4.5 hours walking, 20 km walked
Our first night on the Camino, we should have been tired enough to sleep like a pair of logs, but no, it wasn’t to be. The latecomers on the mattress on the floor were noisy, on top of being loud snorers, and sometime around 5am our meditations on how annoyed we were with those people were interrupted by the very early risers, who for some reason always have more zippers to zip and unzip and plastic bags to crinkle than anyone else.
By 7:30am we were back out on the boardwalk along the Atlantic Coast, another grey, damp day, walking through spray coming off the waves so thick it looked like fog. There was no breakfast to be had in Vila Cha, so we walked on a couple of hours and stopped at a small cafe in Vila do Condo – I think it was Cafe Barbosa – for grilled cheese sandwiches and lovely hot coffee – we learned to order um meio com leite, coffee with milk, and it was excellent.
At this point, we had turned away from the coast, and began to make our way inland a bit more, through towns, villages, and the beautiful Portuguese countryside. It was easier to find cafes, bathrooms, water, and grocery stores, but we still got to see lots of beautiful wildflowers – I’m not sure if we were just there at the right time of year, or if it’s always like that. Though I’d enjoyed parts of the path along the coast, I think we were both glad to get into the countryside more, for lots of reasons – and at least partly because the wind and damp had making the walking harder.
We stocked up on some groceries after breakfast, including instant coffee packets since we’d been missing our morning coffee, and got back on the road again, sometimes walking on the very, very narrow shoulder of the road with cars whipping past. We came to a small village, and assuming that there wouldn’t be a cafe, we stopped for lunch at the side of the road – cheese, yoghurt, bread, chips, lots of water. Friendly drivers honked in greeting as we ate.
We continued on, stopping at a small church along the way filled with beautiful tiles and ornate altarpieces. Walking along Rua Rio Este, we went over a Medieval bridge, negotiating with cars and trucks for space, and found a four-leaf clover growing out of an old boundary wall, which we pressed in our guidebook (along with the poppy in the earlier picture).
In that last picture, you can see the extreme narrowness of some of the roads along this route – at this point, we were a bit off the beaten track, making a connection between the Senda Littoral or Coastal Way an the Central Way. Earlier in the day, we’d seen a few pilgrims on our route, but from Vila do Conde onwards, we didn’t see another pilgrim until the end of the day.
If you’re interested in doing the Camino yourself, you should note that at this point we weren’t on Flannery’s Map nor Brierly’s – we were on a route suggested by The Stingy Nomads connecting the two (loads of info at that link – they are a great resource!).
The rain had started again, misting down on us in a way that wasn’t entirely unpleasant at first. we crossed another medieval bridge, and sat down for a rest on a bench under a grand old tree that kept the rain off. The roses along the way were in full bloom, and in many places grew over the high walls surrounding farms like a cascade.
It was just past one, and we knew we were close to our destination, the Albergue de S. Pedro de Rates. We both started to get nervous about whether or not there would be room for us there tonight, and the rain started coming down in earnest. As we walked into Rates, we spotted other pilgrims converging on the same route for the first time that day, and both started motoring (the chorus from Sister Christian was our theme song when we were in a hurry) to try and get to the albergue ahead of the crowd.
By 2:30pm we were in a line with other soaking-wet pilgrims, waiting our turn to be assigned a bed for the night and get the sello (stamp) on our credencial. Despite the rain, it had been an easier day of walking, and the countryside had been more fun in lots of ways than the coast had been that morning.
This is the day we established our usual habits for the camino – get up around 7am and walk until 9 or so, and find some breakfast somewhere, then continue walking until mid-afternoon, get into the albergue, have a snack, rest in our bunks for an hour or two and maybe have a shower or wash some clothes. Then in the early evening, when the restaurants and shops opened up again, we’d go find some dinner and explore the town.
The Albergue de S. Pedro in Rates is a pretty nice one – very friendly, welcoming volunteers, a small but well-stocked kitchen, and smaller, cosier rooms. There’s a small museum attached to it, and one of the hosts opened it and gave us a tour when he saw us peering in through the windows – it’s dedicated to the growing and harvesting of flax, a traditional crop in this area, and to the spinning and weaving of flax into linen. Since we’re both interested in textile arts, and Sammi is a skilled hand weaver, it was a terrific discovery.
Dinner that evening was at a restaurant just down the street from the albergue, at Restaurante Regional O Peregrino, where like many places along the way there’s a pilgrim’s menu, which I went with. It came with a small pitcher of red wine, lots of bread, and a very curious dish of chicken, spaghetti noodles, and random vegetables. It was warm and filling. The vegetarian option included a soup which we thought was probably made with chicken stock, some rice, and a couple of like, vegetable fritters? We shared the salad, and went back to the albergue with full bellies, even if Sammi was disturbed by the soup.
On Day 2, we followed the advice of the Stingy Nomads for a path from the Senda Litoral to the Central Route, and if you visit their site, you’ll find our approximate route and lots of other terrific information about the Caminho Portugues.
Follow our Caminho Portugues adventure!
Landing Day in Porto
Day 1 – Porto to Vila Cha
Day 2 – Vila Cha to Rates (you are here)
Day 3 – Rates to Barcelos
Day 4 – Barcelos to Ponte de Lima
Day 5 – Ponte de Lima to Rubiaes
Day 6 – Rubiaes to Tui
Day 7 – Tui to Porriño
Day 8 – Porrino to Redondela
Day 9 – Redondela to Pontevedra
Day 10 – Pontevedra to Caldas des Reies
When I’m done posting these, I’ll also post an article with my colected advice for anyone thinking of walking the Caminho/Camino, and I’ll link it here.
Photos by Candace Shaw and Samantha Shaw