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Day four on the Camino Portugués is essentially a walk through God's wine country, from one farm village to another, navigating the pilgrimage traveler on old and rough tractor lanes between fields.
There was also an unexpected change in 2016 in the official route which made for an unplanned, long, long day for us. From Pombalinho to Golegã (pronounced gole as in "pole" - ga), a new and longer route was just established recently which we did not know about! Yikes! Plan your own day four on the Camino Portugués accordingly!
"Contemplative walking is Gros’s favored kind: the walking of medieval pilgrims, of Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Henry David Thoreau, of Kant’s daily life. It is the Western equivalent of what Asians accomplish by sitting. Walking is the Western form of meditation: 'You’re doing nothing when you walk, nothing but walking. But having nothing to do but walk makes it possible to recover the pure sensation of being, to rediscover the simple joy of existing, the joy that permeates the whole of childhood.' ” ~ an excerpt from the New Yorker article, "Heaven's Gaits" by Adam Gopnik, on Frederic Gros's book, "A Philosophy of Walking."
Here is my personal map I created from our day's walk with my GPS recording which I uploaded to Google Maps. I included accommodations, grocery stores and cafés along the way.
While we did the full, traditional stage, which is now longer than ever, you can easily break this stage and stay in Azinhaga. (Click here for accomodations on Booking.com) On the new route it is now a full 10 or so kilometers from Azinhaga to Golegã.
On the map below, I decided to include the old Camino route, denoted as Point A to Point B. It would now be an unofficial, "shortcut." If I had it to do again, the shortcut is the route I would take.
Here is the elevation profile for our day. It is a nice downhill slide from the top of the hill in Santarém to the river valley, followed by a slow, steady climb to Vale de Figueira, and the remainder of the day essentially flat.
We didn't start out until 8:00 a.m. on day four, due to our hotel serving an amazing and huge breakfast at 7:00 a.m., complete with cold meat and cheese. It was a lovely start to our day, even if we did get a late start. (The Residencial Beirante). If you are in the albergue or a place that does not serve breakfast, you may want to secure food the night before as very little is open in the early morning.
The Camino winds through the center of town, from the main circle, and heads in the direction of the Portas do Sol.
I loved the narrow cobblestone streets as we worked our way through town. Our Swiss friend, who we fondly called The Barnacle, since he loved to attach to us, was with us as we walked in the fresh, morning light. He was seemingly fit for the walk for the day, despite his blister.
The walk through Santarém is lovely, straightforward and well-marked.
Look carefully on poles and curbs for the small painted yellow arrows! You turn left here on the next road that passes the church of Santa Maria.
This road is just before the Portas do Sol. Walk by the Igreja de Santa Maria de Alcáçova, shown in the photo below.
Immediately by the Church to Santa Maria, again, we make a strong left, to go through the archway, above, called the Porta de Santiago (Santiago door). This is the door through the old town's fortress wall.
The path walks along the outside of the fortress wall and walks down the hill. The Way is at first cobblestone, then after leaving the wall, it turns to a gorgeous forest path.
The views over the valley from the top of the hill, on the path, are stunning! If not for the long day ahead, I would have loved to have sat here for awhile. The flat open fields are our forward destination.
Shortly, as the path snakes its way down the hilltop, it turns to the left, heading for the N114 and N365.
This forest path was such a lovely start to the day. And then suddenly, the path drops down and joins the highway, the N114, and immediately to the right on the N365.
The N114 walks the pilgrimage traveler into the lower portion of Santarém, called Ribeira de Santarém, walks through town and crosses the train tracks. There are two Residencials and two cafés in town that may open at 8 a.m. Consult the interactive map above.
On the north side of town, the Camino turns right onto the Rua Alcôrse...
...and across the bridge, the Ponte de Alcôrse on day four of our Camino Portugués.
And then, the vineyards begin, first on the road, the Rua Direita de Palhães...
...then, turning left here on a farmer's lane...
...that turns into a rugged farmer's lane. Looks like we are on a road to nowhere, in the photo below, doesn't it?
A look back at Rich and our Swiss friend, with Santarém on the hill in the background. We were already putting some distance behind us.
We joined the pavement briefly, only to turn right here, again onto another farmer's lane.
The vineyards were lovely, and seemingly endless!
Second thought waymarks, like on this telephone pole, below, with bright neon yellow "S" and an arrow, were all that guided the Way! But it was visible!
Once hitting the pavement again, the first town for a break, at a bit more than 11 kilometers into day four on the Camino Portugués was Vale de Figueira. In this photo, below, we had just joined the pavement with about a kilometer and a half before the first café in town.
And continuing on day four of the Camino Portugués...
...walk straight on and up a long, gradual hill towards the center of town.
We stopped at the first café we came to. There are two cafés in town. The townspeople were friendly and wonderful in Vale de Figueira, at the Café Petiscos and Companhia. They taught us Portuguese and helped us learn to pronounce the next town's names!
There was even a townswoman who brought in her Calla Lilies and showed them to us. The Callas were in full bloom, almost everywhere!
It was nice to be treated more warmly in the café, after what seemed like we were being regarded as a curiosity. The Portuguese are friendly when approached, but are a bit reserved when merely passing by. Plus, again, we were seeing no other pilgrims but the three of us.
After a nice, long break, we carried on through town until the first blue Camino de Santiago sign appeared. See the photo below. You turn right here on the Rua do Sobal.
Just before the turn off at the blue sign, there is a small grocery store on the right, and we stopped to replenish our packs with fruit and other snacks!
It was along this way we encountered a van load of locals, who upon recognizing us as pilgrims, enthusiastically started waving at us, and calling out "Bom Dia," or good day. I always greatly appreciate the support of the locals and this greeting was wonderful and uplifting!
We were thrilled when the main road soon turned into a lane, and we entered a lovely and shady forest.
The very famous cork trees in the forest had waymarks. I loved this one!
The Way also went through a eucalyptus forest for the first time, though I have not included a photo of it. For those of us who have walked before, we know the eucalyptus tree is the signature tree of Camino de Santiago, especially once you reach Galicia, the Spanish province where Santiago is located. The sight and smell of the trees lifted my spirits.
Then too soon it was back to the open, hot lanes through the fields, and by mid-morning, it was now extremely hot!
The guys, walking ahead were on the lookout for the waymarks, on the post below, where we turned left.
The impossibly long lanes of a lot of nothing gave us ample time and space to empty our minds and walk in a most contemplative fashion. This was my goal - walk in contemplation, however, the heat made it most difficult! We walked on, in single file, placing one hot foot in front of the other.
The lanes through the fields turned really rugged at times, a phenomenon that surprised me! I thought this Portuguese route would be more developed than this. I had to watch my footing and was grateful, at least for the earth instead of the pavement. I was also most grateful for my hiking poles.
At approx 6.5 km from the café in Vale de Figueira we came to our first camino shell, in blue, with yellow rays, on an actual, permanent concrete post!
At this point, about 18 kilometers into our day, I thought I had only 12.5 kilometers left for our day four on the Camino Portugués, when in actuality is was another 18!! If I only knew!! Or if I DID know, I would have made a different decision, most likely!
At this first camino shell waymark, you turn left towards the hamlet of Reguengo de Alviela and Pombalinho, our planned lunch destination.
After the turn, this waymark and yellow arrow appears. Rich is hiding in the shade of a rare tree for a moment's respite from the sun!
Just beyond Reguengo do Alviela, the way turns right, to see the first map of the route that I photographed below.
Look carefully at this next map. I included a close up of the one above, intentionally, so you could study the route, and compare it to any other guide you are using. You will have to make an informed decision, based on the information that I am presenting, on how to complete your own day four on the Camino Portugués.
Perhaps this map will no longer be present when you arrive at this point, or perhaps they will have updated it - I don't know. I am only presenting what we saw, so you can be totally informed.
Golegã is very famously known as an equestrian town, and is known as the capital of the Lusitanian horses. This map roughly translated says, "Horse Routes and Ribatejo Routes."
If you widen the map, you see little horses and pilgrim figures, denoting the separate routes.
We could clearly see the Camino, in yellow on the map and it shows the route circling Pombalinho to the north and completely missing Azinhaga, to enter the town of Brôa, a mere 7 km from where we were on the map. This old route is what I marked on my Google map, above, as from point A to point B.
At the same intersection a municipality of Golegã sign appears. We felt like we were getting near! At this juncture, with the above map, it appeared like we were definitely midway through day four on the Camino Portugués, with 7 km to go to Brôa.
We were proven to be wrong, as the walking Camino route was changed from the time this map was created, as you will see in the route maps farther down to come in this article! Pilgrimage Traveler take heed!
With spirits lifted, we traveled on past this sign, as we entered the Golegã Municipality. Before long we joined the pavement of the N365, below and the route goes to the left.
Somewhere along these lanes, I noticed that Rich had a slight limp. He was not walking as fast as he had been that morning. When I asked him about it, he stated that his right arch of his foot was hurting a bit. We pondered whether or not we should stay the night in Azingaya or to push on to Golegã.
It takes you into the town of Pombalinho, a substantial town, with cafés, if needed.
It is here, at the entrance to Pombalinho, and behind the town sign, the municipality gives you another map. (See just below).
This is the map of the current actual, Camino route. At first glance, the map looks identical to the prior map, above. Look for the "you are here" large yellow pilgrim on the map and note that the yellow Camino route now looks quite different than the previous sign.
The route does not bypass Pombalinho (pronounced Pōm-ba-LEEN-yo), nor Azinhaga (pronounced Oz-in-YA-ga) enroute to Brôa, but loops to the south before walking through Azinhaga to create a much longer way to meet Brôa.
We stopped for lunch on the main street in town, at the Café o Pátio for sandwiches, oranges and nuts. There appears to be other cafés in town, but this was the first one, right along the way, that was open for business.
We discussed our plans, and our Swiss friend stated that most likely he would stay in Azinhaga for the night. Rich and I were still sitting on the fence. We thought that we would not be walking into Azinhaga, so we thought we would see how it turned out.
We also ran into the young Spanish pilgrim we had seen before and he discussed the difference in the maps, and stated he would take the shortcut, not walk into Azinhaga, but push on to Golegã. He had seen three other cyclists, and since there was no albergue in Azinhaga, they were all heading to Golegã for that reason. There are only quintas and guest houses in Azinhaga. Click here to see them and consult the above map. It sounded like a good plan.
It is at this church, below, at the eastern end of Pombalinho, where the N365 goes left, to walk directly to Brôa or to the right to follow the longer, more scenic route to Azinhaga. (Several of the quintas in Azinhaga are along the N365 to the right.) I knew this, when I reached this point, yet I didn't trust this knowledge, feeling like I needed to walk the "real" route! Mistake on my part? Maybe, maybe not.
In fact, if you were inclined to walk the shortest possible route, and you don't need to stop at any cafés, and would like to ignore the "official" route, try to find the Estrada de Santa Inês, just before Pombalinho. It is a small, paved road that the old route takes, in the first map above, before Pombalinho, and is the most direct of all. It is the shortcut route I marked in my Google map as from point A to point B.
The road, the Estrada de Santa Inês is soon after you join the paved N365 and just after the large signed Y-intersection, five photos above.
This road, the Estrada de Santa Inês takes you all the way to meet up with the N365 again, near Brôa, joining the "official" route.
I am sure there are many reasons that the municipality of Golegã changed the route, like keeping pilgrims safer and off the N365, a very busy road, supporting business in Pombalinho and Azinhaga, and so forth.
The pilgrimage traveler just needs to know what lies ahead and what his/her choices are!
But alas, on the official route, we turned southward on these back lanes and back toward the River. Rich's limp continued to worsen. Our Swiss friend decided to push on with us.
As we walked on, I was questioning the route in my head. Was there more than one route?? The shell signs we were passing looked brand new in this section to Azinhaga. Why didn't I trust myself and take the left at the church?? I was doing a whole lot of second guessing as I realized that indeed, we were not on any shortcut.
There is absolutely no shade here on these back country lanes. Wear a straw hat! We were all getting funky tans, me especially on my hands, since I was wearing long sleeves. Rich was getting a rash on the back of his legs - most likely from the sun! All this, despite our slathering ourselves with sunscreen!
The new official route took us on long lanes, through gorgeous rapeseed fields.
Just before Azinhaga, we were graced with another sign, and you can see our progress at the "you are here" large, yellow pilgrim.
We encountered the above sign, here at this intersection, below, just before entering town.
The Way does take you on a better path than the N365, by this cool and a bit shady, canal of the Rio Almonda.
Rich's limp continued to worsen. Our Swiss friend who had decided to push on with us was reaching his limit. The heat was brutal. The news reported that it was 29 degrees Celsius (84 Fahrenheit) in Lisbon that day, and people were already hitting the beach. In April.
It was 2:30 in the heat of the afternoon, and I still I thought it was only 6 km to Golegã from here!
Shortly after entering Azinhaga, our Swiss friend stated he could walk no more. He would only say, "It's too hot to walk."
Since there is no train connection in Azinhaga, we checked our options. We were already at about 25 kilometers for the day. Our friend could stay in Azinhaga. Rich felt he could keep on walking to Golegã. I was hot, indeed, but when we checked the route for the next day, we decided that we wanted to reach Tomar and have a rest day there, instead of two short days before.
Since our Swiss friend did not want to go on, but seemed to desire to stay attached to us, he said, "then we will all take a taxi to Golegã!"
I wanted to stay committed to walking the entire route, so I replied that I did not want to take a taxi, but that I wanted to walk. Our Camino friend looked at us and blinked.
We inquired of two masons, working on a house as we walked by, could they tell us how to acquire a taxi? They replied in perfect English, that there was no taxi service in Azinhaga!! We asked how far it was to Golegã, expecting to hear that it was 6 or less kilometers. They answered that it was at least 10 kilometers! We all gasped. Ten more km in this heat!!
I had a quick private discussion with Rich and he was OK with walking on, as I was still committed to walking the entire route. It meant 35 km for the day, and I thought, we'll just take it slow and get there when we get there.
We told our Swiss friend that we were going to continue to walk. Then Rich asked the mason if he knew anyone who would be willing to drive our friend to Golegã, since he could walk no more.
Without hesitation, the mason stated - my son can take you! It will be no problem! A jubilant Swiss friend said, "We can all go together to Golegã!"
We had to firmly stand our ground, that we would walk and could join him once he got to Golegã. The friendly mason said he would drop him off in the main plaza by the church, and the Camino would pass through there. We would be able to find him no problem.
Our poor Swiss friend, had had enough, yet he still could not or did not want to go his own way. Our nickname, the Barnacle, was still appropriate, however, I could not blame him for not wishing to travel alone. We were his only family and he seemed truly beaten.
Quickly, a car arrived and he was whisked off to Golegã by himself. Portuguese hospitality is unparalleled on the Camino.
If you do decide to stay in Azinhaga, there is the Casa das Portas and the Quinto el Hogar along the N365, and the Casa de Azzancha, a few blocks west of the center of town, shown below. Eventually you will walk right by the Quinta da Piedade on the north side of town.
Rich and I were a bit discouraged upon leaving Azinhaga and stressed over whether or not we had made the right decision. I still had some energy, but I had to dig very deep in order to go on. I felt bad about leaving the Barnacle, even though I knew this was my (our) Camino, not his.
Yet we walked onward on the road below, with a beautiful ruined church, the Igreja de São João da Ventosa, below to distract us. If it were not so far off the road, and I was not so tired, I would have loved to have visited it, on day four of our Camino Portugués.
Close to where we passed the ruined church, the Estrade de Santa Inês joined the route. What would have been a 5 km shortcut, had most likely doubled at this juncture for us!
After a way, we arrived in Brôa, shown below.
And finally, back to the busy N365 after turning right at the Estrada Real. More maps with the "you are here" yellow pilgrim greet you along this stretch to tell you of your progress. It seemed all too slow for me.
This stretch of pavement is very dangerous. The Portuguese drivers are very fast drivers. Initially, there is a nice walking shoulder as you can see in the photo above, and then for the final kilometers, there is no shoulder at all! We even had an incident where one car was passing another as they both came speeding towards us! Needless to say, we jumped off the road! Wear bright colors to be seen fully!
And finally after an exhausting final 5 kilometers, the town sign greeted us.
As we entered the town proper, a very nice monument to the Camino de Santiago also presented to us.
After backtracking a bit in town, we found the main church and the Central Plaza and Café where we joined up with our Swiss friend. He was happily quaffing beer, as we fell exhausted into the chairs beside him.
Beside being exhausted, we had no blisters, and Rich's foot was OK. It had held up. It had taken us two more hours to walk from Azinhaga to Golegã and we did not arrive until 5:30 in the afternoon.
A 31 km day had turned into 36.5. It was not easy! Our Swiss friend, now happy and rested, kept saying, "You are good walkers, You are strong walkers!"
Beware the Café Central - they will overcharge you! I thought Rich was going to blow a gasket when the bartender overcharged us for the tiniest bottle of water. We were completely out of water, yet Rich placed the water bottles back on the counter and refused to pay the inflated price.
Instead of staying and imbibing at the café, we found the private albergue, the Solo Duro and secured our private room but no private bath for 30 Euro. It was 10 Euro for the dormitory, and our Swiss friend took this option. The place was comfortable and clean and near the center of town. Breakfast included in all options.
The proprietress of the Solo Duro was extremely friendly and helpful. It was she who informed us that the pilgrimage route was changed in 2016. She also told us of a shortcut out of town in the morning!
We cleaned up and agreed to meet and go to dinner. We landed at the Casita D'avó, see the map above, for interesting and delicious Portuguese cuisine. It was a bonus that they opened for dinner at 7:00!
Our Swiss friend seemed uninterested in his meal and seemed to be becoming more aloof about the Portuguese culture. I could sense the shift in his energy.
While there was not a lot to see in Golegã, we did wander into this church, with beautiful Azulejo tiles inside, and around the plaza a bit. We were surprisingly refreshed after rehydrating and cleaning up!
Had we made the correct decision to carry on to Golegã? We will never know. We did not suffer any consequences, but may have ruined our Swiss friend's attachment to us and/or the Camino de Santiago!
I was determined to walk every step of the pilgrimage and Rich was not going to leave me to walk alone, despite a sore foot. Our persistence worked for us this time.
The idea of contemplative walking for hours on end in the heat was brutal, for me on this day. I did not talk much along the way, that is for sure, but I am not even sure what I thought about. The day was a long, hot blurr, with some breaks to eat and drink.
It was one of those days that you are extremely proud of what you were able to do and extremely happy that it was over! I will not make up anything more than what was! I chose to forget this day as soon as possible.
May your own day four on the Camino Portugués be better planned, now that you have the knowledge of what lies ahead. May you attempt, as I, to make it a contemplative journey, one that leads you into a better way of being!
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