The walk out of Porto was, as expected, along busy streets and suburbs at the edges of town. We stopped at a cafe on the edge of town for coffee, and then kept going.
Although we had been expecting to see a huge influx of new pilgrims leaving Porto, when we passed the pilgrim albergue around 7 am there was only one lone man setting out, still struggling to adjust his backpack, manage his trekking poles, and carry his guidebook all at once. When we stopped for coffee he went ahead, and that was the last we saw of him.
As we passed beyond the city limits we began to hear birds singing again, and the air smelled of hay and cows instead of exhaust and perfume. It was a refreshing change.
Around 8 am we came to the split, where pilgrims have to choose between the coastal and central routes to Santiago. The division was very obviously and clearly indicated, so we chose the central route and continued on our way.
We met another couple around 9:30 PM, who said this was their third Camino. We saw them several times throughout the day, but that was the sum of all the pilgrims we met on the trail. We were wondering if the monastery would be full when we arrived, with all the new pilgrims having left at 4 am, but this wasn't the case either.
In the afternoon we continued to walk down busy, paved roads as our feet grew increasingly tired. Fortunately, for most of this stretch of trail there was an 8 ft high stone wall on both sides of the road,which provided some shade during the hot afternoon.
One thing we did notice today was an influx in the density of yellow arrow trail markers. There were arrows everywhere, as well as a variety of high end signs. The Way was also marked with old stone crosses, some of which had Celtic designs in them.
We reached the monastery in Vairao around 12:30 and were let in by a friendly Portuguese lady who spoke no English. She walked us over into the monastery and showed us around, explaining everything in Portuguese. As we have learned, where there is god will, a language barrier is hardly ever a problem. It is a beautiful place, and we ended up having our own room in the quiet, peaceful, space.
We did our laundry, explored the garden in the interior courtyard with its roses, magnolia, and hedge maze. We then headed down to the cafe below the monastery for a cheese sandwich and a beer. There was also a small grocery store there, so we picked up some pasta, beans, and tomatoes. The lady gave us an unexpected gift of a few ripe tomatoes as well, which was very much appreciated.
We headed back to the monastery and did some work, until around 2 PM when Peter and Sue arrived. We decided to expand our home cooked dinner to include them, so they contributed some funds and we set out to a larger market to buy some tuna, lettuce, oregano, cheese, and peppers.
Before dinner we explored the pilgrim museum which is also located in the monastery. It is a series of exhibits that consist of an object that was important to a pilgrim on one of the Caminos, and the story to a company it. Some of the stories were really amazing, and it seems like a creative and fitting way to do a pilgrim museum.
Later this evening we cooked up a small feast of pasta, salad, and wine and shared it in the large, formal dining room with Peter and Sue. There was quite a bit left over, and some of the late arrivals, including a lady from Toronto, finished up the leftovers. All together, today was a good day on the Camino.
Accommodations: Mosteiro de Vairao
Distance: 23 km