TUI TO BARCELOS: A BACKWARD CAMINO
Another good start to the day. Having ejected me from my room at 9.30, the owner of the hostel smilingly told me that today's mountain climb would be even more difficult than yesterday's. "But not to worry," she added, "There'll be plenty of places where you can give up and take a taxi." She was wrong on both counts. The incline was not quite as tough as yesterday's - perhaps only because it came early, when I still had some strength in my legs. And if there was a single place where I could have summoned a taxi, I missed it. What she didn't tell me was that there'd only be a single café in 22km and that this would come after about 15 of these. Still, once there, I did manage to learn the Portuguese for 'shandy'.
What was particularly difficult about this stage was the sections where the track consisted of rocks, stones and pebbles of various sizes, raising the serious risk of ankle sprains. The poor cyclists had to carry their bikes through these stretches so I guess it wasn't surprising I didn't meet anyone on horseback. Frankly, the only animal equipped to take on the challenge would be a mountain goat.
But, anyway, I arrived in the charming town of Ponte de Lima around 5.30, meaning I'd walked without stopping for lunch for over 7 hours, at the pathetic rate of less than 3kph(1.9mph). Though this number would rise if I took out all the times I'd stopped for a breather or to allow some more oxygen to get into my legs.
Once in Ponte de Lima, I headed for a nice guest house I know and secured a room. The owner spoke no English or Spanish and, even with my basic Gallego, I could hardly understand a word he said to me. Or, rather, I understood just one word - desayuno (breakfast). This was essentially because he was pointing at the breakfast buffet. As anyone who's heard Portuguese will know, his pronunciation of desayuno was dzdznoon.
After dinner, I settled down to a bit of Portuguese TV. Of the News, I understood precious little but I fared rather better with Who Wants to be a Millionaire, largely because they put the questions and answers on the screen. Of the actual conversation, again very little. Besides, I was distracted by the trout-pout of the lady presenter.
Which reminds me . . . Portugal would be a quiet place even if it didn't appear relatively so next to Spain. But the TV is still an ubiquitous feature of cafés, bars and restaurants. But her's the rub - The sound is turned down low enough to question the rationale for the TV's being there. At worst, it's like the humming of distant bees.
The question for the committee of sleep - Will I do the Ponte de Lima-Barcelos stretch tomorrow, totalling 37(!)km and described by one guidebook as "The most arduous of the Oporto-Tui leg of the camino"?
I hae me doots.