Sunday, 28 February 2010
Practical Pilgrim – The Camino Portugués
Another route which has quite different characteristics is the route from Porto in Portugal to Santiago. The CSJ Guide needed updating so having identified a two week gap our diaries the Big Man and I set to the task. This time he was the Guidewriter and I was the scout.
Travel to Porto was easy with a direct flight from London and I was impressed with the ease of travel into the city on the clean and efficient train service. I had learned in advance that a lot of Portuguese people speak English. Being in an Hispanic country for the first few times I lapsed into Spanish. They replied in English. I soon came to learn that the relationship between the two countries is much like Scotland and England and stuck to English from then on. I have heard some theories as to why English is so universally spoken in Portugal. Some say it was a deliberate thrust of the school curriculum others that there were so many films on TV in English is rubbed off on everyone!
I had also read that there was a lot of road walking on this route. That turned out to be somewhat of an understatement. As well as walking along the side of very busy roads there is a considerable amount of walking on hard, cobbled paths. In fact in the first couple of days there is almost 40 kms of continuous concrete walking. That is why guidebooks give an alternative of taking public transport (including the Porto Metro) and missing out the first stage.
You can judge for yourselves but I was left feeling a little ambivalent about this route. Parts are ugly and the walking can be tedious. But on balance I think there is just enough good walking and scenery to redeem this route. And of course the fellowship with other pilgrims is always there.
If you have two weeks to spend then walking the Camino Portugués from Porto to Santiago for 10 or 11 days plus a day or so in Santiago may be ideal.
If you think I’m being unfair about this route, let me know!