When I left Santiago, the sun was shining and it felt good to be going south again. Around noon I parked my bicycle next to a little stone wall where I ate my lunch. A woman, who had been working in her garden, startled me. She suddenly began talking to me in an agitated way, but I could not understand her. At first I thought she was angry, but later I still had no clue what she was going on about. She told me something that apparently happened 27 years ago, because she repeated that several times. I could not find out what it was. In the end she smiled as if she had made her point and we said goodbye with me non the wiser. I packed the leftovers of my lunch and got cycling again.
I have no photo of the woman. I didn’t want to antagonise her.
In Pontevedra I found an albergue and upon showing my credencial I was accepted. Going south on the Camino Portugués one can follow the blue arrows, rather than the yellow arrows, which are reserved for Santiago the Compostela. For staying in the albergues it seems not to be a problem if one’s going the other way and only later did I understand that by going south along the Camino Portugués, one is actually following the pilgrim’s route to Fatima in Portugal. So now I am a pilgrim to Fatima.
Pilgrims travel to Fatima because this is the place where the Virgin Mary revealed herself to three children, herding sheep in 1917, rather than to the worldleaders, commanding their armies. She urged them to pray for the end of the First World War (only it wasn’t the First World War, because the Second World War hadn’t begun yet, of course). The Second World War, by the way, was also prophesied by the Virgin, so what all the praying was for, is unclear. All this I had been reading in a booklet I found at one of the albergues and which was a great help to prepare me for this new pilgrimage.
When I came back from a short walk into the town to buy some groceries, I found the kitchen full of middle aged women. They were roasting sausages and chestnuts (Sp. castañas) for the party of San Martino or some other saint. While I was cooking my macaroni, I was offered some of both. The sausage was very greasy, but the chestnuts tasted great. Later, after I had dined, me and the only other pilgrim, an elderly Italian, were given some more chestnuts and some of the regional wine.
The albergue had floor heating which meant that some of my groceries were almost smouldering by the time I found out.
The next day it was raining. The Goretex socks that I use inside my non-waterproof shoes are not very successful. They keep my feet dry for some time, but then they get soaked nevertheless. Not sure if they are worth keeping….
Before Tui, the N-550 and the A-55 merge and I am not allowed to cycle on the autovia, so I retreat to the camino, the pilgrims path. Going south, it’s not always easy to find the route backwards, following the yellow arrows in the opposite direction. Alternatively, there are the blue arrows to Fatima, but they are far less frequent. At some point I have gone around in a circle and it takes questioning some natives to get back on the right track. Because of the rain, I ride through ankle-deep water, trying hard to evade rocks and big stones. I cross a very picturesque Roman bridge, it’s small and constructed of large stone slabs, with a clear trail worn out through centuries of use.
At Tui I get back on the tarmac and I cross the border into Portugal. The weather improves and I cycle uphill where I stop at the albergue of Rubiães. I also find out that I’ve cycled into a different time-zone and so I have an extra hour to drink a glass of wine. Hurrah!