It is over, and I can now start to draw my conclusions. Shelley and I travelled to Fisterra where – last year – the mist was so thick that we could not see a thing. This year we got to see the famous boot beneath the lighthouse.
We also went to find the Pilgrim Stautue that we could not see last year. It is on Monte de Gozo, but about 0.75km off-route. Anyway – that mystery has been cleared.
Now to the Camino itself.
The Camino Português is about 75% of the length of the Camino Francés. It does not have the high scenery found in the Pyrenees, nor the Montes de León. It does have some beautiful countryside, especially between Alvaiazere and Coimbra and between Barcelos and Caldas de Rei. It also has a LOT of roads. I do not feel that I walked for such a large percentage of my time on roads, as I did through Portugal, and never sharing the same route as the main truck transportation route.
The parts I did not enjoy were those where I felt I was walking along the main trunk roads of Portugal for hour-after-hour. The N10, N110 for example have relentless streams of big trucks passing just a couple of metres away form the walker. In the stretch from Lisbon to Porto, there seem to be many such sections as that, and it was a common concern from those pilgrims that I met. That may be one reason that only 3.5% of pilgrims arriving in Santiago de Compostela are finishing the Camino Portuguese. Of the 262,516 pilgrims who arrived in Santiago in 2015, only 2,059 (0.78%) had started in Lisbon. For such a well publicised route, this figure is remarkably low.
Would I walk the Camino Francés again? Definitely.
Would I do the Camino Portuguese again? Possibly.
The route has the potential to attract many more pilgrims. The wonderful Portuguese people that I met (with the exception of a few drivers – road speeds are high and they make little allowance for pedestrians on the road) were welcoming, although many had little appreciation of the Camino de Santiago. I tend to think that Portugal itself needs to understand the significance of its countryside, its footpaths and its potential on the routes to Santiago. The Portuguese government departments for the environment could organise a study, then perhaps make some amendments to the route to allow for safer, or at least, less stressful footpaths to be opened to the Caminos. With more pilgrims comes the opportunity for more businesses in hospitality and catering to benefit. It would – I am certain – benefit the villages and towns along the route.
I have contracted the ‘Camino Bug’. From now until I am too infirm and decrepit to walk, I shall find my way to a pilgrimage route at least once each year. Next year – the Via de la Plata from Seville. I already have our flights booked for two days after the Farndale Show.
Herewith a summary of my route and the distances. I followed the arrows as much as possible, but in some places had to deviate. If anyone wishes to have my GPX files, I am happy to send them. Simply send an email to email@example.com
|Vilafranca de Xira||Portugal||30.1|
|Mourisca do Vouga||Portugal||28.0|
|Oliveira de Azeirmires||Portugal||19.3|
|Santa Maria de Feira||Portugal||16.4|
|Lugar de Sobreiro||Portugal||28.2|
|Ponte de Lima||Portugal||6.9|
|Casa de Capela||Portugal||21.5|
|Caldas de Rei||Spain||22.4|
|Santiago de Compostela||Spain||26.6|