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Published: September 7th 2016
28 August 2016, Sunday Santarem to Golega. - Portugal horse country. Day 5.
Leaving our hotel Umu, in Santarem, we have to walk back up into the town and then down to the train station. As we had learned the night before from Miguel's staff the ticket office would be open to purchase a train ticket for Karen to go to the small train station closest to Golega.
As Jo and I leave the train station the agent directs us to the end of the platform then on the road across the tracks. We walk a short way when I realized from Brierley that we need to go back the other way, past the train station, to find the Camino. Sure enough about 100 meters beyond the station is the route going to our left. Now Karen's day begins.
Up early and downstairs to pick up bag lunches. Yes, despite pessimism, we do have lunches of ham and cheese sandwiches, a beautiful apple and a container of yoghurt with spoon. It takes some time to climb up to the 'old city' and then down to the train station. However, the station is open and we buy a ticket
for Mato de Miranda. Hopefully I will be able to make a decision as to whether to take a taxi, or walk, at this isolated station. I have almost two hours to wait so I pull out the IPad to work. The station is chilly with a brisk wind coming through the open doors so I opt for a spot in the sun on the platform. It is a busy little station with trains coming and going and some barreling through without stopping.
I alight at Mato de Miranda, with one other person, to a deserted, locked up station. Even the bathrooms are locked up. No taxi in sight; no life in sight!
So it is off to Golega, eight or nine miles away. It takes me about three hours. It is a gorgeous day but it is heating up quickly. I pass fields and fields of corn, many fields have solar panels. There are also some fields of sunflowers.
As I get nearer to Golega I see the Camino symbol, a welcome sign. One must be very careful as, although I am not on a major road, the cars are out to test their power in
Capping the melons
Little metal caps - to protect melons?
a rural setting. There is no pathway and one must jump off the pavement when a vehicle approaches.
Now I see two signs put up by this province that shows The Way, where you are going, where you have been (unless you have been lost!) and your final destination.
Golega is known as "The Horse Capital of Portugal." It is a picturesque, lively town of 6,000 or so. I approach the town and come up a short street in front of the beautiful church with a Manueline doorway that is stupendous. It is made even more dramatic as the rest of the church's exterior is very plain. Now it is a long way to the street I need to find---I am still on the Camino. I next turn into a short street and am at the horse grounds. Several times a year there are events that are so popular that one cannot find lodging for miles around.
We are staying in a horse stable complex, facing the feria grounds. I enter a big, green metal door. I am greeted by four small yapping dogs and one huge dog that joins the chorus and adds a bass to
the chorus. It is quiet in the mid-day heat. Fortunately, the voucher for the night's lodging has a small picture of the lodging or I would be hesitant to continue. However, I see the reception area far ahead. The compound is blindingly white, trimmed in an orange-mustard color. On both sides, leading to the two story area where the reception is, are stables for horses. They now poke their heads out to see what is causing the ruckus. I walk across the wide expanse of gravel to reception. The door is locked. I go to large open doors leading to an enclosed arena where, obviously, horses perform. There are bleachers. Next I return to the center of the gravel expanse and yell "Hello" and "Ola." No answer, except for soft neighs from the horses. I am hungry so proceed to sit down on the doormat and eat my sandwich. I am watched by several of the dogs, thank goodness it is not the large one.
In through the big, green metal gate comes a beautiful white horse, led by a slim, beautiful young girl of about ten. A trainer follows. They proceed into the arena. A woman comes to
the gate and is trying to get in. I start to go across the expanse of gravel but the trainer comes running out and says, "It is my mother!"
After about forty minutes a lady comes who obviously runs the operation. She lets me into reception. I say we have reservations and she looks a little bewildered. She has a single but no double. Thank goodness I have a voucher that clearly states what we have. She is upset. It is a Sunday and the secretary is off. She makes a call--no answer. Finally she asks me to follow her upstairs and she shows me two twins. One must remember that a lodging may not have a "double" or "matrimonial" but still have twins and who cares what it is when one is tired!!!
She makes vouchers up for dinner and breakfast. I ask how the luggage is delivered and she says the luggage man has a key. And, voila, the luggage man appears! He strong-arms the three bags across the wide expanse of gravel and up the stairs.
So now I meet Lopez, the baggage carrier. After a few minutes chatting, I ask if I might
pay him to transport me with the bags tomorrow. The company that we worked with in setting up the trip had said that was not a possibility. He says that he will transport me without a charge.
Jo and Harlan arrive, having done around 24 miles--needless to say they got lost. They clean up and out we go around the corner for dinner. This is a true cultural event--mostly a crowd of all men watching a bullfight and then a soccer game on t.v. The little bar-restaurant is packed with many dining al fresco.
We have a lovely server, Barbara, who takes great pains that we understand the menu. We all decide on grilled pork. While waiting we have a local cheese that almost reminded me of an English Stilton, olives, and an assortment of breads. The meat comes on a huge platter for the three of us and we only consume about half of it. It is accompanied by a most flavorful rice, crisp French fries and green salad. Harlan and I have some variation of ice cream with strawberry jam. We have ordered a jug of sangria, along with ice water. Our voucher has not indicated
a price limit but we tell Barbara that alcohol is usually not included. She returns from a conversation with her partner and says it is included. She has been delightful, stopping occasionally to see we have all that we need.
We can barely negotiate the short distance home because of weariness but we do stop to say goodnight to all the horses.
Returning to Harlan and Jo's day, we pickup a dirt road through the farm fields with various crops. At Vale de Figueria centro we find a cafe and have coffee and our sandwiches. The path now leads us up and through a cork tree forest. There are several alternate routes now and we manage to take each of the longer ones, not by choice. One takes us to Pombalinho where we see a Spanish couple biking to Santiago. And the next, back to the river and Anzinhaga. This little town was the home of Portugal's Noble Laureate for literature, Jose Sarmago. We have a drink on a bench near his statue and have a photo on the bench next to his statute reading a book. After leaving Azinhaga we elect to take the option that keeps
us off the narrow busy highway. Well, we missed an early turn and go about 3 miles farther than we bargained for; coming in North of the town we use the GPS on cell phone to find the guest house. We finally stop at a bar, remember it is Sunday and everything is closed, and the owner shows us the gate. Like Karen the barking dogs greet us. Banging on the gate brings an employee who lets us in. It has been a 40 kilometer, 24 mile day.
Tot: 3.36s; Tpl: 0.053s; cc: 8; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0422s; 3; m:saturn w:www (188.8.131.52); sld: 2;
; mem: 1.4mb