Camino Portuguese: Valenca, Last Stop in Portugal
According to our Portugal Green Walks road book, our walk from Ponte de Lima to Cossourado would prove to be the most challenging. At just shy of 14 miles it wasn’t our longest walk on the Camino Portuguese but it was indeed a strenuous and somewhat relentless day. It was also the day I received the first of two backhanded compliments and it was the day we were forced to remember why it’s so important to live the life you want to live.
Ponte de Lima to Cossourado
We started our day knowing that we would have to climb up and over a mountain. With an elevation of about 1,300 feet we didn’t think it would be too terribly difficult. Especially, because while walking the Camino Francis we took on not one, but two summits of about 5,000 feet each. How bad could it be, we thought?
Ha! The elevation wasn’t much, but the climb was a bitch in that it was straight up (no switchbacks) through washed out gullies, boulders and loose gravel. Day five was another day in which I was incredibly grateful we weren’t carrying our backpacks. We watched those that were and they were moving oh so slowly.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. The day started out lovely and peaceful although each day brought more and more pilgrims to the Camino. We enjoy meeting other pilgrims but truth be told when we’re walking, we embrace the solitude. Walking away from Ponte de Lima that morning we were gifted with incredible valleys, vineyards, farms, creeks, churches and so much more. The pride of ownership was evident as we passed each rural homestead. The gardens were pristine. Even the crazy roosters that cock-a-doodle-doo all day long made us smile.
Once we started to climb, I huffed and puffed my way up the gullies and with Abi’s helping hand we at last made it to the top. We had been following a young woman on the trail and when we caught up to her, she very nicely congratulated me on reaching the top. I smiled and returned the congrats and also commented that she had more of a challenge because she was carrying a full pack on her back.
The gist of her compliment to me was that I was carrying a pack of another kind, which loosely translated to white hair equals old lady. Backhanded compliment. I wasn’t offended because I knew she meant well and I’ll take the compliment because if I can help change the image of mature women everywhere, it’s a good day. Funny thing is, I don’t think of myself as old, but people see white hair and well, there you go.
A Bittersweet Ending
It took us eight long hours to make that trek. Not only did we climb up and over the mountain but we also had to (obviously) descend from the top on rough terrain and loose gravel. To top off the day we had to slog our way through flooded trails. By the time we reached our B&B for the night we were wiped out.
After such a challenging day, imagine our delight to discover our booked B&B had a swimming pool! It wasn’t long after arriving that Abi found himself a cold beer and had his feet in the pool.
The end of our day was bittersweet though as we received word from home that a special friend had left this earth way too early. It was heartbreaking news but it was also a powerful reminder that we all need to live the life we want to live. And, live it now.
- Day 5 – April 20
- Ponte de Lima to Cossourado
- We walked 14 miles (22 km)
- Difficulty: Moderate to Challenging
Cossourado to Valenca
After the challenge of day five, we were downright giddy that we only had to walk eight miles on day 6. Although, we were a bit sad that it was our last day to walk in Portugal because day seven would find us crossing in to Spain. We very much enjoy Spain, but our hearts are tied to Portugal. We also knew the Camino would become much busier once we entered Spain as many pilgrims begin their walk in Tui, Spain.
It was, thankfully, a very easy 8-mile walk from Cossourado to Valenca and boy did we feel we earned it. We were so happy we almost skipped our way to Valenca. The terrain was manageable and the views were nice with not too much asphalt/road walking. I think we only stopped once for a quick bite to eat. Our goal was to reach Valenca early in the day (I think we arrived by 1:00) in order to #1 have time to explore the historic city and #2 get off the trail before the rain rolled in. And, oh boy, did it roll in!
The historic city center of Valenca sits within the walls of a fortress, the first walls of which were built in the 13th century. The fortress sits atop a hill and overlooks the Minho River. Wandering through the narrow streets window shopping, people watching and taking in a few of the historic sites such as the church square, is a nice way to spend an afternoon. There are multiple restaurants where a yummy meal can be enjoyed. One can also walk the top of the fortress walls and take in the views of Spain just across the river.
Ponte Internacional Tui-Valenca
Before the rain rolled in we found our way to the bridge we would have to walk across the next morning. It’s an international bridge as the border between Portugal and Spain is at the half way point when crossing the bridge.
If you know me at all you know I have a wicked fear of heights. When I saw just how high that bridge was, and that pedestrians must walk on the outside, my fear of heights kicked in to overdrive. I knew that once we started walking across there would be no stopping for photo ops. So while I waited in Portugal, Abi walked across the bridge to Spain and took multiple photos. As it turned out this was also a good idea because the next morning it was nothing but gray skies and rain.
Wondering how I got across that bridge? Stay tuned!
- Day 6 – April 21
- Cossourado to Valenca
- We walked 8 miles (13 km)
- Difficulty: Easy
Patti, I thought of you when we crossed over the Tui Bridge with our motorhome. So sorry about your friend passing, Thanks for sharing your “Camino ” such a wonderful experience.
Thank you, Gilda, for the condolences.
In our travels over the last several years, we were often reminded through mishaps, illness, and the loss of friends and family, that life is indeed short and that important moments are missed when one waits for the right time or *someday * to arrive. I am thankful every day that we grabbed our opportunity to travel and RAN with it! As for old, I’m seeing many gray hairs sprinkled throughout my hair these days but, like you Patti, I don’t feel old inside. Let’s lift a glass of Portuguese wine and give a toast to “old” ladies everywhere who do amazing things. We rock!
Completely agree, Anita. There is no better time than right now and it was really driven home to us when we learned of our friend’s passing, because we almost put off walking the Camino Portuguese until a less busy time. I’m thankful every day that we went for it. And, you’re right, we do indeed rock!
Patti, I see one yellow arrow clearly, and I think I see at least part of the other one, but I will not spoil the hunt for other readers. Wow, easy to miss when lost in thought. I have been reading Donna’s posts from Retirement Reflections alternately with yours as they walk a different part of the Camino. The sleeping accommodations that the two of you have are in stark contrast. I much prefer the sound of a B&B with a pool to bunk beds in a shared room. Condolences regarding your friend who passed away. Sad news to hear at any time, but especially when you are away from home.
You probably did spot the other yellow marker, Suzanne. I too have been following Retirement Reflections. I am not someone who can just lie down and sleep anywhere. Far from it. We like our privacy and comfort. When we walked the Camino Francis we stayed at a couple of hostels, but only in private room/bath. Thank you for the condolences, very much appreciated.