Day 7 July 21 – Valença do Minho to Mos in Spain, 19.65 miles

Today was the hardest day for me. Probably because yesterday I didn’t rest enough. After arriving at the albergue since I haven’t walked enough why not walk more. I needed to buy food and stumbled on a mercadillo and then went to see the old town built on a Fortaleza where they were selling the same stuff than at the mercadillo but much more expensive. It was super busy. After the walk of 4.5 miles my feet were swollen. Not a smart idea. It was nice anyway. I ate far away from the tourist side and ended up at the albergue talking with Petrus, a Peregrino from Cyprus who did El Camino de la Costa and wasn’t very surprised with it.

Another contribution to the hard walk today, besides going to bed late for a peregrina like me, was to wake up at 5 am in order to catch up with the hour I was going to lose 4 k later when crossing the bridge to Spain. Also instead of 23 k that said the app that was the distance between these two towns with all the detours to avoid ugly highways and polígonos industriales I ended up walking 31 k, around 5 miles more
I’m so glad I took a bunch of pictures of the beginning otherwise I would only remember the end. Walking on the empty streets of Valença and Tui was magical. The light and temperature were perfect for walking. It still amazed me that in seconds I changed country, language and time. My favorite photo is the one of the bridge between Valença and Tui. In Tui definitely the Camino becomes more touristic since it’s a little over the minimum distance required to walk and be able to receive a Compostela. I saw a couple of groups walking with nothing as if they were going for a jog and return home. They passed me or I did let them pass. Around 10:30 am I stopped in a cafe for coffee where I ate also one of my yummy sandwiches prepared at the albergue around 6 am. While I was leaving a huge group of 140 Portuguese teenagers arrived at the Cafe and they followed me for a while. They were loud and the route not very fun. Lots of pavement. Fortunately I have read in my guide that you could take a detour to avoid a bunch of polígonos industriales when entering into the town of O Porriños. I walked along the river with no human souls. It was nice and in the shadows. At the end of the river walk, I stumbled with the albergue of this town. It was my salvation since I needed water and bathroom and the person in charge was able to call the next public albergue and check that they had beds. They were “only” 7k that ended up in almost 10 k in the most horrible landscape imaginable. Pavement, busy streets, no cafés or shadows, not even a rock to sit on. My knees were hurting a lot. One kilometer before destiny, I found a bench where I rested while eating a sandwich. A crazy French woman going the opposite way talked to me for a while and complained about all the people that snores in albergues. It was pretty funny the way she expressed herself. «if you snore, book a private room or get an operation » saying these while her hands were flying in the sky.

After that I finally arrived to the albergue of Mos. I found the 4 Czech women and the muse that I saw in the river. I found out everything about her routine. Very neat person.

I did the usual, showered, washed clothes, find WiFi and a menú peregrino to eat. The restaurant in front of the albergue had fish, rabbit and chocolate mousse with a natural orange juice for 10€. I ate everything to the last morsel even when I was not hungry. I know I need to eat. Tomorrow is a long way to Pontevedra. I hope I am in shape for the challenge. Good night. It’s 9:15 pm and I am done.

Day 6 – July 20th – Labruja to Valença do Minho

Woke up at 5 am. Did some yoga and started to get ready slowly. At 6:30 am my breakfast (coffee, bread, cheese and dulce de membrillo) was waiting for me. I didn’t see a soul. Very peaceful stay, helped me to catching up with this blog, since Casa da Valada doesn’t have WiFi. Yesterday a woman in her forties opened me the door of this stone house with a beautiful view. Her name is Concepción but people call her Sion but pronounced in Portuguese.

The second floor of the house is set up for Peregrinos but this year has been really slow and I’m the only one that stayed last night.

Concepción seems to be taking care of her mother. I saw a wheelchair next to the car and a vacuum cleaner and yesterday, when I was eating my veggie soup (3€) I heard a scream from inside the house and a tired Sion who was hand washing towels and sheets hollering back with not too much patience. I went to my bedroom around 8 pm without saying thank you or good night since she was busy with two handymen who were fixing the front door. Lots of discussions going on, I left unnoticed.

Now is almost 7 am and the sun is rising over the hills above the church.

I took some photos while the sun was rising. Mornings are my favorite part of the day. I love to watch the world around me to wake up. Today I walked 17.40 miles. I was glad I stopped in Labruja since not too far it was a big climb. I was grateful once again for the compfy boots that my son had gifted me with. It was a rocky climb. I met a true peregrino there that caught me by surprise since disrupted my solitude. He was walking from Lagos in Portugal’s Algarve, passed through Fátima. He wanted to get to Santiago and then Lourdes. He had lost his job, didn’t have money or eaten in three days. He was definitely looking for a miracle. I wanted to help him but I was scared of getting money for him right there in the loneliness of the Camino. I felt bad since I felt scared of a poor man. Misery doesn’t have mercy, and we behave worst in front of it.

The man walked really fast and I lost sight of him. I decided to take a 50 Euros bill and put it in one of my side pockets, ready to be grabbed and handed if I saw the man again. The problem was that I never saw him again. When I told my husband the story I started to cry, I don’t know if for the man’s misery or my own.

Day 5 July 19th – Corgo to Labruja, 18 miles

Breakfast, chapel, bathroom, rain, poncho, thankful, tears, joy, hunger, rest, ponte d we Lima, checs, uphills and downhills, Oasis, carbonara, heat, tired, Casa da Valada. La Bruja llegó a Labruja.

La Bruja llegó a labruja with two stops: one in Ponte de Lima to see the city and another 3 miles before Labruja at 3 pm in albergue Oasis to eat Carbonara and rest. I don’t know why I was so hungry.
I started after a succulent breakfast at Casa do Fernanda. Her husband, Jacinto prepared breakfast for the 8 of us staying at their place:2 italians-Nicole and Diana; 4 from Checoslovaquia-Ana, Johanna, Teresa and Maketa (sp?). The latter was a nun; a German from Munich and I . We all ate quite a bit. I even took 2 sandwiches for the road and 2 oranges (I lost one 🙂
First 5 k were amazing. I felt like the sky was protecting me. I had an urge to go to the bathroom (and always do) but this time I was going to poop my pants, hahaha. I was walking very uncomfortable especially because it was in a little town, not even a chance to hide in the bushes behind the vineyards. And voilá, a Chapel showed up. And next to the chapel the cleanest and emptiest bathrooms I have ever seen, and they were unlocked! I’m not going to enter into details of my experience in the bathroom besides the fact I found a a little Buda on the window.
I also replenished my water bottle. I started to walk again when I felt some droplets from the sky. Sure enough, the rain announced last night decided to show up at 9 am. Probably it was due that yesterday we didn’t eat all the food that Fernanda offered us. Sophie told us that it was a German saying that if you don’t eat everything on the table the next day will rain. We joked about that last night, but we all ate quite a bit.
And now the saying as promised got fulfilled. I decided to take my super duper poncho, that made me look like little red hunchback from the hood. I started to walk so happy. As if all stars were aligned. It was downhill, and at every step my soul felt better and better. The bathroom, the rain, my poncho, the beautiful country side, I couldn’t feel more thankful. And I started to cry. But of happiness. I don’t think I have felt so grateful in many years. I felt like something was healing inside of me, and that I can have hope on myself. When I send the photo of me with my poncho to my family in Whatsapp, Steve told me that I looked happy. Little he knew that the camera captured my very reality,  I was feeling super happy and thankful at that point.

Day 4 July 18 – Barcelinhos to Corgo with detour to Santuario de la Aparecida – 16.15 miles

This is the right amount of miles to walk. I have even the luxury to take a detour to El Santuario de la Aparecida. The legend says that the Virgin Mary show up to a muted and disabled person called Joao and he started talking. In the chapel it’s a tunnel with a boulder that you need to cross. If you can’t you need to return and work on your sins. I crossed with my backpack on my knees. I wasn’t returning hahaha. In Corgo I stayed at Casa do Fernanda y Jacinto. A very nice couple that offers albergue to Peregrinos since 2002. She is very warm and welcoming and offered us an amazing supper. Jacinto prepared breakfast for 8 of us the next morning. He is an eye doctor that have been many times in Africa to help with his knowledge. The place is very comfy with dogs, chicken, cats ducks and an awesome vegetable garden that was part of our meal. We need more Jacintos and Fernanda’s in this world.

Day 3 July 17th Vila do Conde – Barcelinhos 20.94 miles

Almost died of exhaustion and heat but this is my type of Camino 😉. I walked around 15 k to get into Camino Central at San Pedro de Rates and the another 18 k to Barcelinhos. It was very hot and I almost melted but I really like the feeling of Camino Central. Less people and tourists, walking along pueblitos and finding even a little local festivity at Rates. It was a lot of walk on asfalt and pebbles. The last 6 miles were a killer. I was so scared the albergue at Barcelinhos was going to be full. I arrived around 5 PM and was the first. The albergue is super nice and clean, the shower was awesome and I have lots of space for myself. Only 3 other people arrived after me. It cost €8. The cheapest so far.
I had a menú del día at the peregrino restaurant in front of the albergue running by the same people. Couldn’t help to walk to the church a couple of blocks away to take a picture, even when my legs and feet can’t respond too much. They are soooo tired.

Day 2 July 16th Lebruge – Vila do Conde – 7 miles plus 8 miles

Today I walked more in town than between Lebruge and Vila do Conde. 15 miles aprox I had breakfast with my peregrina friend and started walking around 8:30 am. I forgot to start Strava and realized it was not recording only the last mile. It was around 7 miles between towns. I arrived at Vila do Conde at 11am, so I had 4 hours to kill. Mercedes continued to the next town since I was going to take a detour and continue the rest of the way via Camino Central. I heard it’s more picturesque and less touristic. We will see. I hope it’s not too hot.
Supposedly today was a day of rest, but what do you do when you need to wait 4 hours? I rested for an hour in front of the Iglesia Matriz and witnessed a wedding. I almost gave them my phone number since I got very candid shots of their wedding.
I went up to Monasterio de Las Claras, saw the cemetery and an aqueduct that I need to follow tomorrow for 3 miles. I walked along the Ave river and downtown. I got cash and materials for a sandwich and finally the albergue was open. Signed in, dropped my stuff, went to the beach and now I’m exhausted. Good thing it was going to be a “resting” day. It seems my body was born to move and suffer (in a good way 😉 In sum, I walked 14 miles today, not 7. I’m impressed of how much you can walk around a small city (needless to say in a large one).

This paragraph is part of a WhatsApp I sent to my family: Estoy feliz con la mochila que ahora solo pesa 7 kilos (around 14 pounds) and left behind 4 kilos (8 pounds) that were killing me slowly (or very rapidly). Anyway, now I’m going to the beach. It’s pretty sunny and hot. I will soak myself in the ocean, take a shower and plan my way to connect to Camino Central. I think El Camino litoral is nice but not very varied. El Central is more uncertain since towns are smaller and not catering for so much tourism but Peregrinos. I hope it’s not too hot. I’m excited

Day 1 – July 15th Porto-Lebruge 19 miles

Today I had breakfast at the albergue for 3€. It was prepared by Sonia, one of the volunteers. Last night, I heard a Spanish woman arriving late. I was already on the top bed of a bunk bed. She had the bottom. She asked me if I was Spanish. I don’t remember what I answered but I was already on the mood for sleeping. During the night I heard people singing and partying until almost 1 am. I felt awkward and lonely. Like maybe I was not cut for all that enjoyment. I kind of like it even when they didn’t let me sleep too deep.

At breakfast, I felt awkward again. People eating with their friends and me in a corner, quiet, just listening and thinking about all the food I can take for lunch. Until the same Spanish woman of yesterday showed up and started to talk to me. She gave me a bunch of advice on how to take care of my feet. One of the advice was to put a bunch of Vaseline. A layer of protection. Since I didn’t have, she shared hers with me. She looked like she knew what she was talking about even though I had the sensation that she was the same person that called yesterday to the albergue and talked to another volunteer while I was checking in. The volunteer didn’t have too much patience with whatever the woman was telling/asking him

In any case, she wanted to go with me to make sure we find the start of the Camino litoral route. I didn’t know yet, but she was the type of person that really needs to know were she is going. The opposite of me.  I really don’t care to get lost or make the wrong turn. I know eventually I will get wherever I’m going. And in the meantime I might find something very interesting in between. I care though about knowing how many miles I walked at the end. I love to look on the map at all the random steps I made. It pisses me off more when Strava doesn’t work than getting lost. 

In any case, she was a good person, excited to start El Camino with someone. She gave me the ají en el poto (chili on my butt) to start seriously walking. I warned her I was slow. She didn’t care since she wanted to start easy the first day.  So I found a friend and we walked together the entire day for 33 km. until the town of Labrugue. I learned a couple of things about her. Her name is Mercedes, and was born as me in 1961. Even though she was born in May she kept saying that she was 60. It could be that she will continue to say 60 until the day she dies. She is from Santoña in Cantabria, a beautiful town in the Northern part of Spain  Her mother is 86 years old and live 7 km away from her. She installed an Alexa and a camera at her home and can talk with her mother whenever she wants. She found the solution to keep her mom independent. I even saw the old lady on Mercedes’ phone walking around and saying hi. I said hi back. She is very knowledgeable of the Caminos. Last year she walked El Camino Francés from Roncesvalles in 29 days. She married at 23 year old when discovering she was pregnant of her daughter Carmen. She is still married to the same man, who everyone calls Rizos. He looks like a nice, fitted and handsome man for our age. She showed me some videos of him with her twin toddler grandchildren in a swimming pool. Very cute (the children not the man).

We walked along the mist of Rio Duero and the Atlantic ocean with a brief stop in Matashinos to get a stamp and a pin that now I’m using to pinch my blisters. My backpack was awfully heavy. I barely made it to Labrugue. Everything hurt. I felt I could not continue like this. I shared my thoughts with Steve via WhatsApp and he immediately responded. I followed all his suggestions. Fortunately in Porto, the Spanish volunteer from Valencia gave me a phone number of a service that it was very reliable. With the help of Mercedes, Steve on Whatsapp and my own judgment I managed to get rid of almost 4 kilos of stuff that I put on a bag with 55€ and they will deliver it for me in Santiago de Compostela on July 31st which is my ETA so far. It took a huge physical and emotional weight for me. Now I carry around 7.5 kilos which is still a lot when you start adding food, and water. But now at least is manageable.

While I was chatting with Steve and the service trying to solve my backpack problem, Mercedes went to eat. I was too tired to walk any other step, so I stayed at the albergue municipal, took a shower, washed my clothes and ate an oatmeal that exploded in my backpack and it was not of longer use. I was going to survive. I figured also that both needed some space.

I went to the pharmacy to buy Vaseline and the pharmacist told me that the Camino Central was nicer than de la Costa and if I wanted to see the real Portugal I needed to go there. It was nice to hear reassurance of my idea. When I returned I chatted for a while with the person in charge of the albergue and a young woman from Lithuania. They were talking about men. The young woman wanted to find a man and have children. The hostelera who was in her forties, had one daughter, and was divorced, didn’t want anything with men. She said she like her freedom and was tired of men who boss her around. She said I want to be free. So I started singing Queen’s song and everybody laughed.

Day 0 – July 14th

Departing to Oporto from Atocha to the airport. Zero problem with Ryanair despite all the terror stories about a several days strike.

Dropped backpack at the Albergue de Peregrinos and went to wander 12.6 miles around Porto until 6 pm. I haven’t even started El Camino and I’m already exhausted hahaha. Actually, I am still recovering from the heavy migraine I got due to the jet lag. Yesterday I couldn’t even get up, so I consider it a win. My apologies for the amount of photos, but Porto is too cool.

I had tickets for Librería Lello which was in the Harry Potter movies. It disappointed me a little bit, maybe because of the amount of people taking very posed photos who probably barely read a book, the quality of the books they sell or the size of the building. I have to confess though, that still the stairs are really awesome.

The albergue is super nice and after crashing for 1.5 hours now it’s midnight and can’t sleep. The jet lag is serious. I downloaded the app Camino Ninja which will serve me good.

One of the volunteers at the albergue gave me some tips that I don’t know if the gave me hope or terrorized me. The only way of knowing is by starting the walk.

Day 000 – July 12th

I just arrived in Madrid after smooth flights from Portland, OR, to Madrid with change of plane in Dallas. Steve dropped me off at the airport in Portland around noon yesterday and now is 3:30 pm next day, Spain time. I’m sitting waiting for the train that will take me to Atocha. From there I will walk with my backpack to my cousin’s apartment, a couple of blocks away. It’s hot and I’m already tired. I hope I don’t regret bringing all the stuff that I’m bringing. I know I will hate them in some point.

After a 45 minutes on the train from the airport to Atocha I met Juano and Jero in their apartment that’s only a couple of blocks away. We talked and talked and talked and ate in an Italian restaurant in the area: Buffala cheese and pizza that I regretted not taking a picture because aside from being fabulously tasty they were fresh and cool looking. I remembered Steve. He would have enjoyed the thin crust of the pizzas.

At night I started to develop a migraine and woke up several times. The view of the city reminded me of Ciudad Gótica.

Day 0000

Today I’m departing to Madrid, Spain on my quest to finish El Camino de Santiago starting in Porto, Portugal on Friday, July 15.

I started my day waking up naturally around 6:30 am. After taking a shower I was applying my aluminum free deodorant when I decided to look at the brand to order a couple online. Clear aluminum free deodorant that doesn’t feel like you are applying a thick paste on your underarms are difficult to find on supermarkets.

I rolled it for a few seconds before I looked. I really like the smell and feel. I needed more than usual to last the almost 24 hour travel to Spain. And then I looked at the brand.

At least I won’t have mosquitoes in my underpits.