20 June 2016
My mum’s birthday had she been with us. It has been 10 years since she passed away and I still miss her.
I had thought to call today’s blog ‘I am a Roads Scholar‘, as today was all about roads. In almost 31km, only 1 km near the end was NOT on asphalt.
I was late setting off as I had to wait for shops to open in order to buy a replacement adaptor. The morning was refreshingly cool as Coimbra lay under a blanket of valley mist. Finding the arrows through the little streets was not easy. They are old and few and far between. For anyone wanting a tip on how to find your way out of Coimbra here it is:
Walk down the old centre street to see the wonderful old church and square.
Then left to follow the signs leading to MacDonalds.
100m after MacDonalds, take the road left under the railway to a cycle track which heads North.
After that, keep on the roads heading North. The arrows are more obvious.
The first village to take a break is Trouxemil. Lovely little family shop/café across from the statue of a Pilgrim.
The sun had burned off the mist by 9:30 and by 10:30 the temperature was reaching 30°C with higher to come.
It is difficult but not impossible to get lost as after Sargento Mor, the route soon joins the busy N1/IC1. This is one of the main arterial roads of Portugal. The route takes the walker along the hard shoulder. The traffic is relentless. Cars and trucks whizz past just a couple of metres away.
The N1 seems never-ending. Truck stops (often abandoned) as well as BBQ, pizza oven and tomb/tombstone dealers are the only things to see.
After about 8km there is a minor road to the left to Mala. Watch for it – as I missed it. However another road to Mala presents itself a few hundred metres later. It is still asphalt, but the peace of a country road after noise of the N1 is pure paradise.
The route then finds its way through more little villages. The N1 is never far away below. Shortly before reaching Mealhada, there is a track through olive trees which leads after 1km to…the N1….
At the start of the track there is the first sign I have seen telling me the distance to Santiago. It shows 345km and advertises the Albergue de Mealhada where I am staying.
Mealhada has a bright centre, but as you walk in, you pass closed little enterprises. The ‘Institute of Vines and Wines’ lies sadly derelict which seems strange as wine production and consumption elsewhere is increasing.
The temperature reached 34.2°C according to my GPS’s log. Very tiring. I was so tired that when I went into a pharmacist to buy toothpaste, I found – later – that I had bought denture adhesive….
Along the N1 once more to Residençial Hílario where the Albergue is. The N1 at Mealhada is lined with restaurants – all advertising just one thing – spit-roast suckling pig. There are so many restaurants that they must be successful, which means somewhere close by there must be huge pig farms – but I did not see them.
Washed my clothes which dried quickly, then next door to the restaurant to eat and watch England play Slovakia (0-0 by the way).
I have seen only one other pilgrim – a cyclist – in the last four days. Today I met one more. A Canadian going South from Santiago. He had seen just a few others after Porto. This really is the Camino less travelled.
Tomorrow is forecast to be hotter….