The hotel staff is so important in helping us smoothly transition from hotel to walk to the next hotel. Marta at Suave Mar helped me with my internet connection as well. Without her, Day 3’s blog would still be stored on my iPhone. Thank you Marta.
We walked along the shore and then turned inland. I stopped to take the photo below when Laird asked if we were hiking over those hills in the background. I was puzzled. Aren’t we on the coastal route? The coastal route that should be mostly at sea level. What I didn’t know is that he had read the route notes for the day. I was in for a surprise.
On these walks, one also depends on the kindness of strangers. As we exited the town, we were marching straight north. Then, we stopped because we had not seen a yellow arrow indicating the Camino’s path. We turned and a woman was pointing – go this way – to the right. People must be used to seeing wandering pilgrims. Odete saved us from some unnecessary steps that one appreciates by the end of a walk.
We crossed a main highway (N13) that the guidebook warned as dangerous. A short climb similar to halfway up South Mountain (200 feet) was easy. Shortly, a distance pole appeared – 208 km to Santiago. I am skeptical of such signs because every leg of our walk has been longer than the stated distance. But so be it – that’s still 125 miles, of course, flat miles.
On the path, we also stop for puppy love.
Whether on the 88 or this walk, resting stops afford welcome relief. We saw a sign – Cafe I Museu O Lampiao – 90 meters to the left off the path. The sign had the magic word – some of you have walked with me, what do you think? Wrong. It had printed in red – carimbo/stamp that pilgrims eagerly collect to show that they have walked the Camino.
Although Laird thought what you were thinking was my motivation, he later admitted – what the heck, we can get the stamp. O Lampiao turned out to be wildest stop that I have experienced while walking.
The owner apparently loves Che. Pictures, posters, souvenirs of Che were everywhere. On top of that, FC Porto and other football memorabilia hung everywhere. We were in a shrine.
Our host made us comfortable from the get go. Two orders of cafe with milk, we asked. Yes, and then came the peanuts in the shell, tiny kumquats, and crackers with local honey. Laird was in heaven – peanuts in the shell, his favorite hiking snack. Who knew and for 1.60 Euros – the two cafes only. The stop also magically helped me.
On we went along cobblestone and dirt paths until we reached a small white church. After passing the church, we zigzagged for a bit until the paved dirt road dove into a forest. What happened to the waves and the flat boardwalk? We were hiking on narrow muddy ruts on the side of a hill with a steep slope to a roaring stream below. The rocks were slippery and we encountered a rock slide – a potential widow maker. The operative word is potential because we could climb over them. We finally reached the stream and crossed it.
Coming down the hill, meant going back up. Climb we did up a steep grade until we reached the Church of Santiago do Castelo. I guessed that we were up 600 – 750 feet because the ocean was far in the distance. Santiago greeted us. He seemed so serious. I would have preferred a more jolly appearance welcoming the pilgrims who struggled up the mountain – note, not hill.
The magic words were there – carimbo inside. Once inside, we were trying to identity the person stamping passports. It was an awkward situation. About 30 people were in the church, almost all women, sitting in the pews. I did notice two people walking up to the alter, kneeling down, and bowing before stepping into their pews. My Catholic alter boy training kicked in. I whispered to Laird to look up at the monstrance above the alter. The monstrance holds the consecrated host which most of the time is hidden in a tabernacle requiring a one knee genuflection. When it is exposed, double genuflection is dictated meaning “on the knees,” as Sister Mary Elva admonished in second grade. Years of Catholic training came in a flash. I felt satisfied interpreting this action to Laird, an Episcopalian. Laird hadn’t even noticed.
We were feeling disappointed – no stamp. As we were exiting, a worshipper came up to us and pointed to a dimly lit table over on the far side of the church. Luckily, she pointed because my Portuguese is nil. A self-service station. My stamp ended up fuzzy unlike those clear one from practiced hands of Camino professionals.
We left the church on a paved road with dark skies behind us. If it rained, we had excellent walking conditions. It was not meant to be. Into the woods we went – muddy, pools of water, slippery rocks, branches across the path – until we reached the bottom where pilgrims have left stones and other objects on top of a wall. Another ritual of giving thanks, I guess.
Will you indulge me with this diversion? Some of the 88 temples on the Shikoku walk are located in the mountains. They were my favorites because of how they were situated. Sometimes, after walking up 2,500 feet to sanmon, the entrance to the temple, one still had to climb hundreds of stairs to reach the hondo, the main building of the temple to say prayers. You can imagine the feeling.
While descending, Laird and I came upon this chapel at the top of a long climb. And, yes, we did not climb the stairs but opted to stay on our downward course.
We were now about 4 miles from our destination, Viana do Castelo, with dreams of warm rooms, hot showers, and belly warming dinners dancing in our heads. Santiago must have a twisted mind – is he the minder of purgatory? We still had to climb another mountain! We ended in driving rain as we crossed the Rio Limia. However, our dreams came true.