Azambuja – Santarem
29 March 2018
It is only the 3rd day, but already my body is protesting against walking another 30km today! I remember, from walking the Camino Frances last year, the first week is the biggest challenge and then, from there it starts to get easier … so, just another 4 days to go …
Although today’s stage has no hills and the terrain is as flat as a pancake, it’s a long day on our feet and the last 2.5km will be a very steep climb to Santarem. The weather forecast is still sunny for today (but this might change tomorrow).
We’ve left Azambuja just after 7:00 and saw the most beautiful sunrise between the trees on a quiet road.
A beautiful sight – sunrise as seen through the trees outside Azambuja
As we’ve turned onto a wide farm track, we could see the evidence of heavy rain of a couple of days ago. We had to choose our steps carefully not to end up in the mud.
A muddy farm track about 2km after we’ve left Azambuja
It was a lovely walk on quiet country roads with only a car or two passing us occasionally. As we’ve walked past an “Aerodromo” (air field), I’ve glanced back and saw the fields behind us in the most beautiful shades of green. At that moment it felt like pure Camino!
Different shades of green fields as we’ve walked towards Santarem
About 10km into our walk, we’ve entered the small village of Reguengo. It was interesting to see the high flood barrier on the one side of Reguengo … the Tejo river is lying just on the other side. Sometimes we would walk on the flood barrier from where one could see the river and then we would get back on the road again to see if we could find a café … we were in serious need of coffee!
Walking on the high flood barrier enabled us to see the Tejo River
We saw a small café on our left as we’ve walked on the flood barrier and carefully made our way down to have that coffee. The café Campino also offered sweet pastries and we were happy to share one of those.
Coffee and sweet pastry at Café Campino
The people at these small villages are very friendly. They might not always be able to speak English, but they always have a big smile and wished us “Bom Caminho”. It is true that it might differ a lot from the Camino Frances, but the Portuguese Camino did not lack any hospitality!
Another tiled house – a trademark of Portugal
The town of Valada was another 2.4km further where we’ve seen bigger cafés as the one in Reguengo, but we’ve walked through as we’ve already had something to eat and drink.
The sign that indicated we’re about to walk into the town of Valada
In Porto de Muge we’ve stopped to buy water and some sweets to take us to Santarem … there are no facilities for the last 16.2km and you need to make sure you have enough snacks and water for this stretch.
On our way to Santarem we’ve seen the Tejo river occasionally. The road also took us past a variety of crops and the wide farm tracks opened up all the way to Santarem.
Tranquility on our way to Santarem
And then, tired of walking 30km and with only another 2.5km to go, we’ve hit the steepest hill ever! It’s always difficult to show the steepness of such hills on photo’s, but believe me … it was STEEP!
The steep hill of 2.5km before Santarem
An old roman road next to the main road on our way to Santarem
A welcome sight – We were now in Santarem!
As we’ve arrived in Santarem, we’ve stopped at the very first café to have a cold drink – that steep uphill required all of our energy!
Accommodation – Santarem:
We’ve chosen Santarem Hostel to overnight. We’ve literally got the last 2 bunk beds available in town. There is a huge football tournament in Santarem and with almost every bed occupied in town, we could probably count ourselves lucky that we’ve got accommodation for the night.
Our first stay in a proper albergue (as we knew it) on the Portuguese Camino – the well known bunk beds awaits us!
There were no washing machines in the hostal and we’ve washed our clothes by hand. About half an hour after we’ve hanged our clothes, it started to rain … we then hung everything around our beds (and kept our fingers crossed that it will be dry by tomorrow).
It was raining quite hard and we’ve ran to the closest restaurant to have dinner – which turned out to be a typical Portuguese restaurant where the owner only speaks a few words of English, but what a treat! He made us felt so welcome and served us a wonderful meal. I wish I could remember the restaurant’s name to recommend this to fellow pilgrims, because the food and hospitality of the owner made this a wonderful evening!
A great combination: Tasty traditional Portuguese soup and the friendliest owner of a restaurant you’ll ever meet!
After a huge cup of the creamiest cappuccino I’ve ever had, we’ve returned to our hostel. We’ve spent some time in the communal area reading and watching football on the television, before we went to bed.
Guess what … yes, another 30km day tomorrow!