Camino de Santiago: Portuguese Coastal Way

I will start off with a small disclaimer: I didn’t finish. My blisters became too much and on top of that, I fell ill with a whooping cough and was unable to continue. I pushed my body too hard in such a short amount of time and I wish I had done things a little differently (read about how I prepared here), but I had a great time seeing what I could on my 80-mile pilgrimage up the coast of Portugal and Spain. I will write a more in-depth reflection piece in the days to come, but until then, enjoy the bones of my journey!

Saturday, 16 September: My flight to Porto left at 5AM, so needless to say, I had to be up really early (about 2AM) to get the coach to the airport. By the time I got to my hostel and looked up things to do, I found a walking tour that was leaving promptly, so I ran to make it. The walking tour gave us a taste of the city’s interesting history. My personal favorite parts were the Santa Clara church, cathedral (which is actually the original starting point of the Camino, so I started my Camino passport with a stamp from that cathedral) (for those who don’t know, you get a certificate of completion for you get stamps twice a day from hostels, churches, tourist offices, etc. along the last 100 kilometers of your walk) and the riverside. With the early start I had, I took a nap, ate dinner, blogged (the hostel had some desktops computers from which I wrote this bit of the post), read and got an early night.

Sunday, 17 September: I took a train from Porto to Vila do Conde to save myself an extra 16 miles (25.6 kilometers). The first part of the day took me along the beach, then through small rural villages inland leading me to the seaside village of Esposende, where I stopped for the day. The hostel I found was full, but thy let me sleep on the sleeper sofa in reception area for a discounted price, which was surprisingly comfortable. Then again, after the walk I had, I could have slept comfortably on a slab of stone.

  • Walked: 18.2 miles (23.3 kilometers)
  • Highlight: A few miles along the coast, I found a bar where I got my first stamp and encountered my first distinct signposting, what a relief!
  • Lowlight: The language barrier. I don’t understand a lick of Portuguese which is really difficult in villages where English is hard to come by.

Monday, 18 September: Departing from Esposende, I walked along the seaside for a short while until my walk took me inland through small rural villages and forest to Viana do Castelo. Not wanting to push my hostel luck, I booked a room a few hours before I arrived and all was well.

  • Walked: 17.9 miles (28.8 kilometers)
  • Highlight: Walking through the forest, it was absolutely stunning.
  • Lowlight: Cobblestone in the villages that are hard to navigate with my oh so sensitive feet.

Tuesday, 19 September: After passing the outskirts of Viana do Castelo, most of the walk today was right on the beautiful shoreline. I finally crossed into Spain by ferry and walked to the next village of A Guarda. This was my first time in a hotel, which was an amazing value of €30 (where I’ve typically been paying about €20 for a hostel dorm room).

  • Walked: 23.1 miles (37.2 kilometers)
  • Highlight: Crossing into Spain. I speak basic Spanish and can read most things using context clues so I think I’ll feel a lot more comfortable here speaking to locals.
  • Lowlight: I felt especially hopeless, tired and anxious about my walk today. Most evenings I go through the mental tug-of-war and the strong, determined side usually wins, but anxiety took over today.

Wednesday, 20 September: From A Guarda, the walk to Baiona was almost exclusively on the shore and it was gorgeous, I couldn’t help but stop frequently to take in the view.

  • Walked: 22.0 miles (35.4 kilometers)
  • Highlight: Being along the water. The views and weather were amazing.
  • Lowlight: The (view discretion advised) fucking blisters. I had one on each heel since the first day which were manageable but the ones on the balls of my feet hurt like nothing else, but I had to persist.

Thursday, 21 September: Today, I slept in a bit and had a relaxing morning that included breakfast by the marina. Today, I decided I would give myself a break from walking and take a bus halfway from Baiona to Redondela, which would land me in Vigo, and walk the rest of the way. I had a really hard time doing this, because at first I thought it would mean I failed my walk and myself, but my blisters hurt like no other and this trip is meant to be fun and not upsetting. Once I arrived to Vigo and it was pissing down rain, I couldn’t be bothered to walk even after that, so I took the train the rest of the way to Redondela. Once in Redondela, I did laundry and had a relaxing afternoon of Netflix, reading and writing. I thought this day off was well deserved and wish I planned for more time to take more days off while still walking the entire Way.

Unfortunately, after resting for the day, I became even more weary. Even with all the remedies I could find, my feet weren’t feeling any better and taking even just a few steps hurt. Additionally, I came down with a whooping cough (probably from a combination of staying in such close quarters in the hostels and pushing my body so hard) that further immobilized me. With that, I decided to tap out… for now. I do hope to return and walk the last 100 kilometers (from Baiona to Santiago de Compostela) at some point in the future with the knowledge I’ve gained from this trip.

I ended up walking a total of 81.2 miles (130.7 kilometers) form Vila de Conde, Portugal to Baiona, Spain. Here is a map of what I walked each day in alternating colors and an additional map for scale:

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Although I didn’t finish in a traditional sense, I’m really proud of what I accomplished, both the physical feat and mental and emotional strength it took to know when to take care of myself and postpone the rest of my walk. I’m a little upset I couldn’t finish, but also relieved I’m back at my house off my feet.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this trip! I will definitely be back.

6 thoughts on “Camino de Santiago: Portuguese Coastal Way

  1. Wow, Rachel!! I am so proud of you!! What an awesome accomplishment. That is way more than I would ever be able to do even when I was your age!! I hope you feel better!!
    Sending all my love,
    Auntie

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  2. Oh Rachel, what a shame. Yes, blisters can be a bastard. I also walked the Caminho Portugues and your photos have brought back wonderful memories of places I recognised. I too walked from Porto and can suggest that the next time you walk to walk from Matasinhos to Vila do Conde, it’s a stunning stretch of the coast. I was very lucky that I didn’t get any blisters at all…word wick away inners and double thick socks and a pair of shoes a full size bigger than normal. Seems to have worked for me. But, wow you did good girl. I hope you get to return and complete the full camino. rest days are good and short days even better. 😉 One of my days I planned before realising what the terrain was like was 32 kms between Arcade and Caldas de Reis (central route) …it was in one word ‘hell’. Never again. I’m planning my 2nd Camino for September 2018; Camino Inglés and the most I’ll walk is 20kms. I don’t care how long it takes me LOL. Rest well, wish you a speedy recovery and buen Camino for the future.

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