There’s something magical about walking in solitude through rural villages in the morning fog: the only sounds being ocean waves crashing along the shore, birds chirping and the rhythmic crunch of your walking boots on the Camino path. The Portuguese coastline is particularly stunning and best enjoyed in quietude.
Occasionally, a local villager walks past with their dog, a fellow pilgrim speeds past or I overtake another. There were brief interludes with other walkers as we all found our own pace and rhythm along the Camino, particularly in those early stages out of Porto.
For several days throughout my two-week pilgrimage, I had the path to myself all morning, and even all day. I had a fleeting thought that perhaps I started way later than others, or – surprisingly and not impossible – I’ve left before everyone else.
With daylight breaking around 8am in Portugal and Spain during September, I was usually on the road between 8.30am - 9.30am depending on how many kilometres I was walking that day. Knowing where I was staying each night meant I could head off whenever I was ready and it didn't matter what time I arrived at that day’s destination – unless it rained, of course. Then it was a beeline to my final stop and no thought of scenic detours.
There were also many days spent walking in the company of fellow pilgrims - the best conversations were had with those not burdened by heavy backpacks or rushing to find their next accommodation. And it didn’t take long before I heard increasingly familiar sounds as I approached a café or came around a corner in the forest: "Hola, Hari. Come join us for a coffee and snack." I was beginning to think those Canadians were following me.
It was inevitable that our paths would cross throughout the Camino, as we were all travelling the same path to Santiago de Compostella.
The road to Santiago
The three main Camino paths through Portugal are:
New Zealand 2008
New Zealand 2006
United Kingdom 2004
Athens Olympics 2004
Beijing to Athens 1994
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