by Judy Leaver, Guest Blogger
At 6:30 a.m. today I woke to the music of heavy rain. I thought this meant that Sheila and I would hitch a ride with our luggage and avoid slogging through a downpour. However, the Portuguese gods smiled on us (or maybe they were smiling AT us), and the rain stopped about 10:00 a.m. Glimpses of blue sky convinced us to strike out on the trail. Walking north through Barcelos, we were joined by a lively Scotsman who was also hiking to Santiago. He quickly realized we were walking waaaay too slow, so he jetted on with his light-weight pack and jaunty stride. I’m sure he’s in France by now.
When we began to feel sprinkles, we stopped and pulled out Gore-Tex pants and jackets and suited up for a soaking…except it didn’t happen. Soon, we were far too warm in our rain gear so we stopped again to shed it, stuff it in our backpacks and move on. That worked for awhile; however, after about an hour the sky seemed to let go…no warning at all. We were quite near a café and decided to wait out the rain there. Immediately after we ordered café com leite and a coke, the rain stopped. So, this is how it’s going to be today…. (Fortunately, we had no more showers and weather-wise the day was perfect.)
The Camino de Santiago is so well marked, one doesn’t really need a map, except in villages where wayfinding is more challenging. Also, if our hotel for the night had not been a slight detour off the trail, we would’ve reached our destination two hours earlier than we did. We were blissfully unaware of this as we made our way into the hamlet of Aborim.
Shortly, we began to curse our guide book author (Camino Portugues by John Brierly) for his red herring about the ‘pleasant Oliveira Restaurante opposite the train station.’ Who cares, John!! It had nothing to do with the ‘detour’ we needed to take to get to Casa dos Assentos in Quintiaes. By now we were hot, tired, and hungry.
Sheila said it was time to look pathetic—that wasn’t a stretch for either one of us. Soon a lovely Portuguese man rolled into Aborim and got down off his tractor to direct us to the Camino. We knew we needed to detour OFF the trail, but we followed his guidance anyway, thinking we would hook back up to the road to Quintiaes eventually.
While it was a lovely cross-country trek between vineyards and corn crops, it was also goopy with mud. After about 20 minutes we reached an asphalt road, consulted our compasses and struck off to the west. We had multiple hilarious conversations with local residents along the way—some with teeth, some without–understanding almost nothing of what they said, but telling them, ‘Obrigada, obrigada,’ (thank you) with much sincere gratitude.
We got the part about needing to go up and then down, down, down a hill. Huffing and puffing to a certain point where we were again unsure where we were, we decided to invoke technology. Both of us tried to call our host and tell them where we THOUGHT we were. But, neither of our phones would work.
We trudged on, not exactly aimlessly, until we saw a Quintiaes sign, which gave us great hope. And, we saw the church spire. In this case, our accommodations were directly behind the church, though it wasn’t looking all that clear to us as we approached the church. I was wondering if our guest house was a state secret since there was not one single sign! Reaching the corner of the church, I asked a woman standing nearby, “Onde Casa dos Assentos?” She did not know. It was 20 feet dead ahead, in front of all of us. She had not understood my muddled Portuguese.
A happy ending…Theresa, our hostess, could see immediately that we were in a sad state. She had little muffins and lemon water waiting for us. Then she made us an omelette, some soup, and added potato chips to the side of the plate! A snack to tide us over to dinner, and another example of the kind hospitality of the Portuguese people.
Here’s the takeaway on wayfinding:
Effective strategies Ineffective strategies
Reading directions fully Cursing the guidebook and its author
Looking pathetic Looking pathetic to non-English speakers
Using a compass Trusting the gut of anyone directionally impaired
Reading the map Confusing directions for two detours