“Rain, mud and solitude”
10 April 2016
Breakfast had been left out for me by Mario and his wife. I had a light breakfast then headed out for 8am.
Santarém is a small hilltop town with old buildings, steps going in all directions and cute narrow streets it also has a great view down the Rio Tejo.
My feet were painful although yesterday they had been fine. Hence I decided again on sandals and walked very carefully out of Santarém. The streets were deserted. The country lanes sand fields were deserted. Everywhere was deserted.
The arrows that had composed both the Fatíma blue and Santiago yellow way-marks were now, just the Yellow. We left the Fatíma camino in Santarém. The two pilgrimage routes diverge. No doubt they will return soon – pointing in the opposite direction for Fatíma.
It was clear to me that this had substantially reduced the foot traffic on the paths. The paths were now rougher. They wove through fields of vines. Very few footprints – some old.
Once down on the plain, the rain started. At first I thought (hoped) that it would pass.
Not a chance.
It came on stronger and stronger as the morning progressed. Sandals are not the best solution on clogging, wet muddy paths, but I (foolishly as it transpired) carried on.
It carried on getting wetter – and wetter – and wetter. Finally I came to a village – Vale de Figueira – and I stopped for a coffee. I had been wallowing in mud for 11km. The people – the few – that I met looked at my sodden form in some sort of mild bemusement and I suspect some disgust for this muddy wet scarecrow sitting drinking coffee in their nice clean bar.
I did not take many photographs in the rain. The view ahead was of flat muddy tracks through the fields. Occasional superb trees. Occasional arrows.
I had been studying routes before I came on the Camino Portugués and I had the original paths programmed into my GPS. On my map some were clearly marked Caminho Português. However the arrows had different ideas. I stuck with my route. All footprints of previous pilgrims disappeared totally. Nevertheless less, I carried on – My Way (the Old Way).
Eventually the sun came out, but the wind was fresh and chilly although from SW. I found my way to Azinhaga and ate my sandwich.
Only 8 km to go – but each one almost murderous as there is no side path alongside what is a very high speed road. Many moved over for me on that long walk to Golegá – but some did not. My closest shaves all came from BMW. The worst offenders were young women drivers and old men drivers.
Eventually I found my way to Golegá and checked into the best hotel in town as my treat to myself. Swimming pool but also no swimming costume. Also alas – restaurant closed this evening. I will get by, but not the treat for myself that I dreamed of just yesterday.
Today registered on the GPS as 32.5km. It felt more like 62.5km with all that mud to have to slither through..
I saw not one single pilgrim the whole day. I do not mind, and I trust my navigation, but this is a walk for those who want solitude.
I had to go out to look for somewhere to eat. I eventually found somewhere but directions to get to it were incorrect. Golegá on a dark, wet, windy Sunday evening rivals Mars for signs of life….
Tomorrow – Tomar.