Day 17- Fontoura to Porrińo- walked 30.9km.
I want to backtrack for a moment.
Last night we stayed in the fantastic Albergue Pilger Pause. Verena, the owner, went out of her way to make us feel welcome. She has an arrangement with the local restaurant 1.5km away, where she texts the order and they deliver for free. She use to cook a donativo menu but it was becoming to expensive. Unfortunately we had run out of cash and the closest cash machine was 10km away. So Verena paid for our meal and we made arrangements to drop the money in her car this morning after “robbing the bank”. She said that this has happened many times to other pilgrims (due to the lack of cash machines around) and she completely trusted us. When we dropped the 20 euro through the slightly opened car window, I sent her a text showing that we had done it. Not long later, we heard an ahoy from behind us. There was Varena running up to give us a big hug and a final farewell. Another Angel of the Camino.
About last night. Well this morning really. It was a treat having the Albergue to ourselves overnight. We woke up refreshed and got fully dressed before I looked at my watch the second time, this time with my glasses on, and realized that it was only 3.50am. When I first woke up I had thought the time said 7.20am, hence when I walked out to leave and saw all the stars twinkling down on us, I new something didn’t add up. Luckily we had emptied our bladders as we couldn’t stop laughing at the situation.
We woke the second time at 7.15 and were on the road by 7.45am (we had already packed earlier). It was another beautiful day as we walked the 10km, mostly downhill, to Valença and stopped at the first cash machine. We decided to have our first cafe break within the walled fortress of Fortaleza. This fortress stands guard on the Portuguese side of the Rio Minho. Due to some road works in this old fort, we got a bit lost and ended up walking outside the wall but still in the fort. It is here we were surprised to see a snake on the path.
When we found the correct Portas da Gaviarra, a little used side exit leading to the steps near the International Bridge, we were a little sad to farewell Portugal. It is a wonderful country. The people have been lovely, although they look at you suspiciously until you say Bom Diaz, then it’s a smile and a Bom Viagem or Bom Caminho. They are also a hard working lot, out tending their fields or farms in all weathers. It was nice to see so much of the country walking through it. Then we crossed the bridge to Spain.
Tui is the first city that greets you in Spain. After paying our debt to Varena via the rowing club, we walked up to the Cathedral and got our first Spanish stamp (sello). As Spain is also one hour ahead of Portugal, I put my watch forward to 11.30am whilst we had our first cafe con leche and planned the day ahead. We had read that the waymarked route out of this medieval town conveniently passes a lot of historical monuments. So we decided to slowly continue on our way and see how far our legs would take us.
The day was again glorious. You have to remember that we are now in Galicia, a region that is notorious for their high rainfall. So we are going forward whilst the weather is so good. Much of the todays path was on tree lined country lanes. There were also a few more idyllic roman bridges to cross as we spent a bit of time beside rivers and creeks.
As it was a Saturday, the Spanish are out enjoying their weekend. We were passed by a few guys on motocross bikes whizzing around the dirt paths. We even passed a motorcycle track where kids as young as four years old where riding at breakneck speeds around the track.
Then there are all the old men playing a version of Gaelic cards in teams at the bars. All enjoying themselves and oblivious to the pilgrims coming in for a beer or a toilet break.
By 5pm we were on our last leg (literally) as we walked the 2.3km along the river path, kicking our way through the fallen autumn leaves. Locals were out jogging or just taking in the last of the sunshine as they sat on the park benches and watched the colourful ducks swim by. A perfect last section before turning into the town and finding a place to sleep. The first Albergue had a sign saying that it was full. A little panic set in. Luckily the next one, Albergue Sendasur, had room for us. They also had an open box of chocolates at the reception desk for anyone to have. I had at least five. I’d earned them.