The first stretch of trail took us across a nice field, and then down a somewhat busy stretch of road. There was quite a bit of traffic, but it might be less busy outside of rush hour. The road brought us to a small town where we stopped for a much appreciated breakfast of pasties de nata and coffee at a bar. After that the arrows directed us to cross a bridge over the train tracks, and continue down a road beside some abandoned buildings with plentiful if interesting graffiti.
The next section of trail took us along a boardwalk that runs through a marsh along the Tejo River. We were serenaded by birdsong as we slowly made our way across the marsh, taking many photos of the egrets, herons, shorebirds, warblers, swallows, and sparrows as we went. There were locals out jogging, biking, collecting snails, and even photographing the birds! The fresh air was relaxing, and we thoroughly enjoyed this bit.
After the boardwalk the trail turned to a wide gravel and path, which continued to follow the river, bordered on both sides by tall grass and reeds. Here we saw a Coot and a large family of Mallards, among with many other birds. It was a few hours pleasantly spent!
Eventually the riverside trail ended, and what followed next was less pleasant. The Caminho took us through a trash-strewn industrial section, and across the train tracks again. There was a brief respite in Alverca, which was a rough looking town, but which offered a place to stop and have our second pasteis de nata.
From Alverca to Alhandra the Caminho largely followed the N10, which is an extremely busy highway without any shoulders. The walking was not difficult, but it was a bit nerve wracking to walk the 3 or so kilometers with cars and trucks whizzing past only feet away. Overall, the lesson this morning seemed to be 'find beauty in the small things.' Not every day is tranquil and beautiful, but even in the midst of noise, exhaust fumes, and industrial parks you can find tri-coloured bees, lovely wild flowers, and picturesque ruins.
The town of Alhandra looked very nice, and at this point the path became a waterfront trail for biking and jogging.
It was tree-lined, offered benches and art work, and generally provided a wonderful change. The view of the water, and the nature reserve on the other side were very beautiful. We followed this trail for quite a few kilometers until it brought us to the town of Vilafranca de Xira.
This town is large and bustling. As we approached it we passed the famous bull taunting arena, and a large cemetery. We stopped for a few minutes by the water's edge to consider our options since we reached the town by noon. In the end we decided to stay the night, as it was another 20 km or so until the next town with accommodations.
We wandered into town along the cobblestone main street and decided to try the Hostel DP. When we rang the bell we were told they had two beds available in a 4 four person room, and we soon discovered our roommates were a wonderful couple from New Zealand who stayed at the Albergue in Alpriate.
After a shower and laundry we wandered out in search of food. We soon found Christina's, and enjoyed a couple pastries, coffee, and orange juice. After our break we explored a bit, finding the market (which was closed), walking the main street, and then heading back for a closer look at the arena (also closed). We enjoyed a nice stroll through the park along the waterfront before returning to the hostel for a break before dinner.
After wandering for a bit we decided to try a Portuguese Petiscos Restaurant for snacks and dinner called the Meioral Restaurant. The food turned to be fantastic, although not what we expected. We had egg and spinach tapas, and egg and tomato tapas, and the came in large bowls, without bread. They tasted wonderful and we filled it up with a lime mousse, which was also very good.
It was another good ending to a day on the Caminho.
Accommodations: Hostal DP
Distance: 20.1 km