• Theresa Fersch

12 Miles to Viana do Castelo

Updated: Nov 8, 2019

Friends, I noticed sometimes when I dictate, the app transcribes parts of my comments twice. I try to catch them all before I post the blog but I’m trying to limit my time in my blog so apologies if that happens occasionally. Last night after several hours of lying still, we ventured out to find food. Despite my jokes about this town being a 3rd world country, it’s pretty sweet. As we walked down the rolling cobblestone roads, a guy in a truck drove by playing traditional Portuguese music really loudly, another truck full of yellow fruit passed us, and we saw children playing in their yards. We walked to the supermarket that was about the size of my bedroom back home, and got a fantastic assortment of oddities including ham flavored potato chips (not amazing but we polished it off anyway), amazingly thick white bread (Bimbo brand), brioche rolls, a block of cheese, a bag of nuts, tomatoes, and some kind of prosciutto. Vegemite cut the food, Brian cooked grilled cheese sandwiches, and I cleaned the dishes, all while watching Portuguese cartoons. It was a good night. That is until I went to bed. I crawled into the comfortable bungalow bed up in the loft and just as I was drifting off to sleep I opened my eyes and saw a big black spot on my mattress next to my head. I flipped on the light and saw the biggest spider I’ve ever seen hanging out right by my face. I completely flipped out and jumped out of bed. It was very slow moving and Brian killed it. He looked it up and found that it was a nursery web spider and not venomous. It had been crawling on my face though and I had a very hard time getting back in bed and convincing myself to fall asleep. Fortunately, sheer exhaustion kicked in, and I slept all night.

We woke up a bit later this morning knowing that we would have a shorter walk today, and started off the day by finishing our sandwiches from last night. As we exited the town we stayed in, I noted that it is very well established With beautifully maintained houses, all very unique from one another. I think the area we walked through yesterday must have been under major reconstruction which is why everything looked like a demilitarized zone. I exited the town with a slow stroll and listening to the roosters crow. I pushed myself very hard yesterday. Today I will enjoy. 

Seven pilgrims passed us as we were leaving town which is more pilgrims than I have seen combined the last three days. I am sure we will begin to see more as we get closer to Santiago. I am also hoping that the places to stop become a bit more frequent. This morning, every quarter of a mile, you could find a pilgrim resting their feet or taking a water break.

As for the terrain, the first three days were incredibly flat, however yesterday we encountered our first hills entering the town we stopped in. There was a large Cliffside to the east of us and I was relieved to find out this morning that we do not have to cross over those massive hills. 

After walking through a few towns, we found ourselves in the woods with a rushing river to our right, vegetation that reminded me a lot of home, with lots of roots and rocks on the soft mud trail and ferns all around us. The blanket of pine needles and leaves covering the soft earth felt really good on my feet compared to the wooden boardwalks and cobblestone we have been walking on. I was beginning to understand why the guys complain so much about how hard this trail is on their feet if this is what they are used to.

We had a few hills this morning which weren’t fun but not the worst ever. It’s also very humid today. Looks like we’ll get some rain later today or tomorrow. Vegemite found a cafe about two hours into our walk so we all met there. He received some unfortunate news from home last night and didn’t get much sleep so we suspect he wants some time for silent reflection. Regardless, he walks too fast for me so I’m cool with our routine of just meeting up at rest stops. 

I discovered this morning that I’m already getting addicted to coffee. I had a mild headache before we got to the cafe and ordered a double espresso. they also have this great pear juice at most restaurants which is SO good. They also have ice cream bars at every stop so I finally broke down and had a KitKat ice cream bar. Yum. We were joking during our break that it’s amazing that we burn through half our hike in the first three hours of the morning and the last half of our trip takes five to six hours!

The three of us ran into each other shortly after we started walking again at a church. We got our passports stamped there and took some pictures. It is strange how much my views have changed just with in the last four years. On my last Camino, I found the churches very comforting and spiritual. However, my views towards the Catholic Church have grown very cynical the last several years and today as I sat in that church, I was not comforted, rather I was eager to leave. Growing up, the Catholic Church was a very positive influence in my life, however, I am realizing that while that may be the case for me, that is not true for many others. I had lots of deep thoughts about it during today’s walk but I don’t want to go into that here.

The late morning hike was absolutely beautiful. The three of us were spaced out across the trail so we kept in touch via text. I told the guys I am walking very slowly today, not because I’m hurting, but because I am enjoying the walk so much.

Soon we were so spaced out that we couldn’t time our breaks together. We stopped around the same time but Vegemite was one town ahead of us.  

We all caught up for lunch at a cafe with outdoor seating though, but I felt really intimidated when I went inside. Eventually, Brian and I went to the bar together and asked to see a menu. The guy seemed really agitated and tossed the menu at us. We decided it was clear they didn’t want us there so we ordered a quick drink and then headed out of town to find somewhere else to eat. I knew when I first entered that place that we were not welcome and as we walked on, I tried to break down what the indicators were for that. When you walk into a dozen new places a day, you can tell as soon as you walk in if you will be welcome. With this particular restaurant, there were lots of locals, they were drinking heavily early in the day, they were a bit rowdy, there was no menu obvious to patrons, and there was no glass case with pre-made food in it that you can just point to. So it was very clear that this place was only for people who already know what they serve.  

So, it’s my fourth day hiking and I’m reminded of how many weird things pass through your head as you walk alone for hours at a time. This afternoon, I was thinking about how when I returned from my first Camino, all of my friends and neighbors assumed I love hiking and frequently invited me to go day hiking. I went a few times and absolutely despised it. And I thought to myself, I must not really be a hiker because I don’t enjoy this at all. Eventually I started declining Invitations. It took me a long time to figure it out but I realized, there is a big difference between long-distance hiking and day hiking. With long distance hiking, you walk somewhere new every day. When you wake up in the morning you have no idea where you’re going to end up and the entire time you are seeing new things and experiencing a new world. With day hiking, you work just as hard all day only to end up EXACTLY WHERE YOU STARTED! Why would anybody want to do that!? I’m getting angry just thinking about it!! I thought about that for hours.

We were only about 4 miles from our destination so we decided we would just push through till the end. The three of us walk mostly together the rest of the way together but the entry into the next town was not amazing and pushed us along a highway the whole time. There was a massive bridge that would take us over the river and into town but I decided even though we just had to get to the north end of town where we could stop for the day, I would need to stop again. The guys were on the same wavelength as me. They stopped just before taking on the bridge and looked for a place to sleep while we rested our feet. 

Longest, windiest, scariest bridge ever. It took us a solid 15 minutes just to cross it. Fortunately, we found a very well rated restaurant only a couple hundred meters after we crossed. It was only 3pm so we decided to have a late lunch before checking into another Airbnb.

Our instructions for the Airbnb was to go to “Philii’s grandma’s house.” We had no idea what to expect. We walked down an ally off a beautiful section of town and found grandma. She was a sweet tiny Portuguese woman who walked us down the road a bit more and welcomed us into our Airbnb. It was a well-maintained beautiful little flat and grandma was so proud of it. She showed us EVERYTHING including how to use the circuit breakers in case we lose power. Of course we couldn’t understand anything grandma said except right before she left she very clearly told to us to please shower before we go to sleep. So embarrassing. Lol. 

Philipi has it figured out though! I think he owns most of the houses along this strip, grandma checks guests in and they both live here for free. Brian and I stopped by a real estate place on the way in and learned that we could live very comfortably here just on Brian’s Pension alone. We’re totally retiring here. 

On our way to Grandma’s house, we passed through a lovely shopping district where I saw a unicorn onesie in a window. Jokingly I went into the store and found out they had one in my size and it was only $17! I’ll take it!! Brian was like, “Theresa, you’re going to have to carry that to Santiago.” “Worth it!” Then Vegemite said he’d take one too. The guy running the shop wasn’t sure what to think. Then Brian said “I’ll take one too!” So...we have matching unicorn onsies. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. The old woman shopping and the store clerk were NOT amused.






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