Our day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués was filled with long stretches through the Spanish countryside, on a consistent-appearing terrain. It was not my favorite day, nor the most beautiful, but none-the-less we kept walking through the monotony.
It appeared that I would be faithful to my promise of walking every step of the 700 km on the Portuguese Way, with only about 70 km left to go at the start of the day.
"Indeed, this life is a test. It is a test of many things - of our convictions and priorities, our faith and our faithfulness, our patience and our resilience, and in the end, our ultimate desires." ~ Sheri L. Dew
Here is my Google map with my GPS tracks on it. You will notice that there are many more albergues, as you get closer to Santiago de Compostela, as indeed there are many more pilgrims. I also placed the places where we stayed and the cafés where we ate on the map.
The map below is entirely interactive, so click away!
There is a slow gradual climb out of Pontevedra of 120 meters (400 ft) in the first 8 kilometers (5 miles) on the way to San Amaro, and then a final climb of 130 meters (440 feet) in the last 8 km (5 miles) out of Caldas de Reis on the way to the Valga Albergue.
This leg can feel strenuous, especially with a climb at the end of a long day. We had plenty of food, rest stops and an interesting diversion, as you shall see. Plus our conditioning was now at a place where 30 km days no longer took us to our edge. Most likely Rich could have even gone farther, as did our friend Steve, from Britain, albeit inadvertently.
You can indeed end your day in Caldas de Reis as many people do, after just shy of 21 kilometers.
If you are walking directly through the town of Pontevedra, from the central plaza, the Plaza da Ferraría, just past the pilgrims church, there is an arrow on the southwest corner of the building, guiding you to walk down the Rúa dos Soportais. Walk only a few meters, then turn right at a fountain, see the Burger King straight ahead at the other end of the plaza. Turn left at the Burger King, follow the yellow arrows to find the Rúa Real.
The Rúa Real is a straight shot north to the Lérez River and the bridge, the Ponte do Burgo, where you cross over. It is a wonderful old bridge, built originally by the Romans. Here is where we met Steve to start our day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués. We left the Casa Maruja in the early morning without breakfast and no food in our packs.
I placed the route through town on my Google map above for your reference. It can be tricky to get through larger towns. Just zoom into Pontevedra to see it.
You cross the river and walk through a roundabout staying straight. Take your first left onto the Rúa da Santiña, a nice quiet side road through the north side of Pontevedra. The town was asleep and we saw no open cafés at all this early in the morning.
Walk on the Rúa da Santiña for about 0.9 kilometer as the road walks through increasingly more rural areas.
This street becomes the Rúa da Gándara as you leave the urban area altogether to join lovely vineyards. Here is Rich and Steve, who hooked up with another pilgrim, Marta, a physical therapist from Poland.
The three were moving well, and I was content to fall behind, taking photos and voice journaling.
Here is a quaint arbor over a driveway to a home.
In a a bit over 1/2 kilometer, you walk by a nature area, with a boardwalk system heading west. Continue straight onward through this nature preserve area, the "Refuxio de Fauna," a wildlife refuge.
After another few hundred meters, walk by a nice fountain and picnic area under a large willow tree in this stretch. This is a wonderful area in which to walk, the best part of day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués.
Thus begins the Via Romana XIX, or the Roman Road. Click on the link to learn more about this ancient road system in Galicia. You will see these markers along this route. The Camino Portuguese road now becomes a nice dirt road.
By this time you may have noticed the railroad track on a high bank off to your right. You will follow this for a while. After a total 1.5 km on the Rúa da Gándara you come to an intersection, with a bridge on your left, across the Rio da Gándara. You will see this sign, for the Variante Espiritual that turns left here.
The Central Route turns right onto the paved road, walks through the underpass of the railroad bridge and takes you up the hill, staying left to join the Aldea a Ferreira in the town of Pontecabras. You are about three kilometers into your day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués at this turn and it has been a wonderful walk so far.
After the small town, continue to walk in the rural areas, following the railroad tracks, now on your left, until the church on the hill catches your eye. This is the Iglesia Santa Maria Alba. For me, in the early morning light, the silhouette that was created made the vision even more special.
Bend around the Iglesia Santa Maria Alba, built in the 12th century and re-built in 1595. At the top of the hill is a unique column to Santiago. Here I am, stopping and giving thanks for my health, my pilgrimage and all of life's good things bestowed upon me. I was so far succeeding on my priority to complete this pilgrimage at this juncture in my life.
Shortly after the cruceiro, the road bends to the left. Walking on for about a total of 1.0 kilometer, the Way comes to a T-intersection. Turn left here onto the PO-225 and cross under the railroad tracks.
There is absolutely no shoulder on the PO-225 but pilgrims have worn a path as you can see in the photo below.
Pass by this lovely little chapel in the next town of San Caetaño, named after the town.
Continue on the PO-225 for only about 1/2 kilometer through the town of San Caetaño. We did not see any cafés here, but we were looking! We had had no breakfast and at about 5 km into our day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués, we were getting quite hungry! (If you are willing to walk off-Camino for about 300 meters, just after the chapel, above, if you stay on the PO-225, you may find an open café, if you can’t wait any longer.)
Turn right, off the PO-225 at the Avigal factory, staying left at their gate. Come to a Y-intersection in a few meters, staying left again. After another left, in another several hundred meters, you stay north and follow the arrows on quiet roads that parallel the train tracks. There are many arrows to guide you. Not only have you been following the train tracks, but also the Río de Gándara river valley.
After walking through the above forested area, and then by a cluster of buildings, in the town of O Castrado, the road turns to dirt.
You may or may not be able to hear the trains as you walk through this long, secluded section. The tracks are up on the high bank to the right in the photo below.
We luckily missed the trains on our sojourn through this peaceful section. We didn't really didn't see any pilgrims here either.
The road follows the river, the Río da Gándara and eventually crosses it.
After a bit more than 3 km on this respite from the urban areas, cross the railroad tracks.
Walk up the hill on the other side of the tracks, and in a few meters turn left on a narrow paved road which walks you into the town of San Amaro. In about 1/2 kilometer you come to a T-intersection with the PO-224.
Turn right on the PO-224 and within meters, see the lovely, A Pousada do Peregrino! Finally a place for breakfast. San Amaro is 8.7 kilometers into the day and the high point of the first climb.
The café had a delightful and innovative menu and I would strongly recommend it.
Steve and Marta had beaten Rich and I to this café when Marta kicked it into high gear a ways back. Steve was challenging himself to keep up with her, but Rich stayed back to be with me. Awwww!
Within a few minutes of our arrival at the café, Steve and Marta took off again. I could feel Rich's angst, but I was not going to eat and rush off. I had no desire to keep up with a cute physical therapist half my age, as the gentlemen seemed to want to do!
After our breakfast, back on the Camino, within 50 meters, it turns left at the next restaurant, the Meson Don Pulpo. There were pilgrims here as well.
We turned onto the EP-0508. There was a nice picnic area and a fountain, shortly after town on the right, if you wish to have a break and eat food from your pack.
We soon passed the 54 km pillar on day twenty-three of the Portuguese Camino. The goal was coming into closer focus.
About 3/4 kilometer down the road, you come to a crossroads and the cruceiro above. Continue on straight.
Walk for a total of about 1.7 km on the EP-0508. This is a lovely jaunt on a nice narrow paved road. After about 1.2 kilometers on this road, come to a side road that leads you to the right (east) towards the first accommodation since Pontevedra, the Albergue da Portela ~ Barre, in the town of A Cancela, about 150 meters off-Camino. Check the interactive map for its location. It is about 10 km from Pontevedra.
Otherwise in 1.7 km, come to a T-intersection, turn left onto the EP-0506 and in only a few meters, take an immediate right onto another dirt agricultural road called the Rúa das Baladas.
After only 600 meters come to another T-intersection and turn right onto the Rúa Areal at this lovely waymark, below, showing us that we have only 52 km left to Santiago! Notice the Via Romana XIX waymarks also continue.
This is God's country, with fruits-on-the-vine everywhere. I never thought I would grow tired of vineyards, but I was becoming weary of them and the day's walk.
Continue on the Rúa Areal toward Valbón. When you reach a T-intersection in Valbón, turn right to stay on the Rúa Areal. There is a café here in town.
Continuing to follow the Camino, in only a few meters, you see the Cruceiro de Amonisa. Here is also a Y intersection, and you stay to the left.
In a few meters, turn hard left and meander through the countryside on a quiet paved road, that eventually turns to dirt, following the many waymarks and arrows along the way.
Stay on the dirt road, come to a cluster of trees and cross the stream, the Rego do Areal on a quaint footbridge.
After a total of approximately 2 km from the Cruceiro de Amonisa in Valbón, the pilgrimage traveler reaches the intersection of the EP-9047, the next substantial highway.
Cross over the EP-9047 to a paved road. Meander again, for another 2 km as the Way engages your senses in the wide open agricultural spaces and the many vineyards.
I kept pushing onward through the monotony.
The pilgrimage traveler drops out onto the N-550 at this point and turns left onto the highway. There is a well-worn pilgrim's path on the side of the highway, in addition to a nice wide shoulder to keep you safe. There are several cafés in this section, if you need a break.
The highway sign says 40 km to Santiago, clearly the most direct route. Not for us though on our day twenty-three of the Camino Portugués!
The walk along the highway is only 300 meters, before the Way veers off to the left onto a farmer's lane. The Way makes another left at the next lane and takes you through this lovely grape arbor.
The diversion from the N-550 is a short 1/2 km and the nice tractor lane through the vineyards turns eastward to join the highway again.
You barely walk 100 meters on the N-550 and the Camino veers off to the left on yet another nice tractor lane and walks you through the town of Briallos. This lane brings you to the EP-8102, where if you were to turn left, after about 16.2 kilometers total for the day, the municipal Albergue de Peregrinos de Briallos is a few hundred meters away.
The Camino walks straight on here on day twenty-three of the Camino Portugués. You can catch glimpses of the highway to the East and after walking about 800 meters, you join the N-550 once again.
Walk only 200 meters, and again veer off to the left onto nice dirt lanes. These tractor lanes parallel the N-550 to the west, as they travel northward toward the next town of Tívo.
Pass by the Capela de Santa Lucía along the way. Pause a moment for gratitude for faithfulness and resilience!
Continue to walk on this nice dirt road towards Tívo.
After about 1.2 km, pick up a side, paved road, to the left, the Rúa Tívo. This road alternates between dirt and pavement.
In another one km, walk into the center of Tívo, through town and past the attractive albergue, the private Albergue Vintecatro after approximately 19.2 kilometers total for the day.
Just by the albergue is this lovely cruceiro, with the amazing vineyards extending beyond.
Continue walking north on the narrow paved road toward Caldas de Reis.
Avoid the N-550 for another 1.2 km after Tívo, walking on side roads and lanes, paralleling the highway, until you join it at the private Albergue and Café A Senda on the corner to your right. The Igrexa de Santa María de Caldas de Reis, below right, is just ahead on your left at the intersection, and you turn left onto the highway once again to walk into town.
In the short 300 meters after the church and before the river crossing are four accommodations, the Pensión and Albergue Alecer, the Casa Herreria, the private Albergue Timonel and for the complete thermal spa experience for which the city is well-known, the Hotel Balneario Acuña. For around 40 Euros per person, you get a room, breakfast, access to the thermal pools and specialized soaking circuits. Make sure to enquire about the special pilgrim's rates. I wish we had taken a day here to soak, but alas, we chose to go onward.
Next, cross the bridge over the Río Umia and into town.
Here is Rich and Steve at the Cafetería Termas, just across the river, by the bridge to the left. It was a lovely spot for a break at about 21 km into the day.
Just beyond the bridge, the Camino turns left and onto the Rúa Real, or the Royal Road.
It is a short 350 meters on this road through town to the antique Roman bridge, the Puente Romano. This historic bridge takes the pilgrimage traveler across the Río Bermaña. It was originally built in Roman times with the cross added in medieval times.
Unfortunately there is no municipal albergue in Caldas de Reis. Just past the bridge on the left, the old municipal albergue is now privately owned and called the Albergue de Peregrinos de Caldas de Reis.
There are many more private albergues in town, including the Albergue Agarimo, the Albergue Albor, La Torre Hostel (+34 656 64 83 09) and the Albergue "O Cruceiro," all within steps of the Roman bridge. Click on any link to see which is running the special at the moment!
If your destination is Caldas de Reis, click on the link for even more options for accommodation.
On the other side of the bridge is a historic fountain, the Puente Romano.
After crossing the Roman bridge, the street becomes the Rúa San Roque. Walk a short 200 meters and join the N-550 once again. Walk another 200 meters and turn right off the highway before it climbs the hill and onto the continuing Rúa San Roque. The road quickly becomes a dirt one.
Thus we begin another lovely trail system of mostly wide dirt lanes. In another 1/2 km, leave the Rúa San Roque to walk straight north on a nice lane toward this overpass of the N-550.
Turn right under the bridge onto a road that is paved for a short while, then becomes dirt again.
From the N-550 intersection in Caldas de Reis, to the N-550 intersection in O Cruceiro, it is 4.6 km of lovely countryside walking, following the Río Bermaña river valley.
Along this stretch, I had fallen into place, walking behind Rich, with my head down, trying to dig out another eight kilometers for the day. I was tired of the Camino and wanted the day to be over with!
All of a sudden, out of nowhere, I heard someone running up behind me. Before I could turn around, a young man was next to me, looking at me intently, and said, "Hi, I am Mihai from Romania. Who are you?'
I was instantly taken aback with this intrusion. With Rich just a few steps ahead of me, I managed to quickly regain my composure at this harmless-looking man. I said, "I am Elle from the USA."
Mihai continued to walk alongside me, quiet closely, happily chatting away about his Camino thus far. He was giving me his Camino play-by-play. His English was near perfect. I am continually astounded by the English capabilities of educated Europeans. Puts me and my Tarzan Spanish to shame!
Mihai explained that he was running from Porto, putting in 60 km days! His plan was to make it to Santiago by the end of the day. Wow! Santiago was only about 40 km away at this juncture.
He said he was very lonely because he would meet new pilgrims every day, since no one else was going as far as he did in a day, and the cyclists would go even farther.
Rich, slowed his pace and joined in on the conversation, with this delightful young man.
Here is Rich and Mihai walking into the next town of O Cruceiro at a total of 26.2 kilometers into the day.
Mihai walked along with us for the next four kilometers, just chatting and chatting. He was so lonely! He said it was OK for him to walk and rest for a while, as he would still easily make it to Santiago today.
He chose to walk with us, he said, because we were walking faster than the others he had recently passed! Too hilarious! I did notice that when he joined us, that we had indeed picked up the pace. His energy was truly infectious and his fast jibber jabber moved our legs almost as fast as he could talk! It made the remaining kilometers go by much quicker than otherwise.
We joined the N-550 in O Cruceiro, and carefully crossing over to the other side, we looked left and went a short jog, turning onto the dirt road across the street. There is a bar a few meters farther to the left if you need a respite.
We walked 200 meters, staying right and then turning right to follow the road to the church in the distance, the Iglesia de Santa Mariña in the town of O Campo. I could barely pause long enough to snap this photo. The three of us were moving!
We walked north, past the church, across its parking lot and continued on the adjacent road as it bends northward.
We meandered along country roads, now paved and paralleling the N-550 to the west, for about another 1.4 kilometers until once again we met up with the N-550!
We walked through the small consecutive towns of Carracedo, As Cortiñnas and O Gurgullón and passed by more wonderful vineyards.
It is in the small town of O Gurgullón that you reach the second altitude top for the day, at 27.1 kilometers and 165 meters in elevation. It is clear sailing downhill for the remaining 3 kilometers.
We went left on the N-550 and then immediately right, to walk on a paved road, again paralleling the N-550, but now on the other side to the east. We walked briefly along this paved road and took the next left to join a dirt lane. Here is Rich walking on the path along the highway, with the town of Magariños, our destination, ahead.
Here Rich took a photo of Mihai and me, on our final steps before the turn off to the Albergue in Valga.
We went along this stretch east of the N-550 for about one-and-a-quarter kilometers, until we met the PO-220, where the dirt lane essentially is a frontage road, following the AP-9. We walked up a short hill and met the PO-220, turned left and walked on the bridge across the AP-9.
We walked up a short hill and met the PO-220, turned left and walked on the bridge across the AP-9. Immediately after the bridge, the Way turns right onto another well-marked frontage road along the AP-9. Not ideal, following the AP-9, but better than walking on the highway!
In about 600 meters the dirt lane meets a paved road, and turns left and walks through a forest. In about 650 meters onward, the way turns right, or north on another path.
But then we saw the sign for the Albergue de Peregrinos de Valga at this juncture. Instead of turning north on the path, we stayed on the road.
We said our goodbyes to Mihai who was going on to Santiago, about another 38 km ahead. We wished him well!
I was never so happy to find the turn for an albergue! I was exhausted, probably keeping a 6 km/hour pace for the last 4 kilometers! And to boot, it was the last 4 kilometers of the day, when I am usually running out of juice!
I didn't know whether to thank or curse our friendly Romanian runner! He surely made our Camino more interesting!
In only a few meters after the turn to the albergue the road comes to the busy N-550 once again. We turned right onto the highway, and crossed to the west side, very carefully!
The Albergue de Peregrinos de Valga is only another 120 meters away, below.
This is a brand-new albergue and has two floors of dormitories and wonderful large separate shower/bathrooms for men and women and a modern, fully-equipped kitchen. They even have a handicapped-accessible room!
We got a chuckle out of the pilgrim statue!
Just down the street from the albergue is the Bar Los Camioneros, or the Trucker's Bar. After cleaning up and doing our laundry, we went to it for a celebratory beer and snacks. They have a wonderful-looking menu, but since the kitchen was so nice at the albergue we decided to cook for a change.
As an added bonus, the bar also sells fresh meat, produce and groceries! A pilgrim's heaven! We bought enough food for dinner and breakfast the next day.
For me, this day was the least interesting of all the days thus far. I actually think I like walking through quaint towns better than long legs in the country. But I think it was more true that we were both just growing tired of being on the Camino. We were just sick of the whole thing.
We asked ourselves again, Why are we doing this? As I voice journalled on this day twenty-three on my Camino Portugués, I was still trying to "figure it all out on a who-cares day!"
When I asked Rich the question, we did keep coming back to the same answer; to have a reprieve from caregiving for Rich's Mom and to spend time together. This was a special and important time for both of us and we needed one another's company and support.
We lost our friend Steve, who missed the turn to the Albergue in Valga where we had planned to meet up. So we never did reconnect at the end of the day. He texted us that he had walked on to Padrón. And so it is.
Who cares? Just keep on walking!
May your own day twenty-three on the Camino Portugués be full of conviction, faith, patience and resilience! May your ultimate desire be to finish your pilgrimage, however that looks for you! Ultreia! Almost there!
Skip to Central Route Below, for Final Days 22-25 to Santiago
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