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.