Camino Português – Day 8 again – Alvaiázere to Ansião

Cork, Butterflies, Dogs and Shrines

17 June 2016

I omitted some of yesterday’s photos, so that is corrected today.

The meal in the Café Quintinho was truly good. I loved it. This time through Alvaiázere was so much better than my last time. Carlos Pinheiros, the owner of the Albergaria Pinheiros, is in love with the help he gives to pilgrims. He has the most special of all the Credençial stamps that you could imagine. It comprises a special press, silver foil and sealing wax. Take a look.

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He also prizes John Brierley’s guide books – and I got that room. Like them or loathe them, JB’s guide books are synonymous with Caminos the world over.

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Beautiful morning, heralding a beautiful day. One other pilgrim – Sérgio from Italy – started off on his bike shortly after me. He has to get off to push the bike uphill in the steep and rocky sections, so it was not until I was 7km into today’s route that he caught up with me. We had passed the highest point of the Camino Portugues at around 6km. It is not a marked spot by the way, and few know of it.

I had my first encounter with Cork trees. They are now a protected species, I was told.  A pity and a blessing – as I have a great affection for their usage…

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The roads are narrow and hardly used. They wend their way hrough the upland villages of Beirão. They are quiet and there is no one in sight on them for many kilometres. The flowers grow in profusion along the verges and on the rocky slopes. They in turn attract the many different butterflies. Ringlets, Blues, Marbled Whites, Queen of Spain Frittilaries. The list is endless. This is a Garden of Eden for butterflies.

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At many of the remote crossroads are small shrines. These are dedicated to different saints, many of whom I have never heard of. The flowers are always fresh in the shrines, which means that they are cared for by people who wish to invest in their spiritual future. I am not RC, but I feel pleased that there are such souls.

The path left the road from time to time. When it is a footpath, you can quickly see that few walk (or ride) the Camino Português. The paths are narrow and rocky yet these selfsame paths have been used for almost 1,000 years – along the route where St James is said to have taught almost 2,000 years ago.  There are fountains (taps) for the weary traveller too. Many dedicated to various saints. However – few work. In one hamlet was a fountain/tap to Sao João (St John the Baptist). He would have had a hard time baptising anyone with that fountain. Totally dry. There were no places to get water en route today.

The houses mostly had guard dogs, and would not let me anywhere near the gates to ask at the houses. They can appear very vicious as you approach. Thankfully waving my sticks tends to make them think twice before attempting to take a chunk of me.

So – carry plenty of water is my advice for today…

Ansião is a lovely little town with a meat shopping/municipal centre. A small chalk stream runs through. The town was on the main Coimbra – Lisbon route when Coimbra was the capital of Portugal. Queen (Saint) Isabella would bathe in the stream in one of the two ‘bathing tanks’ whenever she travelled. Her bathing there apparently purified the water and blessed the land around with good crops.  My route tomorrow will broadly follow her road towards Coimbra.  For tonight, I stay in the appropriately named ‘Solar da Rainha’. The JB book does not feature Ansiāo as a stopover, so they get few pilgrims. Nevertheless – they are looking after me very well. Good room, good food and good wine. Locally made chorizo, borrego  and potatoes drizzled in the local olive oil. Life is good….

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