- June 13th, 2014
- Santarem: Santarem Hostel, €15 for a female dorm
- Weather: Blisteringly hot, 36 degrees
I was a bit nervous about leaving in the dark at 4:45am so I carried my bed bug spray in my pocket for anyone/thing that came too close. It’s a lot harder to see any arrows in the dark, even with a headlamp, but it was quite simple finding my way out of Azambuja and onto a dirt track. The only problem with the track was that it was overgrown and within minutes of walking along it, I was covered in spider webs … At least a farm track in the dark full of spiders is a nicer view than the industrial zones of the previous two days!
I watched the moon set and the sunrise as I walked as fast as I could to try and get as many kilometres behind me before the temperature started to rise. Today I entered what my guidebook describes as the “market garden of Portugal” and all day on my left hand side I walked beside cabbages, tomatoes, corn, grapevines and lots of other veggies/fruit I couldn’t identify. On my right hand side was a flood wall to stop the river Tejo flooding the area.
Still no other pilgrims in sight but I did see ostriches, young men riding beautiful horses, lovely wildflowers and plenty of farmers on their tractors tending to their crops. Once the sun was up there was very limited shade options so I rested under a bridge and in the shade of a tree in the middle of a farm track… It was so hot! The last 16km along farm tracks didn’t go past any cafes or villages (or vending machines like in Japan!) so I had to stock up on water but I still could have drunk a lot more than the 2 litres I was carrying for this stretch.
The hill up to my destination of Santarem was a welcome sight and I arrived just after 1pm, checked in, showered, washed my clothes and slept through the afternoon heat. The hostel I’m staying in (Santarem Hostel, €15 for a female dorm) is stunning and I could happily stay a week here. The town is very historic with a fort overlooking the river and roman structures. I had a lovely walk around town in the evening and a delicious bacalhau dinner (cod) washed down with a glass of Beirao, a traditional Portuguese liquor which is almost impossible to find outside of Portugal!
I’ve been wondering how the Portuguese women are so slim when there are cake shops (pastelaria) here on every corner… Who other than me is eating all the yummy pastries??
Oh by the way it was only 36 degrees here today, 38 tomorrow!! An even earlier morning planned for tomorrow 😦