Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Slow down, walk in mindfulness, and the Camino’s hidden beauty is revealed

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An element of a plaza water fountain in Pontevedra, in which the shape of the spouting water is constantly changing to some hidden rhythm. The statue of the little boy always seems to get his mouthful, however.

Pontevedra to Caldas de Reis (22.2 kilometers, felt like 22.2 except for a very flat stretch of open and empty road after the sun came out)

We awake to a different Pontevedra this morning. Last night, we walked through gray granite and stone canyons, brightened only by the logos and signage of commerce and colorful storefront pitches for their wares, and the occasional art installation. And graffiti, ambitious graffiti murals in fluorescent colors.

But otherwise, a gray city fostering teeming waves of pedestrian life along traffic-free streets. 

Now, in the morning gloom, the rain and the streetlamps have washed everything with a shimmering amber sheen. A neon art project sings like an aria to the skies above. The pulsing cherry-sherbert lighting on a plaza fountain vibrates with a force unfelt in daytime. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Sometimes, the best moments on the Camino are not the views but the stories people tell

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This is Ponte Sampaio over the River Verdugo. This is yet another spot where Galacian fighters kicked the ass of Napoleon’s soldiers. This isn’t the first site we’ve encountered marked by the defeat of Napoleon’s army.

Redondela to Pontevedra (23 kilometers, felt just right)

Sometimes the best part of your day on the Camino isn’t the glorious autumn weather, or the cathedral-like walk through an ancient forest, or the breathtaking vistas that greet you at the crest of a difficult climb, or the journey back in time as you pass through a Medieval village along narrow cobblestone paths.

No, sometimes it is a simple story told by another pilgrim.

This happened on our walk between the mellifluously named cities of Redondela and Pontevedra. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Trying something new: Booking ahead for a place to sleep

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A lovely spring up near the peak of our highest climb for the day. The design invites you to linger, unstrap the boots, and dangle your feet in the icy mountain water.

O Porriño to Redondela (16 kilometers, feels like that)

After a day walking in the rain, you couldn’t help but admire the optimism that filled the auberge in O Porriño. Wet clothing was hanging everywhere. A carpet of wet shoes was laid out before the one window that offered sunlight after the clouds broke.

Just the same, everyone left the next morning with damp clothing and damp shoes. We all smelled like wet dogs. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Tui or not Tui, that is the question

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This image was taken somewhere between Rubiaes and Tui, so it must have been a very pleasant walk.

Rubiaes to Tui (20.3 kilometers, felt like: Meh.)

Odd. I have almost no recollection of this segment of the Portuguese Camino. Except that it crosses the river Minho into Spain and you must remember to set your watch an hour forward.

Or was it backward?

Well, as my Grandmother Agnes Reuter used to say when she was well into her 90s, “Bobby, I have my good days and I have my bad days.”

I guess this was just one of those days. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Alpine trails, mountain streams, fresh coffee, and Portela Grande — could there be a better day?

IMG_6205Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes, (18.6 km — feels like 18.6, except on Alto de Portela Grande)

There is a different mood in the air this morning as the clank, and flap, and zip of early risers assembling their backpacks awakened everybody else in the dormitory.

It started at 4 a.m. with the two guys sleeping in the beds next to me. I understand starting early to beat the afternoon heat, but walking three hours on mountain trails in the dark of night with, probably, only a headlamp to guide you?

By 6 a.m. the predawn dorm was an undulating shadow-sea of pilgrims rising up, gathering their scattered clothing, running off to the loo, bundling up their backpacks, and strapping on their boots. Occasionally the door would open and the motion-activated light in the hall would stream in, trapping shadows in the glare, momentarily freezing all like it was some big jailbreak. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

Finished walking by noon? I think we’re getting the hang of this Camino thing

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I was so taken with this stand of trees and the way the rising sunlight played through them, that I walked right past the arrow indicating our turn.

Day 4: Lugar do Coro to Ponte de Lima (11 km, feels like 10)

I awoke this morning without a trace of a hangover. Talk about small and unexpected miracles on the Camino.

Dinner at Fernanda’s table last night was an incredibly joyous gathering, fueled in no small part by bottomless bottles of wine, generous bottles of Tawney Port, and a clear liquid we named “Death In A Bottle.”

And singing. So much singing. And camaraderie. Lots of camaraderie. Continue reading

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Camino: Porto to Santiago, Uncategorized

At last, the Camino begins to move back in time, as we move forward

img_5739Day 2: Vila do Conde to Barcelinhos (30 km, feels like: 45 km)

It is hard to look at the remnants of the 999 stone arches that comprised the base of the Aqueduto de Santa Clara in Vila do Conde, Portugal,  and accept that at one time it was a colossal failure.

An aqueduct has one job, right? To convey water from one point to another with an MVP assist from gravity. I’m no engineer but it seems to me that, in building an aqueduct, slope is everything.

All about the slope, it’s all about the slope. Continue reading

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