Vitorino to Labruja

I had the best night sleep on the Camino so far. There were only 5 pilgrims in the dorm last night and we had the patio doors open so it was fresh cool air all night.

Just before 7am fireworks were popping and there was singing; another day of festivities! In fact the music continued throughout the valley all the way to Ponte de Lima.

The route today was much better, the best so far. Mostly through woodland and farm tracks; little road Walking. The temperature didn’t reach the heights of the last few days. As we walked into Lima, it was along the river bank and through an avenue of trees. It was very picturesque.

We stopped for lunch before crossing the medieval bridge that reminded me of Hospital de Orbigo, on the Camino Frances.

After about 3km Erdal, our Berlin friend with a sore knee had to stop. Even though I lent him my walking poles, the pain was too much. With the help of a kindly local man, a taxi was ordered to take him back to Lima.

He was going to have to rest it for a day. It was sad to leave him behind, but hopefully we will meet again in Santiago.

Me and Daniel pushed on for the last 5k to our albergue. The last couple of hundred metres was up a steep hill, where at the bottom, two young girls were offering freshly picked apples to pilgrims. This gave me an energy boost to get to the albergue.

It sits on the hillside where on the opposite side of the valley, there is a huge smoke cloud, presumably from the wildfires, Portugal is currently experiencing.

After showering and chores, all the pilgrims, I have been walking with over the last two days shared the communal meal together. Another great night.

Barcelos to Vitorino dos Piães

It was a hot night and half the albergue emptied at 4.30am, disturbing everyone’s sleep. I was up at 6am and started to get ready for the day.

By 7 me, Jelonda and Daniel hit the road. The air was cool, perfect as it was up hill for most of the morning.

We stopped for breakfast at a little village that had a day of festivities. Fireworks were being set off at 8am! If you weren’t awake, you would be now! There was a marching drum and bagpipe band playing through the streets.

Grey Shirt

The route was mostly on the road in a rural setting. As we came into Tamel we met a chap from Germany, who was struggling with a sore knee. We all stopped for a snack at a small restaurant.

We then moved on as the temperature increased. It was hard going in the heat and we were thankful to reach the albergue.

We had hit jackpot with this one. The host is very accommodating and friendly, it’s surrounded by vineyards and has an ‘eco pool’. It only hosted 7 guests today.

At the sight of the pool, we stripped to our underwear and plunged in. The water was so refreshing, just what we needed. After cooling off we sat in the courtyard with the other pilgrims, chatting and having a few drinks.

Cooling Off

The whole albergue had a communal dinner together, with wine and olive oil made from the grounds of the albergue. A pilgrim on the 7 Camino challenge, performed songs on his guitar for us. A truly magical night.

It was an intimate night sharing our experiences on the journey and making great friends and memories.

Sao Pedro to Barcelos

I had dinner last night at a local restaurant with several pilgrims near to the albergue. A table of Swiss, Spanish, German, Welsh, Dutch and Canadian. The food was plenty and so was the wine!

This morning I was back on the route by 8am. Having spoken to my new friends they were stopping at Barcelos, so I made that my target.

I set off on my own in the cool morning air calling into a cafe for breakfast about 4km in. When I left I joined Daniel from Switzerland and Jelonda from the Netherlands. We soon came upon the rest of the party from last night at a bar. Perfect time to stop for a refreshing lemonade.

After the cold drink the three of us continued onto Barcelos. The sun didn’t pull any punches today and the lack of a breeze made it slow going.

The route mainly followed the roads and the Portuguese don’t break for anyone! This certainly kept us on our toes. By the time we reached Barcelinhos we were gasping for a cold drink.

We called into a the first the bar we saw and had a lunch. There was some time to kill as the albergue didn’t open until 3pm. So we chilled in the shade for a while before making our way to the albergue.

We crossed the river that separates Barcelinhos and Barcelos. Above the bridge were the ruins of an old palace/fort that boasted views up and down the river.

Barcelos has a myth about a rooster, very similar to the one at Santo Domingo del Calzada on the Camino Frances. I think some plagiarism is a foot!

It had been a short day but it was welcomed after covering 30km yesterday. The albergue is another donativo and a charming little place.

Lavra to Sao Pedro de Rates

By 8am we left Lavra and rejoined the board walk along the coast. Blue skies and the sea breeze was still there, making it again pleasant walking.

The Camino was quiet this morning, it wasn’t until we stopped for breakfast, 4km in before we saw any pilgrims.

Red Shirt Today

We had left the industrial outskirts now of Porto swapping them for seaside villages. We made great progress and by 11am we covered 14km to arrive in Vila do Conde. Noticeable by its star shaped sea fort guarding the estuary.

We called in a bar opposite to have lunch and a beer. James was in a quandary as to stick with the coastal route or follow me inland to the central route.

In the end he decided to stick to the coast. It reminded me of my decision to have a rest day in Sarria on my Camino Frances. It was difficult to part ways with your walking buddies.

At 1pm we donned our packs and continued on our own Caminos. I had to back track a kilometre to join the bridging route that connects the two.

The markings were difficult to spot as they had severely faded by the Sun and clearly it had been a while since they last saw a paintbrush. I was constantly scanning the usual places; lampposts, curbs, trees, walls, backs of road signs and barriers, for the paled yellow arrows.

My vigilance paid off as I made it safely to the central route, joining it at Arcos. It was very hot going and all by the road. There were some hairy bits, like crossing a single track bridge, that was quite busy with traffic.

For about 2km of it, the road was being resurfaced and the freshly laid tarmac was radiating the heat up at me, thus it was hot from above and below.

I made it into Arcos at 4pm where I was planning on staying, however I found there only to be hotels here. The next stop was Sao Pedro, where there was only one albergue, a donativo as well!

Thirty minutes later I arrived. Turns out this is the oldest albergue on the Camino Portugués, according to the host. A little bit of Camino magic, had I stopped at Arcos, I wouldn’t have had the pleasure of stopping here.

Porto to Lavra

It is good to be back on the Camino. I arrived at Porto Cathedral at 9am to collect my credential and have a look around inside. There was a small queue of pilgrims that quickly moved.

I took my time, to take in the artwork, decorated painted walls, the stone masonry and the elaborate alters. I climbed the tower to get views of the city.

As I exited I met a pilgrim called James from London, who is walking the coastal route. As I would be starting on the same route we walked together.

From the cathedral you descend to the river and follow this to the coast. There was light cloud cover and the sea breeze made it perfect for walking.

We passed under the many bridges that connect Porto to Vila Nova and out to the lighthouse that marks the entrance to the sea break into Porto.

I had a walk out to it, enjoying the cool sea spray. From here I could see down the coast where I spied a bar. Perfect as it was time for lunch.

After fuelling up we continued along the promenade, crossed over a port and joined a wooden board walk. This was the terrain for the remainder of the day.

After stopping for a drink at another beach side bar, we made it to our destination. Turns out it isn’t an albergue, it is a campsite with glamping pods!

After showering and chores we had dinner at a local restaurant before retiring for the night.

Portugués Kit List

Only a few days to go before I take my first steps on the Camino Portugués. I thought I would share my kit list.

Clothing

  • 3x Base Layer T-shirts (I’ve gone for different colours this time so it doesn’t look like I haven’t changed – but now I suspect you will be looking out for how often I do!)
  • Mid Layer Zipped Fleece
  • Buttoned Walking Shirt (for the evenings)
  • Down Jacket (new addition since I had to buy one on route last year)
  • 2x Zip Off Leg Trousers
  • 3x Underwear
  • 3x Pair of Trainer Socks
  • Pair of Thin Gloves

Walking Gear

  • 33L Backpack
  • Trail Running Trainers
  • Walking Sandals
  • Trail Running Gaiters
  • Poncho
  • Snood
  • 2x Walking Poles
  • 1L Water Bottle
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun Hat
  • GPS Watch (to track my route)
  • Umbrella (new addition, I bought one for the last leg last year and wish I had it from the start)

Albergue Gear

  • One Season Sleeping Bag
  • Sleeping Bag Liner (new addition for those nights too hot for a sleeping bag)
  • Head Torch with Red Light
  • X-Large Travel Towel (I Learnt my lesson with having medium size from last year)
  • Spork
  • Ear Plugs
  • Toilet Paper
  • Toiletry Bag
    • Toothpaste & Toothbrush
    • Roll on Deodorant
    • Nail Scissors
    • Bar of Soap with Lather Bag
    • Razor

First Aid and Blister Treatment

  • Iodine
  • Sun Screen
  • Imodium
  • Paracetamol and Ibuprofen
  • Ibuprofen Gel
  • Bandage
  • Kinesiology Tape
  • Plasters
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Face Mask (just in case some places are still twitchy about covid)
  • Cork Massage Ball (I had bought one for last year but I forgot to pack it!)

Miscellaneous

  • Mobile Phone
  • Power Bank (another invaluable piece of kit, plug sockets can be scarce in some albergues)
  • European Multi USB Plug and charging cables (saves on weight not having an adapter)
  • Selfie Stick
  • Pocket Knife
  • Travel Journal
  • Travel Guide
  • Travel Documents
  • Cereal Bars
  • Rucksack Travel Bag (as my gear will go in the luggage hold, it worked well keeping all together)

It looks like a lot of kit when listed this way, but having them all laid out, it feels like I’m missing something! However it is almost identical to what I took last year.

The Camino Portugués

There was a veteran pilgrim I met on the Camino, who provided me with some great advice along the way. I had some really good and meaningful conversations with him; he even gave me advice on how to cope with life post pilgrimage.

There was one thing he said to me that stuck: “When you return home, the Camino will fade and your life will move on”.

I think there is some truth to this, how often do you recall your last holiday? If I asked you what is your most memorable excursion? How long ago was it? And how much do you think about it? If you can’t answer those in a heartbeat, you may need to book yourself on a new adventure?!

My friend’s statement however doesn’t seem to have applied to me (then again, it’s not been 12 months). There has not been a single day since reaching Fisterra, that I haven’t thought about the Camino. The experience is constantly on my mind, even verging on an obsession!

If only I could have 6 weeks annual leave every year, I would be spending it walking across Spain. For those who haven’t read up or undertaken the Camino, you will think I’m crazy for wanting to take this 500 mile trek on a regular basis.

For those in the know, you will get why I’m dusting off my Salomon Trailsters 2, to walk the 160 mile (260Km) route from Porto to Santiago de Compostela. The guide book reckons 10 days. I have booked 21 off, so I have the option to go to the coast again, or I may take a slow pace and enjoy the scenery. My second pilgrimage will start on the 16th of August, 2022.

This journey will present me with new challenges, the main one being the heat. To fit in with my colleagues leave requests, August was the only time for me to take three weeks off work. I envision plenty of pre-dawn starts to avoid the Portuguese Sun!

The Camino Portugués is the second most popular route to Santiago, however there is a dip in August due to the heat. I am hoping this will be to my advantage, as I preferred the less crowded days on the trail.

I also think I will have to be a little more organised in reserving beds in the albergues, it is unlikely I would be able rock up and find a free bed this time.

The ‘Camino Ninja’ app is a must for every pilgrim. I leaned on this heavily last year, it has all the common routes in Spain and Portugal. A very comprehensive app giving information on albergues and amenities for the location you wish to stop at.

I used it to pick my stage ends, contact the albergues and plan my rest stops for the day. A very valuable app for every pilgrim.

There is not much I need to add to my kit list, only small refinements. One being I’ll be leaving my inflatable camping mat and I will be packing my down jacket. You may think why the jacket? But I didn’t expect to need it last year and there were some very cold mornings!

The Camino Portugués is unique in that there are two routes you can take, the coastal path or the central path. I’m leaning towards the central route but the advantage of the cooler winds from the coast are appealing. I could do a mixture of both routes: I’ll decide closer to the time.

I’ll be blogging the adventure again, so you can follow me as I make my way through Portugal and return to that special city, Santiago de Compostela. It’s safe to say, I’m extremely excited, I feel like a child leading up to Christmas!

Braunston to Welford

We set of from Braunston just before 1100h with another overcast sky keeping the temperature down. From the Admiral Nelson, the route follows the Grand Union canal to the bottom lock, where it crosses it and up into the village.

There was plenty of activity on the locks this morning, seemingly the holiday season for narrow boats is in full swing.

The way leaves Braunston along a bridle path and across fields to the little picturesque village of Ashby St. Ledger.

The path leads past the church following a cattle farm track. Either side there are electric fences. We lost sight of the markers and too busy chatting forgetting to check the map, resulting in us unknowingly deviating from the route.

As I carefully unhooked an electric wired gate, the farmer came over and kindly pointed us in the right direction.

Back on the path, we went under the railway line and over the A5 briefly rejoining the Grand Union canal. Spying a picnic bench, we stopped for our lunches.

From here you follow a quick succession of locks before cutting across a field and under the M1 motorway.

Eventually you pass through the little village of Watford, over more fields, under another railway line and through a freshly harvested field with towering wind turbines whirring overhead.

The route then follows a corn field (we have now passed through all the common crop fields on this journey) and up into West Haddon, our halfway point of the day.

We stopped at the ‘Pytchley Inn’ for a cold drink giving our legs a little rest. I checked over the map to see we would be shortly ascending the first, fairly steep hill of the day, ‘Honey Hill’.

There is an alternative route that bypasses it, so I gave Hannah the option, but she thought it would be cheating. We downed our drinks and continued on.

The route from West Haddon crosses fields behind the church into the little hamlet of Winwick. As we left, we caught our first glimpse of Honey Hill, which looked daunting to Hannah, prompting the response “are those, those f@£#ing hills?!” (This had me giggling)

As we got closer and began climbing, taking it one step at a time, we found it really wasn’t that bad. Before we knew it, we were on top. Here there is a stone with a plaque commemorating the opening of Honey Hill on the Jurassic Way.

Descending the hill was causing Hannah’s knees to bother her. It was now I taught her the technique of using walking poles. She soon got the hang of the coordination, easing her discomfort.

We descended into Elkington rejoining the Grand Union canal once again. The route follows this for a couple of kilometres before the last hill of the day, ‘Hamplow Hill’

This hill is wooded which thankfully gave shade from the sun as we ascended. Hannah’s energy was running low now, we had already done the distance covered in our last stage; this now is the furtherest she has walked in one session!

Hemplow Hill

Once over the top, we passed through a field of sheep, with one brave enough to approach us to have its head scratched! The route then joins a single track road for 2km into Welford, our stage end.

Much to Hannah’s delight we reached the car and popped to the ‘Wharf Inn’ for a much needed and well deserved pint; After all we did cover over 30km!

It will now be a few weeks before we can tackle the next stage (I think Hannah would be thankful). Likely September will be the next date, due to holidays and myself walking the Camino Portuguese.

Chipping Warden to Braunston

It had been 18 days since we did the first stage of the Jurassic Way, as the 21st of July was the next available date, we were both free. Two days prior to this, the UK had experienced the hottest day since records began! But you wouldn’t have thought it as we arrived at Chipping Warden midmorning.

The weather was overcast and a cool breeze made it perfect walking conditions. To our delight, the forecast stated it would remain like that for the remainder of the day. Just after 1030h we set off from where we stopped on the 3rd of July.

The route follows Culworth Road, Eastwards from the village before turning off on to a farm track. We hadn’t walked 5 minutes before hitting our first hurdle of the day. This portion of the route was closed while the HS2 is being built around Chipping Warden. (High Speed 2 – a railway connecting London to Birmingham and the North West).

A diversion had been put in place, however it would not bring us back to the Jurassic Way. Consulting my map, there was another footpath further down Culworth Road, that would rejoin the official Jurassic Way.

Diversion

Once back on the path we tackled our first hill of the day, where from the top, looking behind, you could see the on going works in the distance. I can’t imagine the residents of Chipping Warden were pleased when planning permission was granted for this to be railway in their backyard.

The recent heatwave had left it’s mark on the scenery and farmland. The grasses were yellow and brown, the earth beneath the farmers fields were cracked and parched. A lot of the route passes through the middle of the crop fields and the ground had shallow fissures snaking through it; deep enough to snag our feet resulting in us straddle them and waddle like ducks!

We crossed over disused railway lines with their rusting iron bridges or crumbling brick built ones. It wasn’t long before we reached the village of Woodford Halse.

Parched Earth
Rusting Bridge

We passed though the village quickly and out through a new housing estate that had been built across the Jurassic Way; the path marked by red tarmac. The estate is so new it wasn’t on my map!

The red path is the Jurassic Way

Soon we were again amongst the fields crossing through wheat, broad beans and barley. By 1pm we’re stopped to eat our lunches on the grounds to the isolated church, of the lost medieval settlement of Church Charwelton.

It was depopulated in the 15th century for sheep farming and the church is all that remains. We tried to look inside, however it was locked and could only view from a grated window in the door.

We ate our sandwiches on a bench in the graveyard, looking out over the fields, only to find were on top of an ants nest; my bright orange water bottle was attracting their attention. Not wanting to become the colony’s lunch, we sharply finished up and moved on to the village of Charwelton, calling at the ‘Fox and Hound’ for a cold drink.

Once refreshed it was through more crop fields (one particularly nasty broad bean field that scratched our shins to shreds) to the little hamlet of Hellidon, then down a gated road, passing Catesby Viaduct and onto Staverton. At this point the Sun had burnt of the cloud cover, bringing the temperature up to an uncomfortable level.

Coming into Staverton we encountered our nemesis, the stinging nettle! This time we had no protection from this devilish plant. With screams at each sting (mostly from me) we painfully made it through, with a our legs barely intact.

Broad Bean Jungle
Catesby Viaduct

By this point our pace had slowed and Hannah’s knees were sore on the declines. We had surpassed the distance of the first stage and quoting Hannah “This is the longest distance I’ve ever walked!”

However before we knew it, we arrived at the Admiral Nelson. A fantastic little pub sitting on the fourth lock from the Braunston tunnel, on the Grand Union Canal. Signaling the end to the second stage of the Jurassic Way.

We celebrated the day’s 15 mile hike with a well deserved beer!

Stage End