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Thursday, 11 June 2015

We made it

This morning we shouldered our backpacks, for the last time , on this journey to Santiago, and it was with some apprehension that we started our walk. The last ten kilometres of the Portuguese Camino, as it winds its way towards the Cathedral in Santiago, is a steep climb to reach the city atop the hill. We climbed steeply, along a country road lined on either side with eucalyptus trees until we reached Agro dos Monteiros and there for the first time on our journey we saw, above the trees, the ornate spires of the Cathedral. Could our long and at times very hot journey be coming to an end? That was our main thought as we slowly descended to cross over a railway line and from our previous Portuguese Camino experiences we should have known better. This Camino had a final sting in its tail as it rose almost vertically for about two kilometres and irony of ironies as we gasped our way up we passed the main Santiago hospital. Soon we were walking through the shopping streets and then suddenly we recognised Rua Franco and within minutes we were standing in the square before the Cathedral. After two previous Caminoes to Santiago I was surprised by the release of emotion we experienced as we stood in the square surrounded by pilgrims from across the globe. It wasn't like 2012 or 2013. This was different, every Camino is unique and each journey sets out its own challenges and delivers its own rewards. We had arrived and true to the recent history of this Camino we were an hour earlier than planned. In the cathedral we were fortunate to be seated on the pilgrim reserved front row and had the pleasure of sharing the first two pews with the people we had shared our journey with. The circle was complete. At the sign of peace it was genuine hugs from our friends from Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Switzerland and Holland. We had endured many moments of the journey together and now we celebrated the finish. Tomorrow is another day and hopefully we will be more energised to celebrate but for tonight it was tapas with local cider and an early night.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

candmcamino: Almost

candmcamino: Almost: Last night I had the famously delicious Padron Peppers at the Restaurante O' Pementeiro, sitting in the open air, under a cloudless sky,...


Last night I had the famously delicious Padron Peppers at the Restaurante O' Pementeiro, sitting in the open air, under a cloudless sky, but in reality the night will be memorable less for the peppers but more for the people we shared this meal with. Don't get me wrong, the peppers were everything I anticipated and more, but, sharing a meal ( not my peppers) with four lovely people, Gil and Brenda from Canada, and Ekaterina and her daughter, Xenia, from Moscow, was the perfect, quiet and friendly night we needed to prepare ourselves for the final push towards Santiago. Coming near the end of a Camino is always a time of mixed emotions, wanting it to finish, dreading the parting from new friends and looking forward to getting back home to family and friends. So it was last night with Brenda and Mary sharing photographs of their precious grandchildren and talking about our experiences and happenings during this walk. This morning, after an early breakfast in our hotel, Mary and I, walked out of Padron and started a days walking that would take us to within touching distance of Santiago Cathedral. Like yesterday the weather was almost perfect for walking, the temperature had dropped to the twenties and we had a lovely light refreshing breeze. The first few hours walking was along idyllic, twisting, narrow country roads that passed through a series of picturesque hamlets where time has stood still. Quintana, Rueiro, Cambela, and Vilar all had a peaceful quietness and an almost timeless atmosphere as we navigated their narrow streets of stone buildings. The route then left this peaceful dream and joined the main N550 road for a short stretch but even this had its positives as we stopped for refreshments and met up with Gil and Brenda with three other women pilgrims. Suitably refreshed both physically and mentally we set off to make the two sharp climbs that were in today's schedule. Walking through and along forest paths we descended into the colourful Tinto valley before heading upwards to the Ermita de San Martino and the Cruceiro  do Francos where we joined the ancient pilgrim way, Rua de Francos. Going through this old Franciscan hamlet there was an atmosphere of quiet meditation and indeed we saw a person in a trance like state as he prayed before a Franciscan icon. The rest of today's walk was uneventful and soon we had reached Milladoiro, where we had booked an apartment, and by Gods guidance, good luck or more likely the guidance of our guardian angel we quickly found the right street and are now relaxing in luxury. One of the main luxuries is a washing machine which has been working overtime since we arrived. Tomorrow morning at about 11am we will enter the square in front of Santiago Cathedral and attend the Pilgrims Mass at 12 noon.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

For whom the bell tolls and the hot chilli.

Today's 23K walk from Caldas de Reis to Padron was, and I hesitate to say it, as near the perfect walk as you can get. Twenty three kilometres of sheer bliss as we went from dirt track to forest paths to rural roads and only with the shortest of road walking. The early morning started well when the hotel gave us a really nice packed lunch of bread, cheese, ham, bananas and water. This was something unexpected and a lovely touch from a very friendly staff. The walk through the twisting and winding streets of old Caldas was like walking through history and several times my curiosity almost caused me to fall as I tripped on the cobble stones. Then we were out of the city and walking along a pathway, through dense vegetation, where the sounds of nature awakening and the sight of early morning farm workers gave me the feeling that we were trespassing and I hoped that our present pilgrim journey would not, in the future, become something that would change this beautiful equilibrium that has withstood the test of time. Footsteps behind us indicated a fellow pilgrim but I didn't expect to be greeted by Marchal, from Holland, a fellow walker from the early Lisbon stage, but whom I hadn't seen for about ten days. At this point in time a bell, a single bell, started to ring out from a distant church and continued to peel for about half an hour. When we approached the medieval church, Santa Marina de Carrecedo, there standing outside was an elderly man pulling slowly and rythmically on a single rope that went high up into the bell tower and outside was the black hearse. As we walked slowly and quietly up the road it was a sobering thought to think that for someone this was the last toll of the bell as it echoed eerily across the valley. These sobering thoughts soon changed when we joined Marchal and two young Italian girls at the cafe Esperon for a nice mug of Cafe con Leche. The owner who is also a camino walker has a side room, painted white, where pilgrims can write their message on the wall and also in a large ledger. Even the climb up to Corgullon seemed relatively easy today. This easy walking could be because the temperature was below 30 for the first time since I left Lisbon, in fact this was the first time I have seen a single cloud in the sky, or it could be because we are so close to the finish. Whatever the reason it was a good feeling that the both of us are going strongly and enjoying the magnificent scenery and the multitude of historical treasures this Portuguese Camino unfurls before us. Just before the village of San Miguel, on a bridge and viewpoint, that looked over the Rio Valga, a local official asked us where we were from and entered this in a large ledger and rewarded us by stamping our Camino passbooks with a lovely stamp. Soon we were in the outskirts of Padron, crossing a stone bridge, with a large statue of Santiago leaning on his staff. We also passed the iconic and elaborate drinking fountain, Fonte do Carme XVIth c, which displays the arrival of St James. You always enter these towns by crossing a bridge and Padron is no exception. Bridge crossed and we were in Padron a town I have waited for and thought about for several weeks and the reason, Padron peppers. I developed a taste for these gorgeous little fried peppers a few years ago and to be in Padron eating a plate of Pemento de Padron, well life couldn't get better. These peppers, first imported by the Franciscan monks, are deliciously sweet with a piquant flesh but with the twist that one in every 30 is chilli hot.The word specialist restaurant for these peppers is Restaurante O Pementeiro in Plaza do Castro so we are making a bee line to it. Almost forgot to say we are now only one day from Santiago, officially stage 23 and final day of the walk, but because we are indeed two days ahead of schedule we are going to break the 28k last stage into two days. This means we arrive in Santiago on Thursday instead of our previously scheduled Friday but fortunately the hotel could give us the extra day. Tomorrow I'll let you know if we got one of the hot chillies or not.

Monday, 8 June 2015

The traditional route

Last night we had a gathering of nations in a delightful plaza in Pontevedra and all enjoyed a fabulous meal and each other's company. We were in the company of Xenia and Ekaterina (Russia), Gill and Brenda (Canada), Clement (Germany), Donna (Canada), Ansje (Holland), Wolfgang (Germany), Jasmin (Germany) and our now oldest Camino friend Karen. This was a very enjoyable and fun occasion that was kept alive by the energy and wit of Jasmin. Earlier we had a good laugh with Kitty and AndrĂ©s from Tenerife and arranged to meet them the next night on the bridge at Caldas de Reis. This morning after a typical Spanish breakfast we left our hotel and walked through the twisting and atmospheric streets of the old city soon emerging into the outer suburbs where we were  joined by Jasmin. The three of us walked together for about three kilometres until we came to a parting of the paths where the traditional route went one way and another lesser known Camino headed in to the higher hills. Oh for the enthusiasm of the young but coming from N.I we were compelled to march the traditional route. This was a very calm walk as it made its way through eucalyptus woods and then along the floor of the valley. The path crossed over the main railway line and climbed to the small hamlet of San Amor where we stopped for drinks. It had been a steep climb but in the coolness of the early morning it went very quickly. After refreshing drinks we continued the climb to the summit, before the little hamlet of Barro, where the Camino passes the ancient Cruceiro de Amonisa and the carving of St James, staff in hand, just like us, is looking towards Santiago. The country lanes and the dusty paths were a recurring theme as we walked through peaceful countryside and sleepy hamlets until we joined the main road but not before spying a small cafe and stopping for a drink. At this point we were informed by a large road sign that we were only 40K to Santiago. Before we entered Calas de Reis we stopped for water at an Albergue and got into conversation with a young man, Keith Fox from Dublin and his Polish partner Ania Golaska. It was so good to hear Irish voices that a two minute stop to refill water bottles turned into twenty minutes and if it hadn't been for the heat could have lasted longer. Soon it was time to start walking and at 2pm we reached the bridge that crosses into Calas de Reis. We didn't have far to look for the hotel as it is on the bridge overlooking the river Bermana.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

The long hot Sunday

This morning it was with great willpower and a combined team effort that we dragged ourselves away, kicking and screaming, from the beautiful setting of  Playa de Cesantes, where we both could have ended our Camino and spent the rest of the week on the beach, drinking local wine. The journey continued in a relaxed mood until we left the seafront and started the long climb that would eventually take us to the top of Alto da Lomba where we collapsed at a local cafe and enjoyed coffee and toast. The views going up the hill looking down onto the bay, dotted with boats and outlined with several marinas was, I am led to believe, something special, but all I saw was the road as I leaned over and struggled to make the top. Sometimes on these journeys beauty and culture have to be abandoned for pure survival. The downhill stretch did give me the opportunity to soak in the beauty of the coastline and before us unfurled the outline of a narrow stone bridge leading into the old fishing village of Arcade and there sitting at tables, in a most picturesque setting, were several fellow walkers enjoying a drink and a well earned break. It would have been rude and indeed could maybe have caused an International incident if we had walked on so we joined, Irmi and Jasmin (Germany), Shirley (NZ), and Karen (Aust), for a refreshing drink and a chat. After a prolonged break we started the steep climb out of the village that led us up through the forests and eventually topped the Alto da Canicouva. This was brutal climbing and it was an exhausted group that finally made it to the top and took a well earned rest. Mary and I parted company with the others as we headed on down the hill through the trees to the old Capela da Sta. Marta where we took a few minutes respite from the hot, burning sun.  During a short stretch of walking on the busy road we met Greg, an in between jobs, Pastor from California,and it would have been nice to really have time talking to this interesting man but the busy road and the hot, burning sun wouldn't allow that. For the same reason we took the alternative route from Tio Tomeza to Pontevedra because it followed a river as it meandered through a forest and would offer shade from the burning sun even though it was slightly longer than the normal route. During this quiet peaceful walk as we were regaining our composure from the tough hot walking in the hot sun footsteps behind us indicated that we were not alone and the Aussie accent told us we had met up again with our Camino friend , Karen. It was too hot and too close to the finish to stop for a chat so we arranged to meet later for dinner. This was a really wonderful four kilometre path that had an abundance of wildlife and the sound of birds and the sighting of fish was preferable to noisy smelly cars speeding past on a main road. By 3pm we had made our destination in Pontevedra and were sitting down to a well deserved beer.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Life is a beach.

Today the Camino and the excellent advice of our friend Davinia Brennan led us to an idyllic paradise, Playa de Cesantes and the Hotel Antolin, where the golden sand stretches as far as the eye can see and the blue clear sea shimmers in the bright strong sunlight. Paradise has to be earned and our journey today started with coffee shared, at around 7am, with our German friends Adrian and his father Peter. Our flexible planning had been changed yesterday when we walked through Valenca and Tui to the Hotel Alfonso about another four or five kilometres further along the Camino. Our original thought was to stay in Valenca yesterday and then do the short trip over the river and border into Tui today but we spent an hour in each centre and since we were walking so well decided to keep on going. Today's walk of approximately 31K was varied but without the walk we would not have reached our final destination and have the experience of swimming in the warm sea. I will quickly gloss over the first twelve kilometres into Porrino since at least half of it into the town was through heavy industrial estates and on main roads. The stretch of path from the San Telmo bridge of fevers along a woodland path to the little hamlet of Magdalena and the medieval stone bridge was in stark contrast to what lay ahead as we entered Porrino. We didn't stop in the industrial town but were soon walking along small rural roads that at times joined the Romana XIX which took us to our first stop at the Albergue Santa Anna where we had the traditional breakfast of freshly squeezed orange juice, toast with jam and for me coffee con Leche. Suitably fortified we started the hard ascent through the beautiful village of Mos, where Mary watched as a florist arranged the displays in the local church. I must say that the displays were excellent but certainly not up to the standards that Mary has scaled. Onwards and upwards we climbed and as we got higher along the road met several walkers finding the gradient tough. Finally at Parque we made the summit and breathed a sigh of relief that the climbing , for today, was over. As we walked through Parque there was a Saturday market and this gave us the opportunity to take a time out and wander, as tourists, through the various stalls. The route then took us along several large forest trails where we saw large numbers of local mountain bikers out on their Saturday morning runs as they sped quickly along the narrow paths. Unfortunately our now leisurely stroll was about to change as we were faced with the steepest and longest downhill stretch I have ever experienced, so it was with shaking, wobbling, legs that almost thirty minutes later, we finally made the relatively flat valley floor. The walk from here into the town of Redondela was fairly uneventful. Redondela was a lovely busy town with beautiful buildings and many interesting monuments and far exceeded our initial expectations. The only blot on the landscape was a large iron railway bridge that not only spanned the valley but passed directly over the town. We were not staying in Rodondela but were doing the extra three kilometres to the Hotel Antolin of course not knowing that we were heading for a little piece of heaven. So here I am ,writing the blog, sitting in lovely sunshine after having had a swim, a stroll along the beach, a few beers and soon to go for an outdoor dinner. Can life get any better?

Friday, 5 June 2015

Spain and the first Cafe con Leche

Last night we stayed in one of the best accommodations on the Portuguese Camino, Quinta das Leiras, where Anna our host couldn't be kind enough. The breakfast at 7am was by far the most extensive and indeed colourful one we have had and to share it in the company of Karen, Andrew and his father Peter was a very enjoyable start to the day. After breakfast we packed our bags but were forbidden to leave until we had hugs from Anna and photographs had to be taken. If yesterday's climbing was painful and exhausting then today made up for it by giving us a very pleasant and beautiful walk. The first early morning stretch was along country lanes that crossed several old Roman bridges and the early morning mists gave a very mystical appearance to the country scene unfolding before us. The only climb of the day was to the top of Sao Bento da Porta Alberta and after yesterday to call this a climb would be an exaggeration that even I would be unwilling to say. We did enjoy extensive views over the Minho valley and then had a delightful descent along woodland paths that were encased by pine, eucalyptus, holm oak and cork trees and the aromas were strong and refreshing. Our first coffee stop was sitting outside the cafe Central opposite the pilgrim plaque. Invigorated from our short rest we quickly made our way through more forest paths to the Ponte Romana da Pedreira where the well preserved Roman bridge crosses the fast flowing waters. Walking today was a joy as we relished a slight breeze that kept us fresh and our spirits up. After about another hour we came to another small village and this time the cafe and balcony in front of it was crowded with about a dozen other walkers. This was about the first time we have seen so many walkers at any one time and if Karen had been with us she would have started a rant about "tourist pilgrims". Apart from two elderly German ladies and a Portuguese couple the rest of them had no backpacks. They were wearing small, light, day packs which carried only their lunch and all looked as if they had just left a sports shop. Dressed in expensive, clean walking gear and most with wooden staffs they were unlike "us" real walkers with all our earthly belongings on our backs looking dusty and worn. At one point today, coming into the historic walled town of Valenca Mary's competitive spirit took over as she refused to be passed by several of the lightweight walkers and indeed quickened the pace that led to us passing several others. Initially our plan was to walk to the last town in Portugal, Valenca and cross over into Spain tomorrow but the walking was going so well we kept on going and walked over the long, very high International iron bridge in to Spain. This was a real landmark in our journey as we reached the Cathedral de Santa Maria in the ancient eccelastical town of Tui.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Toughest climb yet but the swim was great

Last night in Ponte de Lima was special as we sat outside the Taberna and enjoyed a lovely meal. Ponte de Lima is the oldest town in Portugal and it has an atmosphere that oozes class. This was highlighted this morning on the walk to the famous medieval bridge that would lead us over the Rio Lima and out for another days walk. As I walked along I could faintly hear Mozarts Oboe Concerto playing in the background and couldn't quite work out where the music was coming from. After another hundred meters and still hearing Motzart quietly in the background I was beginning to convince myself that the hot sun had really done me some permanent damage and that I had totally lost my mind. Half way across the long medieval bridge and still hearing the Oboe Concerto I noticed that there were small speakers on the lampposts and the music was coming from these. At the time I thought this was very cultural but now I'm beginning to suspect that it's a little Stepford Wives for my liking. The first five kilometres was a delightful walk on a variety of dusty paths that meandered through the fertile countryside and was mostly flanked by stone walls. After about an hour the first stop was at the opening day of a new restaurant sitting on the banks of a river. Later there was a meeting with two couples from London who were out experiencing a sample of the Camino. Under the bypass for a motorway and things took a dramatic turn as the path started its climb to the highest point Alto da Portela Grande. Now Mary and I have walked three other caminoes and have indeed climbed higher mountains but today going from almost sea level to 1300 feet in the course of about two kilometre was the toughest challenge of any of these walks. This was rock scrambling where at times you were using hands and feet as you clambered up the almost vertical wall of stone. Almost two hours later with aching thighs and joints the summit was reached and a well earned rest enjoyed. The only way I could describe this effort was that it was the equivalent of doing alternating step ups on to a chair and that isn't something I would often do. What goes up must come down and the descent over rocks,pebbles and dust was a real exercise on concentration but eventually the bottom was reached and the rural residence we had booked came into view. We were enthusiastically greeted by the owner and I must say my eyes lit up when I saw the swimming pool. Now this afternoon, two men from Gran Canaria, a father and son from Germany, Karen our Aussie friend and Mary all sat at the side of the pool dangling their tired and sore feet in the cool clear blue water. Only yours truly, the mad Irishman, took to the water and it was heavenly. I really enjoyed that swim and with each length the aches and pains evaporated with the heat from the afternoon sun. This evening we were transported to a local cafe where we met up with our two friends from Tenerife. It really is beyond understanding that the hardships, the aches and pains, of the days walk are soon forgotten in good company, good food and good Portuguese wine.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Germans,heat and a dog

Today's 38K  walk from Barcelos to Ponte de Lima, in 36 degrees, with two very steep and long climbs, was extreme walking that would take anyone to their  limits both mentally and physically. This was the longest distance and the most extreme conditions that Mary has ever attempted and to say she came through with flying colours would be an understatement.. We left the beautiful and colourful city of Barcelos at 5.20am as the faint rays of the sun attempted to break through the darkened sky. By the time we had left the suburbs and joined the path that meandered through several small villages the sun had broken through and was already drying the damp grass. The extremely steep four kilometres climb to the top of Alto de Portela had our lungs gasping for breath and our legs aching as we made the summit and started the long descent. By 9.30 we had reached Aborim where we stopped for a well deserved breakfast. and a short pit stop. Most of today's walking was on dusty dirt roads that wound their way through vineyards and small hamlets. This was a fairly lonely and isolated stage of the Camino and it was nice to have Mary's companionship rather than going solo. We did, however, encounter something that I think is typically Camino. Just before we arrived at the Ponte case Tabuas, a 12th Century bridge over the Rio Neiva, we came upon a German couple and he was carrying a dog, as well as his backpack. I thought this was odd but their explanation and consequent actions were even odder. They had found the dog earlier on the trail and even though it didn't appear to be in any pain or stress had what looked like a broken hind leg. Taking pity on the poor animal they were going to carry it the 15K to Ponte de Lima to get a Vet. Depending on the outcome of the Vet they were willing to sacrifice their Camino and take the dog back to Germany. For fear of being asked to carry the mutt we wished them all the best and moved on. About an hour later we came upon a well deserved cafe in Vitorino where we spent some time in discussion with Ian from Wales and Bernd from Germany. When our United Nations dialogue had ended we put on our backpacks and knowing we had only another 12K to go moved off with gusto. As we rounded the first bend our enthusiasm was shattered as we saw the almost vertical climb that stretched out in front of us to the top of Portela. In the ever increasing heat this was a real effort to reach the top but working together and with constant mutual encouragement we finally made it and collapsed at a stone cross with the image of Saint James. After several litres of water we started the long descent through the hamlets of Anta, Bouca, Paco, Periera and Barros. The last kilometres to Ponte de Lima seemed to take an eternity but suddenly we could see the new bridge and then the iconic medieval bridge that both straddle the Rio Lima. We had arrived in the oldest town in Portugal, Ponte de Lima.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Braga the beautiful

Today was to be a sightseeing day in the city of Braga and I had been looking forward to this from the beginning of the journey. Sometimes the description or name of a place catches your imagination and that is what happened between me and Braga. It just sounded so wonderful and indeed inspiring that I had to go there. Reality, at times, can be a real let down but certainly not today. Braga was everything, and more, that I hoped it would be. Braga is a city with an abundance of spectacular monuments and is often referred as the "Rome of Portugal" but this title does it an injustice. Braga is not a copy of anywhere else, it has its own character and soul, which combine to make it a very unique and outstanding place. This is living history and all enclosed within a comfortable walking distance. You can trace the handprints of the Celts, Romans, Visigoths and Moors as they left their stamp on the town and added to this the Gothic and Baroque embellishments mingling with Art Deco and modern architecture and you have the magic and uniqueness that is Braga. It is also a city with a cafe culture and a relaxed calm atmosphere that lends itself to sitting in the main square watching the water fountains dance up and down in the bright sunshine,and people watch. Or you could walk round the many churches and cathedral that are elaborate and beautiful. The cathedral is an 11th Century Romanesque building that was built on the foundation of a former mosque built by the occupying Moors. Braga is the countries ecclesiastical capital and there are proliferation of statues, fountains, squares and monuments dedicated to past Cardinals, Bishops or Saints. High on a hill overlooking the city is Portugals most visited tourist site, Bom Jesus do Monte, a religious santuary with a monumental Baroque stairway that climbs up 381feet. This is a very special place and has been a pilgrimage site since about the 14th Century. After all the walking and climbing today it was nice to get to our hotel where we enjoyed a lovely meal. Tomorrow is an early start and with temperatures predicted to be about 34 degrees we hope to leave by 5am on the 37k walk to Ponte De Lima.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Snakes and Natterjacks win the day

Last nights stay in the castle, Hotel Forte de Sao Joao Baptista, was a memory lasting experience and the meal was of Michelin standards. After a luxury breakfast it was time to face the stark reality of a 34K walk to our next destination, Barcelos. The first ten kilometres along the river, passing the Convento de Santa Clara was very pleasant in the early morning light as we watched colourful fishing boats return to their berths. Soon we were walking country roads through Touguinho and Junqueira. At Junqueira we passed under the bunting and colourful arches that signified a festival and arrived at the Church Monastery with its famous statue of the Santiago Pilgrim. Our first stop, after about ten kilometres, was at the small hamlet of Arcos where we stopped for coffee and were soon joined by our Australian Camino friend Karen who before she stormed off into the distance agreed to meet us at 7pm for drinks and dinner. A large percentage of today's walking was along Roman roads with their individual stone insets that are difficult to walk on and are very damaging to the heels and soles of the feet. We did have a long, very relaxing walk through the eucalyptus forest with its strong scents mingling with the visual stunning sight of large areas of wild lilies. As we walked along a quiet country lane we noticed a fellow walker in the distance who seemed to be standing, in statuesque fashion on the path. Heather, a mature English woman, was still standing transfixed when we arrived. She asked if we were Colin and Mary and explained that the path was blocked by snakes, yes snakes, because there in front of us were two fairly large snakes and they were entwined, almost standing, and looked none too friendly. Now St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland but this Irishman was not going to tangle with two mating snakes as they twisted and curled in their coupling ritual. Puzzled how Heather knew our names the answer was that she had been told by Karen that we would be behind her. Anyway after about five minutes the amorous snakes had had enough and slithered back off the path and into the undergrowth. All was well with the world and we were able to  continue with our walking. Our next encounter with nature was the noise made by a pond of Natterjack Toads. At first we thought the loud noise was being caused by ducks but upon leaving the path we discovered a pond that was populated by an orchestra of these toads who were in full voice. From this point it was a long, hard slog to the finish and at about 4pm we were crossing the picturesque medieval bridge that crosses the river Cavado into Barcelos. Tonight at seven we met up with Karen and after walking through the town picked a small restaurant for dinner where the two ladies feasted on steaks and I had hake and all washed down with a bottle of local white and a bottle of red wine. The craic was great and we met up with two German girls, Christina and Stephanie, from Berlin. So another day done and another day closer to Santiago.