We headed out of town, across the train tracks and down a stretch of Eucalyptus lined road. The spicy smell was fantastic, and below the canopy was a whole series of benches.
We soon crossed a bridge over a swollen, fast moving and dirty looking river, and started down a dirt track. For the next few kilometres the track took us through fields. Many people were out ploughing the rich, dark soil, and the air smelled fresh and earthy.
As the wind picked up and the sky continued to darken we stopped and put on our rain jackets. At the creek where we paused we heard a cuckoo calling! This morning we also heard a rooster crow, as we have every single morning since being in Portugal. This reminded us of the Camino Frances, where we also heard chickens and roosters daily.
As we passed through newly ploughed fields, small vineyards, and fields just being planted the completely flat landscape also reminded us of the Meseta in Spain. This open landscape gave us a nice view of the rainstorm heading in our direction, but even with the advanced warning we decided against putting on rain gear until we were well and truly soaked.
We stopped in Valada, which was a colourful strip of houses hidden behind a tall dyke protecting the region from the river Tejo, to shelter from the rain, get a coffee, and put on rain pants. In the bar we ran into a fellow pilgrim from Canada, who was also hiding from the rain. The bar was very full of locals at 10 am, and they seemed intrigued and possibly a bit put out by our presence.
After a short break during which we changed into our foul weather gear we continued on, down the paved country road. The walking was easy and traffic was scarce. In some ways we were lucky for the rain, because there was little shelter from the sun, although for part of the day the Caminho paralleled the Ribadejo trail, which was a grassy, tree covered track marked in red and yellow bars.
We passed through the town of Porto de Muge around 10:30, and continued pushing through the rain.
However with the weather declining, and despite the early hour, we soon decided to stay at the Quinta da Burra albergue at the far edge of it instead of continuing on. We were soaked and didn't really feel like walking another 16 km without any amenities in the rain. Also, we had heard several times that this farmhouse is a 'must stay' place along the Portuguese Way, so we decided to stay.
We pulled the bell outside the gate, and were greeted by two very friendly dogs and a wonderfully nice lady. She took us through a courtyard lined with palm trees, orange and lemon trees (both of which have fruit at the moment) and a frog pond. We waited for a bit on the wide covered veranda and chatted to another pilgrim from Spain, who was waiting to see if the rain would end.
We took off our wet things, and were taken into the beautiful farm kitchen, where we were offered coffee and toast with marmalade at a long wooden table.
The hospitaleiro took us up to a lovely Adobe room with white walls, a wooden roof, and three beds, even though it was still well before noon. This seems like a small piece of heaven!
By noon eight other pilgrims, all of whom we've met and stayed with before had also already arrived. The pilgrim from Barcelona whom we met when we arrived helped make an impromptu lunch of spaghetti and fried egg for everyone, which we shared at the long wooden table in the kitchen. There was a lot of wine, port, and a special tangerine 'digestive liquor. There was a lot of silliness and laughter, and good times were had by all.
During lunch the Spanish lady also made reservations for the whole lot of us in an 18th century castle in Santarem tomorrow. The afternoon we simply relaxed around the farmhouse. All seems right with the world.
Accommodations: Quinta da Burra
Distance: 17 km