Day 8 – 18th October 2016, Atalaia to Tomar.
…And so at last, I resume the tale of our walk along the Camino Portugues. Just when you thought it was safe…
An early morning canine encounter
Brett and I were up and about quite early the following morning and ate a meagre breakfast, whilst it was still dark. The lumpy mattress kept me awake for most of the night (I know a first world problem, I should be grateful for a bed, right? Well I was extremely grateful…but err…a little disappointed). All in all, we concluded the Casa do Patriarca was a tad overpriced, but the owners had a bit of a monopoly as there were not many alternatives on this stretch of the Camino, unlike the Camino Frances.
Out we spilled into the thick, damp, eerie mist of the morning. Faced by a tramp uphill for a way, I urged my stiff limbs and sore foot into action. At the top of the first hill, I stumbled upon one of my pet hates on the Camino Portugues – vociferous dogs. Now I consider myself an animal lover but I have to confess that a week into this Camino walk, my love of four-legged friends of the canine variety was waning. Not least owing to the sheer volume of mutt poo on pavements, dogging our every step (forgive the lame pun), from the moment we set off from Lisbon.
In addition, Portugues dogs just love to bark at passing pilgrims and they go on…and on…and on…and on. Once one spots you and starts howling and yapping at the top of it’s voice, then they all join in. The sheer noise can be deafening at times and not a little bit intimidating (until you see the size of some of the pooches…I had no idea a handbag dog could have lungs like a Rottweiler, projecting a terror-of-the-community persona, but there you go…).
This morning, however, the dog concerned was huge and leapt up against the high wall confining it, putting both of its front paws up on top of it and off it went on a mindless doggy rant. OK, at this point I lost it. I had had enough of being barked at at every turn and in a split nanosecond I lunged towards it, my arms and trekking poles outstretched to make myself look bigger, screaming like a banshee and mimicking it’s bark at the top of my voice. In shock, man’s best friend, toppled backwards and stopped barking. Result! I felt smug, if only for a brief moment. Sarah 1 – random dog 0.
This canine encounter brought back some memories of my first Camino, when I crossed the path of a would-be hound of the Baskervilles in Foncebadon and later, when two guard dogs chased me on the way to Muxia. I appeal to John Brierley to include dog warnings in future editions of the Camino guides! Anyhow I digress…
There’s nothing like a few inclines to get the heart pumping and the blood circulating. From Atalaia we trekked through forest to a height of about 145 m. The loose, gravelly and muddy forest trail presented some challenges and soon my right foot started to ache and throb again.
Constant friction of my heels against the padding of my beloved Saucony Peregrine 5s, caused the foam to disintegrate and I rubbed up two whopping blisters, one on each heel. How was I going to make it to our destination for the day? Brett cheered me on by singing “I wanna be loved by you” by Marilyn Monroe.
I willed myself up and over the hilltop at Grou and down a painful descent to Asseiceira, where the saving grace revealed itself like a mirage – the Cafe Papelaria Moço. Aaahhhh relief.
After a much-needed second breakfast, we roamed onwards via Glorieta and followed the train tracks until we turned off to pass through a small village of Cabecas and then veered back towards the river Nabao. The sun beat down upon us. Wow, we were amazed at the vibrant heat, so late in the season. We rested for a short while in the shade.
Thankfully, the trail took us beside the river, all the way into Tomar, our destination for the day.
A sorrowful goodbye to some good friends
It comes to all pilgrims at some point or another, I guess. That moment when you have to kiss goodbye to your trusty pair of walking shoes, those faithful friends that have cocooned your feet and carried you safely up hill and down dale for mile after mile. It is, indeed a sad parting of the ways. That moment came today in Tomar.
My beloved Saucony Peregrine 5s (trail running shoes) that have supported my feet and loved them for way over 1100 kms, bit the dust somewhere between Atalaia and Tomar…both shoes had holes in the uppers and the foam heel padding had fallen out entirely. As fortune would have it (and the Camino provides) Brett and I found an outdoor shop on the high street and I bought Saloman trail runners in the sale. There was an uncomfortable toe to toe off when they came face to face with my Sauconys and, alas, I felt a twinge of guilt when I said “farewell” and committed them to the place where other running shoes past their prime go to rest. Sigh.
Tip-toeing through Templar territory
Also on the high street, stood the fab and funky Hostel Thomar 2300, where we bagged a beautiful, colourful and cheerful twin bed room with balcony for 35 euros, and a shared bathroom (with a bath as well as shower), inclusive of buffet breakfast. The room was called the ‘Fiancées handkerchief’ room.
Apparently, this is derived from the courtship ritual, when young girls, who were in love and ready to marry, would embroider poems and patterns with particular symbols on handkerchiefs and give them to their beloved. If the man used the handkerchief in public, it meant that he had accepted to begin a relationship with the girl, who had given it to him.
The hostel was the best one we had stayed in so far. Bright, modern, clean and artistic, with plenty of facilities including a chill out lounge, dining room, self-catering kitchen and laundry. There were fresh, crisp cotton sheets on the bed. Do bring your own towels though!
Opposite is café, bar and restaurant Claustro’s where I downed an afternoon bevvy of Radler Limon (Brit’s would call this a shandy) and Brett had a pint of Sagres beer (or 3).
And here is Brett completely in awe of the beautiful town of Tomar and the fact that there is actually a reasonably priced albergue for pilgrims.
In the early evening twilight, we strolled through Tomar’s cobbled streets, absorbing in the atmosphere. Tomar is a medieval pilgrim town with a Templar layout and architecture. Gualdim Pais, Knight Templar, was the founder of the town and his imposing statue watches over the comings and goings from a vantage point in the main square, below the Templar castle.
The town seemed to imbue a magical quality at dusk, warmed by the numerous glowing streetlights and we wished we had more time to stay and explore. Perhaps one day, we will return there.
Distance walked today = 21 km
Cumulative distance walked = 173.38 km
Watched this space for another exciting episode…
Peace, love and light,