Day three starts slowly. I need to recover from the previous day’s ordeal, so I sleep past my 6:30 alarm, knowing today’s walk won’t match the length or challenges of the first two days. I even start with another shower, a Camino luxury, but hey, I’ve got the whole damn farm to myself. The absent host had laid out a few things, and the rest, especially coffee, was easy enough to figure out. As I’m enjoy a leisurely breakfast, I see a car – a sleek newish white Mercedes, model unknown in the US – coming up the driveway. It’s Nona, my host, and as he comes in he’s all apologies for having left me high and dry. Well, he didn’t; my mistakes of the day before had nothing to do with him, so we’re all square. But he still feels badly, so he pulls out his Portuguese guitar and plays soulful Fado for me. He’s good at this distinct local art form, the songs that express deep yearning that never seems to end in joy. I’m thousands of miles from my home and Nancy, and he’s singing about yearning… at 8:30 in the morning!!
Finally I pack my stuff – unpacking and repacking a backpack, daily, becomes one of God’s punishments on these walking journeys. By nine I’m out the door, and finally I see everything that had been shrouded in darkness the night before. The house is nice, white stuccoed, and large. The road was merely a very long driveway, and there were those two sheep – the four glowing eyes – again.
That day’s walk was thankfully shorter than the standard 18 miles since I’d made a 6 mile downpayment the night before. After passing several other beautiful quintas, I’m back out in flat fields, along dirt tracks and a few paved roads. Tomato fields became vineyards and ultimately corn fields. Along with the tomato harvest, a mechanical picker was working grapes, cleanly plucking them off the vine. I tasted both a tomato – amazingly good – and a couple of grapes – seemed unripe and sour – and lived to tell about it. By mid afternoon I could see the day’s destination – Santarem – on a distant hill, and it wasn’t too long before I was climbing it into the city center. Admittedly, the very last section was a difficult slog, but otherwise the day had been a breeze.
I had booked a bed in a hostel that even my highly discriminating Camino Brother of two years ago – Jay – would’ve approved of. It was relatively new, comfortably modern and with a lovely hostess. “Lovely” is not a word I use often, but when someone says “give me your laundry, I will wash it.” they immediately qualify for that word. Sadly though, at least for that one night I appeared to be the only guest they had to serve. My heart lightened, though, when I saw the guestbook and saw they had a Russian folk dancing group fill the place the night before.
On the way to find a bite to eat that night I ran into the only other peregrinos that I’ve run into multiple times, Mary and Paul from the Isle of Jersey. They deserve the “lovely” label as well, and not only because they’re my only occasional compatriots along the way – though we’ve never walked together. Mary must be Catherine Zeta Jones’ twin sister, and Paul is a tall, fit just-turned 60 year old with shoulder-length blond-grey hair. I’ve never known anyone from the real Jersey, but they represent their little tax haven very well. They certainly have the best British English I ever remover hearing. The Queen might even declare it lovely.
“Day is done, gone the sun,” so I head back to my own private hostel (note, 2nd night all alone) to rest for the next, tougher, day.