CAMINHO PORTUGUÊS – Alvaiázere
(32,730 STEPS – 24.41 KMS – 15.16 MILES)
“I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of walking, that is, of taking walks – who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering…”– Henry David Thoreau, Walking
The Walk Today
Yesterday’s Tuna Turnover surprise, though not a proper breakfast, was at least a breakfast. There was coffee, the most critical component. This morning there was nothing. The little bar/café in Calvinos was closed when we left in the early hours. And the Camino followed the ridgeline through the forests and all the bar/cafés were in the valley below. We crossed the highway in Tojal and spotted a restaurant a quarter of a mile down the road, Google said it was open, so we went off-track. Arriving, we found the place closed, but there was a gas station across the street. Our breakfast today, near noon, came in the form of Coca-Cola products and candy bars.
Sorry for that, I get a little whiny when I don’t have coffee…
The hike itself was another good one – the first part through the pine and eucalyptus forests, and after Tojal, more rolling hills with olive and orange trees. Another 7 kilometers beyond our improvised breakfast, we straggled into Cortiça. There wasn’t much here but there was an albergue/hostel (a converted farm) that had a closed restaurant but a very sympathetic host. She made coffee for us and allowed us to enjoy it on the shady terrace. Note here that it was 1:00 pm before my first coffee.
Sorry again, I’ll move on now.
The Hospitality of Alvaiázere
We arrived in our home for the day, Alvaiázere, beaten down by the sun and hungry. This town was larger and better resourced than our stop yesterday. The first thing we saw coming in was a grocery store. We made a policy at that moment – when a needed resource is available, take advantage of it, don’t hope for something down the road. We went in and shopped on empty stomachs.
Good human behavior has a way of rejuvenating my soul. We found it at the Albergaria Pinheiros. We climbed the stairs, and the door was locked, not a good sign. There was a literal sign that said to ring the bell, I did. Five seconds later, a man poked his head out of a second-floor window, he was on the phone and said he would be right with us. 30-seconds later he appeared through a door at the street level and hustled up the stairs to let us in. The sooner, the better. We needed rest and restoration after the long day in the sun. What happened next was anything but sooner, but it was certainly better.
Carlos, the owner/operator, asked me to sit at the table as he checked me in. Once seated, he offered me a glass of Port wine. He claimed it was the best in the world and he was happy to share it with me. Next, he took my passport and logged the information in a spiral notebook. Then he asked for my credencial. Most (99.9%) of the establishments on the Camino use a rubber stamp to mark the pilgrim’s credencial. Most of the time it is an impersonal and mechanical act. Not so with Carlos, using matches, wax, and a heart of hospitality, he created a work of art on my credencial. The shell of St. James, a Templar Cross, a ribbon, and a skeleton key all affixed with wax. He then dropped a big blob of wax in the middle of it all and used an engraved brass stamp to make the Albergaria Pinheiros mark. His final act – dribbling bits of yellow wax along the paper from the beginning to end – “symbolizing the steps to Santiago,” he said. The whole process took almost ten minutes. Doug waited patiently behind, as did the other pilgrims that had arrived. Carlos repeated the process for each with the same patience and care as he did for me. And no one complained about the slow check-in.
During my pilgrimage walks, I used a modified practice of Examen. One of the introspective questions in my modified version is, “When did you receive love?” Each time I did the Examen practice on my Camino Português, I came back to this afternoon and Carlos’ act of love. And it’s not really just the singular act for me, but that he does it for every person that walks through his door. True hospitality, which is kindness to strangers.