The Camino Portugues is arguably the most beautiful of the ancient walking trails that lead to Santiago de Compostela. Although the Camino Finisterre beside the Atlantic coast is also hard to beat! In spring, pathways are adorned with colourful wildflowers, fresh green leaves sprout on ageing vines and the sounds of newborn animals greet passers-by. Cool mornings melt into pleasant warm afternoons and long twilights.
In contrast autumn weather is generally more stable with less chance of rain. But in Galicia rain can fall in any season so it is always wise to pack wet weather gear, especially water proof boots! This year summer temperatures stretched (uncharacteristically) into late September. We soon learn the benefit of making an early start so as to reach our destination in time for an afternoon siesta! Sampling a selection of tapas with a glass of cold Vino Verde or Sangria in the early
evening becomes almost mandatory!
Apart from a few short stretches the terrain we cover is relatively flat or undulating. Steep hills and unattractive industrial zones are excluded from our route. But walking on cobblestones and along river beds can be a challenge in certain areas, even for experienced walkers. Good walking boots and poles lessen the need for blister bandaids, although the sale of such plasters is no doubt a considerable boost to the local economy!
Each day we break our journey mid-morning and sometimes again at lunch, with a welcome stop at a family run cafe. Having been this way many times I am warmly greeted by the locals. One kindly shop owner whose precarious livelihood depends on passing trade refused to let me pay for my coffee. She explained how grateful she was that I continued to bring people to her cafe. Under pressure, she finally agreed that I could pay when I return again next year!
The friendliness and goodwill shown by the Galician people is evident too amongst foreigners who travel on these trails. Having mislaid my day backpack one evening in a small town, none of us were surprised that it was recovered next morning completely intact having been looked after overnight by a caring cafe owner. Although the challenge of walking to Santiago is our reason for being here, it is the people and the experiences that we share along ‘The Way’ that will remain in our memories long term. In terms of walking – we all achieved our very varied ‘personal bests’ and have certificates to prove it! And from all accounts many of us are keen to maintain the level of fitness achieved and to continue to benefit from the joys of walking now that we have gone our separate ways.