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Slouching Towards Santiago

We started our second Camino in Lisbon with good intentions, well-fed and rested. . Because of a lack of pilgrim support we had to walk 20 and 24 kilometer days. Our resolve got us through some hard days.

The company of other pilgrims, like The Sloth and Alejandro, kept us moving forward.

Our slug fest with southern Portugal ended when we realized there wasn’t enough time, so we jumped forward to Coimbra, then Porto, at 165 kph.

We cut back our plan to 18 kilometers per day, then to 15.

“Are you sure you want to do the whole 12 kilometers in one day?

Since the ratio of suffering to beer/wine started getting out of whack when we cut mileage, we had to cut food and alcohol consumption by half!And our diet has gone to hell. Chinese food two days ago, and pizza today !1/

We are forecasting our triumphant arrival at the Santiago Cathedral on Wednesday, but at this rate. . . .

Robert’s Ratio

There is some satisfaction in a cold beer at the end of a Camino walking day. We have come to realize that there is a ratio between suffering and beer. Kay calls this Roberts’s Ratio.

Here at a Pilgrim Respite Area, Kay has noted that the suffering has begun. We have been trying to walk distances which take into account just the right amount of suffering.

Sometimes the trail then takes you down roads full of speeding traffic. Suffering goes up as you have to be very careful not to misstep.

And the directions get confusing. I use the Brierly guide, the Wise Pilgrim app,, and my GPS to get us to the albergue as efficiently as possible.

And then the door is locked and no one answers the bell. Suffering levels up, until a phone call gains us entrance. Now fun is up!

Finally, a shower and a change of clothes and a beer and all is well.

Then it is nap time, followed by fresh seafood for dinner. And a bottle of wine. Finally, we decided we had to cut out the second cerveza grande and the second bottle of vino. Our suffering to beer/wine ratio was getting out of whack, and to bring it back into line we would have to increase suffering or reduce beer. And we are doing our best to avoid this!

Camino Portugues Trail Classification System

After a couple hundred miles of walking on the Camino Portugues I have come up with a trail classification system. Brierly talks some about it, but my system is more specific, with 5 classes.

Category 1 Woodland Tracks or Boardwalks. Great walking- only bicycles, foot traffic or tractors. If you get run over by a tractor you have a death wish. Cyclists only warn you sometimes; it is best to look before you change sides of the trail. Much of the way is delightful.

Category 2: It’s a beautiful day and I want to smell the flowers. Narrow roads and limited sight distance but less traffic and it isn’t fast. Includes industrial areas and 4-lane roads with good sidewalks. Not nerve- wracking but listening for vehicles approaching from behind is important. A quiet street can get crowded in a few seconds; be ready to step into a driveway or doorway.

Category 3: Ends your Camino prematurely if your focus lapses. Busy city streets, crossings required, busses, trucks, cars, taxis. Keep alert for traffic lights. “Is that driver really going to stop for me in this crosswalk?” Often comes after Category 1 Trail lulls you into complacency. Watch what the locals do and mind your P’s and Q’s.

Category 4: Pilgrim Highway of Near Death Experiences. No striping, steady stream of cars, narrow shoulders, in first photo cobblestone. Everyone is driving like they are late to work. First photo is deceiving- a rare quiet moment on this country road in southern Portugal, plenty scary the rest of the time. Just wide enough for one car at a time unless the shoulder (where you are) is used. Watch footing carefully, not a time to stumble. Be prepared to jump into the ditch.

Category 5: Pilgrim Highway of Death. Very little shoulder, no escape route (fence, parked trucks, steep bank), steady stream of 80,000 pound trucks at 60 mph just five feet away. Oncoming drivers seen talking on cell phones. The only Category 5 we experienced was just south of Azinhaga, this photo is not of that road (this road and shoulder are much wider and the distance to travel on it short). Takes a significant mental toll on you.

Take a bus or a taxi.

Bohm Caminho

Have it your way in Portugal

You don’t get to have it your way on the Camino in Portugal. You take what comes. This guy followed us down a long hill on a stone road with an empty wheelbarrow. I hope he didn’t have to get it back up loaded. This bridge goes back to Roman Times and this is Via Romana XIX. The creek is clear and cool and fast. The trail is interesting, sometimes rough, but the scenery is wonderful. We are walking through rural farmsteads. We visited the tourist office this morning about getting a taxi to take us down the Camino to the downhill part. The uphill part was long and steep and we weren’t up for it. We earned our credits in southern Portugal. We are in a rural albergue owned by a German guy. It’s like being a ’60’s hippie. Great guy, but still German. We sang “Bring it to the Lord in prayer” to music this Japanese Pilgrim played in his harmonica. It’s going great. We make a new plan every day.

Caminho Central

Our trail today took us from the coastal route to the central route. We walked to Barcelos today. Well, almost there- we got a taxi the last 9 kilometers. We had already walked about 22 and didn’t have 9 left in us. We were lucky to find a room here, in a hotel. Quite nice. Beds seem scarce in this Camino.

Lots of dry-stacked stone walls here, rural farmland and forest.

This is a beautiful place. People’s front yards are flower gardens.

They have a festival built around these kind of caricatures. This place is obviously geared up for tourists.

Finding a bed is a problem right now. I hope every Pilgrim here has one tonight. We have been calling about a bed for tomorrow with no success.

Birthday Boy

I turned 66 today. We stayed in an apartment rented from a sweet couple who own a restaurant. We went there for breakfast, a huge bowl of fresh fruit! I told her it was my birthday and she insisted I have a sip of Port before we left.

We walked on boardwalks along the beach all day.

We had a real seafood lunch – charcoal grilled sea bass. Best meal we’ve had on this trip!

Seventeen kilometers today and we landed in a parochial albergue.

We went to mass at 7 pm. I recognized a few words but generally it was a mystery. There were 150 or more people attending, almost entirely old women.

It has been a wonderful birthday!

Making it up as we go

Porto is beautiful, colorful, scenic, and overflowing with tourists. We stayed in a very nice hostel (€22 each) and headed to the river.

it was cool and drizzly, but we finally figured out how to catch the tram after walking all but 3km from the last stop.

We met a few pilgrims as we made our way from 2nd cafe con leche to 3rd. I almost fell into the Douro River.

The Atlantic shore was spectacular but we walked into a cool north wind gusting from 20-25 knots.

We walked several miles of boardwalk on the beach. No restaurant open around here so we got vino tinto at a bar next door and found a great pairing with oranges, bread, and chorizo purchased in Porto. We aren’t as far as most hikers but still walked 17 km today. We found an apartment on rented out of a restaurant which was closed on Mondays. The owners saw us looking in the windows and let us in, said we could have a room for €50 but would we mind if they finished lunch first? (In Portugues. Plus they were in the middle of a soap opera). While we waited they gave us water and homemade chocolate cake. Then she drove us here in her car and said she would pick us up for breakfast at 8:30 am. We haven’t even paid or given our passport info to her yet. Sweet people!