Friday, April 14, 2017

Day 8: It's a small world, after all!

Sept 24: The evening before, I purchased a large bottle of fruit juice at a local market. I drank some of it, then just before going to sleep, I put it in the freezer in the kitchen downstairs. Technically, I'd never been given permission to use the kitchen and was initially held back by a locked door, but Daniel from Brazil had been told that he could use it and knew where the key was hidden. He shared that information with me, although he wasn't sure if he was supposed to--but he figured there was no harm in letting me into the kitchen as long as I didn't burn the place down or something which I obviously had no intention of doing.

'Twas a thick and foggy morning!

In any case, I had the key to the kitchen which let me through the locked door, and I decided to use it by putting my bottle of fruit juice in the freezer. My plan was to freeze it during the night, then have a nice, cold drink the rest of the day as the block of fruit juice melted. By morning, the bottle hadn't frozen solid like I had hoped for, but it had turned into a cold, slushy mixture which I was later able to enjoy all morning. I really needed to do that more often! It was awesome!

My plan for the day was to reach Coimbra--a busy metropolis boating of 160,000 people and one of the largest towns along the trail. It was 29.5 kilometers away--not too close, not too far. Just right.... It would keep me busy without hurting me or rushing me. I lingered at the hotel until about 8:00 before hitting the trail.

The morning was thick with fog, and condensation even started forming on my pack. I couldn't remember a time with condensation was actively forming on my pack while I was hiking! But at least it wasn't hot.

About ten kilometers later, near Conimbriga, my map showed some ruins and by then, I was ready for my first break of the day. Until I noticed Mary climbing around the ruins. Drats--how did she get this far up the trail so early in the day? Fortunately, she was off trail and not looking in my direction and I kept on walking as if I hadn't seen her, and I kept walking for another seven non-stop kilometers hoping she wouldn't catch up. She was occupied at the ruins when I passed by and knowing her enthusiasm for ancient architecture, I had to assume she might be there for awhile. My bigger fear was that she'd take a taxi ahead to Coimbra, but hopefully if she did, I wouldn't run into her in such a large city. There were lots of lodging options and the chances of us ending up in the same one seemed slim.

The fog and clouds burned off by around 1:00 in the afternoon at which point temperatures soared again. The fog and clouds might have burned off, but the humidity was awful.

Late in the day, I caught up with a new pilgrim I'd never met before--another Canadian, this time named Lee. She was an older woman, 68 years old, and almost immediately I wanted to get away from her. Not because she was mean or unpleasant, but because she walked so terribly slow. God bless her for having the tenacity to get out and do this trail, but it was difficult for me to keep such a slow pace. I can adjust my pace a little faster or slower to match someone else, but the more I deviate from my natural pace, the more difficult it is for me to sustain that pace.

When I caught up with Lee, she was at a road junction, seemingly disoriented and unsure of which direction to go. I pointed up the hill where a yellow arrow marked the way and chatted for a bit. She was hard of hearing, and I often had to all but shout for her to hear me even though she was just a few steps away. She told me that she had done a 34 kilometer day a bit earlier and her feet were in great shape. I was a little stunned at this revelation. How did she cover that much distance at this speed? Did she hike into the dark? Did she not take any breaks at all? I was actually impressed by the revelation.

She then told me that she had stayed in Orelhudo at a new alburgue the night before, sharing a room with a Canadian woman named Mary.

"Have you met Mary?" she asked me.

"Yes," I nodded. "We've crossed paths. Do you know where she's heading today?"

It would be nice to have some sort of idea where I might cross paths with the woman. Lee didn't know where Mary's destination for the day was, but told me that she had hiked back on the trail about 4 kilometers to see some ruins in Coimbriga. That was where I spotted Mary earlier, but I didn't tell Lee about seeing her.

I found this news particularly interesting. Mary had definitely taken a bus or taxi ahead on the trail covering about 40 kilometers with the extra assist. Maybe she was trying to avoid me in Rabacal knowing that was my destination for the day? I thought it interesting that Mary would actually backtrack 4 kilometers on the trail just to check out the ruins, though. Why not take the taxi to Conimbriga and check out the ruins the evening before and stop somewhere nearby? Why overshoot that location if she wanted to see it so badly?

In any case, Lee could provide no further insight about Mary's plan for later that day.

"Mary is such a remarkable woman!" Lee gushed. "She's walked all over the place! I've never met anyone with so much hiking experience! She camps everywhere!"

I couldn't help but laugh at this assessment. I could have corrected her--I knew for a fact that Lee has met someone with more hiking experience than Mary--namely myself--but there was nothing to be gained by correcting her, and I enjoyed the irony of the statement. =) Anyhow, I had that giant ego I needed to work on. Mary told me, so it must be true. I shouldn't brag about my vast hiking experience, even though Mary had gotten mad at me for not telling her I had recently finished the John Muir Trail when we first met.

While walking with Lee, I noticed a snake in the gutter of the road. Snake! Yes! I whipped out my camera and tried getting photos. The snake tried to slitter away, but it appeared to be stuck in the gutter and just moved along the length of the gutter rather than leaving the gutter and going into the brush. I followed the snake for about 100 feet, taking photos the entire way. Lee was amazed that I found a snake and was so "brave" around it, keeping my cool and taking photos. This little thing? It was so helpless, it couldn't even find its way out of the gutter. Which was rather convenient for me. I had seen snakes previously on the trail, but I'd been unable to get a decent photo before they would disappear into the grasses and shrubs. Eventually I got a sufficient number of photos and I walk away from the gutter so the snake would calm down and I passed it by. I figured eventually it would get out of the gutter--just not when it was in a panic with two hikers a few steps away following it.

Lee had to stop for a rest near the monastery just outside of Coimbra, and when she went to sit down, she missed the seat and fell down. I helped her up and asked if she was okay, and she assured me that she was. We chatted for a bit, but eventually I left to get into Coimbra. I was anxious to see the big city!

My first stop was at a hostel where I had made a reservation. The smaller towns didn't seem crowded with tourists, but with Coimbra being such a large city, I was afraid it would attract a lot of tourists, and it was a Saturday. Although there were a lot of lodging options available, I was afraid they might fill up and I'd have the same trouble I had when I arrived in Lisbon. So, I made a reservation ahead of time and avoided the worry.

The hostel was located right off the trail, directly in the downtown core. They put me in a room with six beds and--so far--I'd been the only person to arrive. Later in the evening, I realized that I'd have the entire room to myself. Sweet! I wasn't the only person at the hostel, but they were all assigned to other rooms. None of the other guests--none that I met, at least--were pilgrims. Just me. I had no idea where Lee or Mary would be staying, but I hoped that if Mary were in town, she planned to take a day off to explore the architectural sites of the city and give me a day head start coming out of town.

After checking into the hostel, I walked over to Portugal dos Pequenitos, kind of a theme park designed primarily for kids but I was curious to see. I paid the entrance fee and entered a miniature version of Portugal. The buildings and structures looked elaborate and perfect down to the smallest detail, except that they were all kid sized. A kid walking through them would look like an adult walking through a full-sized version of the buildings.

The buildings were modeled after real structures. There were different "lands" that Portuguese explorers had discovered and conquered. I walked through, perhaps the only full-grown adult on the premises without any kids, fascinated by the little world. I could imagine loving a place like this if I were a kid. I kind of liked it even now as an adult. =)

I was reluctant to take a lot of photos, though. It seemed creepy for me to be taking photos with lots of kids in them when I had no kids of my own, so I tried to find more out-of-the-way locations that had nobody around. But I still wanted a subject in my photos because without people, it wasn't at all obvious that everything was miniaturized. So I'd set up my camera with a 10 second delay then dash into the photo myself. It would have been a lot easier getting these photos if I had someone around to help!

But I got a few photos, and the park wasn't especially large so I finished running through the whole place in maybe a half hour and left. The park would close soon anyhow.

By now, I was getting hungry for dinner and was taken by surprise when I passed a sign at a Burger King that read "walk thru." A walk thru?! I'd never heard of a walk thru before, and it sounded like something I should do. Although oddly enough, I'd had plenty of walking for the day. I really didn't want or need to do more. But it was a walk thru! Argh! How can I not use a walk thru?!

Somehow, I found the inner strength to step away from the walk thru. No, I wouldn't use it. I was strong. Instead, I walked into the Burger King, ordered, then sat down at a table. I was done walking for the day. =)

The restaurant had one of those self-help soda machines, which I used to refill my cup several times. The bottomless cup. In Europe. And there was ice! Sometimes, it feels good to have a little slice of America. =)

After dinner, I headed back to the hostel to get online for the rest of the night.

Too bad this fountain wasn't working!

Cheap decoration at a school that the trail passed by! =)

One of my rest breaks for the day.

By around 1:00, the fog and clouds finally started to burn off and temperatures soared!

Olive trees
I don't even have a guess what these bizarre scrotum-looking things are supposed to be. =)

The trail crosses the highway over the bridge in the distance.

And this is that bridge from the previous photo.

Snake in the gutter! Snake!!!!
This ancient aqueduct was gorgeous! But it's a shame they knocked part of it down for the highway on the left. At least they didn't knock it down for this road.

Coimbra--straight ahead!

The lobby of my hostel had these wonderful tiled displays!
Close-up of some of the tiles. As far as hostels go, this was one of the fancier ones I've been in! =)
View from the roof of the hostel, looking out over the Mondego River.
Entrance to Portugal dos Pequenitos.
It looks like a normal building....
Until you add a person for perspective! Everything is miniature! Or I've taken way too many vitamins and turned into a giant!
Looks like a normal building....
....if the buildings are inhabited by giants!

I was fascinated by this walk thru. I'd never heard of a walk thru before, and it sounds so totally up my alley! =)


Arlene Gregoire said...

EverReady here. Those are a variety of squash or pumpkin if you are from down under. Love your blogs!.

Jaxx said...

What? No pictures of the ruins? lol

ruthsplace said...

The green scrotum things are chokos also known as Chayote. They don't have much flavour, but are good in soups and stir-fries.