Camino Portugues Portugal

Day 2: Santarem to Golega

Today’s destination is Golega, famous for its Lucitano horses, its equestrian center and a twice annual horse show that attracts tens of thousands of people. Horse trading has taken place in Golega since the 18th century and although I was only there for a few hours, one feels that it is a wealthy town.

Breakfast was served in the room at 8.30, I was ready to leave before, but waited for it to arrive- it wasn’t really worth the wait. A ham and cheese sandwich and a carton of juice. Just as I was about to leave I remembered that I hadn’t downloaded pictures from my camera to my phone and to the cloud for several days. Now I’d thought about it, I had to do it, otherwise I’d be thinking about what if today is the day I forget my camera somewhere or drop it and somebody drives over it. I eventually left at 9.30.

It was another cloudy day, and little bit cold in the morning as I set off on the 33kms to Golega. I hoped that it would be more exciting than yesterdays walk – I was disappointed. I walked through Santarem with great views over the surrounding countryside. It was downhill and the route followed a path down 100+ unused and very narrow steps and at the bottom I was still 20m above the path I was supposed to walk along. The thought of going back up didn’t bring positive vibes. At that point I noted a metal ladder and when I looked, I could see that it was cemented into the wall. I had a choice of climbing down it or walking back up the 100 steps and find another way out. I went down the ladder, but with a large amount of trepidation. I made it.

I passed through Ribeira de Santarem, the lower part of the town with the station and out into the countryside along farm paths, badly cut up by vehicles when it was wet. As yesterday, they are difficult to walk along mow they were bone hard due to several weeks dry weather. I was already feeling tired and watching every step. As yesterday it was flat and unspectacular agricultural land.

As I climbed the only uphill part of the stage to Vale de Figueira, the first town I would pass after about 10km, I was catching up on what looked like a fellow walker. As we reached the town I was 20 meters behind him, but he turned left towards the church and I carried straight on. I stopped at a coffee shop, packed with people in their Sunday best and ready to go to mass at noon. I bought a coffee and a cake recommended by the owner and sat down and rested my tired feet. I took my cup and plate back to the counter and asked the owner to make a sandwich so I could take it with me. He asked if I had been in the church as it was one of Portugal’s most beautiful. I went to have a look, but when I got there it was packed with people attending mass. With a quick look through the glass door I could see there seemed to be a lot of gold ornaments.

I carried on out of the town and into the countryside. As I approached a river my fellow walker from before, was climbing over a gate blocking the path. Joao was Portuguese from Porto, with an Irish accent after going to University in Cork. We walked together for the next 13kms and exchanged stories of our lives and experiences. He was an avid walker, walking all over Portugal and Spain. It was an enjoyable way to get through the relentless landscape made worse by heavy legs.

Just before the next town Azinhaga (26km), we met another walker from Israel, we chatted as we walked into the small village, famous as the birthplace for Portugal’s only Nobel Prize winner in literature, Jose Saramago. Joao and I stopped at the Central Cafe (every village has a Central Cafe). The guy from Israel decided not to stop, whilst Joao ordered a sandwich and I bought a drink and ate my sandwich from earlier. As I had promised the owners to be at the lodging before 5 pm and there were still 8 kms walking, I left Joao to eat his lunch and walked on.

The remaining kilometers were along a main road without a pavement and fairly heavy traffic – it was terrible, both being tired and on the watch out that motorists were looking at the road and had seen you. I have since learnt that there is an unsigned alternative route which adds a kilometer or so, but cuts out most of the main road – another time, I would take that alternative.

As I entered Golega, at 16.30 and only 500m to the hotel, something happened to my calf muscle on my right leg, and I could only hump the last 500 meters. The horse stable, where I was staying was closed, so I rang the owner, and somebody arrived after 10 mins to let me in and show me to a room above the stables. They had left the heating on so it was nice a warm and best of all there was a bath and a plug (many rooms with baths don’t have plugs so that you can’t run a bath). So I ran a bath and hoped it would help my strained muscle.

After the bath I could see that my right ankle was swelled, but the bath seemed to help the muscle. It wasn’t looking good for tomorrow. I managed to get to a restaurant 250 meters from where I was staying, where everybody was watching football. I ordered soup and fried pork for dinner. Just as I had finished, Joao came in, and we chatted while he ate his soup.

As I see it, there are three options for tomorrow, and will decide after I have slept and tested the strained muscle
A. Walk 31km to Tomar
B. Walk 10km to the nearest station with a connection to Tomar – the station is almost on the way I will walk anyway
C. Take a taxi to the station

I put a compression sock on the bad leg, but that was a bad idea and I eventually took it off. I couldn’t find rest and I slept badly. Not a good omen.

It has been a long day and hard day, with very heavy legs. The stage was not particularly interesting and not least the last 8 kilometers into Golega are a real killer along the main road. So it was great to have company of a fellow walker.


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