Three friends and I planned to do part of the Portuguese Camino over Easter time 2018
The route was from the Portuguese city, Porto, all the way to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, ending our 240 kilometer journey in the Chapel of Santiago on Easter Sunday.
According to the author of our guidebook, “A Pilgrims guide to the Camino Portugués” by John Brierley, there are many pilgrim paths to Santiago but none is more significant and soulful than the Camino Portugués.
They say if you have to walk far, pack light. This sounds simple enough but imagine four girlfriends, it is just the beginning of the European Spring and temperatures are only touching double digits with the rain season in full swing.
But if you have to pack light, pack clever!
TacQM helped me to kit out my backpack with all the essentials I might need during this journey. I made space for my “Survival pouch” which the other three girlfriends found really amusing, joking about my ‘MacGyver bag’
But the laughing was quickly replaced with thankfulness as we used every single item Camo advised me to pack!
In my survival pouch were the following items:
- 550 Paracord (30m)
- Aqua Salveo Water Disinfectant 10ml
- Medium Honey Badger opener Knife (Camo sharpened it for me prior to departure)
- Vital Protection AM2 220ml
- Soak-It Eco Wet Wipes
- Duct tape
- N3 LED torch lighter
- NiteCore NU05 Headlamp
I will try and explain why these items were so helpful during our 240km trip.
Day one was the toughest of all; in some mysterious way we misread the distance in our guidebook and ended up walking 38 kilometers on the first day. I think the initial idea was to walk about 12km less. (I am saying mysterious because we all know that girls are good at reading maps!)
We entered our Albergue (hostels along the route) just as the sun was setting down over the lively town of Barcelos.
All was lively but for the four South African pilgrims. We were done for!
But having only two sets of clothing we knew we had to wash our hiking outfit and get it dry before 06:00 the next morning.
Luckily for us, most of the hostels had a heating system of sorts in the rooms and we could set up a handy washing line, (using the Paracord, cutting it to length with the Honeybadger Opener Knife) next to the heater. This was the standard procedure for the next few days as we made our way to Santiago.
My Honeybadger knife would also slice bread, carve cheese, stick olives and peel oranges along the way….
The Soak-It Eco Wet Wipes also replaced my sponge and was a great way of washing in the evenings and not have the hassle of a big sponge or soggy face cloth in my toiletry bag.
Day two started early, the NiteCore NU05 Headlamp guided our way through the dark and extensive market square of Barcelos.
As the sun was rising over the landscape we were already following the Camino signs towards Pont de Lima.
According to our guidebooks, this is the longest and the most beautiful stage of the Camino. But with only 30kilometers to do, it seems like childs’ play given our previous days’ hike!
After a beautiful hike through the river valleys of Neiva and Lima we decided to book into an Albergue a few kilometers before the town “Pont de Lima”.
We knocked on the door of a home owned by a retired Dutchman , on a hill overlooking a picturesque village next to a bubbling stream.
The only available accommodation was in a stone cottage on the grounds but there wasn’t any central heating in the ice cold stone cottage.
Luckily the cottage had a small fireplace and TacQM made me travel with the N3 LED torch/lighter. We soon made a cozy fire, played Foosball, drank some of the local Port until it was sleeping time.
Day three was the shortest distance according to our guidebook. But by now we all know when something seems to good to be true, it usually is. The mere 18 kilometers includes a hike over the top of the Alto de Portela Grande mountain, the steepest accumulative climb with limited facilities!
At the top of the mountain, that we realized we finished all of our drinking water during the climb and have nothing left for the descent….
Exhausted from the never ending climb our only option was to get water from an overflowing dam and having our Aqua Salveo Water Disinfectant, we could treat the water and have enough for our journey downhill. A tummy bug at this stage of our Camino would have been disastrous!
So far we were lucky in booking private rooms in the Albuerges along the Camino.
By the end of day 3 marked the first time we had to bunk in a dormitory room, in a small Albeurge, a traditional stone family house in the town of Rubiáes.
We’ve only heard about bed bugs along the way and although the facility was really neat, we didn’t want to take the chance of waking up with bed bugs. So we used the bottle of Vital Protection from TacQM to spray our beds, bags and tracking suit for a peaceful nights’ rest.
Day four we crossed over the border into Spain, through the historic old walled town of Valenca into Tui.
It would also be the first time that we use our yellow roll of duct tape to strap the one pilgrims foot, who by now was walking with excruciating pain, coming from her Achilles heal. (It helps if one of your fellow pilgrims is a physiotherapist).
The Duct tape also straps toes together to prevent blisters. At this stage are now walking in constant rain, and friction inside your damp boots is inevitable.
And so the journey continues for the next four days: Tui-> Redondela-> Pontevedra-> Caldas de Reis-> Padron-> Santiago, through vineyards, along highways, over miles of cobblestone. We braved ice rain, wind, lightning and sore legs but we arrived in time for the Sunday morning pilgrim service in the Cathedral of Santiago.
The highlight of the service being the swinging of the giant incense burner!
If you ever have the time, do yourself a favor and undertake one of the ways to Santiago.
But remember to take a “TacQM survival bag” with you. The right gear can make the journey so much easier!
Thank you TacQM for being such an important part of my Camino Portugués journey!
Esthe 'Pilgrim' Pretorius