Jordy Degenkobble wins Porto-Barcelos – Porto to Manhente, Tuesday 14 April – 86km, 915m climbing
Saw off the car [Jen, Maggie, Rosie] and plane [Billy] travellers at 7am; a final farewell to Alberto and Aurora and away through the morning traffic and suburbs of Porto. All seemed to be going perfectly on our planned 55km run up the inland Caminho to Barcelos, but when we ticked over the 55km we found ourselves 20km from our destination…at the sea! And we had followed the yellow arrows diligently and Jen’s overpriced 20E Caminho map she’d bought us at the ‘world’s greatest bookshop’ in Porto? We weren’t too upset though, as the mainly off-road path had been enjoyable, picturesque, and of easy-moderate difficulty. Rural landscapes, sounds and smells had dominated – it was silage making time in the predominantly dairy country [cows still in barns even in Spring], manure slurry was being spread, soiled tilled for summer crops, felling and harvesting of bluegums, and tractors outnumbered walking pilgrims on the roads. Cobbled roads that is. And in honour of German cyclist John Degenkolb’s win in Paris-Roubaix on the weekend, Jordy was renamed Jordy Degenkobble as he careened away from the chasing peloton…of two.
Eventually found our accommodation on the outskirts of Barcelos, at the delightful Quinta Mouta Christoi in the village of Manhente, with obliging host Sao Bento. A beautifully restored old farm out-building with the same rural views, sights and sounds we had experienced through the day. The young girls prepared a tapas evening meal – and Life was in the ‘Equilibrium’ that Sao Bento sought for his guests and himself.
The Roosters of Barcelos – Braga and Barcelos, Wednesday 15 April
Despite having no reason to wake early, Elly and I were up with the roosters. Appropriate since the emblem of Barcelos is a fine, proud cockerel. Drove into Braga and wandered the streets just as everything was closing for lunch. At least the lunch spots were still open, and we managed a customary bowl of soup – if only to access the WC. Downtown Braga was spacious and clean with a heavy dollop of upmarket shops…for a university town. But I guess, the tourists do come in their droves to part with money. Maybe we were a bit over cityscapes because after two hours and a mandatory cathedral stop, we were ready to leave. The architecture is great, covers all periods, and there are lots of attractions – but for some reason it didn’t grab us. Over to Barcelos for a reconnoitre before market day on the morrow. Managed a park in the city centre without being accosted by one of the many freelance touts. Quite a feat really! Checked out the church, and climbed the restored castle tower for a view over town, tarnished somewhat by the gathering mist and rain that made our subsequent dash to the supermarket a wet affair. Dinner back at the quinta was an Elly special of grilled pork, Turkish-style beans in the pod, and roast potatoes. Followed by games of pool, watching Porto’s upset of defeat Bayern Munich 3-1 in the Champions League, and internetting. We didn’t need the roosters to wake us up next morning because about 2am we heard music from what must have been a rock/pop concert in town!
Jordy Falls the Second Time / “Rain in Spain”- Barcelos to Tui, Thursday 16 April – 81km, 947m climbing
Oh, isn’t love a splendid thing! Jordy rode in buoyant spirits today, having planned his fleeting weekend visit to Guarda in the east of central Portugal, home of his new ‘friend’. It meant missing the final cycling day into Santiago, but this was never a ‘pilgrimage’ for him – more a way of seeing a few soccer matches!
Farewelled our brilliant home at Quinta Mouta Christoi, and rode quickly into the famous weekly Barcelos market to meet the others for a couple of hours wandering. Indeed the town square had transformed from the previous afternoon and was densely packed with stalls of all produce and paraphernalia. You could buy just about anything: home furnishings, garden tools, local arts and crafts, clothes and cloth, all your food requirements, live poultry and pet birds, plants…even composting crickets [a new one on me.] Naturally I headed to the cakes stalls, Elly to the souvenir sales, and Jordy to the soccer shirts. All purchased to their satisfaction. Indeed all stallholders and patrons were in a good mood; the market has been going for a couple of hundred years and a local told us that over generations, families buy from the same family’s passed-down stall!
Followed the Caminho to Ponte de Lima, a lovely mix of brook-side and forest trail, and village streets. Unfortunately we did not have time to closely survey the attractive river-town – a quick soup and toastie and we were off, but this time we followed the main road towards Tui. There was a 5km slow climb to begin, so we had plenty of time to watch the entertainment; the preponderance of granite in the hills led to a heap of small roadside stonemasons crafting sculptures and ornaments. OH& S wasn’t a priority, so the life-expectancy of a Ponte de Lima artisan would be quite low!
It got a bit cold and drizzly late in the afternoon, so we were pleased the crew had snaffled a 6-bed room in an albergia [pilgrim dormitory] with a hot shower and lashings of Spanish fare next door. And I can say that all 5 of the others snore.
“Life is a journey; travelling lives it twice” [Anon peregrine graffiti on a wall near Santiago] – Tui to Santiago de Compostela, Friday 17 April – 117km, 883m climbing
After some trepidation that the distance and climbing might be beyond her today, Elly reached Santiago with a beaming smile – it had been a grand day, and we hadn’t missed Jordy at all really! Again a pleasant trail, and occasionally we took to the main road to speed things along. Had a magnificent breakfast of banana on hot fruit loaf straight from the bakery, a couple of coffees to keep the energy up, I’d dodged a chicken trying to cross the road, and we even chatted to each other on occasions!
After eight hours of cycling and absolutely soaking wet we arrived in Santiago! We left Tui just before 9am with the threat of rain – it held off until 6pm, when we still had 5 km to go – then we got bucketed on. At the lowest points in the streets, so much water had entered the stormwater system, the small manholes were being blown off, and fountains were erupting around us. It was some welcome to town…maybe even beat Jen and Maggie’s yahooing when we finally rode into the cathedral square! We immediately registered at the pilgrims’ office and got our final passport stamp and certificate of completion, ticking ‘spiritual’ as our reason rather than ‘religious’ or ‘tourist’.
In high spirits at Antonio’s airbnb apartment Rosie had prepared a stunning risotto which went down well after a hot shower. Even better was rolling into the best bed, with the best pillow, on the entire trip to date.
Total km ridden = 661
Total m climbing = 7661