TUI TO BARCELOS: A BACKWARD CAMINO
I walked today from Tui in Spain to Rumiaes/Saö Roque in Portugal. A distance of 20km. Or 22 if you take into account the inclines. Or 24 if you add the false paths taken and backtracked.
Things started badly when, thanks to a poor recollection of Tui's street plan, I parked a good 15 minutes further from the footbridge over the Miño than I needed to do. They didn't much improve when I got to Valença and failed to find any yellow arrows indicating the way to Santiago. But, after a couple of false starts, I finally found the way off the main road and onto a pebbled, rural trail southwards.
As I saw my first northbound pilgrim in the distance, I readied myself with the answer "No. I'm going to Fatima" for when he asked me why I was going the wrong way. But, as he got close, he beat me to the draw and asked "Are you going to Fatima?" Yes, I lied.
It's a lot tougher going 'backwards' than it is going forwards on the camino. The direction arrows are harder to find, especially in Portugal, where they aren't as helpful as in Spain. But the good news was there were blue arrows for those really going to Fatima and these eventually got more frequent and visible.
I'd expected the walk to take me 4-5 hours, meaning I'd arrive around 6, well before sunset. But the killer aspect of this leg of the camino is that the last 7km(4.4miles) is all all uphill. With pretty steep gradients in several places. Frankly, it was tough and the going was slow. At times, very slow. With regular stops.
As the afternoon wore on, I began to worry it'd be dark before I arrived at Rumiaes, where I was planning to get a taxi for the 1.5km to a hostel in Saö Roque. At a cafe at the top of the minor mountain I'd struggled up, they told me it was 4km to Rumiaes. I walked these as fast as my weary legs could manage, as the sun began its descent over the hilltops. But, by the time I reached the main road, it was almost dark. Worse, I couldn't find arrows to tell me whether I now walked along the main road or continued straight ahead on a forest track. Wrongly, I took the latter option and found myself winding this way and that, past isolated houses with no sign of life. And no arrows.
By now I was seriously worried about how I was going to get to Saö Roque and find a bed for the night. Especially as I hadn't made a reservation. But the Gods were with me and I eventually hit the main road and a bar where I could take refreshment and call a taxi.
At the hostel the door was ominously locked but things worked out and I got a room. And a chance to get to sleep pretty early for me. Only to be woken at 2.45 by barking and yapping dogs. After half an hour of this, I got up and inserted my earplugs.
I breakfasted at 8 with 6 Brits heading for Santiago and was summarily ejected from my room by the owner at 9.30, who'd neglected to tell me this was check-out time. She sent me on my way with the news that the climb would be even tougher than yesterday.
Somehow I've just lost what I typed 10 minutes ago. And I need to get something to eat,
Maybe later. Or maybe tomorrow.