North Vancouver, Canada, 11.12.2017.
After a few more busy weeks, I finally find some time to write about my trip to Portugal and Spain in October. It is pretty crazy that this is already over 8 weeks ago now. How time flies, unbelievable!
This trip was suggested to me by Rachel, my hiking partner from Vancouver who had already done the traditional French Camino and wanted to do the Portuguese Coastal Camino then. And since I like hiking and I am always up for challenges, I agreed to do this long hike with her despite me having already signed up for the 80K- Race in Whistler on October 14th. So we were running a rather tight time schedule to do this hike because I had to be back in Porto, Portugal by October 13th to catch my flight back to Vancouver. So this really only left us with 12 days to complete the whole hike of approximately 280 Kilometers. I landed a few hours earlier than Rachel and picked her up at the airport early in the morning on September 30th. We then rested a little before we headed to the inner city of Porto to look for a hostel to stay overnight. After we found one, we got our pilgrim passes for the hike at the cathedral and finally did some sightseeing as well. In hindsight I am a bit sad that I was unable to spend more time in Porto because it is a really beautiful city with lots of interesting sights and a great flair. After this trip, I am definitely considering to spend more time in Portugal one day and then I may be able to return to Porto after all, who knows?
On October 1st, we started our hike from Porto, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain on a sunny and cloudless day. We decided to do the coastal route instead of the inland route because it was described as more scenic and beautiful. Now since I have not done the inland route, I can’t judge that but I can definitely tell that there was a lot to admire and enjoy along the coastal route: Picturesque villages and churches, all kinds of beautiful nature settings (vineyards, rivers, beaches, coast stretches, forests, animals…), amazing food and tapas (yum yum) and last but not least: open and friendly people along our way. Along our route to Santiago de Compostela, we made the following overnight stops: Porto – Vila do Conde – Esposende – Viana do Castelo – Vila Praia de Ancora – BORDER CROSSING TO SPAIN – Oia – Ramallosa (near Nigran) – Vigo – Cesantes – Barro (Portela) – Valga – Milladoiro (near Santiago).
On quite a few of our legs, we deviated from the “usual” overnight stops because we just kept on walking for as long as we still felt good. So some of our legs were rather short whereas others (especially the first two and the last two) were quite long. Since we hiked in the off-season, we did not book any hostels or hotels along our way in advance. This turned out to be a good strategy since we only really struggled once during our trip to find a place to stay. But even on that day, it was rather fortunate that we kept walking because the hostel we finally stayed in was really nice and affordable and so close to Santiago that we managed to cover the last stretch in no time. And again, this turned out to be fortunate for us because although we arrived very early in Santiago, we still had to wait for more than two hours to get our pilgrim certificates. In the end, this left us hurrying to the bus station to catch our booked bus back to Porto in time. Thus, we were not able to explore Santiago and/or its cathedral at all. Unfortunate, yes, but it is also possible to do another Camino one day and then stay a little longer in Santiago…
Overall, I am very happy I made this trip. It was very enjoyable to get out of my daily routine for a longer time and to finally visit some parts of Portugal and Spain. Also, it was really great to spend so much time with Rachel and to do such a beautiful and picturesque hike with her. And we were really blessed with the weather during our hike: Temperatures around 25-30 degrees, mainly sunshine, no rain at all and only two foggy days with limited sight. During our trip, it also turned out that our timing had been pretty good: While it is still pleasant and enjoyable to hike in October, there are significantly less pilgrims on the road than during the summer months. Thus, it is easier to find a decent place to stay overnight without having to book everything in advance. The downside of this is that you don’t get to meet that many fellow pilgrims. However, we did meet quite a few very nice fellow pilgrims on our way to Santiago. One of them, Linda from Victoria (Vancouver Island), was a particularly likeable and cheerful lady who me met several times on our way to Santiago. In the end, meeting her again was like meeting a good friend and it was always great to chat with her in a break or after a long day’s walk.
After our return to Porto in the afternoon of October 12th, Rachel and I had to book a quite expensive hotel because unexpectedly, all other accomodations in the city and the outskirts were totally booked on that day. This was a little surprising to us but the luxury of a 4star- hotel was also very welcome after the trip. After having checked-in, we then decided to do some wine shopping in Porto before we had our last (and very tasty) dinner of the trip. Then, in the morning hours of October 13th, I took one of the first flights out of Porto to Vancouver via Amsterdam. Now I don’t know when I will find time to do another Camino or to visit Portugal again but I definitely want to do both in the future at some point.
After having written over 1200 words again, I think it is time to conclude this blog entry now. I would love to continue writing about the trip and the many nice encounters and little adventures we had along our way but that would definitely be too much for now.
Instead, let’s finish this blog entry with the usual music advice. Just a few days ago, I had my first contact with Canadian rock music and I was not disappointed: This band has quite a few nice songs and I especially like this one. Check them out, it’s worth it: