55. Recap 2 – Camino Portugal & Spain

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?

02-Coast Portugal
Portuguese Atlantic coast. Beautiful views and the best possible weather for us, amazing!
03-Church Portugal
Church in Castelo do Neiva, Portugal. After a longer uphill stretch, a little rest was very welcome.
04-Eucalyptus Forest
Majestic eucalyptus forests: The eucalyptus smell was noticeable but not at all intense.

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).

05-Hiking
One of the few pictures of the trip with me in it and I actually like it. That’s pretty unusual.
06-Fairytale-House
This was a very fairy- tale like scenery we discovered in Spain. Beautiful in every aspect.
07-Foggy Coast Spain
Spanish Atlantic coast. On two of our hiking days, we had a lot of fog but luckily no rain.

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…

08-Tower Spain
An absolutely remarkable little tower. Notice how the flat pieces of stone were crafted and put together to form its body.
09-Street Art- Vigo
Great street art in the city of Vigo: My favourite character from Futurama: Bender. 🙂
10-Vineyard
Vineyards with ripe, juicy and sweet grapes, waiting to be harvested. They will make a great wine.

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.

15-Kitten
No words. Just cute.
11-River
Very scenic river (Rio Umia) panorama in Caldas de Reis, Spain.

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.

13-Church Spain palm trees
Not a common sight for someone who grew up in the colder regions of Europe: Church with palm trees in front of it.
14-Santiago
Rather anti-climatic at the end of the hike: The cathedral in Santiago, obviously in need of repair.

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:

Striker – City of Gold

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47. Salt Spring Island, Part 2

Ferry between Long Harbour (Salt Spring Island) and Tsawwassen, Canada, 14.06.2017.

After five amazing days on Salt Spring Island, I am slowly making my way back to reality. It is Wednesday morning and the “Queen of Nanaimo” (again!) is already taking me back to Tsawwassen. My mood is not the best, I am still really tired (I got up at 4:15 AM) and I am looking at a long day with my late shift in the store starting at noon. Anyway, I don’t want to complain because I just had a great time on the island and I feel blessed that I have a job that allows me to do all the travelling and sightseeing that I am doing in the moment.

So, what happened on my last two days on the island? Well, first of all, I met one of my AirBnB- hosts, Roxy, on Wednesday evening. We talked quite a bit and it was really interesting to hear what is currently happening on the island and what she did so far in her life. Also, it was a great experience for me to see how an alternative way of life may look like and how different lives and ideas can develop with time. Unfortunately, I did not meet Heather since she came home when I was already asleep and she left before I got up again. Pretty tight schedule for someone who lives on an island that seems to offer such a relaxed and peaceful life. So after I got up on Monday, I drove to Reginald Hill to do some running and hiking. By accident, I missed the first turn that would have led me straight up to the hill and instead, I ended up on First Nations land with a magnificent coastline. I happily walked along the coast for several hundred meters and enjoyed the sunshine and the great view of the ocean and the small islands along the way. Finally, I decided it was time to do some exercise so I took a nearby trail that eventually led me up to Reginald Hill. The view up there was also quite nice so I enjoyed that for a little while before I descended to the parking place again. Since I felt still felt fresh after this little excursion, I decided to drive further south on the island to also do the Hope Hill trail on that day. This trail mainly led through a relatively dense forest so it did not offer any particularly great views. That’s why I took this chance to actually train some uphill running in the comforting shade of the trees.

01-Reginald
Coast line near Reginald Hill.
02-Reginald
View on several other small islands.
04-Reginald
View from Reginald Hill. The mountain on the right of the valley is Maxwell Mountain.
03-Reginald
View on the bay leading to Fulford Harbour.

After all the hiking and running, I felt like I wanted to do calm down a little for the rest of the day. That’s why I decided to do yet another wine tasting and to also visit the local cheese “factory” and buy some of their local produce. The wine tasting at the Garry Oaks winery was quite nice and their wines were absolutely okay but none of them really appealed to me strongly so I only bought one bottle of a crisp and fresh white wine. In contrast to that, the different flavored types of cheese at the cheese factory were just amazing. I only tasted different types of goat cheese there but they were all really nice so I bought two different packages there despite their relatively high price. I guess paying these kinds of prices is what you have to do if you want really good quality and organic produces, right?
The day ended with me sitting at a beach on the northern part of the island, reading a little in my book and enjoying the sunset.

05-Garry-Oak
Garry Oaks Winery with tasting room.
06-Garry-Oak1
Quite a few of their wines actually won prizes!!!
07-Cheese-Farm1
Goats and chickens roaming free nearby the cheese factory.
08-Cheese-Farm2
The cheese factory on Salt Spring Island.
09-Cheese
My shoppings. Truly delicious. 🙂
10-Beach-North-SSI
Another beach, another great view, what more can you ask for?

On Tuesday morning, I decided to finalize and post my last blog entry before heading off to new adventures. So I did that before I drove to a parking place near Baynes Park and the Andreas Vogt Nature Reserve. That morning, I felt like running again so I put on my proper shoes and headed on to the trail that led to the park and the reserve. In the end, I only made a few pictures on this trip but I had a good time and still got to see many interesting things along the route. When I was done with that exercise, it seemed like a good idea to me to drive back to Ganges and finish reading my book while sitting in the small but beautiful Centennial Park. About 70 pages later, I was done with the book (good piece of literature, see below!) and it was time to get another great lunch at the Oystercatcher restaurant. This time I ordered grilled fish and raspberry ale (wow!) and it was really good again. Also, I met a few very nice and friendly islanders, including Shawn, who had been to Germany in the 80s. We talked a lot about Cologne, the people in Bavaria, the purpose of life and a lot of other different things. Surprisingly, Shawn was still able to speak a good amount of German although he had not been able to practice this language for years. In the end, he offered me to stay at his place for the night but I had to decline because I had to get up early today to catch the ferry that I am currently on. Also, it seemed like they would continue drinking and talking for a lot longer time than I intended to stay at that restaurant. Anyway, it was a great and joyful encounter and I will make sure to contact Shawn should I ever return to this beautiful island.

11-Andreas-Vogt
Wild flowers (I guess it is foxglove???) in the Andreas Vogt Nature Reserve.
12-Andreas-Vogt-2
I admire how the Canadians maintain their heritage and sights.
13-Vape-Shop
The Vape- Shop at Ganges. Symbol of a lifestyle.
15-Centennial-Park
WW1 and WW2 memorial at Centennial Park, Ganges.
14-Book
A great book to read! Also, I generally like this author’s style of writing.

I guess this was everything that was worth reporting from this trip so I will conclude this blog entry, as usual, with a nice piece of music. Today’s piece is already relatively old but “rock-solid” (pun intended!) and it just came up on the playlist that I am listening to while writing this blog entry. Enjoy!

Foo Fighters – Monkey Wrench