Saturday, April 27, 2019

Mealhada to Algueda

There was little to recommend about today, except that it got us 25.4 km closer to Santiago, and it gave us a greater appreciation of the nicer portions of trail we are privileged to be able to walk.


We got up around 6:30 am, finding it very difficult to leave the nice, warm, bed in the albergue. We ate the pastries we picked up in town last night, and then headed out. The first highlight of the day came almost right away, when the trail took us through a eucalyptus forest. The air was still very cool and misty, and there were streams of golden light filtering through the foliage, making everything look magical.

After the beautiful section of forest we emerged into a clear cut, where everything had been harvested, right down to the soil. It looked like a perfect example of forestry gone awry, although it is possible that a new plantation will soon replace what was removed.

The trail then took us around a new stadium and sports complex, somewhat unnecessarily as it turned out. We then climbed a hill up to the highway, where we discovered that the first cafe we were hoping to stop at was closed.

We continued walking along paved roads, crisscrossing the major highways and going through small villages. Many of the towns we passed through late in the morning looked rough, like they were inhabited by the factory workers from the industrial sector, who still held onto some of the 80's stereotypes.

The second highlight came around 15 km into our hike when we came to the Caminho Cafe, which was the first open cafe of the day, and therefore the first opportunity for coffee. Peter and Sue, Rita, the Scandinavian lady, and the Italian were all there, enjoying a break. In an unexpected but greatly appreciated piece of Camino spirit Rita gave me box of salted licorice to suck on as I walked, which she referred to as her antidote to homesickness.  It was very kind, and reminds me of licorice my mother gave me.

After that the Camino took us through an industrial sector, which was hard going. The pavement was blindingly bright, hot, hard on the feet, completely lacking in shade, and without any inspiring scenery for distraction and far too many cars driving quickly and too closely!

Some of the villages we passed through had very beautiful chapels and tiled churches, and in parts of The Way we were treated to panoramic views down treed valleys dotted with red roofs and white stucco buildings.

After the industrial section we passed through a region of vineyards, wineries, and large, wealthy estates. This was somewhat more enjoyable, although still rather bright and hot to walk through. For most of the section the road was hemmed in by walls, which were covered in entertaining lizards.

When we reached the outskirts of Algueda we found a nice shaded bench beside a river, a fountain, and a campground where we took a relaxing break and enjoyed a snack of pears in the shade.

Shortly after that we came to a steep hill where the road descended between 10 ft tall mossy earth walls topped by forest. It made a kind of cool tunnel, and at the end was a view over Algueda.

The Camino took us under a bridge where we spotted a very shiny brown snake while pausing to consult the map. We then crossed over the river into town, which looked very nice right along the waterway. Sadly we were too hot and tired to stop, so we continued on the long, hot climb into and then through the upper town.

The Santo Antonio albergue is about 1 km out of town, but it was well worth the walk. It offers a beautiful garden and outdoor patio, a kitchen, and laundry facilities. Once we were settled in, we headed back to the grocery store, which is just down the road, and purchased pasta, veggies, sauce, and buns for dinner.

Everyone cooked their dinners in the kitchen and then we shared a communal meal out on the patio in the garden. It was a wonderful evening, sitting and chatting until the sun began to set across the valley.  In the second piece of Camino magic for the day, Clara, the South Korean lady we have been hiking with, gave us two yogurts for dessert.  Again, a random act of kindness that was humbling and wonderful.  At least it was a good end to a rather brutal day.

Accommodations: Santo Antonio Albergue
Distance: 25.4 km

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