3. Santiago de Cacem – Vale Seco
Last nights B&B was excellent. Sandra and Richard recommended restaurant O Arco; a 10 minute walk from them. It was easy to find and opened just after 7.00pm. We had bread and olives and loin of pork with rice and home made chips… washed down with a very cheeky little house red. It was a great dinner and cost less than 10€ each. There was also a big supermarket opposite that was open at 7.00pm even on a Sunday.
We slept well, Gerrys throat feels easier! We showered and dressed ready to start. I’d been carrying a couple of cards for Gerry. I proudly pulled them from the pack… along with a candle to go with his breakfast. He was suitably impressed until he opened my card and realised that I’d written nothing inside… not a word nor a kiss or anything at all… oops. Happy birthday Gerry nonetheless.
Sandra had prepared a fabulous breakfast… croissants, bread, fruit and jams and cheese and ham… teas, coffee and juice. She also offered hand carved bacon and eggs which Gerry tucked into…honestly this little place was a gem of a stop. She lit Gerry’s candle and sang happy birthday with me… bearing in mind it was still only 7.15.
We finished breakfast, packed the seed bar and cake and bananas that Sandra gave us for the journey, we said our goodbyes and set off in the cool early light of the morning.
Up we walked to the castle that we’d discovered the night before and then stepped onto the path; our first steps on the Rota Vicentina.
Today promised an easy walk through interesting and diverse countryside. I don’t want to pick fault with this lovely path or the fabulous people who maintain it but… it wasnt that easy and it wasn’t so diverse.
We walked up and down all day. Not all huge climbs but short sharp ups and downs that just never seemed to stop. For the first 6 or 7 kilometres this was made more interesting by the number of dogs. It felt as though at every turn there was another. To be fair most were fenced or chained and only one came close… and he was given short shrift by the lady of the house too. They never caused a problem but it’s the initial worry that they might not be chained that took the fun out of those first couple of hours.
Howevet it had been a nice walk and the morning air was the scent of sweet hay which I loved! We passed a few farms and saw our first ever mango tree dripping with fruit. It felt good to be walking again.
We stopped for a boots off after a couple of hours. There was no convenient tree stump so we perched on the side of the track. We didn’t need food as we were still full from breakfast but our toes were grateful and we felt refreshed.
Just after this we came to a steep downhill. The stone underfoot is hard but covered in a layer of sand and lose stone. I stopped to try and reach a large stick that I thought might help but just as I stopped, my back foot slipped from under me. No harm done, I just slid down on to my knee… no falls or face plants this time. But then I felt a burning pain and as I tried to stands I could see that my trousers had been shredded along with my knee. This was just not fair.
We stopped and poured water over the cuts to try and clean it. We did have to be careful though as we needed the drinking water. I fished out the first kit and we covered the area with antibacterial cream and covered it and taped it as best we could. We still had 10-12 kilometres to go to the next village.
The next bit of the walk to be honest was a little dull. There were more ups and downs but through a forest area that looked remarkably similar through out the rest of the walk. It was also very HOT!
My knee stung and Gerry was melting and so we were mightily glad to see Vale Seco! The first building was a bar… I know we’re walking away from St James but I thanked him nonetheless.
As we sat and ate crisps and drank cold drinks we watched the news of a forest fire somewhere in Portugal. We had talked about them earlier in the day, walking through such a large dry area we just couldn’t imagine walking with fires close by… it would be terrifying. There was a huge forest fire a few months back… I just hope that they managed to get this fire under control without casualties.
Vale Seco is the end of this stage for this section but we had been expecting an easier day, and cooler, and no knee shredding! As there is no hotel here, we had opted to carry on a further 5km to a rather swanky hotel… I wished we booked a taxi but we didn’t, so we had to walk.
The old lady in the bar was concerned that we were going the wrong way. We tried to explain but our Portuguese is useless so we had to leave her looking concerned saying OK and smiling. We were following the N120 to the Hotel Rural Monte Xisto. We never had to leave the road but it felt very long and hot… did we mentioned long and hot?
We’re here now… it’s very nice but it was pushing 34c today and my knee is on fire… I’m looking forward to a shower and a rest. Maybe not the best day 1 and maybe not the best birthday ever… but hey, who wants predictable!