Dark, thanks to the absence of windows a really dark night, whose calm interrupts rumbling sound of an alarm clock. Then it’s quiet for a while. It repeats after few minutes. Marek and Ania are waking up. I’m trying to sleep but I just can’t. They’re definitely not making as much noise as the Italian in Tomar and they even leave within 30 minutes but I still can’t fall asleep. I’m awake already so I look at Jitka and I see that she’s awake too. So, we go and brush our teeth, pick up our backpacks and then we’re ready to go, too.
Meanwhile Eva wakes up too and goes to the kitchenette to make some breakfast. She asks if we want to join her and Danny but we politely decline. Starting with a full stomach would be difficult. We take the rest of the sponge cake that’s lying on the table with us, then throw some money for the accommodation in a small box on the wall and after writing a message to the commemorative book and saying goodbye to Eva we go.
“If you want to give it up, remember why you started it.”
Around the church, there is a descent down the hill. After a few hundreds of meters, we’re passing by some benches and tables where we could stay the night too just in case. A little further, there is an overgrown ruin of the church. We suddenly realize that we left without a warp-up, so we quickly throw away our bags and do a little stretching.
The road leads us between hills and what’s more important, in the nature. Every minute we have great views of the surroundings. After almost 9 km we arrive to a town called Rabaçal. It’s the right time for a morning coffee and a small break. The café is right in the outskirts and as we arrive, Ania and Marek are just leaving it. After the breakfast, we go on.
A few drops fall on us from the sky but before we even start rejoicing from the possible rain and the air cleanse, the annoying big yellow ball is back and is shining more than ever. A while after Rabaçal I stop to change my socks. The blisters make the walk uncomfortable and feel like walking on hot coals. We continue. Jitka’s phone is ringing and it’s Barča calling. We’re worried about what has happened but she just announces us that she’s going to camp out for the weekend and that she has bought a great mattress… After telling her not to get sunburnt and to take care we say goodbye.
Tiles all around us
During the route we’re noticing that similarly as in Tomar, the appearance of pointers to Santiago rapidly changes. We really like the info signs made of tiles in villages. We find a rest area with tile info sign and drinking fountain after leaving one of the villages. We use that and fill our bottles. It’s not easy because it’s the one for drinking only, again, thus water gushes upwards and it’s difficult to catch it in the bottle. Fortunately, Jitka has a travel alu cup with her which we use to catch the water and then pour it in the bottles. After this artistic show we have a small snack, relax and shoot a video from the route. It’s quiet and calm everywhere around except from the cicadas screaming from distant eucalyptus forests.
What is happening here?
The way from the rest area leads us around a dry riverbed. It clearly hasn’t rained here in a while. As I’m looking around, I suddenly stumble over a rock. Something much rougher than “damn it” comes out of my mouth and I immediately check my shoe and if it’s okay and I also check out the culprit. From the path that pilgrims have been walking through for centuries every day, from the path marked by the scallop shell, from the path that is many, many kilometers away from the sea and the ocean, a stone with a fossilized shell is now looking at me.
I’m just standing there for a while trying to catch my breath. In shock, I show Jitka what was it that I stumbled over. We both are just gazing in disbelief when we recall the Fatima meeting with a monk. Our heads are now full of questions with unclear answers.
Another dog attack
I believe I’m a rationally thinking, atheistically brought up man but my mind just can’t find answers. We go on with a little bit more weight in my backpack. Another village and its marked public drinking fountain. We’d like to wash our sweaty and dirty from the dust faces but a huge dog who starts growling at us immediately changes our plans. Thanks to our bamboo sticks we can keep him away in a safe distance. It only takes a few tens of meters of reversing until the dog gets bored and runs away to lie in wait for other less armed victims.
We’re slowly getting out of a forest and we’re passing by a closed gate behind which we can see some excavations with Romanesque buildings.
Cernache – the goal of today’s wandering
The next kilometers are switching between nature and villages and then we finally arrive to Cernache. The goal of today’s route. We leave a rest of about 15 km for tomorrow to reach Coimbra in the morning and have the whole day to explore the city and regenerate.
We find the albergue in one of the alleys. As we’re standing in front of the door, we notice that it works with a numeric code and right when we’re about to ring the bell, a car stops next to us and a guy gets out and says we’re lucky, that he’s just arrived. He opens the door and leads us up the stairs to the residential part of the house. In one room in front of the stairway we see two bunk beds and two unpacked backpacks. Next to the stairway there is another room with three bunk beds, i.e. six beds, on one of which there is someone loudly resting right now.
Then there’s another room, two bunk beds and completely empty, so we occupy this one. Next to it there’s a shower, in which someone is right now, then kitchenette and dining room. After this quick tour he leaves us to accommodate and rest and says that he’ll stop by in the evening to get the payment, give us stamps in our credentials and so on.
A great group
While unpacking our stuff and waiting for the shower to be free, a tall man gets out of it and warmly welcomes us. We’re finding out that he’s from Germany… and we’re being invited to a dinner together with him and his wife who is from Argentina, so that we can talk further. We accept and tell him that once we wash our clothes, shower, and rest for a while, we’ll go to buy an ice lolly and beer, and then we can go shop the ingredients for today’s dinner together.
I’m not sure if I mentioned it here in the previous days before, but on Camino I fell in love with ice lollies and beer. When I eat the ice lolly, I get a taste for beer and after the beer I get a taste for an ice lolly again. Yeah, I might be calling for a sudden but expected accident which would be followed by a necessary wash of underwear, but my appetite is really weird here.
During shopping we learn that the guy is named Stefan, is from Hamburg and is on the route with her wife since May. We also learn that they’re on the direction to Fatima and that they sleep under a tent almost every night, that they walk 10-15 km daily, that they found out the wife is expecting a child on the pilgrimage and that his backpack weighs about 20-25 kg. I want to ask her if her appetite is as weird as mine, since she’s pregnant, but I end up not doing it.
On albergue we immediately start preparing cooking. We are cleaning carrots, pealing and cutting onions, when suddenly comes in another helper and diner. The American Mary agrees with the cooking together and since we’ve already bought all the ingredients with Stefan, she runs to the store and comes back with bottles of wine and beer. While the soup is cooking and the main meal is stewing under the lid, the owner or warden of the albergue comes to take 8 euro for the accommodation. He quickly swaps a few words with us and wishes us a safe journey. “Boa viagem” apparently, that’s how you say it in Portuguese. That’s a change compared to the Spanish Buen camino. Then he wishes us to enjoy our meal and leaves.
The food is on served so we start both eating and conversating. We’re all telling our stories from camino one by one. Stefan tells us about a friend who has experienced a strange thing on camino. Apparently, he was so tired one day on the pilgrimage that he fell with tiredness on the last hill and wasn’t able to get back up. Suddenly, a young girl appeared next to him, took his backpack on her back, helped him get up and led him to albergue. When he wanted to thank her, she was gone. A little unbelievable, but after experiencing something similar, I’m not so skeptical anymore.
We agree that this journey is like a river full of energy that is left here by the pilgrims before us. Somewhere the energy is positive, sometimes it’s negative, too. That’s what Mary’s story is about. She says she had a terrible accident two days ago. Apparently, she met a strange guy on the route who started exposing himself. She ran away from him and spent the rest of the day on the police station. We throw our experience from Fatima and the one with the rock from today in the mix.
While talking we also eat, of course. The food is delicious. Yes, I have to admit that if I got this at home, I’d ask “what is the punishment for” again, but it’s just different here. After the daylong wandering this mixture of onion, beans, carrots, tomatoes, paprika and god knows what else with eggs and pasta just tastes amazing.
Saying goodbye to Stefan and Idelide is kind of emotional, considering we’ll probably never see them again. This kind-hearted guy has grown on me during these few hours. We’ve agreed to meet up in Coimbra with Mary. We clean the leftovers after the food together and then we individually leave to our beds. The dark corridor sounds with Good night, Guten Nacht a Buenasnoches and our dobrounoc and then the day conclusively ends.