Friday, April 7, 2017

Day 5: Slowing down and stopping to smell the flowers

Sept 21: I slept like a rock during the night. The exhaustion of two back-to-back 40-km days, lack of sleep the night before, and high temperatures caught up with me and I didn't wake up until 7:15--quite a bit later than I had preferred or expected! But I ate breakfast, brushed my teeth, packed up and was on the trail an hour later.

Sunrise over Golega

Today's hike would be much less frantic. I was planning a mere 30-kilometer day into Tomar. That was, I learned about my limit where "sore" started turning into "painful." Sore I could live with. Painful.... I didn't want painful anymore. Cutting out 10 kilometers also meant I could slow down and stop to smell the proverbial flowers. I could rest more often, stop for longer lunches, hang out and read my Kindle at pleasant locations. I decided that I'd take an hour long break about every ten kilometers or so, which meant I'd get two hour-long breaks today to kick off my shoes and relax.

Temperatures also seemed to break a bit. It was still hot out, but not quite as hot as the last few days. More importantly, much of the trail was shaded in thick groves of eucalyptus trees which made a significant difference.

All-in-all, the day's hike was pleasant and uneventful. Not much to report on that. At fountains, I still stopped to wet my shirt and my hat to beat the heat.

In Tomar, I veered off trail to the dramatic Templar castle perched high on a mountaintop. It was late in the day and about to close soon, so I decided to do a quick walk through there before heading to the hostel in town. I looked around a bit on the outside which was amazing but decided not to pay to go inside because it (1) it cost money and (2) I arrived at 5:10 and it was scheduled to close at 5:30. I didn't want to pay to go in if I was going to kicked out 20 minutes later. Maybe next time.... Maybe if I hadn't taken those hour-long breaks--but I really enjoyed those hour-long breaks. =)

From the castle, I headed towards the hostel, but a few minutes before arriving, while walking through the Praca da Republica, a woman walked up towards me and asked if I was a pilgrim. "Well, yes.... I am," I replied.

She introduced herself as... well, let's call her Mary, a Canadian who was also walking the Camino. We chatted for about 10 or 15 minutes and I learned that she had taken a zero day in town to explore the sights and the Templar castle, and that she was carrying camping gear to camp out on the trail at times. She too reported the mosquitoes as being awful, but at least she had a tent to escape the onslaught. After my sleepless night camping out, I intended to stay in hostels for at least the next week or two and hope the bugs went away later.

She asked if we could hike together tomorrow, and after seeing so few pilgrims on the trail, I was happy for company and agreed. We agreed to meet up at around 8:00 nearby. I continued on to the hostel for the night where I checked in and met some more pilgrims.

Where had all these pilgrims been before?! I was assigned a room that held 8 beds, but only 3 of them were already taken. Only one person was in the room at the time, a fellow from Hungary who was hiking the trail and doing big mile days. Mr. Hungarian had done a whopping 53 kilometers the day before! Which kind of put my 40 kilometer days into a new perspective. I was a wimp! =) But I think the 50 kilometer day broke him because he was suffering from blisters and did not repeat the feat today.

After selecting a bed and settling in, I headed over to take a shower. I rinsed my socks out in the shower and draped them over the bar that held the shower curtain, which I later forgot when I left. When I realized I had forgotten my socks, I went back to the shower an hour later, but they were gone. Probably thrown away. Drats. Down a pair of socks. Well, they were nasty socks, but still.... it's not like I carried a lot of spares.

Out in the common room I met another pilgrim, Daniel from Brazil. There were quite a few pilgrims I would later meet from Brazil. Among Brazilians, the Portuguese Camino was probably the most popular of Caminos which made sense given their common language and historical connections. Daniel was also doing big mile days pushing 40+ kilometers each day and was tending a blister when I met him. He was a little hard to understand speaking with a thick accent and broken (but passable) English (certainly much better than my Portuguese!), but he was friendly and interesting. I suggested slowing down to save his feet, but he had a flight out on a certain day and had to finish the trail by a certain date, so it was committed to these long days all the way to Santiago. It didn't sound like fun. We talked for about 10 minutes and assumed I'd never see him again since he was committed to those long days, but no.... I'd see a lot more of him later on.

Wall in the room of my hostel for the night--the rooster room!

Later in the evening, back in my room, the two mysterious people who had taken beds but I had not yet met walked in and I recognized them! They were two women from New Zealand that I had met a couple of days ago during breakfast at the hostel in Vilafranca de Xila and had planned to take a train ahead.

The two looked like a mother-daughter pair, although I never asked if that was actually their relationship or not. The younger of the two looked to be around 30 years old or so, a bit pudgy, and was in the bed next to mine. The older of the two looked to be around 50 or 60, thin as a rail, and she was in the next bed over behind the younger one.

The younger one, in front of the older one, started going on about her blisters, how difficult it was to walk, and that she's learned that it was the "journey" that counted most rather than actually walking the entire distance, so they had taken trains and taxis the last two days.

Behind her, the older woman was making angry faces, squinting her face with frustration and shaking her head vigorously in disagreement and threw her clenched fist in the air--but otherwise not making a sound.

The younger one, completely obvious to the antics going on behind her continued her speech about them being at peace with skipping parts of the trail. They were still stopping in all the trail towns and seeing the sights, and it was really the journey that matters, not the walk.

The mom, still behind her and out of view, mimed slitting her throat.

I nodded in sympathy and smirked a bit--I couldn't help the smirk because it was all I could do not to just bust up laughing--but the young woman regarded my head nodding as agreement that the "journey" was what really mattered while the older woman understood it to be sympathy towards her own frustration that she wanted to walk the trail, not take trains and taxis along its length.

Clearly, these two were on two entirely different hikes, even though they were hiking together. =)

I spent the rest of the evening catching up with my online messages. Life was good!

I decided I should be more snail-like today. Slow down and enjoy the journey! Only 30 kilometers for me today!

Olive trees. Quite a few olive trees around today! This one in the front is HUGE!

This dog was barking at me as I passed, and when I stopped to take its photo, its owner poked her head out to see what he was barking at and thought it was pretty funny that I had stopped to take a photo of her dog. =)
Lots and lots of shrines on the Camino!

If Portugal is known for two things, it's cork and tiles. I haven't really shown much of their tiles, but you'll see it everywhere!

Streets of Tomar
The Templar castle was amazing! And I only saw its exterior!

Mary caught me walking through this square. I'd be seeing a lot more of Mary starting tomorrow....

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