Camino Nascente & Carmelita Camino Portugues Portugal Rota Carmelita

Day 8: Ansaio to Condeixa-a-Nova

Another 30 kilometer plus day ahead and I woke up feeling a bit rough – not sure whether it is the wine or all the food. Breakfast didn’t live up to the high standard set by the room and I was on the road just before 9 o’clock, feet and legs not in total agreement about setting off on another long walk.

It started to rain as soon as I left the hotel and before I had left the town I needed the poncho. The rain continued for the morning and cleared up, after a few false starts, by lunch time.

Just as it was downhill into Ansiao, it was uphill out of town and up and down for the whole day. I passed through a couple of villages before reaching the countryside. The hills consisted of low vegetation whilst the valleys were primarily vines and some fields with cattle.

I stopped in Alvorge for coffee and cake at a Camino hostel/Cafe/Restaurant. The man behind the bar was very interested in my trip. After Alvorge, the rain, hills and valleys continued. I continued to be a mixture of paths and roads.

As the rain stopped, after about 15 km, I turned off the main road and a beautiful windmill appeared. Also a group of about 20 pilgrims on their way to Fatima were split into 4 or 5 smaller groups. All said hello.

From the windmill and towards Rabacal the path was flat and wide for about 5 kilometers, many places newly laid with sand and small stones – it was pleasant to walk along. I decided to not take the detour into Rabacal, but instead take a short cut, saving a kilometer or two. Finally, around 2 o’clock I took a break for lunch. Just as I sat down a guy cycled by, his bicycle full of bags. I was a bit off the path, so he didn’t see me.

I walked on and came to a small village, Zambujal, with a tiled welcome from the inhabitants of the village.

A brown dog came up and sniffed around my leg. Normally the dogs bark when I enter a village. Instead this dog trotted 10 steps in front of me and guided me the exact pilgrim path through the village. Every time I stopped, it stopped and waited for me to start again. I expected it to turn around at the edge of the village, but no, it continued into the countryside, along a country road, even crossing a main road, stopping all the traffic. This went on for ca. 3km before it ran ahead. It stopped at a homage to the Camino – an area that all pilgrims were welcome to enter, with different Camino artifacts and even a little home built chapel. I asked the guy sitting there if it was his dog, but it wasn’t. Also the guy on the bike I’d seen earlier was there.

I carried on and about 15 minutes later, the guy on the bike had caught up with me. He was Belgian, doing the Camino without any money, on a bike he’d found. He relied on peoples good will. Finding places to sleep wasn’t a big problem, but getting enough to eat was. My path went off road, and his bike needed to stay on the road, so I gave him some money to buy some food, and our ways parted.

I followed a small path on the bank of a small stream, and came upon a couple eating a late lunch (it was about 4 o’clock). The had walked from Coimbra and were to stay in Rabacal- so we both had ca. eight kilometers to go, in each our direction. He told me he’d lost his jumper, probably some kilometers back, so if I found it I could keep it.

I moved on towards the roman ruins at Conimbriga, meeting another group on their way to Fatima. I hadn’t expected such a tough climb after 28km, it took most of my energy, followed by an equally steep ascent (I’m not great downhill). I found his jumper, hanging on a tree at the top of the climb. I left it, as I had plenty to carry, and didn’t need another jumper. At the bottom of the ascent I met a group of mountain bike riders on their way to Rabacal. I explained the situation with the jumper, and asked if they could drop it off at the hostel at Rabacal. They agreed. Whether it ever found its rightful owner, I may never know.

The Roman ruins are part of a museum but one could see some of the foundations of buildings whilst walking through the grounds towards Condeixa-a-Nova, my destination for the day. Most people say that the ruins are a must see, and are only 17% excavated, but already impressive with mosaics, baths, amphitheatre, a forum and more,

Another, final, 3kms, before I reached the hotel, 33km after I started, and at 17.45, the latest time I had arrived at a hotel on this trip. I was tired. The receptionist could see the disappointment on my face when she told me the restaurant was fully booked, so as an exception she agreed with the kitchen that they would bring food to my room. After all these years travelling for pleasure and not least business, it was the first time ever that I have used room service. Tomato soup, duck breast and followed up with cafe crème brûlée was a fine end to a tiring day.

Oh, and there was a bath to soak my tired feet and legs.

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