Unwise Pilgrim

When you have 10 to 14 hours by yourself, in your own head, you dictate countless stories, but I have neither the time nor the energy to write them all. So I’ll go with this.An app for people who walk the various Caminos is called “Wise Pilgrim.” I should have listened to its advice. Unless you’re an absolute purist, it says, skip the industrial outskirts of Lisbon and take the train to Azambuja, a city to the north, and start walking there. I’m not a purist, far from it, but I’m stubborn, so I decided on a hybrid start. I left my hostel in Lisbon on Tuesday at 7am, after a sleepless night, and took a long series of steps from the “high quarter” down to the main section of the city where I took the Metro to the system’s northernmost station near the Camino. It’s called Oriente, so that was my starting point, still very much in The city but no longer downtown. It’s a sleek and modern, I’m guessing upscale, commercial and residential apartment block area. Not long afterwards, though, things change. It becomes clear that the Portuguese economy has suffered. Storefronts are shuttered on the street level of grand buildings, and I can only assume that their upper floor occupancy is limited (sorry, it’s the banker in me coming out). Then comes a district of industrial buildings, factories and warehouses that were closed and going to seed. Sad! This early section of the Camino is neither inspirational nor scenic; I’m struggling both inside and out. I had planned a long day of 21 miles, and I’m regretting both the distance and not listening to the “Wise Pilgrim.” Finally, the first day ends in the first charming suburb of Lisbon all day… Villa Franca de Xira. The last several miles approaching it are along a green belt recreation area on the banks of the River Tejos. It’s packed with runners and strollers, and a few fishermen. Once in town I find my hostel and become the 4th person in a tiny room with two 2-tiered bunks. My roomies, a couple from Sandusky, Ohio and a doctor from Brazil (it’s his 5th Camino), are ready for lights-out, so I take a much-needed shower and climb up my upper bunk. Maybe tomorrow will be better (but since I’m writing this two days later, don’t count on it).

3 thoughts on “Unwise Pilgrim

  1. Wow beautiful pics. Also the bunks are less to be desired. Definitely roughing it and a humbling process. Maybe takes you back to the army days?


  2. What a great (and nerve wracking) tease! I cannot imagine doing what you’re doing, solo–and also alone–and sleeping in hostel sharing rooms with folks you are just meeting. Sorry about your less than ideal terrain for day one and I hope it improves. Of course I also want to know what/where you eat . . .


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