Monday, April 3, 2017

Day 3: I'm not alone!

Sept 19: I woke to hit the breakfast table at 6:00. Unfortunately, the girl manning the front desk hadn't set up it yet. Apparently, breakfast wasn't scheduled to start until 7:00. I could have sworn she told me 6:00. I even wrote 6:00 in my journal. She had been sleeping on the couch and apparently never left during the night. I'd have thought she could at least use an actual bed considering that the hostel had plenty of space available, but I guess she had to stay in the front in case someone needed something.

Municipal market in Vilafranca de Xira.

But the girl was nice and friendly and said it wouldn't be a problem for her to set up the breakfast early, but that coffee or tea would take some time to make. No problem, I told her--I didn't like either of them! Water would be fine, but she also had orange juice which I happily accepted. =)

During the few minutes it took her to pull food out from the kitchen, I found a Rubic's Cube laying around that was all mixed up and I couldn't help but pick it up and solve it. I do know how to solve a Rubic's Cube (without cheating!), although if it's been awhile (and it had been awhile) it sometimes takes me 10 or 15 minutes. After about 15 minutes, though, I was still stuck on the last layer. The pieces just didn't seem to fit correctly.

I finally gave up--which annoyed me to no end because I'd never failed at solving a Rubic's Cube--but I really needed to eat breakfast and get a move on. I planned for an epic 40+ km day (over 26 miles!) and didn't have time to puzzle over a Rubic's Cube. After giving up, the front clerk said she had a friend who wasn't able to solve it either and that he had called it "unsolvable." Which made me feel better. At least I wasn't the only person who failed at it.

Then it clicked. The cube was rigged! Someone had taken it apart then put it together again in such a way that it was truly unsolvable! I mentally slapped myself for not figuring that out earlier, but it made so much sense. It totally explained the perplexing patterns I had never seen before.

While eating breakfast, five other people came down and they were pilgrims! I wasn't the only pilgrim on the trail! Until today, I hadn't met a single other person who was hiking the trail. There aren't very many people who hike this trail all the way from Lisbon, and even fewer start this late in the hiking season.

Two of the hikers were from Norway, and the other three were from Australia and New Zealand. The Norwegians I likely wouldn't see again after today since they planned to do a relatively short 20-km day. I'd have preferred to go a bit slower, but my goal was to reach Porto by the end of the month to meet up with Amanda. I was planning a couple of particularly long days after arriving in Portugal a few days later than I had initially planned. The others I might see later, though, because they had already fallen behind schedule and planned to take a train ahead on the trail. They'd jump ahead of me--despite my plans for a 40-plus km day--but I might catch up again later.

Bullfighting statue in Vilafranca de Xira.

It was fun chatting with some like-minded pilgrims, though, and felt good to know that I wasn't the only person on this trail. =)

After breakfast, I brushed my teeth, packed my bag, and hit the trail.

The morning was already warm, and it was looking like another hot day--perhaps even hotter than yesterday. As temperatures soared, so did the water in my water bottles. It tasted absolutely disgusting. The water was fine when I filled up my bottles, but when it warmed up to ambient air temperatures near 90 degrees, it was nothing short of disgusting. I had to drink it anyhow, though, just to stay hydrated. I wanted to find a 5-pound bag of ice I could carry, but ice doesn't seem to be a "thing" in Europe. How do people live like this?!

I was mentally preparing myself for a 6 kilometer road walk on the busy N-3 into Azambuja. It was a section my guidebook generously called a "slog" relieved only by a "surprisingly good fish restaurante tucked behind a Repsol garage." Seeing as I didn't like fish, I didn't even have that going for me.

I followed the yellow arrows through the town of Vila Nova da Rainha--where the miserable road walk would begin, and was a bit surprised when they led me to the train station and over the railroad tracks--away from the N-3! Nothing in my guidebook suggested the trail went anywhere close to the train station, and certainly not to the other side of the railroad tracks. The trail had been rerouted! Joy! The reroute must have been very recent because I had the most recent edition of the guidebook available--published just this year (2016)--and neither the map nor the text had anything about this reroute.

The yellow arrows did lead me to a fence that was locked up tight, but after taking off my pack, I was able to squeeze around the side of it through a narrow gap and followed a dirt road alongside the train tracks. I can't say that it was particularly scenic, but at least it wasn't clogged full of noisy cars or through a busy city. Except for the occasional train that ran by every half hour or so, it was a peaceful place to walk. The trains just made it more interesting. =)

This fence blocked my path, but I was able to squeeze around that gap on the left side after taking off my pack.

The trail arrived in Azambuja, population 7,000. I stopped at a supermarket to resupply some food and get a cold drink and just take a rest. Good grief, it was hot out and my feet were sore. I couldn't stop long, however, because I was only at about the halfway point for the day.

Whenever I passed a drinking fountain or spigot, I would empty my water bottle and fill it up again with cool water, and dunked my hat and my shirt under the spigots to get them wet in an attempt to keep cool.

After another 10 kilometers, I was starting to feel the pain. My feet were not conditioned for hiking 20+ miles a day, and the hot weather was wearing on me. I stopped at a cafe in Reguengo for a much-needed break where I ordered cold Cokes and some snacks. It was my longest break for the day--I stopped for a whole half hour before pushing on.

Barely an hour later, passing through Porto de Muge, I had to stop again and set up at another cafe where I ordered more cold Cokes and snacks. I was really dragging now, worn, tired and feeling more than a little cranky. Why was it so freakishly hot out? I was nearing the end of my day's hike, though. My map showed almost no civilization for the next 12+ kilometers and I could probably find a place to camp somewhere fairly close. I hoped to make it about halfway through the "wilderness", as far from civilization as I could before setting up camp. Just another hour or two of hiking and I'd be done. I couldn't wait to be done for the day.

After this second (unplanned) half-hour rest, I filled up with water again--a lot of water since this time I needed enough to get me through the night and the next morning--and lumbered down the trail.

The last half of the day took me mostly through farmlands, and I'd never seen so many tomatoes in my life. Tomatoes as far as the eye could see at times. Must have been picking season too because large trucks loaded with them drove by regularly. Fresh tomatoes would be on my menu tonight! =)

I reached my destination just before sunset, my feet screaming in agony after I pushed them over 42 kilometers (26+ miles) and nearly 60,000 steps on this miserably hot day, but I had made it. First thing I did was take off my shoes and socks and just massaged my feet, telling them that they had done a good job and apologizing for working them so hard. No blisters had formed, but certainly not for trying! But wow, my feet were sore.

I set up camp on farmland. The plot of land where I set up looked like it was not being used this growing season, and as soon as the sun set, the temperatures dropped rapidly. Thank goodness! I wrote in my journal and quickly headed off to sleep. I never felt so tired....



It was going to be another scorching hot day!





The trail crosses over the train tracks on that bridge ahead, which is part of the train station in Castanheira. The two people ahead are the Norwegians I met--the first pilgrims I met! But this would be the last time I'd see them. I passed them at the train station and never saw them again after that.
View from the top of the train station. Looks like a nuclear power plant ahead! (At the very least, it's some sort of power plant.)
Art in the train station.


The trail led right up to the power plant, then looped around its perimeter.




Streets of Vila Nova da Rainha... and nearly the beginning of the dreaded "slog" along N-3.


By the time the trail reached this bridge at the train station, I realized the trail had been rerouted. Yeah! No 6-km "slog" on N-3! Hip hip! Hurray! Even the trail markers looked freshly painted.
View from the top of the bridge, looking down the other side. The trail would follow the dirt road next to the railroad as far as the eye could see.... which is kind of boring, but a huge improvement over walking along N-3!


Passing by another train station. The trail does not cross the tracks here, though. I'll just keep going straight on the dirt road.

I'm not sure why these things are agitating the water, but it gave me something different to look at. =)
I don't really know any Portuguese, but if I had to guess, I'd say that this sign says that this field has 18 cattle and 4 horses. Do they have to update this sign every time those numbers change?

Train display in Azambuja.
Grocery shopping! It felt so good getting into an air-conditioned building!
Another bullring, this time in Azambuja. I hadn't realized that bullfighting was such a big thing in Portugal. Spain, yes, but I had absolutely no idea Portugal was into it too. Learn something new every day! =)
Monument for volunteer firefighters

And once again, the trail crosses the railroad in Azambuja at the train station over this bridge.
View from the top of the bridge.


Tomatoes being harvested. There were tomatoes fields everywhere in this area!
The trail often followed alongside these dikes used to irrigate crops.
I guess these tomatoes didn't make the cut.

Tomatoes, tomatoes, everywhere tomatoes!
And a tractor pulling a large load of... tomatoes!

I need a rest. Do you need a rest? I needed a rest... and that table still has a bit of shade!
Snack break! =) This was also the first time I ordered one of those pastries that's on the table. I didn't know it when I took this photo, but it would become one of my favorite things to eat on the trail. Those things are delicious! =)
These poor tomatoes look like they must have fallen off a passing truck because they weren't anywhere near a tomato field. Poor things. Probably felt abandoned.
Streets of Valada
It's a bullfighting poster! I couldn't help but notice that the bullfighter has a patch over his eye. A bullfighting accident? Does the lack of depth perception make the bullfight more challenging? Hmm... things to ponder. =)

Several times throughout the day I was able to replace the hot, stale water in my water bottles with cool, fresh water from fountains and pumps. I'd also soak my hat and/or shirt in the water too. It was miserably hot all day long!
That's the Tijo River--the trail is still following alongside it! Much narrower and smaller than when it passes through Lisbon, though.

It looks like some sort of water treatment plant.

The Tijo River had these dikes built up alongside of it to prevent flooding of farms and towns along the river, and often times I could walk along the tops of them for a better view such as at this "onramp." =)
Most of the time, I had to use these narrow, steep staircases to get up or down the dikes.



Sunset is near... time to set up camp!
My home for the night. =)

3 comments:

Mary Mac said...

I'll bet that sign was advertising stalls to board cows and horses! We have people around here (L.A. County) who rent stalls for people with horses who have no barn for them.

Ryan said...

That sounds like an excellent theory, Mary Mac! =)

Karolina Śmiech said...

When I hiked this trail back in 2012 I did have to walk the 6 km along N-3... An awful experience! The scariest part was when the same black car rode three times past me, the driver slowing down each time, opening the door and saying something in Portugese. Looked a bit like he was trying to invite me to step in... I was sooo scared *shrug!*

Another person I met in the stretch along N-3 was a hike who hiked all the way from Austria to Santiago and them started a hike along the entire shoreline of the Iberian Peninsula. When I met him, he was 6 months into the hike, estimating 6 more till the end, and his money was almost finished.