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.