Wake up early, put on smelly hiking gear, have coffee, find and follow the yellow arrows, walk, have breakfast, walk a little more, have lunch, walk for another 2-3 hours, find a place to rest our heads, shower, then head out to explore a new town. Such was the beautiful simplicity of our life on the Portuguese camino.
A little more detail. In the four days that my wife and I walked together, we covered ~125 km, starting in Porto and finishing in the town of Valenca on the Portuguese/Spanish border. While it’s never likely to rate as one of the most beautiful hikes in the world, it did provide no shortage of wonderful scenery along the way.
Probably our favorite town on the hike to Valenca was Ponte de Lima, which we arrived at after a tough 35 km hike from Barcelos. The Lima river that runs through the town offered the perfect place to cool down and recover our tired and sore legs.
After finishing each day and showering and changing into slightly cleaner clothes, we set about exploring the town and finding some food to start the recovery for the next day.
Portugal is famous for it’s seafood. Though somewhat ironically, their staple seafood is Bacalhau (salted cod), which is usually the only seafood on the menu that hasn’t been caught locally! At a number of places we went to, the seafood was cooked on a BBQ in front of the restaurant. The sea bass we had at one such restaurant, Cafe Patarata in Vila Do Conde, was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
Hiking as we did is so beautifully far removed from the normal day to day. Instead of focusing on the traffic, the crowded supermarket, answering emails, attending meetings, the focus is instead on the trail ahead, where to stop for breakfast and lunch and appreciating the wind and the shade when the sun starts to become a little too much.
All that being said, hiking is not all bliss. Walking with a backpack for 25-35 km/day in warm conditions does bring about fatigue (and associated bouts of grumpiness :), along with some aches and pains. However, this is far outweighed by the sense of achievement, the opportunity to experience new environments and cultures, as well as the camaraderie and shared stories with fellow pilgrims. “Buon camino!”
My wife fulfilled a long-held bucket list item by completing the path from Porto to Santiago de Compostela, covering the 250km in a super impressive 9 days.
We started on the coastal route before moving inland on the second day. Aside from a splurge the beautiful Pousada de Valenca after my last day of hiking, we stayed in 3-star hotels/guesthouses along the route, all of which were centrally located and clean. Details of these accommodations can be found below.
Vila Do Conde: Bellamar Hostel
Barcelos: Art’Otel Urban Lodge
Ponte de Lima: Terraco Da Vila
Discussions with hikers who had done some of the other Camino routes noted that this was by far the least crowded. Indeed, we often walked a couple of hours without seeing another hiker.