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First steps through Portugal (Valencia-Viana do Castelo)

Posted on | July 18, 2011 | No Comments

Original Date of Post | March 1, 2009 |

With curiosity we crossed the bridge and made our first step through the first city of Portugal, Valencia. We searched for a hostel keeping walking along the main road, thinking that we are hitting the center of the city. But after an hour we realized that the road actually lead us out of the town. It seemed like there was no center. We didnt worry anyway. It was pretty warm and I believed that it shouldnt be a big deal to spend the night outside. So after some more kilometers we arrived at another little village and build up our tent on a big grass land. Then we went to a gas-station to ask for some food. We didnt speak or understand a single word Portuguese. I hoped that our bad Spanish would be enough to make him understand. And it was. When I asked people if they spoke Spanish, they basically said: “I understand it”. The guy at the gas-station gave us a big bag of crisps. Wasnt the healthiest dinner, but better than nothing.

I crawled into my sleeping bag and was assuming that it was going to get warmer after some time. But the opposite happened. It even got so cold, that it was impossible to sleep anymore. For some reason, while my body was shaking like hell, at the same time Janine was sleeping tranquil like a baby. After another hour it felt like the blood in my vanes started to freeze. It hurt. I started to move around as much as I could to keep my circulation running. This continued until the dawn. I crawled out of the sleeping bag and looked literally frozen at my tent.

Frozen tent. After a cold night in Portugal

Frozen tent. After a cold night in Portugal

The mornings sun melted the tent. We started to strike it when a happy pilgrim passed by. Erwin from Belgium, who infected us with his cheeriness so much, that the we forgot about the cold of the last night. He was the third pilgrim we have seen on our way since Santiago. And it didnt take long for the forth one to come: Joseph from Fatima, who has been walking on the ways of St James for seven years. He seemed sympathetic but at the same time also mentally confused. 7 Years of walk left their marks. I wonder if the same will happen to me?

Me and Janina ket walking and tried to take a “shortcut” to our destination. This shortcut made our way about 10 kilometers longer. We found ourselves in a huge field of scrubs, pest plants and thorns, and fought our way to an abandoned rocky hill where we discovered a narrow and gloomy cave. Our childish love of adventure was just too strong to ignore it. We grabbed a flashlight and went in.

Cave from inside

Cave from inside

For about 30 meters we followed the darkness and hit a dead end. For a minute we felt like Indiana Jones in the temple of death.

Finally we arrived in the next village where we didnt only have a free hostel, but also an amazing 3-course-meal from the very friendly bar-keeper, when we asked for a bit of food. And after a good rest in a cozy bed we received a 5-star breakfast in another bar. This occurred frequently and I have to say that never before I have seen such a hospitality as here in Portugal.

The way to Ponte De Lima was hard. Janinas knee started to hurt again and we decided to not walk for a whole day in order to give it some rest. We could stay in a youth hostel for night. For the second night they allowed us to camp in their garage.

In the garage of a hostel of Ponte De Lima

In the garage of a hostel of Ponte De Lima

Next day, when we were walking through a little woody area, Janina got the idea to go to Viana Do Castelo which is apart from the planned route. It is situated in the south-west, directly at the ocean. Under no circumstances I wanted to go there. I definitely had enough from water and from the sea. Moreover I did not want to walk further unnecessary kilometers. Our discussion was interrupted by sounds of gunshots. We came to a grass-field where 10 gun-toting men were in green were sitting and celebrating. One of them spot us and shouted: “Hey there. Come over and have a beer with us”. We joined the 10 hunters and were filled with beer, bread, wine, the meet of their prey and – as always in this country – friendliness. There was a bit of everything in the air. Laughs, songs, stories, music, talks, bullets, and hats pierced by the bullets. Christoph from Luxemburg, one of the hunters was traducing between us and the others. And eventually they invited us to go hunting with them. Of course we accepted. I have learned the basic rules of hunting and for the first time of my life, I fired a gun. I did not shoot birds. I chose some tree-branches instead.

Content, satisfied and with 2 wine-bottles equipped we kept walking until the sun set. We stopped at a little bar which was located at a small river and made a little break. The night was so dark that we thought it would not be a good idea to keep walking through woody areas, so we asked the bar keeper if we could sleep in the bar after it closed. He accepted and we continued the next day. And apparently we already were lost when we rested in the bar. Because the way we were walking on lead through highways, swamps and pathless forests to Viana Do Castelo.

I was full of anger when we arrived. But we found accommondation at the fire-fighters who fed and hosted us for 3 nights in which Janina was able to recover her knee. In this 3 days we kinda fell in love with this beautiful town. Via couchsurfing we found a couch at Ritas place. I huge, enormouse house. Almost a castle with a big garden, protected by 6 giant dogs who looked like bears. Unfortunately Rita was abscent almos all the time. But yes, we did fall in love with Viana Do Castelo, its gorgeous beaches, friendly people, nice infrastructure and the best hot-chocolate I have ever drank. Thank you Rita and fire-fighters.

After this amazing rest we wanted to go south. And the quickest way to get to the southern cities goes right along the ocean.

To be continued…

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