“What a difference a day makes”
09 April 2016
Today has to have been the best day yet. Whereas yesterday hit all my lowest points, today lifted my spirits.
I had a great meal last night in the company of Tony and Barbara Carroll, last seen en route towards VFdX. They too made it to the same place in Azambuja.
Last night in Azambuja, in the hotel restaurant/café had the ‘Cozida Portuguesa’. It was the first time, and although tasty, it contained just a few too many parts of a pig which I could not identify – or at least – I did not want to identify. The vegetables however were great and very filling, so I carbo-loaded ready for today. T&B Carroll are a great couple with tons of stories from different walks.
I slept in this morning until 7:45, and as my walk today was to be long (over 33km), I wanted to get started. T&B planned to do just half of my total, so they had the more leisurely breakfast. The Hotel Ouro is probablly the only hotel en route, but still one that I can recommend.
Bright but chilly as I set off through Azambuja. Interesting leaning brick chimney – very Pisa-esque – complete with resident stork.
I nearly missed the turn off through the railway station.
As soon as this was done however, the busy main roads were behind me, and the route followed country lanes and farm tracks from then on.
The lanes were bordered with wild olive trees and lots of bamboo. I followed a farm track, then realised it had at one time been carefully paved. It turned out to have been the original North-South Roman road.
There was an aerodrome where light aircraft were practicing ‘bumps’ or landing and taking off again immediately. Very strange.
The Rio Tejo has now reached manageable proportions. The sides are flanked by 3m leveés, which run the whole way to Santarém. In the three villages that are on the way, Reguengo, Valada and Muge, the leveés have been made into an attraction and public amenity. They are paved and lit. Great job.
The villages are quaint. And women conduct conversations across the streets from their windows.
The Wisteria here grows wild. When I consider how hard I have to work on ours and get nothing like these blooms – well – it’s just not fair.
I sat on the last leveé bench in the last village, Muge, and ate my sandwich. The next 15km promised no villages nor cafés – nothing. An enterprising hostel owner called Miguel arrived and tried very hard to get me to agree to stay at his hostel in Santarém. Nice guy I am sure, but just too pushy – plus – I already had my booking elsewhere.
The next 15km took me along one track all the way to Santarém through was must be The Market Garden of Portugal. The fields are being prepared for Spring. In the UK, seagulls follow the tractor – here the birds are Egrets. Far more exotic.
The Rain Gods played with me a little. Rain had been promised and when it arrived, expecting it to seton, I changed to water-proofs. No sooner done than the rain stopped. It grew warm and I grew even warmer – so I changed out of water-proofs. Guess what. Yes – it rained….
I soldiered on. Miguel, the pushy hostel guy came back trying to convince me to stay at his hostel. This was getting to be just too desperate.
Onwards into Santarém. Out of the corner of my eye, I spied something odd. See the photos and work out what it was. There is a corner of this foreign field which is forever – Her Majesty’s.
The views of Santarém in the distance were torture as I could see the town on the hill from over 12km away. It never seemed to be getting any closer until I was within 3 km of my goal.
I passed my first pilgrims after the Carrolls. A French couple. I also met Jeronimo who was shovelling manure to feed his vines. Great guy. His wines go all over the world. They are so expensive that he cannot afford to drink them…
Once in Santarém I found the hostel and was surprised to meet Tony and Barbara again. They had planned to stay in Muge, but neither hostel there has opened yet. Knowing there was nothing on the route to Santarém, they decided to move on. They had to arrange transport to get to Santarém and found the same hostel as myself.
I have done my washing outside by hand, and I am hoping it will dry in the remaining sunshine and breeze. We shall see.
Mario the host is a great guy. I should call him Super Mario as nothing is too much trouble. He and his wife have a very welcoming disposition. I am beginning to wonder if it is a common denominator in Portuguese society to welcome guests and strangers in this way. It really makes me feel at home for within minutes I have not only a recommendation for where to eat , but also an invitation to eat with my hosts. The fish was a delicious unknown type from the Rio Tejo. It was very good. However – the ‘Tejo’ wine from the fields I had walked through – was served in a jug – and – was truly excellent.
I walked 34.53km according to my GPS, which means that I have completed around 100km….
Tomorrow – Golega – where I am going to treat myself in a nice hotel, which promises a swimming pool and a massage the end of another 30+ km day….