Day 14 – 24th October 2016, Coimbra to Mealhada.
We had spoiled ourselves yesterday, only walking 13 km from Cernache to Coimbra making it a very short Camino day indeed, compared to previous stages. Mind you, God knows how many extra kilometres we packed in during the afternoon, up and down the heel-numbing cobbled streets and steep steps. My poor old knees and ankles ached by the time we sank into bed after our evening meal.
Brett and I were up with the larks the following morning and casually slipped into the breakfast room, where there was only one other person at that time of the morning. Hungry pilgrims learn to make the most of a buffet style breakfast and today was no exception! It is vital to start the walk of the day with enough energy and to refuel at regular intervals as it is quite possible to burn off 3-4000 calories in a long day’s trek.
Oh the pain of walking down the cobbles towards the river, where we turned right along past the station and continued onwards along the river bank. My stiff muscles throbbed in the early morning light and I willed myself onwards. Was I getting old?
Soon we ambled along in the bright sunshine, along tree-lined avenues through the villages of prettily named Adémia, Fornos, Trouxemil, Adões and Sargento Mor, ascending gently through pine and eucalyptus glades. The trees provided welcome shade from the strong heat and were soothing to my soul.
We passed by tiny, white-washed chapels, which looked as though a Gulliver had plonked them down, ad hoc in Lilliput. Sadly, none were open and this reflected my own frustrated personal experience, many a time, along the Camino Frances, when I found church and chapel doors closed to me. This situation inspired a poem, which poured out of me at the end of my pilgrimage called “God is out”.
If only pigs could fly…
The second half of our 27 km hike, seemed to go on for ever, ascending further to Santa Luzia, before going down gentle slopes to Mala and then the final long push into Mealhada itself, a somewhat sprawling town, drawn out along the N1.
We danced with death again along this highway, dodging the crazy truck drivers and maniacal car drivers. It was tough work! At every stage of spilling surburbia, billboard advertising confronted us – slaughtered, suckling pigs on spits at every turn. Mealhada is famous for two things – Bairrada wine and spit-roasted, month old, suckling pig. It’s enough to turn anyone vegetarian. Although I’m not actually a vegetarian, I couldn’t bear the thought of eating a month old, little piglet and, instead, imagined an enraged Miss Piggy and the rest of the “Pigs in Space” muppet crew, swooping down in their space ship to rescue them. If only pigs could fly…
Ok, so I must have been delirious by that time…Give me a break! I was tired…
Anyhow, another 1.7 km across the town and we finally reached the Residencial Hilario, where we bagged a private, ensuite room for 30 euros, owing to the fact that the adjacent albergue was closed. Perhaps it was because we arrived quite late in the pilgrim season or it was a cunning plan to extract slightly more dosh out of unsuspecting pilgrims? Do I sound cynical? Having thought that, in a ranty-sort-of-way, I must confess that our room was lovely, comfy and quiet, the shower was nice and steaming hot, providing enough refreshment to cope with another schlepp back along the highway in search of anything with vegetables. After what felt like a couple of kilometres, we opted for pizza and munched our way through a couple of yummy veggie calzones.
Back at the ranch, we discovered that reception had dropped in our packed breakfasts we had ordered, after the receptionist had informed us that the kitchen is closed and we would not be able to eat breakfast there in the morning. For 3 euros each, the prospects inside the packages looked grim. Ah well, tomorrow is another day…and at least I’m not a piglet.
Distance walked today = 27 km
Cumulative distance walked so far = 299.88km
Peace, love and light,