

© aNadventures

The remaining route until reaching Spain would have been a smooth one if it hadn’t been for the heavy rainfall and thunder that started just after I left Vila Nova de Cerveira. All I had to do was follow the river on an even path. But as there was nowhere to shelter, I was soaking wet within minutes. I kept walking for two hours with the splashing noise of water in my shoes and the clothes glued to my bones. Shortly before Valença, I had my last Portuguese cup of coffe at Antonio’s cozy bar. After recovering my forces and fixing part of the wet shoe issue with a substantial amount of newspaper, I had a look around Valença’s beautiful fortress before crossing the International Bridge over to Spain. I was a little sad to leave Portugal but was also excited to get to explore the Spanish paths from now on. Tui gave me and my fellow pilgrims a warm welcome with some comforting sunrays and a hot shower at our shelter for the night. The historic city centre and especially the Tui Cathedral are well worth visiting if you ever find yourself in this charming city.

 

Day 8 Mos (23 km)

On my way from Tui to Mos.

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Equipped with my new waterproof poncho, the ongoing rain couldn’t stop me on my way through the woods leading from Tui towards the town of O Porriño. Since I still felt strong enough to keep walking, I went on for another 5 km through fields and backyards until reaching the small village of Mos where I found a pilgrim lodging for the night.

 

Day 9: Arcade (16 km)

Galician landscape.

© aNadventures

I left Mos early in the morning. The path led me up on a steep hill that granted a vast view upon the Galician rural landscape. After having walked for about 10 km, I reached Redondela where I finally treated myself to a nice breakfast. It was well worth getting lost in this town among the hills with its beautiful 19th century railway viaducts. This was the day my Achilles heels started complaining.  As the pain got worse, I realized I wouldn’t make it to Pontevedra just yet. So I decided to stay in Arcade which is located near a large stretch of water that eventually leads into the sea. I was told by my host that the beaches are particularly popular throughout the warm summer months. As it was too cold for swimming, I went to explore the local supermarket with a pilgrim friend and then held my legs in an upright position for a while.

 

Day 10: Pontevedra (16 km)

La Peregrina Church in Pontevedra.

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Leaving Arcade, I was accompanied by a pilgrim friend, the warming sun and an azure blue sky. We crossed an ancient stone bridge and soon reached the nearby woods with several creeks. Then, the way led us through fields and country roads and eventually to the beautiful city of Pontevedra. As the pain in my heels made it impossible for me to keep going, my friend and I decided to part ways and to meet again in Santiago, at latest. I spoiled myself with a hotel room for once before going to find a pharmacy. Even though I should have kept my feet still, I couldn’t help exploring the centre of this city which was well worth the pain. If you ever find yourself in the area, go have a look for yourselves.

 

Day 11: Tivo (21 km)

Almost in Tivo.

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Hardly being able to walk, I somehow managed to get myself on the route again. I left Pontevedra, encouraged by several people wishing me “Buen camino”. Following the yellow arrows and several other signs that I thought were directed at me, I made it through the woods and fields unfolding ahead of me. When I saw a stone indicating I was only 50 km away from Santiago de Compostela, I could hardly believe my adventure would soon be coming to an end. With the throbbing pain in my Achilles heels, feeling hungry and tired, I was more than relieved when reaching my lodging in Tivo. This was a mere conglomeration of houses in midst of some fields with not much to explore. But after a hot shower, a nap, a warm meal and a chat with the owners of the place, I was a happy pilgrim.

 

Day 12: Teo-Faramello (31 km)

On my way to Teo-Faramello.

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Still in pain, I left Tivo early in the morning and walked to the nearby Caldas de Reis. From there, I headed through the woods and it was almost 11 o’clock when I finally had breakfast at a café by the road. Having recharged my energy levels, I continued the hike, my poncho protecting me from the rainfall that came and went. The fellow pilgrims I kept meeting distracted me from the pain. Eventually, I found myself in Padrón which is famous for its peppers. I kept on walking through endless fields as I wanted to make my last hike on the following day pleasantly short. When I finally arrived at the lodging in Teo-Faramello, a tiny conglomeration of houses on a hill, it was almost six o’clock in the evening.  The host lady who saw my starving face prepared me a delicious meal that I happily devoured chatting away with two other pilgrims.

 

Day 13: Santiago de Compostela (15 km)

Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela.

© aNadventures

Since I’d walked a longer distance than expected on the previous day, I was now only 15 km away from Santiago de Compostela. When I entered a café for breakfast, I was happy to find my pilgrim friend Jenny walk in just shortly afterwards. We had parted in Pontevedra due to my pain but I had somehow managed to catch up with her. So we were lucky to walk the final kilometres together, to take some pictures along the way, to share stories about the past days and about life in general. We couldn’t believe our eyes as we saw the Cathedral in the distance. A strange mix of joy and nostalgia expanded in my chest as we got closer and closer. Then, we were suddenly standing in front of it.

 

How about YOU? Have you ever been to any of the places I mentioned above? Feel free to share your anecdotes in the comment section.

 

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9 Comments
  1. Thanks for sharing your journey on the Portuguese route. Daughter and I did the francais summer 2017 and we heard many great reports of the portughese. Our Way is a journey i cant stop thinking about even though its been ten months. Perhaps my days on the camino arent over.

    • Oh how great you could share this experience with your daughter! I’m intrigued about the camino francés now as well. Well, I think we’re just getting started. Once a pilgrim, always a pilgrim. 😉

  2. Du bist meine Heldin. Auch in Camino-Version. 🙂

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