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Our day seven on the Camino Portugués was shorter than the others, as I developed a mysterious physical condition of my left ankle. Even the most beautiful countryside could not entice me to walk farther than Alvorge, a respectful distance, though not the full stage of 32 km to Rabaçal."Forget your perfect offering
If the wound is where the Light enters, then my day seven on the Camino Portugués and several more days after that should have been filled with Light! Yes, they were, despite the fact that my "wound" slowed me down, but did not stop me! With the help of a hefty dose of Ibuprofen, we set out for the day.
Day seven, though short, was to be a delightful and mostly rural walk through the deep Portuguese countryside.
Here is my map of my GPS tracks that I recorded on my app on my cellphone. I uploaded the tracks to a Google map, and here it is, below. It is fully interactive, so you are able to use it just like any other Google map.
I included on the map, the places where we stayed and where we ate, plus additional accommodations, cafés and supermarkets.
Here is the elevation profile of day seven. There is a climb of about 170 meters (550 feet) out of Alvaiãzere, in the first 4 km, which took us only about an hour, to the area called Vendas. If you pinch open the map you can see all the stats for the day.
The low point is essentially the center of the town, Ansião, 13 kilometers into the day. The rest of the day to Alvorge is essentially flat.
We started our day bright and early, the typical 7 a.m., just at sunrise. It was a misty and cool day as we set off into the countryside. We were happy for the cooler weather for the small climb right at the beginning.
Chris and Christine, our Australian friends decided to wait for the restaurant at the Residencial O Bras to open at 0:730 for breakfast, so we walked on by ourselves. We were going to eat along the way, and hopefully run into a bakery to buy some bread to complement our meat and cheese. The O Bras is the only place open for breakfast, and it may now be open at 7:00 a.m. Check first if you want to eat here.
Our hotel was just a few steps from the Way, and a few meters onward, so was the albergue, the Albergaria Pinheiros (+351 915 440 196), below. We did not check out this place for ourselves, but it looks nice enough from the outside.
As we were walking past the albergue, we spied a bakery truck delivering bread! We approached the baker and asked him if we could buy some bread. As Rich was fishing into his pocket for some change, the gentleman just waved his hand and gave us the bread! We felt so grateful and supported on our Camino! What a lovely country!
And indeed the sunrise was as lovely! As we walked up the Rua da Quintinha, the rosy mist was already lifting as we looked back over the town of Alvaiãrzere. My heart was filled with gratitude, as it most often is at the dawn of a new day.
Shortly after town, the Way turns left onto the CM1104 to enter what was barely the town of Laranjeiras, as signposted below.
There were so many still moments where I took photos of the most interesting things, like this old well and a small patch of Calla lilies alongside. The Callas were growing wild everywhere. No matter when I saw them, they were always a pleasant surprise!
The Way continues on the CM1104 and it's steep banks are graced with heather as you continue your gentle climb towards Macas de Caminho.
Leave the CM1104 here and turn left - yes, up the hill!
Onward a few hundred meters before the T-intersection appears, below, and you go to the left, as you follow the Camino waymarks. I continued to be intrigued by the blue arrow pointing towards us, as you remember, Fátima is now behind you!
After the T intersection, the Way turns to the right and onto much smaller, quieter paved roads, full of charm. This area/town is called "Vendas."
Here in Vendas is essentially the top ("alto") of the morning climb on day seven of the Camino Portugués, only about 4 kilometers into the day. It's mostly all downhill from here, into Ansião.
These country roads are unnamed, until the Way joins the CM1063, shortly before I shot this photo, below. Christine caught up to us here at this small roadside shrine. We had stopped to have our breakfast here.
It was still misty and cool, and the young grapevines along the Way here were that lovely spring-green color.
Onwards, down the hill...
We soon leave the narrow, paved road to turn onto the gravel road, below, towards Venda do Negro.
Venda do Negro is a breath of a town. Take a deep breath and you are through it! Yet I was astonished to see lovely granite setts (aka cobblestone) through the entire small town. The Portuguese do love their paved granite roads!
The Way continues essentially straight north, after Venda do Negro, and turns into a wonderful tractor lane.
The Way here on day seven of the Camino Portugués was so serene through this countryside. I just loved it! The roadside shrines added to the serenity and surreal feeling. We were solitary pilgrims, just Rich and I and the moments were not lost on us.
We walked on, relishing our peaceful surroundings, so different from the whirlwind we had left behind in the States. It was the perfect antidote to all that life had brought us in the previous months, when Rich's mother suffered a major stroke, turning all of our lives upside down. We felt lucky to be here, lucky to have been able to get away.
The peaceful farmer's lanes continued, toward the next small hamlet, Casal Soeiro, which the Way never actually enters, but skirts on the west side.
The Camino finds all these small farmers lanes, zig-zagging through the countryside for quite a few kilometers. The first sign of the big town, Ansião, was the signpost below.
Eventually the farmer's lanes become paved, as the Camino walks you closer to Ansião.
The pavement leads you through Empeados, just before the larger street called the Rua Jerónimo Soares Barbosa and to this lovely picnic area where we stopped briefly for a bite to eat. As you can see, one of the stone picnic tables has fallen over.
We were taking our time today, as I knew I would most likely be unable to go the full 32 km stage to Rabaçal, because of my sore left ankle. Our plan was to stay at the albergue in Alvorge after 23 km, depending on how my ankle responded to the day's walk.
At this morning's lunch break, I noticed that what had been a sore ankle had become a swollen ankle and I had no idea why. Oh my!
I was concerned about having a stress fracture of some nature, and I did not want to ruin my entire Camino. I hoped I could make it to Alvorge! I was not in much pain, just the mild swelling right around the ankle bones and a bit of soreness. I propped my foot up on the bench while I ate lunch and hoped for the best.
I thought I would try shortened days, hoping the injury was only to the soft tissue. I wracked my brain to try to figure out how I may have had an actual injury event that could have caused this swelling.
I recalled falling on my backpack, landing with legs up like a turtle, when I had climbed the steep hill on day five. Could I have possibly twisted my left ankle and not known it? I did not know.
By the picnic area is a small roadside chapel on the Rua Jerónimo Soares Barbosa up ahead.
While it appears that the Camino joins this busier street by the chapel, as evidenced by the yellow arrow across the street, below, yet another yellow arrow on the pole by the chapel, above, leads you instead to yet another nice quiet path which veers off the busy street and into the woods.
You could follow the busy Rua Jerónimo Soares Barbosa into Ansião and rejoin the camino in town, but why would you want to?
The path by the chapel continues and then onto to this lane that finally leads you into the large town of Ansião. At the street ahead in the photo below, you turn left onto the Rua da Mina and walk into the town.
The Rua da Mina becomes the Rua Oliveira Salazar as it enters the center of town.
As the Camino walks through town, there are cafés and mini-markets to fill your belly and fill your pack with food, all right along the route! There are many places to stay the night if your day needs to end here. Consult the map above to see their exact locations.
The Camino walks right by the Ansiturismo Alojamento & Spa on the southside of town. There is no albergue in Ansião, but the family run hotels include the Adega Típica de Ansião, and the Residencial Solar Da Rainha to the north side of town and right along the Camino.
As we reached the town center's square, below, who did we run into, but Chris and Christine, our Aussie mates! They had stopped for café con leite at the pastry shop right on the square (see map above).
We joined them at the Pastelaria Diogo on the square, sitting at an outdoor table for these delightful treats!
Again, at this break, I took off my boots, propped up my left ankle and massaged the heck out of it! So far, it looked like I would make it another 10 km to Alvorge.
After our break we said goodbye to our Aussie friends, as they were going through to Rabaçal on their day seven of the Camino Portugués. They were planning a rest day in Coimbra, the next destination after Rabaçal, so we hoped we would catch up to them in two days. We synchronized our phones with WhatsApp so we could stay in touch over wifi.
After continuing to walk straight north on the N348 through Ansião, you walk uphill, veering off to the left here:
Following the arrows through the north side of town, the Way eventually walks you by this distinct bright yellow house, where it once again turns into a nice lane.
Along the forest path, the blue and the yellow arrows, directing you in opposite directions, blue to Fátima and yellow to Santiago, are everywhere.
The path comes out on the CM1090, crosses it and walks on the pavement towards Constantina...
then veers off to the left back onto another forest path.
Continuing on country gravel roads, here is the signpost for Netos, a few hundred meters away.
After turning onto the Rua da Liberdade in Netos, walking through the small town, in another few hundred meters, this white house is the next turning point to the left.
The road takes you back into the woods...
Little ups and downs on lanes through the countryside...
And onwards toward Casais da Granja...
After just about 2 km on the forest path, it gives way to the pavement and turns left on the EM526 at this gas station, the Venda Brasil, in Casais da Granja. There is also a café in the Venda Brasil, if you need to fuel up your belly!
The Camino takes a quick right turn off the EM526 and down another two-track lane, shown below. Just beyond this cluster of buildings is another guesthouse, the Casa do Sol, a high end place with a long minimum stay, not appropriate for pilgrims.
Then it is back again into the deep countryside, on another tractor lane.
Walking through enchanted forests...
I just loved these large, gnarled trees that we passed by! With my swollen left ankle, I could have just sat under them and meditated away the rest of the day! But I was doing well, and enjoying the "Light" the day was bringing me around every corner.
Shortly after the enchanted forest, the Camino joins the N348 for a hundred meters, then turns left onto a single track path, below.
The single track continues along these charming walls lined with vineyards and olive trees.
Soon we turn right onto pavement towards Junqueira, but not for long.
A left turn puts us back onto gravel road that walks toward our destination, Alvorge.
In just over a half a kilometer, the gravel road comes to a T up ahead, where we turned right on the Rua David Miguel Namora.
The Rua David Miguel Namora brings you into Alvorge and the signpost, below, welcomed us with what felt like open arms. I had made it, swollen ankle and all! And I was none too worse for the wear.
As you enter town, there is a new private 10-bed Albergue O Lagareiro, that also has rooms, and a cafeteria.
At the top of the hill is the town center, below. There is an information board, on the median shown here, and we were reading it when a townsman came running up to us to help. He spoke no English, but we managed to communicate. Me and my Tarzan Spanish helped.
It turns out he was the town greeter and proprietor of the O Café da Sua Vida or the Café of Your Life on the southeast corner of the town square. Interesting name! (Sadly, because of the pandemic, this café is now permanently closed.)
We did not linger at the café, but the friendly gentleman guided us through town, by the church focal point, and to the albergue that is run by the church.
The albergue is down the hill from the church, in the basement of some sort of hall. It would have been a bit tricky to find without our friendly guide. He has the key to the place so you would have to be guided, regardless. There is a box on the table for your donation for your night's stay.
The albergue sleeps eight, but we were the only ones there that night! There is no kitchen to speak of, and the place was only marginally clean when we arrived. They do have individual cubbies which were nice, but the bunk beds had washable sheets on them that most likely hadn't been washed in some time!
Since we arrived early in the afternoon, around 2:00 pm, and it was nice and sunny, Rich stripped his bed and hand washed his fitted cotton-knit sheet in the outside hand sink that you can see in the photo of the albergue, above.
I was too lazy to wash that heavy sheet, so I found the cleanest blanket in the place, and put it over the bed, like a sheet. I had my sleep sack, so I felt OK with that. There were no bed bugs! If there had been, I don't know what I would have done! (Since at the time this was the only accommodation in Alvorge).
We had plenty of time to relax, wash our clothes and sit in the warm spring sun. We went back up to the café for an early drink and they asked us if we were hungry. We said "yes" and they asked if an omelette was OK and we repeated the "yes!" They fed us an early dinner at about 6:30. Wonderful!
The simple food was absolutely delicious!
Because of my swollen ankle, I decided to refrain from wine with dinner. I thought it would be better. Rich also refrained, and the café staff looked at us, surprised, and as if we might be a bit mad not to have wine with dinner!
I continued to get by with my Tarzan Spanish, with the friendly proprietor, who didn't seem to mind that I was using it. Apparently his wife speaks English, but she only showed up later in the evening.
The proprietor's attitude towards us shifted when we ordered ourselves a shot of Ginja, their cherry-type liquor for after dinner. It was a nice finish to the tasty meal. It is so sad that this place is now closed. I wonder what happened to the friendly proprietor!
At the Albergue, when we left in the morning, we also left the key on the table by the donativo box. I gave handsomely to the church, in hopes that someone could be paid in the future to wash the sheets on the bed!
I loved the simple, rural experience of this small Portuguese town, and could even overlook the dirty sheets. Please, if you stay here, also donate well. I suppose not enough people support this very convenient parochial albergue!
The addition of the private albergue, with its cafeteria, is now extremely significant, in the time of the pandemic, since there is only another pastry café in town, and the parochial albergue may be closed.
Along the N-348, just to the west of the center of Alvorge, there is also the Quinta da Maceda, which rents individual rooms (scroll to the bottom of the website, as it also rents the entire villa so don't be alarmed at the price tag). Right beside the Quinta is the Casas da Ladeia, but it is not appropriate for pilgrim’s with its ultra-high price and minimum night stay requirement.
While I had concern in my heart for my health status, with the shorter day and slower pace, I indeed, did enjoy this lovely and most rural walk on day seven of the Camino Portugués.
I had proven to myself, that I could indeed manage this day for the better. I had time to baby my ankle, elevate it at breaks during the day, and for a long time in the evening. I laid in my bunk bed with my feet resting on the bottom of the upper bunk, as I read and journaled about the day.
Rich massaged my swollen ankle and with the help of ibuprofen, I managed to greatly reduce the swelling. Because there was not much pain with my "injury" I was able to do the 24 km to Alvorge!
I was happy and grateful, though somewhat lonely without our Aussie mates, nor any other pilgrims with whom to fellowship. I was just filled with happiness and satisfaction that I made it without any real complications. I breathed deeply and kept my fingers crossed.
May your own day seven on the Camino Portugués be filled with healthy self-monitoring, self-knowledge, self-care and lots and lots of Light! It is better to be healthy, happy, injury free and full of Light, than to push on no matter what! Ultreia (a wish for unfailing courage) is a great word, and a great concept, if done with self-consciousness and moderation. I was living proof.
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