Day 4 – 14th October 2016, from Azambuja to Santarém
Morning recovery out on the tiles…
Well, thanks to Brett’s kindness and care and a good night’s sleep, I recovered from the bout of sunstroke. We munched on some pastries and drank the rest of the orange juice before leaving the Hostel.
The sun was already up by the time we got out of the door and followed the route back into town up and cover the footbridge at Azambuja railway station, pausing for just a moment to admire the tile frieze. If only our railway stations could look this artistic and elegant back home!
Ultreia! Very quickly we joined a gravel pathway away from the main N3 road, a welcome relief from the traffic and soon we crossed the bridge, which brought back memories of a similar , beautiful, bucolic scene found along the Camino Frances between the albergue San Nicholás and Itero de la Vega in Spain. We hummed a couple of verses of the spiritual “Down by the riverside” to accompany our stroll.
Brett and I enjoyed traipsing through the countryside, between avenues of bamboo stands, wending our way past fields of tomatoes or groves of olive, orange and pomegranate trees.
I’m gonna lay down my backpack, down by the riverside…
We reached Reguengo gasping for a morning refreshment break, as the aerodrome café mentioned in the Camino guide was closed. Already the sun was baking hot at this point. We popped into a small café tucked into a row of traditional, single-story, pastel-painted houses, opposite the concrete river wall, a stark reminder of the dangers of flooding. As well as re-filling our bottles with water, we also bought a litre of orange juice to take along to boost our vitamin C intake, and hopefully keep any Camino colds at bay.
A few more kilometres later we reached Valada, an attractive, colourful and well kept village bounded by a concrete river wall, separating it from the mighty Rio Tejo (River Tagus), the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula. We followed the river wall and dropped down to a wooden café in the Parque de Merendas right by the riverside, with magnificent views and plenty of shade. It was the perfect oasis on a hot day and here we enjoyed the obligatory and smooth coffee. I ordered the ‘salada de polvo’, not being quite sure of the language, while Brett ordered a ‘sande mix’ (ham and cheese sandwich). My dish arrived – an octopus salad! Good job I like seafood. It was excellent!
Brett and I took our time relaxing here. We didn’t really want to leave this tranquil spot. As we had planned a shorter day, aiming to walk only 16 to 18 km to Porta de Muge, we thought this wouldn’t be a problem. Soon though, we peeled our weary bodies away from our chairs and ventured back out into the strong sun.
A missed opportunity turns into an endurance test.
Guess what happened next? We entered Porta de Muge, eyes peeled and eagerly seeking out the Casa do Rio, as mentioned in the Camino guide but could we find it? Nope. We kept saying to ourselves, “Oh well, it must be a little but further into the village, we are bound to see it soon”. Another 3 km further along the trail, when we had passed by Quinta das Verandas, the sudden and painful realisation set in…“Oh no, we’ve gone too far, maybe the Casa do Rio no longer exists”, Brett said to me. Instead of going back, just in case this meant us finding no reasonably priced accommodation at all in Porta de Muge, we resigned ourselves to forging ahead to Santarém.
Brett and I started off with a positive frame of mind and marvelled at the tiny, cheerful cottages, fertile, arable land around us, huge quintas, vineyards and crops growing in the fields.
However, by the time we came within sight of the viaduct, with supposedly 3.7 km to go to Santarém, I was done. Every ounce of my being ached. Under the viaduct, along the road past another aerodrome, and I collapsed in a heap by the side of the road. A kind driver stopped to offer us a lift. I declined quickly but afterwards wished that I had accepted the offer. Brett encouraged me to keep going and he kindly carried my backpack for the last kilometre and a half. What a hero!
The last few kilometres in to Santarém were way too much and once again I stopped to rest. I was in tears when I faced by the bloody big hill into the town. Another driver stopped and this time we accepted the lift for the remaining half to one kilometre into the centre, where he dropped us off near Hostel Santarém. It was full, so was the nearby pension and in fact pretty much all accommodation was fully booked, owing to an international cyclists convention and competition (who knew?)
Anyhow, what could have been a disaster turned out to be a multitude of blessings. We had walked around the roundabout at least three times and up and down some of the narrow streets, to find some more options (easily making up for the distance into town earlier) and I tried not to panic when dusk fell. We stopped outside a bar and restaurant called Santo, on one of the cobbled streets. The bar owner, Gonzalo, came up to us and asked us if we needed help. It turns out he had lived and worked in London for several years and was married to an English lady. They and their 3 kids had just returned to Portugal this year. He called a trusted taxi driver he knew to come and take us to a reasonably priced hotel. Within minutes we arrived at N1 Hostel, Apartments and Suites. Incredibly we bagged the last room available as the rest of the hostel was booked out for the cyclist convention. The receptionist gave us a discounted rate for our double, ensuite room, including breakfast, for 50 euros, recognising we were pilgrims. We were also treated to a delicious, home-cooked, four course pilgrim meal with wine and coffee for 8.5 euros. The only odd thing about this was we were the only ones in the dining room…we still hadn’t met any other pilgrims on the way.
I sincerely hoped we would have a rest day in Santarém, because I knew my poor old ankles, knees and feet wouldn’t cope with another long stage so soon. Hey ho! Ultreia and off to bed!
Distance walked today = 33.5 km (probably nearer 34 km)
Cumulative distance walked = 103.38 km
Peace, love and light,