“The oak fought the wind and was broken, the willow bent when it must and survived” – Robert Jordan, The Fires of Heaven.
Stage 4 Santarem – Golega
The morning air was crisp, the sky clear making for a perfect walking morning, albeit a 135m sheer decline from Santarem. I took it slowly using all the core muscles I’d built up over the past six months doing Pilates trying to overcome those Camino Frances downhill memories.
The rest of the day though followed the previous stages pattern of re-routing of the pathways, allegedly due to flooding of the Rio Tejo in previous years however, we suspect it had more to do with the local Municpal’s desire to keep Pelligrino’s off the minor roads. Therefore, the alternative green route in the Brierley book had become the only route to take.
Although the first part took as through vineyards, tomato and melon crops a lot of the track was through fields already cropped.
As such by the time we emerged out of the winding dirt tracks, oftentimes little more than deep furrows filled with rainwater from the previous nights rain we were hot, tired and in need off food. The nearby hamlet consisted of houses only therefore, we needed to continue onto Azinhaga for food. Having already walked over 20 kms we were exhausted, us girls determined this was our last stop of the day.
Somehow I found this spurt of energy and literally using my two poles to maximum effect motored into Azinhaga. The promised restaurant failed to emerge so after wandering down ghostlike streets we went back to the local bar and ordered Tosta’s, all energy reserves having been sapped up by the searing midday sun.
Michael walked on and us girls piled into a taxi for the last 10.3kms which true to form was a lot shorter distance than that walked by Michael. Thankfully the tax driver deposited us outside a beautiful Casa – Albergue Casa da Tia Guid. We were shown to a beautiful room with 4 beds and lovely bathroom.
Golega is a horse town renowned nationally and internationally the horse fair Feira Nacional do Cavalo. The bred of horse is Lusitano – “a horse with a brave and intelligent mind, a willing spirit and a unique ability to collect and perform high school dressage including the dramatic airs above the ground.” But the streets had that deserted ghost like presence we’d found in other rural Portuguese towns.
Doing the laundry…
On the Camino Frances we were used to paying for our washing to be done in the Albergues washer and driers, more often than not the laundry would be sent up to our bunks folded with an air of freshness about the clothes. Up to this point of the journey the method of washing clothes was to fill a bucket placed inside a concrete washtub complete with angled ridged edge for rolling the clothes to squeeze out any excess water. Clothes horses were waited down with poles to afford the wind turning them over therefore, immovable.
Trust me on this one people – when you only have three sets on clothes and one of those has endured a long hot walk, daily laundry becomes equally important as finding a bed for the night and a meal. The concrete tub wash had serious limitations. Given the day’s were drawing in most of the drying had to be completed in our rooms therefore, the fresh air smelly goodness box was not ticked.
Piggy at Restaurante “O TE”…
After roaming the narrow once again deserted streets of Golega we’d given up on finding a restaurant and were heading back to the bar opposite our Albergue when an old man sitting outside a Hotel beckoned us over. He was short, stout with a nine months pregnant stomach. “Come in for the piggy’, he said. Promptly leading us into the front rooms of the hotel and beckoning us to keep following. We emerged into this giant dining room, dripping with faded grandeur.
Aside from salami and the odd bit of bacon, pork has been a no go zone for me for the past 20 odd years. The piggy though was succulent, melt in the mouth with a rich flavour of meat that I remember from childhood days. The halting conversation form the owner and the constant patting of my shoulder a little disconcerting. He later took the girls out to show them his butchery and roitesery operation. Michael was of the opinion that the quality of the meat was so good that our host probably sold to local restaurants.
He walked past our room hot and sweaty from his early morning bike ride. I asked him if his wife was around, he said no, but did I need something. I explained that I needed to take my cousin Chrissy needed some medical attention and I wasn’t sure how to arrange. He immediately rushed into our room, took one look at Chrissy’s man repealing ankle rash and said she must see a Doctor immediately – wait while I shower and change.
The very kind, generous and handsome Fernando then drove us to a private hospital in a nearby town. He patiently waited, he translated what the Doctor’s prognosis. Plus the Doctors tale about the lack of markings on the Way and how he had recently rescued two girls lost on the track to Alvaiazere. Then Fernando drove us to a pharmacia so Chrissy could get her prescription filled. He also would have drove us back to the train station with our bags so we could get to Tomar without too much expense. We declined, feeling we’d taken up so much of his working day however, he said it wasn’t the first time and wouldn’t be the last.
Fernando booked a taxi for us and recommended a place to stay in our next stop, Tomar.
For us, Fernando epitomises the warmth and generosity of the Portuguese people. They earn very little, struggle to make a good living, in Fernando’s case he and his wife have three jobs, yet they are not harried as such are rich in humanity.
Post script – Chrissy appears to have contracted a chemical burn which ignited a staphylococcus infection. Thankfully the treatment plan has worked and after a series of light walking days the infection has cleared.