Friday, March 31, 2017

Day 2: Mass Transit Woes

Sept 18: I woke up and hit the breakfast provided by the hostel at 8:00. I wanted to start even earlier than that, but they wouldn't provide breakfast until 8:00, so I planned my day around that. I was the first to arrive and took my share of cereal, melon slices, bread, ham, cheese and orange juice.
Waiting for the metro to take me to the train station.

After breakfast, I brushed my teeth and packed up my backpack. Today would be my first day with a full pack. From here on out, I'd be camping in the wild or stopping at hostels along the trail.

By 9:00, I was ready to go. I returned the keycard to the clerk in the lobby and walked to the metro station. I certainly had no plans to walk back to where I got off the trail! It would take me nearly all day to do that!

The train ticket I had didn't have enough money left on it to get me back to the trail so I messed around with one of the machines and added a few more euros to it, then jumped on the subway a couple of stops to where I'd catch the train.

At the train station, a Canadian approached me if I spoke English ("Fluently, but don't ask about my Portuguese!"--I told her) and asked about how to pay for a ride, and I explained the need for a card that you could load money on. She said she had tried to get one from the machines, but it wouldn't give it up.

"Yeah, I had that problem last night too. I didn't realize it was a problem with all their machines."

At the metro station, though, there was a booth with an actual person who could help riders and I suggested that she try that. I would have been happy to have given her my card except that I still needed it to catch the train to my stop. Once I got off at that stop, I wouldn't need my card anymore.

I didn't have long to wait for the next train in my direction, and I hopped on and zoomed off into the subsurbs of Lisbon. I was, however, a bit distressed when the train zoomed right by my stop at Sacauem and didn't stop until it reached Povoa about 13 kilometers further down the trail than where I had gotten off at! Argh! I hadn't realized that this train didn't stop at every stop along the tracks! At least Povoa was on my maps because the trail did go by this station so I knew where I was, but I couldn't miss 13 kilometers of the trail.

I got off the train and checked the schedule for the next train heading in the opposite direction.... then checked that it would actually stop at the stop I wanted. It did, but it wouldn't arrive for another 40 minutes. *sigh*

I had to wait here for 40 minutes to catch a train to go back to the train station the previous train had blown past without stopping.

This was hugely distressing for me because I had been expecting to hike about 20 miles today to reach Vilafranca de Xira, and at this point, it didn't look like I'd be on the trail and start hiking until close to 11:00. That's a very late start for a 20-mile day! It was more than a little annoying to be stuck at a train station that I'd have to walk by later in the day as well. Maybe I could just walk back 13 kilometers, then catch the train back to here? Would that speed things up? Those 13 km would be in the "wrong" direction, but at least I'd get it covered. But I had no way of knowing how long I'd have to wait at the other train station to get here--or that the train that stopped at the other station would even stop at this train station leaving me with the same problem later in the day.

I waited the 40 minutes for the next train into Lisbon, annoyed and frustrated. It was with some relief when it finally arrived and I boarded.

But after that, I was paranoid. What if I misunderstood the train schedule and it didn't stop at Sacauem? What if I accidentally got off at the wrong stop? Or missed my stop?

Fortunately, I had no further mishaps and arrived at my destination and continued my hike at about 11:00 in the morning. I needed to minimize my breaks if I hoped to cover 20 miles before sunset.

The trail turned inland a bit, moving away from the Tijo River and followed the much smaller Trancao River--and under the flight path for the Lisbon airport. It was a pleasant walk with a wild feel to it since the area along this creek was almost entirely undeveloped. Probably due, in part, to being under the flight path of the airport.

The trail curved away from the small creek after an hour or so of walking, eventually hitting some small, not-particular-noteworthy towns before curving back towards the Tijo River near Povoa. Povoa, of course, being where I was earlier after missing my train stop in Sacauem.

As the afternoon wore on, the temperatures soared. I hadn't really checked the weather forecast except to make sure that no rain was in it. Temperatures were listed in Celsius so I hadn't really concerned myself with that, but good grief, it was getting hot out. If it was under 90 degrees, I'd have been surprised. Not much shade to get out of the sun, either!

After passing Povoa, the trail then followed a lovely boardwalk alongside the river until reaching the medium-size town of Alverca do Ribatejo. The trail crossed the railroad tracks through the train station into the city, and at this point, I was ready for lunch but couldn't seem to find any restaurants or cafes that were open. Didn't people around here ever eat?

Eventually I found a small cafe, but they told me--I think (he only spoke Portuguese)--that they had no food to serve. What?! They had some fruit available, however, so I ordered two Cokes and a banana. The banana was served to me on a small plate with silverware. I was supposed to eat a banana with silverware? This seemed a little high class for such a down-in-the-dump, hole-in-the-wall that wouldn't serve me "real" food. The cafe wasn't air-conditioned and felt like a sauna. I finished my drinks and banana and hit the road pretty quickly after that. All-in-all, it was a huge disappointment. The banana really didn't fill me up and the Cokes weren't ice cold like I would have preferred on such a hot day. They weren't warm--not exactly--but I really wanted cold and the invention of ice seems to have not made it to this part of the world.

I continued on, and the day only got worse. The trail followed a bunch of busy roads for several kilometers--the most scary of which was along the N-10 highway which often had no shoulders at all to walk on. I dodged traffic, crossing the road back and forth to whatever side provided a small shoulder to walk on if possible, and walked in the gutters the rest of the time. That horrible part only lasted a couple of kilometers--the rest of the road walk was boring but considerably less dangerous to walk on.

Near the end of the day, the trail led up to a fairly new-looking bike path and followed alongside the Tijo River again--a pleasant area to walk. My favorite part were the murals painted on walls every five or so minutes along the trail. Each of the murals represented a scene that could have been taken directly from the bike path.

Near sunset, I arrived at my destination of Vilafranca de Xira, but I missed the turnoff for the hostel I planned to stay at. The first several days I wanted to stay in hostels because the trail was largely in very urban locations and I wouldn't have felt safe camping out. That was why I was so keen on reaching this particular destination. Lodging options were limited once I got out of Lisbon!

On my map, it looked like the main path of the Camino veered off the waterfront into town, but I followed the yellow arrows which never veered off from the water. By the time I realized I had missed my turn, I was in the downtown section of the city, but my hostel was it the southern part which I had already walked past.

My guide had a simple map of town, which I tried to follow to the hostel and after walking in a large circle--twice--I realized that I needed directions. I pulled out my phone--which didn't work without a wi-fi connection, but found a Telepizza which seemed to provide a free wi-fi connection. I went in to get online, and since I was already there, figured I'd order dinner at the same time. I decided to get lasagna. And two Pepsis, because one wasn't enough. And these Pepsis were cold! They were wonderful. I drank one of them immediately, then had them serve me the other one when my lasagna was ready. =)

While waiting for the food, I got online and pulled up Google Maps which showed my current location and I found the location of the hostel. Having already walked in circles twice, I was somewhat familiar with the area I needed to navigate and saw where I had gone wrong immediately.

About 15 minutes later, my lasagna was served and I enjoyed every bite of it. It was the first real meal I had had all day.

Done, I headed out to try finding my hostel again. At this point, it was getting fairly dark out, sunset having long since passed during my circling of the city and stopping for dinner. I found the hostel quickly and checked in the for the night. My feet were sore and I was exhausted.

They led me to a 4-bed room, and I took one of the beds near an outlet. The other three were empty and the woman said that nobody else was expected so I'd likely have the room all to myself for the night. Sweet! And breakfast was included, which would start at 6:00. I was thrilled that they'd serve breakfast so early--I wanted an early start to the day so an early breakfast would work out well for me. All for just 15 euros!

Having already eaten dinner, I never left the hostel the rest of the night. I took a shower immediately to wash off all the dirt, grime and sweat, then settled in with my laptop to catch up online and wrote in my journal before calling it a night and crashing.

Trancao River, and a pleasant walk under the flight path for the Lisbon airport. =)
My first stamp from the cathedral in Lisbon the day before.

Ruins along the trail.
A cheap way to discourage people from jumping the wall.

Now there's a bizarre-looking arrow! But it just tells us to go straight through a roundabout. =)

A drinking fountain! I could certainly drink water on a hot day like this!
Stray cats are everywhere! Everywhere, I tell you!

Back alongside the Tijo River.
I loved the long boardwalk along the river! Very pleasant (but hot)! =)

Those are some really fancy skid marks! Wow! =)
An air museum near Alverca do Ribatejo.
The trail runs through this train station in Alverca do Ribatejo to get over the tracks.
View from the top of the train station of Alverca do Ribatejo.

Lunch. Fit for.... something less than a king.... =)

Walking along the N-10 was the scariest part of the day since it was a busy road and often had no shoulders to walk on!

Lots of industry along this part of the trail!
Crossing over the tracks... again! Crossing over these tracks would happen often along this trek. *nodding*

These murals were set up every five or so minutes along the bike path--of images that could have been taken directly from the bike path. They were really nice!
I'm not going to post photos of all the murals--there were probably one or two dozen of them, at least!
It's a pilgrim on the trail! My first pilgrim sighting!!!! =)
Lizards hike the trail too. *nodding*
I didn't have anyone's hand to hold, but to hell with it! I'm walking on the path anyhow!

The trail doesn't cross this bridge over the railroad tracks, but I wanted to go up for the view anyhow! =)
View of the bike path from the top of that bridge.
It's a bullfighting ring!
And, of course, a mural of someone taking a photo of the bullfighting ring from their smartphone with the actual bullfighting ring immediately behind it. I just love this mural! =)
Vilafranca de Xira seems to have some flooding issues along the Tijo River....