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Published: September 8th 2016
This is Portugal's horse country. Many beautiful horses in stables.
Day 6. We leave the beautiful equestrian town of Golega and proceed along the road toward Tomar. In spite of Brierley's directions to head east into the sun we missed one turn which did not take us to the correct intersection so had to travel up the road about the 300 or 400 metres to find the correct intersection. Here we saw our first Rota do Calvo e do Ribatejo sign marking the Camino route through this region of Portugal.
We now follow an asphalt road to the village of São Caetano, on the Rio Tejo. In the 12th Century this area was given to the care of the Templar, by H. Alfonso Henriques, as a reward for their part in the defensive system against the Spanish and Arab Invaders. For a time it became the Royal Palace and home to religious orders.
Crossing an old stone bridge, Riviera do Ponte da Pedro, we continue on asphalt to Vila Nova da Barquinha. This is a large town and we are looking for a place to have our breakfast sandwich. We ask and are told the restaurant is two streets behind us. Making a U-turn we find it.
Roommate? Bids us farewell!
Two long lines of horses in stables near our rooms.
another small village and we head up a dirt road through a eucalyptus forest for the first of our two 150 meter, (500 feet) climbs for the day. A Brierley photo of the terrain here is helpful. We can see which of the forest tracks to follow. The villages along here show no signs of life on this hot Monday afternoon. But in Asseiceira, we find a welcoming bar for a cool drink and cold water. The man also has a stamp for our passport.
Down the hill we now travel along a dusty, weedy path alongside the railroad to a highway with no shoulder into Tomar. As soon as we hit town we stop for iodine at a pharmacy for Jo's blisters and a beer. Karen, who is still not feeling well, has arrived by car at Residencia Uniao. Lopez, the luggage transfer man, has brought her.
Karen's account of her day.
August 29. Monday As you can probably ascertain, Harlan and I emphasize different things when we journal a journey. I go into detail about villages or other scenes, as well as people, as I occasionally revisit an entry to bring back a memory. I
Another of 20 horses 'installed' in Lusitanus, part of the equestrian centre.
like to ruminate about events that cause other events or people along the way that I might want to remember. I really do not care if anyone reads my section or not - it was originally for only me, but if you want to peek over my shoulder, go ahead. Today's topics are: fires and corruption, "change," and personal observations on the Portugeuse health care system.
An earlier departure for Jo and Harlan this morning. It is about 7:15 when they hit the trail. We say goodbye and I walk them as far as the Camino and then walk down to the plaza as I had read it is quite pleasant. It is a spotless area anchored by the church. I had first seen the church yesterday. As I had come up the little street church bells were tolling and there was much activity around the little plaza with families and individuals coming in and out of the church. I walk around the church and then stop to marvel at the beautiful door with all its detail. Many little shops and coffee houses line the perimeter. Now the only activity is a loud conversation going on between an elderly
man and woman.
Back to the horse complex where I feel like a nap - just a little one - until Lopez comes to pick me and the bags up. I awake to find a young woman, quite stunning in appearance, and the driver, just outside my door. She is the secretary. They have, over a discussion while I am slumbering, decided I really need to go to the hospital in Tomar. I am too weary to answer. Perhaps their decision has been made due to the fact it is 9:00 and I am dozing away. Their plan is to have Lopez drop off the luggage and he will then drop me off at the hospital in Tomar.
Well, this is really turning out to be a different Camino for me. Jo and Harlan can tell you all about the Camino and I will be able to tell you about modern day Portugal and its people. Lopez turns out to be a wonderful conversationalist and we chit-chat along. I then ask about the forest fires in the north of Portugal. He pauses and then says, "They are not natural." I reply, "Oh, they have been set by someone!?"
Church in Golega
Example of Manueline architecture
He pauses and replies, "Fires are big business in Portugal." He waits for that statement to sink in. He then goes on to explain. The economy is in the doldrums, much unemployment. Fighting fires means employment for firefighters, business for companies that make materials, such as fire retardants, and employment for helicopter pilots, business for companies that make all the equipment. He gives me a figure that is staggering for the cost of fighting a fire for one hour.
Next he gives his views on our ever amazing problem with money and not being able to get change. His view is that we are encountering some difficult people. He says by law he must have 20E in change at all times as a taxi driver.
We arrive in Tomar at the residential and he orders me to stay in the car while he schleps our baggage inside.
Now we travel to the huge hospital outside of town. We finish our conversation by him telling me how to navigate the emergency room.
I enter the hospital (Hospital Nossa Senhora da Graca) at 12:00 and here is the procedure.
-I stop at information and the young man,
fortunately, speaks beautiful English. He signs you in and then you wait for an intake person to decide what level of care you need and what doctor you see. You are given a colored wrist band. Then you return to the waiting room that is standing room only.
-Next you are called ( they use my name as I do not know how to count in Portugeuse!) and you see another person, perhaps it is a doctor. You describe what you think your problem is. She orders an x-ray. You return to the waiting room that is standing room only.
-Next you go to x-ray and return to the waiting room that now has a seat or two.
-You are called again and receive a shot of cortisone (for allergic reaction for the bug bites) and receive a nebulizer treatment. That is where I am now. It has been some time since the nebulizer has completed its business but still I am in this little room.
o.k.---this is enough! I disconnect the tube that is no longer delivering moist air to my lungs, which, by the way felt heavenly. I stand in the hallway with my
backpack and eventually someone comes along and takes me back to the doctor. Good news, x-ray is fine. Lungs are dry, drink tons of water and use a super-duper inhaler to open up lungs for the inhaler that I now use daily. Use a new kind of salve on the bug bites. No walking in heat of the day.
Back out to reception where my lovely, handsome receptionist puts in the figures and swirls the computer around and shows me the grand total of 72.20E. Unfortunately I do not have enough cash. I certainly did not know I was visiting a hospital that day! He helps me do a debit card but it is rejected---not a member of their system. He next escorts me down many halls to an ATM where it also does not like the card. Then he says, "you may return with the money" and I am incredulous. He says, "we are a little more nonchalant on payment. Bring the money when you can." I assure him it will be that evening when Harlan, carrying more money than I am, has arrived.
Lopez has told me to ask the receptionist to call a taxi as
there will not be any in the area. The taxi arrives and whisks me into town, going down a narrow street that the residential hotel opens onto in the back. The front of the building fronts the main pedestrian way. I fight my way through a pretty little patio filled with white sheets drying on lines. Up old stone stairs and I am greeted by George the owner. He escorts me to the room. The big, heavy shutters are drawn. The room fronts the lively pedestrian way and has a balcony. He says he has been expecting me and the heavy duffle bags are already in the room. He brings me two bottles of water, asking if I care for anything else to drink. One bottle is room temperature and one is iced. He turns on the AC. He closes the door, imploring me to get some rest.
Later in the afternoon Jo and Harlan arrive, Although a long day, it has been a day more like they remember the Camino Frances--varied scenery and villages along the way to stop for a cold drink and rest the feet. They are tired but happy.
After they clean up we
Camino Portugal map in this region
These were helpful but yesterday we were off path and did not see any.
head out to eat. The first restaurant George suggests is closed on Monday, as are many others. Finally we settle on Restaurante O Tabuleiro. Trip advisor rates it #2 in town. By now we are getting smarter and Harlan and I split half a portion of salmon. Portugeuse portions are huge. For dessert we share a slice of coconut pie that is one of the most luscious sweets I have had. The crust was coconut and the filling was a finely, finely shredded coconut--almost a custard composition. No meringue anywhere, the top being more coconut. It was so rich that the three of us could barely do it justice!
Ah, bed and no alarm!
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