I’m finally going to live up to what I implicitly promised when I titled this blog. This’ll be short. There’s neither much to get inspired by or to write about when you’re walking mostly through industrial areas which is what the next two days encompassed. The first of these days was aimed at Sao Joao, a commercial/industrial city just bordering the Porto metro area, and the second day was exclusively a very long hike into Porto through a seemingly endless string of residential and industrial suburbs.
Day one was pleasantly surprising in two distinct ways. The first was a totally unexpected reunion with my new-found friends (and so far the only ones) Mary and Paul. We had said our good-byes two days earlier, thinking our separate schedules wouldn’t intersect again, but in a small town coffee shop of no renown they did. As a result we walked together for several hours, sharing lunch, taking photos and watching the start of a bicycle race (a big sport in this area, judging by the frequency of bike races on TV sports programs. By the afternoon, though, our individual paces and our separate lodging destinations in Sao Joao caused us to separate again, this time likely for good. The second surprise was the decor in the town of Agueda of which I wasn’t expecting much. Crossing the bridge leading into the small city, i could’ve simply turned left, following the Camino signs, but then I glanced across a plaza to my tight and just below the street level. What caught my eye was a brightly colorful display that I couldn’t make out at first. As I approached to see what it was, I saw that two entire streets of shops and restaurants were complete covered in open umbrellas, in a variety of colors, suspended from cables run across the streets. I had seen umbrellas as decor before, but never so many and so effective in giving this potentially drab town a trademark flair. Exiting the town a bit later. I saw another piece of public art, a three dimensional mural of a bird on a white industrial wall, with the 3rd dimension created by items of refuse embedded into art work.
Walking into Sao Joao late that afternoon I passed a large busy indoor mall, thinking this might be a reasonably nice city, but by the time I reached my ugly hotel in an equally ugly plaza my opinion had changed. Still happy from my late lunch with M&P, I passed on making the effort to find dinner and just hoped for a good night’s sleep.
After breakfast alone the next day, I set off on what I knew would be a very long walk into Porto. Passing through a dystopian scene of shells of a couple of defunct factories, my early morning mood fell to an all-time low on this Caminho. It slowed me down, but knowing I had Porto ahead, and two days of rest, kept me motivated enough to just keep walking. But after 22+ miles, a lot ups and downs, including a very hard climb up a long stretch of historic Roman road, I finally had enough though the heart of Porto was still ahead. Using my last dose of energy, I diverted to a Metro (subway) station, checked the map, bought a ticket and rode with the evening reverse commuters from the city outskirts into its heart and just a short last climb to… my very own Porto apartment for the next three nights.