Learning to Walk 6


(48,429 STEPS – 37.02 KMS – 22.99 MILES)

The Optimistic Half

A yellow arrow painted on a utility pole pointing the way to Santiago de Compostela.
The familiar yellow.

Early this morning we headed back towards the Sanctuary of Fátima and the connection with the path to Tomar, and eventually the Camino de Santiago.

The first half of the walk was delightful, through rolling hills, olive groves, and alive with color everywhere we turned. The pine and eucalyptus forests were gone, so now we had broad views in every direction. Our good fortune continued in the first little village we came across; they had an open café! And obeying the unwritten rule, we stopped for coffee and pastries.

The Struggling Half

The aqueduct coming from the hills into Tomar.
17th Century Aqueduct that moved water to the Convento de Cristo in Tomar.

We didn’t have a lot of information about the walk the today, just bits and pieces gleaned from the internet. It was reported that:

  • There was a well-established route from Fátima to Tomar, around 28 kilometers.
  • There was one town along the way that was well-resourced.
  • There was a 4-kilometer section of the trail that was difficult.

The first bit of this trail data to be tested was the report of the difficult section. A little over halfway through the delightful walk, we were guided off the pavement, off the well-laid gravel roads, and winding paths onto a downwardly steep goat trail. This narrow trail was overgrown with brush, rocky, and steep – it was a real struggle, even for experienced hikers like us. Also, the heat and dehydration made it harder than it should have been. Fresh, potable water is not available here like it is on the Camino Frances in Spain. As we neared the end of The Difficult Section, we found hope in the possibility of the nearest town, now visible atop a looming hill. We straggled upwards towards Fungalvaz.

In the hilltop village we found an open café where I immediately chugged a 1.5-liter bottle of water, a Coca-Cola and devoured a Twix bar. This temporarily restored life and hope. More importantly, it gave me the energy to walk another block to the only open restaurant in town.

The Café Churrasqueira O Barril was closing at 3 pm, but in these final few minutes, was gracious enough to seat us at a table off the main room and offer us a bowl of fava beans. We were so hungry that a hot bowl of fava beans on this hot afternoon sounded perfect! Ten minutes later, a lady arrived at our table with two plates, both 18″ in width, 8″ in depth, and piled 4″ high with a stew. The stew contained fava beans, potatoes, carrots, onions, and pork ribs. Looking back after the trip, this may have been the best meal and most important meal of the 37-day trip.

The reports we had read mentioned an albergue in Fungalvaz, and we were tempted (because of our full bellies) to call it a day and spend the evening here, however, on the way out of town, we didn’t find the albergue. We plodded on along the poorly marked and poorly resourced route.

Not far from Fungalvaz, we noticed that we were well past the projected 28-kilometer total for the day and Tomar was nowhere in sight. I found a new reason to be unhappy with every kilometer we walked beyond 28 (my total for the day was 37 kms). The situations of the afternoon caused me to forget the joy of the morning. But you only have two options when you find yourself in this spot…quit or keep walking. We trudged on.

A few kilometers outside of Tomar, we came upon the Aqueduto do Convento de Cristo. It was a 17th century engineering marvel; the pictures here don’t do it justice. We learned a little too late that the top is open, and you can walk from one end to the other. Probably for the best, though, as there were no rails, and we were stumbling around tired, a straight-line on a high wire was not a good idea at that moment.

The Thankful End

The aqueduct boosted our energy a little, enough to make it town. Luckily, our lodging for the night was in the Old Town of Tomar very near to where we entered, no wasted energy there. We settled in, gathered our wits, changed shoes, and then went out in search of something to eat. We found a spot not far from away, which was good because we were exhausted. That was probably a tougher day overall than any one day on the Camino Frances.

As I ate, I thought of all the reasons to be thankful (even though my feet didn’t participate in the pep rally):

  1. We achieved our goal for the day.
  2. We had made it to the Camino de Santiago.
  3. The late morning nap in the little park beside the little pond in a little village in the middle of nowhere.
  4. The Fava Bean Stew of Fungalvaz.
  5. The beautifully different hike from Fatima to Tomar.
  6. Super Bock, one of the primary brewers in Portugal, brews a Stout that is widely available.
  7. A good place to rest tonight.
The familiar tile markers with the scallop shell and yellow arrow that point the way to Santiago de Compostela.
After dinner, we noticed this marker…finally, the road to Santiago!




Notes on the photos above:

  • Left – this was taken in the late morning right after a nice nap and just before the hellish afternoon.
  • Right – a picture of the Super Bock Stout. While not Super, it was pretty good.

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