Day 19 – 29th October 2016, Grijo to Porto
Following in roman footsteps
Brett and I rose early, packed up and stepped out of the front door of the albergue in Grijo, straight onto the main road at 7.30am. The street lamps cast an eerie glow in the inky blue half-light. We wanted to make good headway before the traffic became too busy and also, we had a sneaky feeling that the distance to Porto would be longer than indicated in the Brierley Camino guide. “What, surely not?”, I hear you exclaim!
We had an excellent walk, mostly though suburbia in the hot sunshine in the first and last stages. In between we enjoyed the cool, shade of the forest trails on the way in and out of Perosinho, where the Camino trail was well marked and ambled up the smooth, but uneven cobbles of the old roman road, ‘calzada romana’ that led us up and over a hill to where we caught our first glimpse of the city in the valley below us, through the eucalyptus and pine forest.
A spectacular entrance
We arrived in Porto by late morning, having walked over the brilliant, if somewhat scary high level bridge that made a grand entrance into town. As if we hadn’t walked enough yet, we climbed up the very steep cobbled streets to Catedral Sé to obtain our pilgrim stamps and to buy new ‘credencials’, because we we running out of space in our pilgrim passports. I paused for a while to give thanks for our safe arrival and whispered silent prayers for our loved ones.
It was Saturday and the city was heaving with people. I must admit it was a bit of a shock to the system being in a noisy, overcrowded and polluted city again. We hadn’t booked ahead, preferring the pilgrim way of turning up and seeing how the Camino provides for our needs. We tramped from hostel to hostel, finding that they were fully booked already, with many student groups.
Stopping on a bench in a square for a few moments, we decided to fish out one of our tablets and did an on the spot search using booking.com. Fortunately, the Hospederia Monte Sinai still had rooms and was relatively central so we bagged a triple room with shared bathroom for 32.50 euros and received a warm welcome!
After resting for about an hour or so, we ventured back out into the heat of the day to explore the many sights and sounds of the city. First of all, we negotiated our way down the tremendously steep slope down to the river from our accommodation. Brett made such light work of it, I was proud!
The call of the Rio Douro
We strolled along the waterfront for a while, admiring the bridges, colourful architecture and river barges and dropped in to a waterfront bar to down a beer. We both loved to be back near water again!
The magnificent Douro river called to us, so we didn’t hesitate to go on a 50 minute boat trip up and down the waterway. There is no better way to get a sense of the City’s history and lifeblood, for it is this famous river that gives it life and vibrance.
Brett and I instantly felt inspired to walk this section of the waterway from the centre of Porto out to Matosinhos, instead of hopping on public transport, as the guide suggested, to resume our Camino. To us, it looked like a lovely, fascinating and relatively easy-going ramble, but this would have to wait for a few hours until the next morning.
For now we satisfied ourselves with enjoying a delicious seafood dinner, accompanied by Portuguese red wine, overlooking the Douro. We were totally content in each other’s company, feeling grateful for getting to Porto safely and having a wonderful opportunity to explore the city. We fairly skipped back up the steep slope back to our B&B and were not even out of breath when we reached the top. That’s Camino fitness for you!
Reflections on the Camino so far
I reflected on all of the things I liked about walking the Camino Portugues:
- It’s spiritual origin being the original route that brought St. James’ remains to Santiago
- Pastel de nata
- Portuguese red wine
- Walking with my husband and best friend and getting to know each other more deeply
- Feeling my body becoming fitter and healthier
- Some of the interesting people we have met along the way
- Being outdoors and close to nature
- Learning to overcome the pain in my foot and ankle and keep on going!
An important top tip from us
For those of you planning to walk the Camino Portugues from Lisboa anytime soon, don’t try to walk from São Jão da Madeira to Porto in one day unless you want your feet to fall off! Seriously. The Camino Guide by Brierley indicates it is about a 34.3km (36.8km with elevation) hike with hills. We decided to split this leg in two and we were so thankful we followed our intution!
Sao Jao to Grijo turned out to be 23km and not 19km in the book and today’s walk from Grijo to Porto (old town) turned out to be between 23 and 24 km and not the 15km as indicated in the guide. So that’s a total of about 46km. Just in case you were wondering about how we know this, Brett has been measuring actual distance by GPS. So the standard Camino guide is out by 10 to 12 km.
Anyway, we made it regardless…
Distance walked today = 23 km
Cumulative distance walked so far = 420.88 km
Stay tuned for another exciting episode…
Peace, love and light,