In March 2015 I went on a pilgrimage. I chose the Camino Santiago and because I have a thing for Portugal decided for the Caminho Português. And even this way has two variants: One can take the central way (the classic Camino Portuges) or the coastal route. Guess what: I also love the ocean, so of course took the Caminho Português da Costa!
3.3. Porto Airport -> Vila do Conde (A-B, 19km)
Rain. First just a drizzle, later more. Shitty day. Received two rejections on applications I had lined up and had participated in the final rounds of interviews… Stayed in the Bellamar hostel and had a great dinner in the republika restaurante right next door. Which was especially great because it meant less walking. On my first day I wasn’t in top form yet. Met a nice Aussie Project Manager, David, and had a nice chat.
4.3. Vila do Conde -> Marinhas (B-C, 25km)
Started 9:30 after a great breakfast. Overwhelmed with tears on seeing the Atlantic ocean for the first time. After Vila do Conde the way leaves the beach and goes through farmland and forest. Quite boring. Passing through many small towns, Vila do Conde, Fao etc. Have been all by myyyself in the albergue.
5.3. Marinhas -> Viana do Castelo (C-D, 20km)
Long way through Marinhas and the next villages. At least the weather was nice. Reward: ~2km through a forested valley with a river and a nice bridge crossing it. Organized and had the next job interview. Realized in Viana do Castelo that restaurants only open at 7pm. What a waste. Eventually found the Leve Sonhos Cores E Sabores.
Highlights in Viana do Castelo: The bridge, the old town, the promenade.
6.3. Viana do Castelo -> Caminha (D-E, 23km)
Fatal mistake: Sightseeing Santa Luzia in Viana do Castelo. This cost me two hours and approximately 8 km. The view was spectacular. From today’s perspective I can only say: Absolutely worth it. Back then I wasn’t this appreciative. So on I went. Lots of forest, lots of up and downhill. The route was often stupid: Uphill by a small stream only to cross it 200m, but 50m elevation later. Then downhill again to continue approximately at the same place. Met David again, had a beer break and went the last kilometers of the day together.
7.3. Caminha -> Tui (E-F, 30km) — Change of Plans
Change of plans, because the ferry wasn’t going in March, yet. So crossing the Rio Minho (border river between Portugal and Spain) was impossible. Had a nice crepes breakfast and decided to go the full 30km upstream the Minho. This was the first time I decided for a 30km stage. Passing Valencas, featuring a beautiful fortress, excellent food and good strolling. Crossing the impressive bridge to Tui, turning the clock +1hour, because time zones, I entered Spain. Met fellow pilgrims here for the first time. Dormitorio: Once and never again. (Casually racist message to South American travelers: The human voice has the fascinating ability to be used in different volume levels. So if you’re sleeping in a dorm, no need to go full blast at 6 in the fucking morning.)
8.3. Tui -> Redondela (30km)
Determined to sleep in quiet the next week again, I needed to make more kilometers. So I went for another 30km leg all the way to Redondela. Already arrived at 17:30. No surprise given the fact we had been thrown out the dormitorio already at 8am. Good way. Slight knee-pain at the start, so I was worried to at all make it to O Porriño. Arrived there already at 12:30, so continued onwards. To “Mos”, where my guide said would be a steep hill. Got there at 3pm. Nice. Made the final 10km incl. the goddamn hill in 2.5 hours. All good. Less exhausted than the days before.
Stayed alone (!) in the excellent Albergue Casa da Torre, right in the city center and also managed to find delicious dinner in an affordable menu (Menu Peregrino) with starter, main, dessert beer for 9€!
9.3. Redondela -> Somewhere I forgot the name, could be Barro (~28km)
Having decided to speed up my pilgrimage I now went for mostly longer stages. Inspired by the thought of meeting my friends again in Berlin, my feet felt great, my knee was OK, but the day started with a bit of a crampy right calf. Probably due to the low temperatures. But hey: It all only had to work for two more days! Good way: Lots of side roads, lots of forest ways, a bit through urban areas (annoying). Good and long conversation in the café near the hostel. En español! Amazing! Got a chocolate croissant for breakfast. The hostel was a bit disappointing at first (even though I was all alone), but Yoyo, the hospitalario made up for that by being super helpful. Still creepy to stay in that big house alone all night in the middle of nowhere.
10.3. Barro (?) -> Padrón (~28km)
Excitingly unexciting second last leg: Lots of forest and fields, a bit through towns and nice end in Padrón. Met a group of super nice Germans, we immediately clicked and chatted all evening. Had dinner together and were all blessedly happy in the albergue. Carmen, Claudia, Nicole… and Horst 🙂
11.3. Padrón -> Santiago de Compostela (20km)
Winged and happy made a start for the final stage. Short, but vital morning stopover in the last hotel before leaving Padrón. Really important. 😉 After that caught up and overtook my fellow Germans and already arrived in Santiago at around 13:30 despite really bad signposting the nearer one gets to Santiago. The city: Busy! Crowded with students, tourists and pilgrims! Escaped the stress in the quiet but incredibly good Hotel San Miguel. Long bath and a hot shower – perfect.
The long way back home
My way back home after close to 2 weeks on the Caminho Português was not long in the sense of time. It was more a matter of organization. I had my flight booked already. For Monday the 16. of March. Now I had arrived in Santiago 3 days earlier than planned. I couldn’t change my booking (due to the price category I had chosen) and I also didn’t want to wait. Santiago was nice, but staying 3 more days is costly and would have defeated the purpose of being faster to see friends and family.
I booked another (one way!) flight for more than 300€, which basically doubled my flight costs for the Caminho Português. Speaking of costs:
- Up until Santiago I had spent 196€ in 8 days of pilgrimage.
- In Santiago alone I spent 132€, so a subtotal 328€ for cost of living.
- My prebooked flights were 330€ (Berlin -> Porto, Santiago -> Berlin) bringing me to 658€.
Was it worth being home earlier? Absolutely!!! I spent some time in Berlin, going for dinner with friends, then heading home for 2 days in Neustrelitz to spend time with my family. This was essential for my social wellbeing before heading on a 4 week trip to Japan and Korea! 🙂