Saturday, April 20, 2019

Azinhaga to Tomar

After a wonderful breakfast of toast, cereal, fruit, coffee and orange juice we headed back into town to take a second look at Azinhaga. It is a nice picaresque little town with a few cafes, an active stork nest, and a large group of swallows living under the eaves of the tiles roofs.


After following the Camino out of town it took us down a rather busy paved road. We somehow missed the turn-off into the fields, so ended up walking through some rather muddy fields beside the highway instead to avoid the traffic.

Eventually we came to Golega, which is known as the horse capital of Portugal. This was a rather charming town, with a beautiful church and a nice treed central square. We stopped for a coffee and pastries in the main square before continuing on through the horse-themed town.

After Golega we again walked down country roads, between newly ploughed and planted fields, and beside several paddocks of horses.

We also walked along a power corridor, and were delighted to discover that many of the towers had multiple stork nests. One tower had seven active nests, and we stopped to watch the parents feed their fluffy white chicks.

After a long hot walk in the sun we came to the tiny town of Sao Caetano. We were excited to discover that this is a stronghold of the Knights Templar.

The albergue there looked very nice, and there was a quiet treed park with picnic tables. We were surprised to see multiple bottle openers tied to the trunks of many of the trees in the park. After a short break we continued out of town, past old brick ruins and then past some newer more modern abandoned buildings that somehow managed to look intriguing rather than sad.

The road out of town was tree lined on both sides, and took us past an ivy covered pink castle, complete with a turret. It looked slightly abandoned, but the doors were new and well taken care of, and there was a modern security system. We wondered if it was secret Knights Templar building. We crossed an old Roman bridge over a river, and found ourselves back in the fields once again.

The next town we came to was much larger and somehow seemed less friendly to us, although we may have just been tired and hot. We decided against stopping in the albergue there, and instead planned to continue on to Asseiceira.

The next stretch of trail was beautiful, taking us through a wonderful smelling eucalyptus plantation. However, although the dirt track was generally well marked, it was undulating and required some very steep climbs in a couple places. As the last eight kilometers of a long hot day it was a bit tough going, although we enjoyed the shade and the views.

Finally we emerged into the town of Grou and began the descent into Asseiceira. We stopped beside another set of impressive Roman ruins for a cold water in a bar at the edge of town. As we sat there Sue and Peter walked past on their way to the youth hostel. It turns out we were all in for a bit of a surprise. The hostel won't be open for another month!  Though according to many of the locals that same tale had been told for years.   Apparently it was somewhat of a regional joke that so many people came to town for the albergue without the knowledge that it was never open. 

With another 11 km to go before the next possible accommodations, we  - and about half a dozen other pilgrims - decided to get taxis into Tomar and come back tomorrow to do the kilometers we missed. We checked in to the Thomar 2300 Hostel on the main street, and headed down for a couple pints and a cheese plate at a nearby restaurant. Feeling somewhat refreshed through dispirited from taking a taxi for the first time in three Caminos, we explored the town, took a look at the church, and gazed up at the castle above the town. 

Unfortunately our day did not get much better when we returned to the hostel.  When we returned to our common room we discovered a young man going through our backpacks.   When we asked what he was doing he told us off and threatened 'to visit us in the middle of the night'.  With this comment in mind and seeing that there was little safety for our gear, we packed up and went to the front desk to inform the staff what had happened to perhaps get a private room or be moved to another common room.  There we found that the young lady was more interested in flirting with a new arrival than two pilgrims about to walk out after paying for two nights.  As such we left and wandered through town to find another set of accommodations for the next two nights.  We were fortunate to soon locate a room in the quaint Hotel Kamanga!  Though we were upset at paying twice for two nights accommodation we were grateful to have been able to find another place to stay which was secure.  As usual the Camino Provides.

Later this evening we ate dinner at a Medieval restaurant in the square with Micca and Heather (from Canada, although currently living in Iceland) and their seven month old baby. Although the restaurant seemed a little cheesy, the food was fantastic! We had vegetable pillows with salad and cottage cheese and berry cake for dessert.

After dinner we walked around a bit, enjoying the town at night and then turned in for the night.

Accommodations: Thomar 2300 Hostel  and then moved to Hotel Kamanga
Distance: 27.6 km (to Asseiceira) + 12 km (to Tomar)

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