T-4 To The Camino Portuguese
Four sleeps to go. Four nights before I (hopefully) get on a plane and sail through the sky to Portugal for my 15 day adventure on feet. Wheeeeee!
It’s strange and familiar all at the same time.
Familiar for the routine that I know is to come. Walk, eat, sleep and repeat. Life distilled down to its simplest elements, strangers turned friends by a common goal and your body pushed to acknowledge both its hidden strengths and obvious weaknesses. I don’t have same the fears as I did last time mostly because I’ve already done it, but that’s also made me a smidgen lazy. I haven’t trained as hard and am not nearly as fit. In fact I might be a little too chillaxed about the whole thing?
Time will tell…
Strange too because it’s been a while. Since I’ve done this, since I’ve blogged and told stories, since I’ve shared my life online. It’s no secret to my readers that I’ve struggled with social media these past months. I want to record this trip for myself (and for those who dream of doing the same), but I’ve really come to dislike the shallowness and grind of the online world. I find it draining and overwhelming. Maybe there’s a happy middle-ground somewhere?
Again, time will tell…
Then there’s the new and the hope. The fact that this time I’m walking in a new country with folks I’ve planned with beforehand. The hope that I’ll actually be able to fly out of France next Thursday (there’s a few disruptions going on here at the moment, as you may know) and the anticipation of what this Camino will be like. I know it won’t be the same as last time, I know that. Yet I really hope some parts will be, and I also know I must open my heart to all the new things it can be, because one thing is certain and constant:
The Camino gives you what you need, not what you you want.
So here we are at T-4. My bags are ready, my flight is booked, many of our Albergues are already booked (it’s Easter Week, so it’s likely to be busy) so I thought I’d take this opportunity to test my toes in the waters of blogging again and tell you a bit about what we’re going to do.
Here we go…
The Portuguese Way Is More Than One
First things first, I thought I’d talk a bit about the path itself.
Those of you who’ve been following the blog a while already know that the Camino is not just one path, but literally any pilgrimage that leads to Santiago de Compostela in NW Spain where the remains of the Apostle St. James the Great are said to be buried. There are hundreds of paths, thousands of them even, and last year I walked the most popular (and well-known) route, a ~780km trail that starts in Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port in France, commonly known as the “French Way”. It was IMO the perfect path for a first Camino.
This year is going to be quite different.
We’ll be starting in Portugal and walking south to north, but in addition to that we’re also combining several different trails. This is because the Portuguese Way is not just one path, but a multitude of them. You can walk the entire thing along the coastline, or do the whole thing inland; you can start at the bottom or half-way up; you can crisscross between coast and trail or you can veer waaay inland; or you can do a mix of them all.
Each of these paths has their own name too; the “Central route” (goes through the middle), the “Coastal Route” (as you’d expect), the Spiritual Variant” (a new little squiggly bit in the north), the “Fatima Route” (an alternate inland stretch from Lisbon), the “Camino Nascente“ (a less-travelled route starting in Tavira) and so on and so forth.
There really are a TON of options!!!
The majority of pilgrims chose either the coastal or central route (the two most popular trails) walking from either Lisbon (longer route, ~30-35 days) or Porto (shorter route ~12-15 days). The other routes see far less foot traffic.
It’s A Popular Route Too
Although the French Way is the most well-known Camino, the Portuguese Way doesn’t track far behind.
In fact it’s the 2nd most popular route to Santiago de Compostela and the numbers are not insignificant. In 2022 (which was a Holy Year mind you) 438,000 pilgrims requested their Compostela (completion certificate) in Santiago of which 123,802 arrived via the Portuguese Way. Of the latter 93,193 walked a central route while only 30,609 walked along the coast.
That’s a lot of people!
Much like all the Camino routes it has a strong season to it too, with summer being the most traveled and winter the least (in fact many Albergues even shut down over winter).
Personally I think summer is far too hot for any kind of hiking in either Spain or Portugal (last year both countries saw many 40°C/104°F days), but I seem to be in the minority according to the statistics. Either that, or normal folk are just way more heat-tolerant than this pasty white Dane.
The Route We Chose
For our Portuguese adventure the girls and I (we have yet to name our pack) have decided to walk from Porto, and our plan is to do a mix of coastal and inland routes which should give us a nice blend of different kinds of landscapes and towns.
We’ll start by the coast for a few days until we hit Labruge, then we’ll steer off towards the inland route and follow that from Rates to Ponteveda where we’ll swing off to a little side-trip on the “Spiritual Variant” before we walk into Santiago de Compostela.
The entire route is around 280km. We start on the 1st April and expect the whole thing to take ~15 days. Let’s hope the weather holds!
Honestly it’s a way easier route than the Camino I did last year, much shorter with far less up and down (no huge mountain ranges to cross here), and given its popularity we don’t have to worry about roughing it either. There will be plenty of other pilgrims, lots of inexpensive Albergues to stay at along the way and even backpack forwarding services if we need them (such a luxury, really).
Oh, and food….there will be PLENTY of places to have second and third breakfast. Thank goodness! TBH that might be the part of the Camino I’m looking forward to the most.
What’s In My Backpack
The nice thing about doing a trip like this the second time around is that I didn’t really have to think too much about what I’m bringing with me because I already did all that work and research last year!
Basically I’m doing the exact same pack as I did for the Camino Frances except for a few small changes.
For my feet I’m sticking with my well-proven combo; my Merrell running shoes with Injinji toe liner socks and Darn Tough main socks, together with Gehwol foot cream and thin stretch-tape for foot care. I’ve got snazzy new lime green shoes this year to replace the turquoise and pink ones I wore last year (which I’m still using for training by the way, over +900km later after I bought them), but it’s basically the exact same set-up. Plus I’m packing the same light-weight pair of Decathlon sandals that I used last year for post-hike relaxing time.
For keeping clean I’ve ditched the useless wilderness wash and am just bringing two soaps; one shampoo soap and one body soap (that I’ll use for both body and clothes) together with sample-sized portions of facecream/toothpaste etc. in little cosmetic sample containers. My body-sized Packtowl is of course coming along this year as well.
For clothing I’m sticking with the “wear one, pack one” formula, so I have my “day” outfit that I’ll be wearing everyday (hiking pants/T-shirt/bra/underwear/socks) plus I’ve got one “night” outfit which I’ll change into after I’ve showered post-hike (long underwear/2nd T-shirt/bra/underwear/socks). In addition I’m bringing two layers (wind breaker + puff jacket), my Altus poncho (for rain), and only two extras (one extra pair underpants + one extra pair socks).
For my electronics I’m going iPhone only again (no extra camera), but I’ve finally caved and bought a power bank. We’ll see if it’s worth the extra weight….
Oh, and of COURSE I’m bringing Olaf (my Euroschirm HandsFree hiking umbrella). He’s as excited about this second Camino as I am, and keen to present himself to a new fanbase.
All-in-all fully loaded my backpack weighs 6.6 kg (14.5 lbs). I may try and shave a bit more off it before I go, but I’ll probably end up very close to there for the trip.
So Here We Go
Like a bird starting migration I’ll be spreading my wings and flying south in just a few days.
It feels good, it feels natural and there’s a deep part of me that longs for both the challenges and the joys that are to come. This is an “easy” route as Caminos go, but it’s still going to be two weeks of hard walking, so it’ll be much more than just your average hike. And I know me, I know what I’m like. I will love it and hate it, I will laugh and I will cry, and I will probably do something silly to myself, but I will come out of it different once again. Renewed like a sculpture molded in clay (well, a middle-aged sculpture), re-focused and re-energized for what comes next. That’s the plan anyway.
Time will tell….
POST POST NOTE/ My dear readers, thanks for bearing with me as I figure out my next steps blogging-wise and elsewhere. I probably won’t blog while I’m on the Camino as it was quite a lot to handle last year, but I plan to post on Instagram (link) and will definitely have something to say when I get back. See you soon, hope you all are well.SPONSORED LINK:
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We LOooVE Comments, So Please Do
Pauline A Conn says
I’ve missed you and your blogs. I’ve followed you for years now, from the Beast years! I look forward to what you eventually share here and understand the distraction of blogging while traveling. My partner has been housebound now for 3 1/2 years; armchair travel is it for us, for now. I’ll see you on Instagram. Happy Trails!
Thank you for being a loyal reader. Honestly my readers are the reason I blog, and it means so much to me that people still follow me all these years later. Thank you for that.
Matthew Zipeto says
Like the last comment I saw, my wife and I have been following you since the Beast days. Glad to see you’re still living a rich life!
I did want you to know that we will be walking the Camino Frances in September this year. It was a culmination of many influences, your example being one of them. So, thanks for that!
Good luck on the Portuguese way. Buen Camino!
YEAHHHHHHH!!! I am so excited for you! I have another good blogger friend who is doing the Camino Frances this year (in Spring) and I’m just so happy. Buen Camino to you! I know it’s a ways off still, but I can’t wait for you.
This should be fun! I was in Portugal last fall and loved it. Although the furthest north we got was Porto. It will be fun to see all your pictures!
In a way I’m sad I’m missing the southern part of Portugal. My initial plan was to hike from Lisbon (which I’ve heard is amazing), but for various reasons that just didn’t pan out. Still I’m excited to discover this new-to-me country. Can’t wait.
Jeff T. says
So good to hear from you again. I can understand the grind of the work to produce a weekly blog. Also, how the depth of feeling is so much one-way.
I have missed your weekly posts. I had come to rely on them for my Sunday hit of reality in France and in your life. At the same time, I’m aware that friendship is a two-way street and all too often I did not hold up my end of the conversation. If we were parked near each other in a RV Park we might converse, have a genuine two-way conversation, but, alas, that is not to be.
Speaking on behalf of all your faithful blog followers, please write when you can and go out there and enjoy life.
Thank you for your lovely comment. Means a lot.
Jim Streeter says
Wishing you well on the journey enjoyed your blog last trip. Can’t wait to read about this one
Charlotte Bevard says
You are an inspiration and influencer! There are many of us that follow you, Paul and the paws from long ago in the US to your European adventures. Happy trails and thank you for including us in your journeys. Enjoy, safe travels!
Thank you! Truly appreciate your kind words.
Yay! Such beautiful pictures Nina including the one of your smiling face. Buen camino amiga!
Miss your lovely blogs(I’m another fan from Beast days) with the BEST photographs in blog land.
Do understand your misgivings about blogging, though. Thanks for this update and hope you have a fab experience.
GLORIA EMORY says
I too have been reading your blog since the Beast days. And have missed you but can understand the reasoning…
Wow another CAMINO—wonderful! I have almost decided on a solo tour in Portugal in Oct. Then, I got your email and thought the universe must be telling me something. I have never been on an overseas trip but I think I am booking today. I m 72 years old and I better get with it now.
Tak care and can’t wait for the pictures and to read ll about your trip
Yes, yes, yes!!!! I am so glad you’ve booked. This is wonderful and I hope you have the best solo adventure.
It’s great to ‘see’ you again, Nina! Surely your ears were burning a few weeks ago when Laurel & I reminisced, and I found old photos on my iPad of you at our cottage.
I look forward to following your next journey on IG.
Linda Sand says
I’m another follower since your Beast days when we were also full-time RVing in the USA even though we never met in person. Now, as then, I’ll take whatever and whenever you choose to post.
James Sawatzky says
Have a great walk.
Re the Rota Vicentina. Because of all the interconnecting walks in Europe , it is probably possible to hook up to the Camino routes, but the Rota is NOT part of the Camino de Santiago. We have walked it twice. In fact as far a beauty goes the Rota surpasses the Caminos. This fall we plan the Camino Invierno, not as well known and the Camino dos Faros, which also connects with the Camino de Santiago in Finesterre , but is not part of the Camino de Santiago. (along the Galician coast)
Ahhhhh thank you for that important piece of info about the Rota Vicentina. I’ll amend the blog post to correct it.
By the way the Camino dos Faros has been on my radar for a while. Would SO love to do that walk as I’m a a huge lighthouse nut/lover. I know it’s not part of any traditional Camino route, but good to know it connects in Finesterre.
Buen Camino for your upcoming trip! Sounds like an amazing route.
Buen Camino! Ditto the preceding comments. Thank you for sharing your adventures! As always, interesting, inspiring, intriguing, informative, entertaining and encouraging!
How exciting Nina! Wishing you a fabulous Portugese Camino! When in Porto I recommend to do a guided port-tour but be careful of the free samples afterwards! I was there years ago with a friend who was recovering from hepatitis and couldn’t drink so I volunteered to taste hers as well .. not a good idea, especially if you have to start walking the Camino the next day! 🙂
I know I am going to be very tempted by all the delicacies in Porto. I will have to limit myself LOL.
NINAAAAAAAA, there U are !! Nice reading your post after such a long time.
Barbara Goodman says
So glad to see a post from you ! And super glad your going in another hike, wish it was me !!! Lucky girl ! Have a wonderful time !
Yay! It’s good to hear from you again. I can understand the difficulty of regular blogging now a days, but I hope we’ll all hear from you when you can. I’d hate to slowly lose track of a dear friend, even though our paths probably aren’t destined to cross again…..sigh Good luck and enjoy the experience.
I sigh about the same thing too. I do so hope to visit with all my US friends again one day, but our paths are far from each other now. Ahhhh, life.
I’m another long time follower happy to hear from you again. So glad to hear about your next adventure. Portugal is on my short list..maybe next year?
I’ve been wanting to visit for a long time. Interestingly enough Portugal is one of the top retirement destinations for French people (it’s become quite popular with Americans too, thanks to generous visa and tax laws). Going to be fab to see it.
SoCal Gil says
I hope y’all spend a day or two in Porto. Beautiful city, excellent food, and warm and friendly people.
Yup I’ve planned a full day in Porto before I leave. Any “must see” recommendations or eats?
Have an excellent and safe journey. Glad to have you connect back with us out here in the virtual land.
Nina, your writing is such a cut above the “shallowness and grind” in the online world. It has always been inspirational to us long time followers, whether it be hidden boondocking spots, remote lighthouses, or the call of the Camino. I hope you continue to find what inspires you in those adventures you have shared.
So glad to read a Nina blog! I wish you all the best with this hike and lots of second breakfasts!! May all go well!
Buen Camino Nina,
Wishing you another fabulous experience.
Loved your update, and even though I’m sure all of us long term followers completely understand your decision to take a break from the blog, just wanted you to know how exciting it was to get a glimpse into your current adventures! Your packing is particularly impressive!!!
Warmest wishes, Sarah
Tami Fox says
Best wishes on your latest Camino!
Nina, I was just thinking of you last week when in our church bulletin it stated we will have a speaker before Easter who walked the Camino. I pray you and your group stay safe and have a wonderful time as you walk this journey. Don’t worry about blogging on the way, but please catch us up once you’ve gotten home and recouped. I love your pictures, so take lots!
Mary VanHaverbeke says
I’ve been following you almost since you first started blogging during your United States travels! I am 69 and have dreamed of doing a Camino for at least 10 years probably more. Partially thanks to your encouraging blogs I am flying into Barcelona on April 6th and from there to San Sebastian where I will walk from the airport into Irun, just a matter of a mile and a half. I’ll spend the night there and then get started. I’ll be thinking good thoughts toward you on your way. I’m starting alone. I’ve done a great deal of hiking by myself and have done some long hikes but none longer than 11 and 1/2 mi or so. I’m scared and excited but as I tell my husband this is not an endurance contest and it’s not a race. I’ll just do the best I can.
Oh I am SO excited for you! Hiking 11 miles is perfect training. You’ll be ready and this will be a wonderful experience for you. Buen Camino!
Todd Peterson says
Nina, much luck to you. I’ve been following you for many many years, through the good times and sad times. I Used to really enjoy all the lighthouse stories and thoroughly enjoy your adventures. I follow very few bloggers but your writing is interesting, eloquent, well-stated, and enjoyable. Polly is beginning to look a little gray. Have a wonderful trip. I’ll have to ping you once you’re back and rested. You’ve posted a couple times in the past about those ‘secret places’ you and Paul have enjoyed in the U.S., I’d like to know more. Enjoy.
Linda Davey says
Great post, Nina! I’m very excited to be a part of your Camino group for this hike and I am so ready to get going! See you in Porto!
Aaron and Beth says
So excited for your new journey….since you and Paul have done your Camino’s, all I do is watch YouTube videos of it, Audible books on it and have gotten my wife to actually commit to doing the French way for our 30th Wedding Anniversary next year! Thank you for planting the seed through your blog. The calling is real!
Erica Hammer says
It was fantastic to see a blog from you!
I’ve followed you from way back in “The Beast” days and love following your adventures.
I am looking forward to seeing your Instagram posts as you complete this hike.
Here’s wishing for safe travels, happy feet, a few glasses of wine, and lots of friendship on the trail for you!
Jan Leigh says
I so agree with what Suzanne said. Your writing is so interesting, informative, inspirational, full of good humor, etc, etc, etc. I was so happy to see a post again, though I completely understand why you wanted to take a break. I have read your posts for years but not often commented. There may be many like me out there. I wish you the very best on this walk. You are such a bright light in this crazy world.
Long time follower here. I always enjoy your beautiful words and photography! Please share the name of the knee brace you wore on the Camino. It will be necessary and appreciated on my own walk!
Sure. It’s the Neenca Knee Brace. I really like it as I find it supporting without being constricting. Here’s the amazon link (affiliate) if you’re interested, or you can just search the name of the brace directly on their site: https://amzn.to/41P4Vr0
I too, have followed since your Beast days. I am so looking forward to enjoying your new adventure.