Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Vilafranca de Xira to Azambuja

We left the hostel around 7:30 this morning after a nice breakfast of coffee, bread, jam, yogourt, and orange juice.  Like all the Portuguese people we've met do far,  the man who ran the hostel was very friendly and helpful, and also had advice about the coming walk.  He was clearly a proud member of the Knights Templar, and shared some interesting stories about the upcoming town of Tomar.

When we emerged from the hostel we found the tiled market and central town square shrouded in mist.  We made our way through the cobblestone streets of town, across the train tracks, and into the waterfront park. This is clearly a commuter town for Lisbon, and there were lots of cars, buses, and trains heading into the city.  The tree-covered park looked magical in the fog, as did the train platform with all the people.


As we left the town behind the Caminho took us down a country road for a bit, and then through a field.  The bright yellow wildflowers, intricately pattern snails, dewy grass, and mysterious shapes disappearing into the fog made for a beautiful morning.

As we crossed over the train tracks into the first town, we decided to step into a bar for a short break and coffee.  There we met Peter and Sue, the couple from New Zealand that we had shared a room with last night.  Apparently they had the same idea, but beat us to it!

As we left the town we walked down a nice stone pathway with benches, picnic tables, and planted trees that followed a small waterway. Sean spent some time there photographing birds along the shore of the waterway, before we crossed to the other side and started down a surprisingly busy country road.  The rest of the morning we spent going back and forth across the train tracks, enjoying the countryside, and generally being thankful that the mist sheltered us from what would have been a hot, sunny walk.

We had a short stretch of walking along the highway near Vila Nova de Rainah, but thankfully we soon crossed over the tracks, passed the a closed gate where Sean had a nasty run-in with some barbed wire, and then found ourselves on a dirt track once more.  For the next few kilometers this track took us along the tracks and beside a series of drainage ponds that were full of birds. 


It took us a long time to walk this stretch because we were distracted by a flock of Ibises, various ducks and shorebirds, storks, turtles, and frogs.  By this point the had blazed through the mist, making the trail fairly hot and bright, but we enjoyed it thoroughly.


When we arrived in Azambuja we discovered that less English is spoken here, but it was no problem.

We ran into two fellow pilgrims we've been walking with on the way in to town, and together we made our way to pilgrim hostel.  We soon discovered it doesn't open until 3 PM, leaving us with nearly two hours to wait.

We walked back down to town for a cold drink and  a pastry, and then headed back up top to wait the nights outside the albergue.  It was a lively and interesting discussion, and as we sat there we met a other pilgrim from Canada.  He is walking while his wife and 7 month daughter follow in a camper van.

The 12 bunk beds in the hostel soon filled up, and we all had showers and did laundry.  The hostel is a very nice place, and the hostelier, who speaks English, was very friendly and enthusiastic about sharing stories of his own pilgrimage to Santiago with his wife and daughter. After settling in and chatting for a bit we headed out for a bite to eat in town, explored a bit, and then took some time to write the blog.


We shared dinner in a small restaurant in town that offered a pilgrim menu, which consisted of vegetable soup, an omelette for us, a salad, and an apple dessert.  Many of the pilgrims from our hostal were eating there too, so conversation was lively.

Accommodations: Abrigo Do Peregrino
Distance: 19.9 km

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