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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.

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