A life-saving event at Alhandra marina along the Camino to Azambuja.

Day 3 – 13th October 2016, Verdelha de Baixo to Azambuja.

Hello friends!

Up in the dark and out of the door before sunrise, is the way of the pilgrim most days and it was the same for Brett and I. We ventured out of Hospedaria Alfa 10 and into the pitch dark with a few street lamps casting an eerie glow. Brett and I started humming “Vincent (Starry, starry night)” by Don McClean…spooky…Even though we couldn’t really see the stars through the fog! A 1.3 km stroll back into town as far as the railway station, heralded a brief first breakfast stop in one of the cafés. Time for a quick coffee and omelette sandwich (sande). Then we searched around for the Camino arrows again and followed them out of town.

Brett segued into “What a day for a daydream”, by The Lovin’ Spoonful as we walked past the Air Museum and along the streets of Alverca do Ribatejo as the sun came up.

On the way out of Alverca do Ribatejo

Stayin’ alive!

We had to walk along a nasty stretch of the dangerous N10 and we hated this bit. There’s hardly any room for pedestrians to walk along safely and we were constantly stepping back from the road (when we there was a verge or drainage channel) to avoid being hit by trucks and fast cars. It was like dancing with death and no fun at all.

It reminded me of the stretch between Mansilla de las Mulas and Léon on the Camino Frances. Our walking pace shot up from about a leisurely 4km/hr to nearer 6km/hr to get through this stage. We hugged each other, exclaiming “We’re alive!”, when we entered Alhandra and the route led us down to the peaceful yet misty waterfront. To celebrate our survival, of course we just had to indulge in second breakfast in the café next to the Museu at the end of the waterfront promenade. Second breakfasts are also a way of life on the Camino!

Brett enjoying a second breakfast of coffee & pastries in Alhandra

It’s a sailor’s life for me…

This section of the Camino trail was lovely, especially because we both enjoy being near water and I think we were missing Theros at this point. We strolled along the prom, admiring the boats and feeling very at home. I’m sure Brett felt the sea ‘tug’ at his heart strings!

Captain Clibbery enjoying the view & feeling the ‘tug’ of the sea

We dropped into the boat club to receive stamps for our pilgrim passports. The lady at the desk greeted us warmly and we chatted for a while with her and her colleague. That’s how it is with boaters, a friendly community of folk like pilgrims. We also showed them pictures of Theros. Who knows, maybe we will sail back to Alhandra on our round the world voyage.

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Lessons from a life-saving event at the marina

By the end of the promenade the sun and come out and chased the mysterious mist away. Brett and I plopped onto a bench in the sunshine. I reached into my pack to pull out my sunnies but couldn’t find them. Damn! My eyes were watering in the strong sunlight and I began to stress about leaving them somewhere. I turned my pack inside out – no sign. I was really cross with myself. How could I have forgotten them?

While I was faffing and moaning about, I caught a dark flash in my peripheral vision, over by the railings. We heard shouting and a child’s screams. Blood curdling. We strained to see what was going on. An older man with another toddler in tow, threw his bag and jacket to the ground, leapt over the railings and into the water. Oh my that dark flash must have been a child, perhaps his grandson, who must have climbed up,  slipped over the top railing and plunged into the murky water of the marina.

In seconds, Brett raced along the prom to the corner of the marina, where he could see the grandfather and young boy (presumably another grandson) to see if he can help. I grabbed all of our stuff and ran as quickly as my legs could carry me over to where he was in time  to see the older man emerge, dripping from head to toe from the murky water carrying his grandson. Brett took the toddler from him and passed him over to a local jogger standing next to me. Meanwhile I got one of our travel towels out and with the jogger’s help, we got the sobbing and obviously shocked little boy out of his sodden and cold clothes and helped to dry him off. Meanwhile, Brett assisted the grandfather out of the water and offered him his travel towel but he declined. The man looked exhausted. A female passer by joined the group and wrapped her fleece jacket around the boy. The jogger offered the grandfather his phone to use. At that moment, we felt we had contributed what we could at the time and decided to make our way, quietly, away from the scene and continue on the trail.

Lessons we can learn from this experience:

  1. The need to hold on to material items, such as sunglasses and travel towels seems trivial and evaporates, when a life or death incident arises;
  2. Always be alert to what is going on around you, be observant;
  3. Even when you are tired, it’s amazing how you can find the energy to react quickly with compassion when needed!;
  4. Opportunities to help someone out on the Camino appear in different ways and it is all part of the pilgrim code to follow through and do what is possible, however small;
  5. A grandparent’s love of their grandchildren, means they will overcome odds to protect them and keep them safe.

Putting our rain ponchos to the test

Brett and I, somewhat shaken but relieved to know that both grandpa and toddler were alive and well,  walked on from Alhandra to Vilafranca  de Xira and onwards through Castanheira do Ribatejo.  The route differed from that mentioned in the guide a few times, because the arrows guided us onto gravel pathways that ran parallel to the train tracks and we were, thankfully, off the main road. Sometimes we criss-crossed up and over railway footbridges, testing the poor old legs! The heat became oppressive.

At Carregado we desperately needed a rest stop and some refreshment. Descending the stairway from yet another railway bridge we spotted  café’O Manel’, where we eagerly devoured chicken, chips, salad, bread and olives with coffee.  I mean, who wouldn’t?

Afterwards, determined to burn off those extra calories, we set off at a trot when the sun was strongest, to skirt the power station and dropped to an amble past arable land, talked to some horses (yes we both talk to animals, don’t you?) where the Camino trail followed the line made by flood walls.

Clouds loomed overhead and the heavens opened. Out came our environmentally friendly (green but bright blue) Vaude rain ponchos for their first test run. We had fun helping each other to put them on. They seemed to keep the rain off alright (in contrast to the Altus rain poncho I borrowed for my previous Camino, which rained on the inside…sigh…). They were spacious enough to go over a 55 litre back pack and had a wired visor in the hood to keep the rain from running into the eyes. Nice one Vaude. You can trust German eco-technology!

Testing out Vaude rain ponchos – they work! Yey!

Oh my! The last few kilometres from Vila Nova Rainha into our destination of the day, Azambuja were utterly painful and exhausting. I had had enough and it took every ounce and fibre of my being to keep putting one foot in front of the other to reach the Flor da Primavera, where we are able to check into a private, ensuite room for 35 Euros, recommended by some friends of mine from my Camino Frances walk, who were already a couple of weeks ahead of us on the Camino Portgués.

A cautionary note on sun stroke

Usually I’m well prepared when I travel. However, I came a cropper not long after we checked in and I had had a shower. Unfortunately, I began a bout of uncontrollable shivering, felt freezing cold, while my body temperature was higher than normal. I climbed into bed to get warm and couldn’t face going out to look for and evening meal. Brett and I concluded I had a spot of sunstroke.

I felt really foolish. It was my own silly, careless fault for not donning my sun hat nor drinking enough fluids.  Brett took charge, popped out to buy some delicious local, take out food  (fish and rice) and orange juice and encouraged me to eat, re-hydrate and take some paracetamol to bring my temperature down. Within a couple of hours I stopped shivering and my temperature returned to normal. Phew! So there were another three lessons learned from today’s walk:

  1. Even though the temperature may not feel that hot, it is still wise to take precautions and cover up;
  2.  Rehydrate regularly and more than usual;
  3. When sun stroke symptoms arise, act fast (thank you Brett!)

One last thing…I’ve given up doing the distance countdown like I did for the Camino Frances, because the Brierley quoted distances are so irregular!

Distance walked today (by Brett’s GPS)= 33.5 km …(no wonder I was tired!)

Cumulative distance walked =  69.88 km

Peace, love and light,

Sarah xxx


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