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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

A mixed day

Today, for me, was a strange day on the Portuguese Camino, where I experienced some absolutely beautiful walking, some vertical sections that challenged you to breaking point, met some interesting people and said goodbye to friends I will possibly never see again. It all started at 6.30 this morning when I strided out of Albergaria on my way to Sao Joao da Madeira. The morning was bright and the first three hours were absolutely fantastic taking me along a mixture of quiet country roads, forest paths and old Roman roads. The scenery took you into an inner world where the walking became almost robotic and the kilometres just flashed past.At 10.15 I went into a nice cafe in Pinheiro da Bemposta where I emailed family and enjoyed a breakfast of coffee and croissants. Leaving the cafe I came to a bend in the road with a smaller road forking off to the left. As I looked for the directional arrow a woman came up and pointed to the right hand side and told me "Santiago", I smiled and thanked her and as I turned away she called "pilgrim", came up to me and took my hat out from the mesh at the back of backpack, hit me with it and put it on my head whilst at the same time wagging her finger. We both broke out laughing and she allowed me to take her photograph. Later as I approached Oliveira two old woman, standing under the shade of a tree, again greeted me with the term pilgrim and when I stopped they wanted to know where I was from and after telling them they gave me a handful of freshly picked cherries. Things were going well as I walked through the fairly big and prosperous market town and with only about 12K to go had visions of an early finish. It's at times like this that the Camino bites back and today in the scorching heat she nearly delivered a knockout punch. Those last 10K were almost vertical and with the energy sapping heat combined to provide an experience that took body and mind to near breaking point. With three kilometres to go I saw the road bend and level out but a small stone path kept going up and up. At the bend there was a restaurant, Abertura, and even though it was closed the owner brought me in and gave me a glass of coke. This kindness from a stranger is what the Camino is all about and with his perfect English he told me he owned a restaurant in Oliveira and had just recently opened this one. Refreshed from the short stop and the coke I climbed the last 2k into the suburbs of Sao Joao da Madeira but it was another hour before I found tonight's accommodation. This afternoon I met up again with the Italians, Andrew and Tony, and six of us had a lovely dinner tonight. There was a tinge of sadness tonight because most, if not all of us, will never meet again. I will be staying in Porto until Sunday whilst most of them will be leaving Porto on Friday. The good news is that Mary arrives on Friday but before that I have about 38K to walk tomorrow that will get me to Porto.

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