Learning to Walk 14

CAMINHO PORTUGUÊS – Albergaria A Velha

(26,639 STEPS – 19.93 KMS – 12.38 MILES)

“Your true destination is the here and now, because only this moment and in this place is life possible.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh

The Weird Camino (Caminho)

Doug and I parted ways this morning. Not because we were tired of each other, like the old farmer of Poço thought, but because Doug had bigger horizons to walk toward. He would rest for a few days, then work his way across Spain to Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to begin the Camino Francés.

As I walked alone out of Agueda, and through the industrial areas that followed and into the beautiful countryside, I thought about how weird this journey has been. What made this one different?

  • It was non-linear. My two previous pilgrimages were from Point A (Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port) to Point B (Santiago de Compostela). This one was anything but linear, and by design. I didn’t foresee how challenging that would be.
  • There are very few pilgrims on the Portugues Route (before Porto), solitude is good, but so is fellowship.
  • I had to be in Porto on April 17th to join up with a friend. Having a set date in the middle was different. It caused me to plan more than I’m accustomed to.
  • Different country, different language. I’m not fluent in Spanish but can get by. Also, I can hear conversations and understand, not so in Portugal. Fortunately, many people speak Spanish and/or English and were gracious in communicating.

Weird is not the right word, this Camino has been different. And different doesn’t mean bad. I have found Portugal to be a beautiful country filled with very kind and good people!

An overgrown path ascends to a highway. An old hand rail borders the path on the right.
The unlikely path leading up to the unmarked Way to Santiago.

Portuguese Hospitality

In the beautiful countryside, there was an old church and cemetery at the top of a hill, I chose to leave the path to go up and check it out. It was worth the side trip. From there, I had to go back down the hill and connect with the Camino.

My App said the markers going into Lamas do Vouga point a way through town that dead ends at a washed-out bridge. Instead, it said to take the long N1 highway bridge.

I was hyper-aware as I entered the village, but there were no other signs and nothing to indicate the long N1 bridge was the way to go. Nothing. So, I assumed the bridge had been repaired and the historical route was the way through town. As I walked, I crossed under the long bridge that spanned the river valley.

I passed under the bridge, walking gleefully in the here and now. 100 meters past the bridge, I noticed movement in my peripheral vision to the left. There was lady running up the hill towards me, flagging me down. I walked toward her to shorten her climb, she was huffing and puffing when we met. She asked if I was going to Santiago, and that was all I understood. I stopped her.

“Você fala inglês?” (Do you speak English? A part of my small arsenal)


“Você fala espanhol?” (Do you speak Spanish? Another part of my small arsenal)


We were at an impasse. She understood that I didn’t have the gift of language, but still she had an important message to convey. She took me by the arm and pointed me in the direction I was headed and spoke slowly in Portugues. I understood that she was telling me the bridge was washed out and that I couldn’t go that way. Then pulling my arm, she turned me back towards the direction I had come from. She slowly explained that there was a small trail underneath the long bridge that led to the top. From the top, I would walk across the long bridge and reconnect with the normal route.

I walked back as she directed. When I arrived under the bridge, I saw the obscure path. I turned back towards her, 100 meters away, still standing in the road, making sure I found the way. I gave her a wave, she waved back, and went back down the hill. A modern-day Christ figure!

The remainder of the walk to Albergaria A Velha was beautiful but uneventful. The skies became overcast, and a cool breeze was blowing when I arrived in town at 1:30 pm. It was a little cooler than I preferred.

I arrived a half hour before the Albergue de Peregrinos Rainha D Teresa opened, so I had 30 minutes to kill. Not far from the albergue was a covered plaza that I could best describe as a Pilgrim Food Court, it was a perfect spot for a pizza-beer lunch!

After lunch, I walked back to the albergue to check-in. It was a big, old two-story building (3 if you count the basement). It had a perfect layout – large common areas downstairs with a dining room, a sitting area, and a large kitchen. The sleeping areas were upstairs, one private room, and three larger rooms with 6 bunk beds each. The bathrooms/showers were upstairs as well.

What set this place apart was not the great facility, but the gracious host! She was a pilgrim herself and had the gift of hospitality. It is a very welcoming place because of her.

There were only 3 pilgrims staying here today and we were each assigned our own bunkroom, a private room for the cost of a bed!

The only downside for me – the old building had tall ceilings, which made it colder than normal (remember, I’m from Texas and have evolved to thrive in temperatures between 85° and 97° Fahrenheit). I had only a thin sleeping bag liner and the bed had a small blanket. I worried that it would be a long, cold night.

At the suggestion of my host, I went to the town’s library and then stopped for dinner on the way home. When I arrived back at my bunkroom, there was a space heater placed near my bed!

A normal act of hospitality in Portugal. Christ plays in ten thousand places

An orange tree laden with fruit overhangs a sidewalk.
Even the orange trees in Portugal are hospitable; laden with fruit, they hang over the path dropping gifts for the traveler!




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