Yesterday was a tough day on the Camino Portuguese Coastal Route. Perhaps tough is not a strong enough word to be honest. Many challenges for the patience, a happy outlook, desire to keep walking, find the way, and overall for the body!
We started the day without any idea of how we would get our extra bag forward to Viana de Costelo our new home for the night. Sending ahead our heaviest stuff had turned the days into walks from slogs on the uphill, hard downhill and rough terrain. Further it had made a huge difference in the what could have been a Camino ending blister situation for Lana. So we were keen to keep what was working for us, working for us!
Santiago Backpacker Express advised late the evening prior they couldn’t find anyone at all to move our bag and had been trying all avenues, all day. They suggested we ask reception in our hostel. So we did but the guy was new and didn’t know about transport. He said I could ask the guy that comes on at midnight. Well I haven’t seen midnight for weeks so I though I could just ask in the morning. Oops. In the morning no one spoke any English and we couldn’t communicate effectively in my bare minimum unpracticed Portuguese. So we instead went to Tourist Info when it opened. Turns out they can not help at all with Camino stuff (very different than our experience in Spain) and suggested a travel agency. If we couldn’t get help at the agency, we were staring down the barrel of a 30 Euro taxi for our bag.
Well the Camino provides again! We walked across to the travel agent. Turns out that guy has a friend who could help – he called the friend right then and there, and made arrangements for us for 7 Euros. He actually asked if 7 Euros was ok as if it was too steep – we were like totally ok! We had been paying 15-20 Euros each day since the Portuguese route began. In Spain it was only 3 or 4 Euros so this was requiring some budget adjustment.
With a bounce in our step, we returned to our home Arca Nova to pack and mark the transport bag then get going on our 30km route to Viana. The friend would pick it up from Arca Novel Hostel and deliver it to our new home Zimbrio Guest House. Yahoo!
The day started out great. We had a good idea of where the path was and the guide book we had seemed it might be relatively helpful this morning. This sadly has not really been the case on this Camino, especially following it backwards. We are walking away from Santiago not to it as most pilgrims do and the guidebook and way markers are designed for walking to Santiago.
We had to largely guessing how to make it through the above forest path due to some really confusing way markers and no clear path. The pine needles cover any path that might have been obvious but they are so spongey and nice walk on you forgive them. Well this ‘largely guessing’ concept became the theme of the walk from there on in …. mixed in with very few but welcome moments of path clarity.
Soon, fog rolled in big style and for the following few hours we couldn’t see far enough ahead to know what we were aiming for, see any markers, sometimes see any humans at all. Further they were doing these what will be updates to the waterfront infrastructure – and seems they may have been replacing many of the posts and structures that used to have way markers!
At many points we had to simply walk the beach and search for the next place we could get on solid ground, beach boardwalk, or even some kind of path. What’s the problem, that sounds glorious right? The idea is better than the reality. The sand here is thick, thick, thick. Every step was tough especially in shoes (which you have to keep on as you have blister bandaids on your feet) and with a pack of 15lbs or so. We didn’t have any water fill up opportunities yesterday so we were carrying the max we could – that means heavy.
Add to the fact that you had no idea if you were walking to something or would have to turn back and Retrace those hard earned steps. It was beautiful in an eerie, desolate way to be honest but starting to get on our confidence. You couldn’t see the water most of the time, just hear it crashing.
(I have a short video up on my Instagram account @brandedavison if you want to see the fog and water as we saw it.)
After a couple hours of this pea soup, guessing game intermixed with some weird forest paths which maybe weren’t even paths of the Camino but rather some random dirt roads filled with flies buzzing about and all over our faces – we were done. We headed absolutely perpendicular from the beach inland to just find a damn road to walk on. Done! Done! Done!
Well again the Camino provides. As we were walking away from the coast walk to find a new way, we came across some very old markers and again found our Way. No joke! And the fog started to clear making it possible to see the ocean and find the next marker with a heck of a lot more ease.
Our afternoon ….
Wow what a night and day difference or should I say morning and afternoon difference!
At about the 30km mark we came into Viana waterfront area. We were up against the clock a little now as we needed to meet the reception person at our place to stay at 5pm and it was after 4. We still had 3+ km to cover, hadn’t seen a way marker in ages and again the map in the guidebook was not helpful. We thought we could cover the distance in the time and set out following the coast as best as the book suggested. Well turns out we walked a dead end, break water. There is another 2+km we didn’t need to walk. Doh!
So back to where we first came into Viana, a quick call to the reception lady to say we would be a little late, and we literally followed Apple Map Directions to find our home for the night. Still a couple of kilometers away but that’s nothing compared to the 30+ we clocked already. Also, who cares if I was eating our international data plan up to use Maps – we needed to get there before the smiles on our faces were totally gone for the day!
We got close. I ended up having to ask a wee grandpa for help. Now here is amazing …instead of giving us directions, he closed his shop (literally locked the front door) and walked us the block to the Zimborio Guest House. Wow! He did make a comment about it taking more time to explain the directions than to walk us. Ha ha. Maybe it was my Portuguese or maybe he sensed we had been directionally challenged all day!?
Finally in our new home for the night, we were greeted by the most lovely lady and shown around. There were other rooms for rent but no one else had rented – so we had this amazing little home to ourselves for the night! It was across from cafes and a plaza and more. Also within 20mins of arriving the ‘friend of the travel agent’ dropped off or bag so we got to thank him personally for the favour.
We took a couple hours to have showers, put our aching feet up, enjoy not having to walk or be lost, and overall recover from a tough day physically and mentally.
We then headed out to grab some much needed eats (we didn’t have lunch today – just an apple and some candy as we walked). Directly across the wee skinny European style street from us we found Caffe Liz which had amazing wine and sangria and these so tasty open toasted sandwiches and fries. Wow!!
An awesome finish to a hard won day! We talked though the challenges of the day with some laughs and the start of being able to laugh at what a gong show it was.
Now what do we do today after yesterday’s challenges? So we walk the 24km that is all inland and not on the coast at all to Esponsende our next destination? Or give these feet and our brains a break and enjoy this amazing Viana city we didn’t even get to see yesterday and then bus to Esponsende? Hmmm