Day 7 – 17th October 2016, Azinhaga to Atalaia.
When I reflect on the day’s walk today, I can focus in on two things:
- That I have not really been fully present in each moment on this Camino walk until now and
- This stretch of the Camino Portugués yielded some incredibly enchanting surprises!
I think the reasons for me not being fully present in each moment, compared to my walk along the Camino Frances last year (scroll through past posts here), were threefold: a) I hadn’t put the time or effort in to physically prepare for this walk b) likewise I hadn’t mentally prepared for it either and c) I was far too distracted by other things I thought I’d better be doing at the same time…like organising our UK based wedding celebrations. Yes, just a tad distracted.
“But aren’t you already married?”, I hear you ask. Well, yes, Brett and I had our lovely, legal marriage ceremony on board Theros on Salt Spring Island in Canada earlier this year. However, we also wanted to celebrate with friends and family from Europe and beyond too. And so, here I was 7 days into our Camino Portugues walk and delayed our day’s start until after 9.00am, when I could make a call to the UK to confirm our booking of Stonehenge for our celtic handfasting ceremony in April 2017. That done, phew (a weight lifted from my mind), we were able to set off from Casa de Azzancha in Azinhaga into the countryside once again and I began to relax into putting one foot in front of another.
Within a few minutes we were on a gravel path and soon left Azinhaga behind, passing one or two bovine friends, who looked at Brett with interest. It’s a good job we were not wearing our bright, red jackets at the time! We picked up the ‘Rota do Cavalo e do Ribatejo’ and were impressed by the roadside maps, which were more detailed than some of those on the Camino Frances.
The Camino trail led us onto a road for a fair few miles. This road (below) resembles a ‘B’ road in the UK, and could be mistaken for a quiet country lane. However here in Portugal the traffic zooms along and not all drivers are mindful of pilgrims walking along by the verge, so every now and then, we leapt out of the way and attempted to avoid the ditches!
A few kilometres later along the ‘B’ road, we eventually reached the outskirts of Golega, which sounds a little bit like it should be in Middle Earth, perhaps somewhere where Golum would hang out, but in fact it is lovingly recognised as the “Horse Capital of the World”. On the way in we saw some familiar symbols of the Camino, the scallop shell and the cross displayed on a fountain.
I have no idea who gave Golega this accolade. So one might expect to see Black Beauty running free…but we didn’t spot a single horse out and about as we meandered into town. Maybe there were all enjoyed a siesta. However, there were some clues…
Brett and I ambled down the pristine and colourful streets into the central square and stopped at a welcoming cafe, aptly named Cafe Central, for second breakfast. We sat outside and watched the world go by. There was no rush. I felt drawn to the church called “Nossa Senhora da Conceicao” (Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception). It was actually open and I was impressed with its simplicity and elegance.
Reluctantly, we bade farewell to this beautiful and sophisticated town and made our way back on to the Camino trail.
The splashes of yellow and orange on white washed walls, combined with the afternoon sunshine, warmed our hearts and lifted our spirits to singing again. This time Brett hummed “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan as we picked up a jaunty pace. The sun and humidity became almost suffocating in the early afternoon. We were grateful for a verdant oasis by the River Tagus within the shadows of an opulent bygone era at the abandoned Quinta da Cardiga. We stepped back in time, in between the avenues of trees, their rustling leaves whispered with voices echoing from the past. What secrets they held! Peering up at the windows of the central and majestic manor house, I expected to see ghostly figures staring down upon us but there was nothing….no-one there. I shivered with goosebumps though as we ambled further along past what must have been servants and groomsmen quarters and stables.
We paused by the stone bridge for a much-needed water stop and looked out over the River Tagus for the last time, before we turned away from it’s silvery grace and headed back into the bamboo.
I enjoyed these strolls admidst the Portuguese countryside and much preferred the gravel paths and small lanes to the dicey hard shoulders on the major roads. Finally, we entered the village of Atalaia and steadily climbed the long way through its centre to our abode for the evening – the Casa do Patriarca, run by an older couple. The lady is quite friendly but the husband less so. They charged us 45 euros for a private double ensuite room and breakfast, overpriced really but there was nowhere else nearby to choose. Having said that, it did provide us with a peaceful oasis of calm at the end of a long day’s walk. After a soothing and refreshing shower, I felt as though I was beginning to get back into my stride at last!
Distance walked today = 21 km
Cumulative distance walked = 152.38 km
Stay tuned for another exciting episode.
Peace, love and light,