Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Day 31: The Train Ride to Porto

Oct 17: Amanda woke up at an ungodly hour of the morning and sneaked out in the pouring rain. The rain was terrible—I could hear it through the window of our hotel room. Her destination: the train station. She was going home. She would take the train to Madrid, then fly to Philadelphia, then continue on to Seattle. By the end of the day, she’d be home.

Back at the train station in Vigo. Seems like just a week ago I walked past here! ;o)
I woke at an ungodly hour myself—at around 4:30 in the morning just as Amanda was leaving the hotel. I had my own train to catch. I’d head back to Portugal—Porto, to be exact—and walk to Santiago. Again. This time, I would follow the Central Route instead of the Coastal Route, and then I would take the Spiritual Variant which I had not done the first time through. In all, I’d cover about 175 miles or so back to Santiago. About 25 of those miles would overlap what I had already done—the rest would be entirely new terrain for me.

I left the hotel by about 5:00, and it was still pouring rain outside. I pulled out my umbrella and marched off to the train station, hoping I might get there in time to see Amanda off. I arrived just as her train was pulling out of the station, and waved goodbye to the train just in case Amanda looked out a window and saw me. (She didn’t.) I knew it was her train because that was the only train scheduled to depart at that time in the morning. The next train scheduled to leave would be the train I would take, and it wouldn’t leave until nearly an hour later.

I was feeling a little sad. Amanda had left, and the dark and rainy skies seemed to personify how I was feeling. I wasn’t very excited about taking the train either. I wanted to walk—not ride around in trains all day.

At the appointed time, I boarded my train, which whisked me off to Vigo—back to the train station Amanda and I had walked by just one week earlier. The train ride was uneventful and I couldn’t admire the passing scenery since it was still dark out.

I had about a half hour to kill in Vigo before my next train would depart, so I walked outside and took photos of the train station lit up with the darkened background. It looked a lot more cheerful and happy lit up like that in the darkness than the plaid colors I saw during the day a week earlier, then I headed back into the train station and tried to stay warm. It was cold out!

The next train I boarded looked considerably more run-down and falling apart than the comparatively sleek machine that brought me here. The trains in Portugal, as a rule, seemed more rundown overall. This train might have been in Spain now, but nobody would have mistaken it for a Spanish train. It had Portuguese written all over it.

By the time I boarded, the sky was finally showing noticeable signs of getting brighter. Dawn was upon us!

Hanging out at the Vigo train station
The train ride to Porto lasted a few hours and was generally pleasant. We passed through towns I knew I’d be walking through later such as Tui and Valenca. When we crossed back over the Portugal border, several people on the train seemed to get excited pointing to the river below and telling each other that was it. We were in Portugal now. Seemed like just a week or two ago I was there, and now I was back. =)

I expected the train to follow the central route of the Camino, more-or-less, back to Porto since it was the straightest, shortest path to Porto, so it came as surprise when I saw the Atlantic Ocean out my window. I had walked the entire length of this coast—we were near the Coastal Route! I tried to pick out landmarks I might recognize, but most of it looked the same and I didn’t get a good idea about where on the coast we were until the train entered Viana do Castelo. I remembered walking through that own, over the very same bridge the train used to take us over the Lima River.

The train then turned inland again and eventually dumped me out in Porto. I was not done yet, however, for the train stopped at a train station at the outskirts of town and I would need to take yet another train to get into the downtown core. That train was included with the price of my previous train ticket, though, so I simply boarded the next train without paying for another ticket.

This train dropped me off at the Sao Bento train station at about 11:00 in the morning—my final destination and just a couple of blocks away from the Cathedral in Porto where I planned to officially start this walk. But that would wait until tomorrow.

Right now, it was still sprinkling outside and not particularly conducive towards hiking. Knowing that the weather forecast for today was lousy, I decided to make it a “zero day” and not actually start hiking the trail. I knew I’d be tired from waking up so early and the weather would be miserable. I’d just sit back and relax for the rest of the day in Porto. It’s a nice city to relax in.

The train to Porto.
I did have to kill some time, however. The check-in time for the hostel was 3:00—four hours away. I stopped to eat lunch and lingered there for a couple of hours reading a book. Then I headed over to the cathedral where I bought a new credencial since my old one was now full and I was essentially starting an entirely new walk. I also paid the small fee to explore the cloisters at the cathedral to kill more time.

Eventually, I wandered over to the hostel about an hour before check-in time in the hope they’d let me in even though I was early and happily, they did!

I got online and killed more time and hoped the rain outside would let up later in the afternoon. I chatted with a few of the other people at the hostel, but none of them were pilgrims and I didn’t feel like I really had anything in common with them. Our conversations were stilted and awkward, and I eventually gave up on that.

The rain never stopped, but by 6:00 I went out again to scavenge for dinner and got one of those wonderful pastries I’d been missing ever since I walked into Spain.

But I was still feeling a bit sad, kind of wishing I had just gone home instead. I knew I’d get over the feeling, but hopefully I’d get back into the swing of things when I hit the trail again tomorrow. To Santiago!

Back in the Porto train station.

Why are there so many tourists around? Isn't this supposed to be the off season?!
Checking out the cloisters at the Porto cathedral.

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