Pilgrim track & field events on the way to Sao Joao de Madeira

Day 17 – 27th October 2016, Albergaria A Nova to São João de Madeira

Hello friends!

Welcome to the pilgrim olympics

Any pilgrim might tell you that walking the Camino de Santiago is an epic adventure, probably one of the best walking experiences you can have. It is transformative on so many levels – physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. A walk in the park it is not. Challenge is a daily part of Camino life. The Camino Portugues is no exception and offers numerous challenges that could comprise pilgrim olympic games.

Here is a collection of track and field events that pilgrims may unknowingly find themselves entering on a daily basis.

  1. From warming up and tying shoe laces at dawn to…


2. Waking up and smelling the roses.


  3. Carefully negotiating the way along train tracks.


Remembering, of course, that the light at the end of the tunnel could be an oncoming train.

4. Then there’s climbing up and over several bridges, with your heavy backpack on…

5. Up and down steep steps… or not…

6. Conquering the asphalt hills from hell…

7. Running through the woods for a loo stop… and back out again in record time.

8. Drinking copious quantities of ice tea.


Not surprisingly pilgrims find themselves getting fitter and fitter as each day of long-distance walking goes by. Flab turns to lean muscle, upper body and back strength increases, quads, glutes and calf muscles get a good workout and metabolism speeds up. I remember hearing that, during a good 25 to 30 km hike, while carrying up to 10% of one’s bodyweight, a person can easily burn off between 3 -4,000 calories. But hey, who is counting?

A 45% omission

Today’s walk covered a distance of 26 kilometres from Albergaria A Nova, through undulating countryside past Branca, Escusa, Pinheiro da Bedpost, Bedpost, Canicos, Travanca, Oliveira de Azemeis, Santiago da Riba-Ul, Vila de Cucujães, Faria de Cima to São João de Madeira. Most of the route afforded us some picturesque scenery and attractive views of historic buildings. 

Like many pilgrims, we depend on the guide to the Camino Portugues by John Brierley. Now, we do owe him a debt of gratitude for the meticulous and dedicated work that he and his team does to create and update so many Camino guides on a regular basis. Respect.

However, from our previous and present experience, we also know that distances and gradients mentioned in the camino guides are not necessarily 100% accurate, and sometimes could be considered to be more of a best guess. On this occasion, Mr Brierley just happened to forget to mention the what-seemed-like (and certainly felt like) 45% slopes. Surely, Brett and I reached our own personal pilgrim olympic bests today!

Ironman hero

The day stretched on and on into the late afternoon by the time our weary bodies and hot and throbbing feet reached the outskirts of the historic Roman town of São João de Madeira. We had to ask directions from a couple of people to the centre, who were incredibly friendly and helpful. It was a hard slog through scorching heat. 

I was in considerable pain by the time we tracked down somewhere to stay for the night. My feet were killing me, as I haven’t been wearing sports insoles in my new trail runners and the insoles they came with were absolutely rubbish. What are you playing at Saloman? 

Eventually, we came to the very wonderful Solar São João Residencial and received a warm welcome and a magnificent, elegant, double ensuite room for 39 euros (breakfast inclusive). 

I flopped. Meanwhile, my amazing hubby, Brett tracked down some ironman sports insoles in town and now I have support for my arches and can walk properly! Yey what a man! My hero.

We celebrated by downing some ice cold Super Bock Greens (a limeade shandy) that easily rivals Radler Limao, before tracking down our evening meal and turning in for the night. 

Distance walked today = 26 km

Cumulative distance walked so far = 374.88 km

Peace, love and light,

Sarah xxx


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