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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.

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