Today started at the youth hostel in ponte do limas like any other day – well any other camino day! We picked up our prepackaged breakfast from reception at 6 (because they don’t open the in-house breakfast until 8:30!) We buttered our bread rolls with sporks and drank our juice tetra pack and I bought coffee from the machine downstairs. The three of us left at the same time draped in rain gear as there was light rain still persisting from the evening showers. Little did we know what the day would bring.
Fräulein disappeared into the distance as we crossed the bridge – this was also about the time that the rain started steadily increasing. The old young one and I walked along a narrow path beside a small stone wall that steadily grew higher until it was past our waists. It was then we realised we had to be on the stone wall in order to cross a water way. Not so easy climbing up with a pack on – but far more difficult if I had needed to climb down!
Anyway on we went until we came across the first bar where we stopped to have coffee and dry off for a minute or two before moving onwards.
An hour or two later was to be the second and final bar of the day. We dawdled a bit here as the rain did appear to be getting heavier. But then we decided to head off when there were a few moments of lighter rain. This is where we headed into the forest and the highest point of the Portuguese camino. All three of us were let’s say a little cocky. It was only around 400 metres. The Camino Frances had peaks much higher and much more difficult – or so we thought!
Fraulein had gone on ahead with her super speed cadence and sent us a message back saying the following:
Don‘t go to the Cruz
Rocks and water everywhere
I had thought we had an option so I promised to point out the option to the old young one when I saw it. As it turned out the rain increased so much that my head was down as we headed up up up in the rain with an occasional brief reprieve of some down time. The young one was far in the distance and I chatted with some South African ladies who passed me in the same direction and an older Japanese man was leading the pack.
Some time in the distance the South Africans the Japanese man and the Young one arrived at a fork in the road. They waited for me and my trusty app and waterproof phone. There were no arrows. We had missed a turn somewhere.
It was difficult to use the touchscreen but we managed to figure out if we went left and did a few switchbacks we’d be back on the camino. I took a screenshot of our location in case we needed to refer back to it.
So up up up we went for what seemed like an eternity.
The South Africans stopped again and asked if we could have another look. It was at this point we referred back to the screenshot and realised we were actually further away from the camino! And it was absolutely bucketing down! Oh for joy!
Anyway after another eternity we finally made it back to the turn we had missed originally. Frankly it wasn’t that obvious and with head down watching every step it was easy to miss. It didnt even look like a track with all the water coming down.
(Look closely at the top of the hill to see our japanese friend)
At this point we came face to face with the reason we had missed the turn. The track was in fact a water fall and didnt even resemble a track!
Anyway we soldiered on (again) and went up up up. I was glad to have my trusty waterproof hoka one one’s on. The grip was spectacular. With my fantastic pink hiking poles I didnt miss a beat! The waterproof didnt really matter after a while because the rain was so heavy it just went straight inside my rain jacket, down my legs and pooled nicely around my woollen socks. They felt wonderful! I did wonder what state my feet would be in after this little adventure but soldier on we did.
Every time we got to the top of one of these little tracks we thought it would be over and every time we were wrong. Eventually we made it to the bottom of the grandest waterfall track of all. At this point the Japanese man arrived and we all looked up in fear!
If we didn’t take the track in front of us we would have to go back down the other tracks. The Old Young One said she had had enough and wanted a taxi. But we were in a forest somewhere up a mountain somewhere in Portugal near god knows which town, neither of us spoke Portugues and with only forestry tracks for them to find us. We had to make the road. I started singing “Raindrops keep fallen on my head”. But no amount of singing in the rain was going to change the Old Young Ones mind. But up we had to go and once she started up she went very quickly.
So up I went again although the Japanese man remained sitting on a rock, in his rain coat reading his phone. Just as he had at the last waterfall. Yes, I was worried about him too but he said “I’m fine” so off I went. (Maybe he was waiting for the coast to clear so he could magically transport himself up each stage in some ancient Japanese art form.)
Then, would you believe we reached the mother of all waterfall tracks? Well we did. That was it. We looked on this time in terror. My phone touchscreen wouldn’t work although I desperately tried to record the day. Just when all hope was lost four nice older spanish men from Madrid arrived. “Follow us” they said, “we’ll help you”.
Help us they did, if only to give us the motivation to continue. When we finally made the top there was a caravan there and the Old Young One still wanted a taxi. Our new spanish friends discussed this with the shop owner and his wife and a call was made. We were then told that there were no taxis around and it would take at least one hour probably longer. The mans wife would take us the last five kilometres for a 30 euro. Apparently we could walk 5 kilometres but she had to drive the other way out the forestry tracks and it was over 20 kilometres by car.
I was hesitant as in all my caminoing a little bit of rain hadn’t stopped me and the only time I had caught a taxi was when a nerve pinch had stopped me from walking another step. But the Old Young One had a sore knee, and had had enough. We had already walked our quota for the day by heading off in the wrong direction and it seemed like we were in the middle of a once in a century rainstorm! Okay I know they’re excuses but we were both wet to the bone and also at risk of hypothermia so we jumped in the van and headed down to the albergue both comfortable with the effort we had put in. I negotiated her down to 20 euros so it felt a bit better too.
We arrived at the most gorgeous little Albergue Ninho with Fräulein to greet us, a fireplace running to dry our boots, the owners cleaning and drying our clothes. Fraulein had secured some great little beds in the loft above the kitchen. The only problem was a tendency of everyone (especially the Fraulein ) to hit their heads moving around the magnificent loft.
The Arizonian from Casa Fernanda very kindly grabbed my pack and delivered it upstairs next to my bed. We had wonderful hot showers, I had the use of a hair dryer and we had plenty of newspaper to stuff in our boots. We then walked out into the now slight showers to eat at the bar down the street. There were the Other young danes (lets call them the Fast eaters – they walk fast but stop to eat a lot so I see a lot of them) the Aussies from Brisvegas, and of course those wonderful Canadians from Matosinhos.
All was well with world again!