In the footsteps of the Romans and Acts of Random Kindness
25 June 2016
As I said yesterday, the Pedra Bela in Santa Maria de Feira was a great place to eat, drink and sleep. It was also fortuitous that it marked the start of a long, straight Roman road ‘Rua da Estrada Romana’. For over 10km it aligned itself through many villages. Sometimes a modern road, sometimes a paved ancient track but always the same direction.
In the country track stages, the stones which were laid, centuries ago, are massive. They have already stood the test of time and will continue to do so – unless, as will probably happen, the fields are developed for houses and the tracks subsumed.
The route itself was long and hot. Those small bars where I could get a café-com-leite or a Coke were welcome sights. One had an especially interesting mural.
I experienced – twice – but for the first time since Lisbon – acts of simple, human kindness. As I walked up the hill through one village, a lady came to me to ask if I would like some cold water. I was running low. I was thirsty as the village bar was closed. She took me to her house, picked a lemon from the tree and served me chilled fresh lemon water as well as filling my water bottle. Her name is Bertha. She is 70 and her mother, Luisa is 90. They asked only that I say their names in the Cathedral in Santiago – which I shall surely do.
The same thing happened again after I had climbed over the Alto Serra. This lady was Laura.
They were simple, unexpected, everyday miracles. Random acts of kindness with nothing to gain. In a world filled with recriminations and self-centred gain, they restored my faith in people.
I am used by now to having to avoid inanimate cars and over-animate dogs. This morning I had to avoid a mix of the two as for the first time I encountered donkey carts. These are something a walker has to really move to avoid in the narrow streets.
The route worked its way through the southern satellite suburbs of Porto, through more non-asphalt tracks than I have been used to in the countryside. I realise that I have been following what has been historically the ancient route from Lisbon to Porto. Often this has been along the modern updates but sometimes along its earliest predecessors as I first saw on Day 2.
The route took me (often without the yellow arrows) to the the Dom Luís bridge. The Douro below was alive with tourist cruises, and the riverside cafés full of people enjoying 30°C sunshine.
It was a spectacular ending to this phase as I made my way to the Cathedral. I got my Credençial stamped, but sadly could not buy a candle to light for MJ. That will happen when I reach Santiago.
My route to Porto has taken me through the ancient capital of Lusitania/Portugal. It has taken me through places steeped in antiquity with legends of Queen Saint Isabella, St James, St John.
I have sampled wines from Tejo, Alentejo, Beirão and Douro.
I have spent hours walking alone in the woods with only butterflies and birdsong for company. I have also walked for hours in the heat dodging cars and trucks.
When I return to Porto on 01 September, it will be with Shelley. We shall walk through Northern Portugal together to Santiago. I now know that the kilometres will seem so short when we restart together. If you can find a like-minded companion – make sure you take them with you.
Till then – this is the last of the daily blogs. I hope you have enjoyed them.