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LIVE from the Camino Camino Torres Trancoso-Braga June 2021

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
After walking the entire Caminho Nascente from Tavira to Trancoso, Wendy and I have now switched to the Camino Torres.

We are joining the Torres in the middle, as there are eight stages from Salamanca to Trancoso and eight more from Trancoso to Ponte de Lima, where it joins the CP central.

We are going to take the Torres to Braga, which is seven stages according to the official web site but which we plan do in eight stages to break up a 38km day.

Even though it’s a shame that we can’t do the whole thing, I’m glad we can at least do some of it as a link camino. We’ve been to three places on the route already - Lamego, Guimarães and Braga - but we’re looking forward to going back to them as well as making new discoveries!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 1: Trancoso to Sernancelhe (~28km)

Today was a fabulous start to the Torres! The first half of the stage, especially, was very beautiful, alternating between pine forests and a mountain plateau on a glorious day. Even though we walked several mountain stages in our last week on the Nascente, they were all a bit different, and this stage was different too, with some new vegetation we hadn’t seen before. Even by the standards set on the Nascente, it was very remote today; at times we had a 360-degree panoramic view and couldn’t see any signs of human habitation in any direction.

98608629-BA47-4E9B-970A-B3DDB84A6553.jpeg

7C9FAE37-92DC-45D1-843B-4F6B8CED8BD6.jpeg

Waymarking for most of the day was only painted arrows, and sometimes these were easy to miss or just missing. We had GPS tracks to complement the arrows and even then we missed a turn fairly early on, didn’t realise for about 10 minutes, and had to backtrack. At Ponte do Abade towards the end of the stage, the district changed from Guarda to Viseu and the waymarking improved, with manufactured shell and arrow markers. Hopefully that will continue while we are in this district for the next few days.

Sernancelhe is a picturesque stone town and a great place to end the day. The church of St John the Baptist dates from 1172 and is the first Romanesque church we have seen since we started walking. The two sets of three figures on either side of the portal are the most interesting feature; per Lonely Planet, they are the only freestanding Romanesque sculptures in Portugal.

AE3A24BA-00AC-478E-804B-0544091C0D7E.jpeg

Onwards and upwards!
 
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RodlaRob

Oz Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Torres (2016) Portuguese (2016)
Day 1: Trancoso to Sernancelhe (~28km)

Today was a fabulous start to the Torres! The first half of the stage, especially, was very beautiful, alternating between pine forests and a mountain plateau on a glorious day. Even though we walked several mountain stages in our last week on the Nascente, they were all a bit different, and this stage was different too, with some new vegetation we hadn’t seen before. Even by the standards set on the Nascente, it was very remote today; at times we had a 360-degree panoramic view and couldn’t see any signs of human habitation in any direction.

View attachment 101763

View attachment 101764

Waymarking for most of the day was only painted arrows, and sometimes these were easy to miss or just missing. We had GPS tracks to complement the arrows and even then we missed a turn fairly early on, didn’t realise for about 10 minutes, and had to backtrack. At Ponte do Abade towards the end of the stage, the district changed from Guarda to Viseu and the waymarking improved, with manufactured shell and arrow markers. Hopefully that will continue while we are in this district for the next few days.

Sernancelhe is a picturesque stone town and a great place to end the day. The church of St John the Baptist dates from 1172 and is the first Romanesque church we have seen since we started walking. The two sets of three figures on either side of the portal are the most interesting feature; per Lonely Planet, they are the only freestanding Romanesque sculptures in Portugal.

View attachment 101762

Onwards and upwards!
Ah the memories!..... so looking fwd to your posts (from Adelaide, sth Australia)😎
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
I just saw this on my Facebook feed so thought I would share.
Thank you - with this site, the official Spanish site and @magwood’s blog, we are spoiled for resources all of a sudden after having only scraps for the last part of the Nascente!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 2: Sernancelhe to Moimenta da Beira (~19km)

Another beautiful day weather-wise, and while the walk wasn’t as spectacular as yesterday, it had its moments. There was a fair bit of road walking, but the non-road sections were very nice, in forested areas or on country lanes surrounded by vineyards, olive trees and wild cherry trees (with devastatingly unripe cherries). Even the road sections were OK; the Portuguese guide describes the stretch into Rua (yes, a town whose name means street) as dangerous, but I didn’t think it was. There wasn’t much traffic and there was a sidewalk. A sidewalk! That would have been useful walking into Évora a few weeks back.

The highlight of the stage was the Miradouro de Nossa Senhora das Necessidades, a church and viewpoint overlooking a dam-lake. We spoke to the church’s sacristan for a while and he took us inside and told us all about the renovations he has done. Here’s the view both ways: of the whitewashed church set against an almost impossibly blue sky, and looking out over the lake.

30BFD6BF-5110-4920-BE21-CD86571F9969.jpeg

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Moimenta da Beira doesn’t seem to have that much going for it. It’s mostly a modern town strung along a main road, but there was a nicer, older part that we walked through before hitting the road. We used the afternoon to rest and do some camino-type admin (achievement of the day: washing my walking shirt and having it dry so quickly that I could put it back on and wash my non-walking shirt and have it dry in time for dinner).

We are staying at the Pico do Meio Dia which is just €25/double and at the attached restaurant we just ate a veggie dinner for €6 (for two!) and had 1/2 litre of wine for €1.50!
 
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BombayBill

Still Learning
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I’m following your Camino with great interest and have added it to my list.

When you have the time I wonder if you could comment on something?

You appear to be living in Portugal and I presume the 2 of you speak/read Portuguese at some level. The routes you are walking are somewhat unknown. You must have done some planning to facilitate the journey. So my question is - Would a person with a crude knowledge of Portugal/Portuguese struggle making their way compared to you who are at ease in Portugal?
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 3: Moimenta da Beira to Lamego (~26km)

Best things first! The weather was gorgeous again, it was our best cherry day in over a week, and Lamego is a great end-of-stage destination.

Unfortunately, there was a lot of asphalt today, especially during the second half of the stage. It was a bit unusual because we were still walking on country backroads with nice scenery and virtually no traffic, but it was asphalt all the same. Luckily Wendy’s plantar fasciitis magically improves as our caminos get longer and she didn’t have any pain until the last descent/ascent into Lamego. Actually she said it was her best foot day on the whole camino despite the asphalt, which would have been disastrous 3-4 weeks ago.

Back to the trail, and there were some nice paths in the morning before the asphalt kicked in. I particularly liked this scene:

A4132379-9093-4EE4-9634-D4814CB47CC1.jpeg

A mid-stage highlight was the medieval tower and bridge at Ucanha, while we started to see more and more vineyards as we neared Lamego, a bit of a preview for tomorrow. I also really liked this snail!

41EAD816-A871-4916-ACC9-CB32BCB76BB2.jpeg

We passed through Lamego a few years ago with family but just visited a couple of places. One of those, the Visigothic church of São Pedro de Balsemão, is nearly an hour’s walk each way from the centre of town and not on/near the camino so it’s a shame that most pilgrims don’t have a chance to see it. I would have gone back this afternoon if it wasn’t so far, but instead we saw the castle and nearby 13th-century cistern for the first time.

DA4D68F0-F75A-49F5-9B6E-32809EF2DA46.jpeg

Looking ahead to tomorrow, we are excited about reaching another milestone on this camino: crossing the Douro River!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
I’m following your Camino with great interest and have added it to my list.
Thank you for following and supporting us! We have seen (literally) no other pilgrims in 39 days so to make up for that it’s been nice to share the experience here instead.

You appear to be living in Portugal and I presume the 2 of you speak/read Portuguese at some level. The routes you are walking are somewhat unknown. You must have done some planning to facilitate the journey. So my question is - Would a person with a crude knowledge of Portugal/Portuguese struggle making their way compared to you who are at ease in Portugal?
Yes, we have lived in Portugal for about 4.5 years. Wendy has a degree in Brazilian language and literature so she has a good base in (Brazilian) Portuguese. Her level is about B2-C1 on the European framework, while I am more like upper B1.

Regarding your question, yes, I think having some level of Portuguese would be very beneficial on the Nascente, more so than on the standard CP. The general level of English is high in Portugal, but the usual caveats apply: younger people in cities are the ones who speak the most English, while we have been dealing with older people in rural areas. It’s hard to know for sure since we are speaking Portuguese all the time but I have the impression that most people we’ve dealt with speak little/no English. They often begin by asking us in Portuguese if we speak Portuguese, and only twice that I can think of has anyone switched to English (which happens all the time in Lisbon). Probably half our accommodation reservations have been made over the phone in Portuguese.

On the Torres, now that we have reached the Douro tourism area, I think Portuguese will be less important from here to Braga.
 
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Hey Nick, I remember Lamego from walking the CPI several years ago. I seem to remember that there were missing arrows for the exit. I’d love to hear about the current state of arrows for the Torres as you leave Lamego.
Planning, planning, planning ;):):)
I so love this part of Portugal - the terraced vineyards are glorious.
Cheers, Grace
 
Year of past OR future Camino
Camino Frances (2014)
Camino Via Podiensis (2018)
Thankyou for brightening our days with your adventure - your photos are stunning and the description of your journey makes us yearn to be out there! I'm sure these camino routes will become more popular as you inspire us all!
Reading earlier in your travels about the different districts sometimes having non aligned paths reminds me of the early railway system in Australia where individual States built different gauge railway lines! Bon Caminho, Linda
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Except the Francés
the Visigothic church of São Pedro de Balsemão, is nearly an hour’s walk each way from the centre of town and not on/near the camino so it’s a shame that most pilgrims don’t have a chance to see it.
You can walk along the Balsemão River along a very quiet country lane to see the chapel, with its impressive carved sarcophagus of a local bishop and wonderful corinthian capitals. Then, rather than heading back to Lamego, you can carry on and rejoin the camino a couple of km further on, shortly before Sande. I think it adds about a km to the walk between Lamego and Peso da Régua.

I have the impression that most people we’ve dealt with speak little/no English.
I certainly got that impression when I was on the Torres and the CPI (even more so on the CZP), and I speak virtually no Portuguese, but I seemed to get by speaking Spanish slowly. A surprising number of middle aged and older people spoke French, having spent time in Geneva or France as gastarbeiter.

PS. If you have the energy tonight, the walk up to the Santuário de Nossa Señora dos Rémedios is fun. Quite strenuous, up, I seem to remember, 365 steps interrupted by 7 terraces, with gorgeous tiles, and lovely views down onto town and out over the surrounding vineyards.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 4: Lamego to Mesão Frio (~28km)

Oh my goodness, what a day today! All things considered, a top 5 all-time camino stage for me without a doubt.

The main feature of the day, of course, was the terraced vineyards of the Douro Valley, which you walk alongside or have in view for basically the entire stage. These are on par with the Lavaux vineyards in Switzerland as the most beautiful vineyards I’ve seen. I think the photo says it all!

F1A37A47-8601-4FA2-9C3D-183CBA79CEAE.jpeg

One of my favourite parts of the day came about 5km in when we descended to a bridge in a rocky gorge. Here, there were no vineyards but olive trees instead, and there was a wild beauty about it that contrasted with the perfect neatness of the vineyards.

6249C5D4-EBDA-4BE1-878C-3B108F4B7C63.jpeg

The next part was also a highlight as we came out of the gorge and walked on a path among the terraces, giving us an uninterrupted view of the terraces back on the other side.

0B230834-2101-47B3-BEB4-FF8DCA9788AB.jpeg

D6E4333E-0449-4C4B-B7EE-A4DF0BB2D7E8.jpeg

Soon we descended and crossed the Douro River, a milestone moment that took place on the day in which this became our longest camino in terms of days at 40. Having started on the Algarve coast and later having crossed the Tejo river, climbed the mountains of the Serra da Estrela and now crossed the Douro, we really do feel like we are walking the length of Portugal, which has been so rewarding.

After Régua (an ugly town but one that at least has a Lidl), there’s a steep climb away from the river. After that, it’s basically all asphalt for the remaining half of the stage - but since the views are so superb, we didn’t mind too much and Wendy’s feet held up again.

About half an hour before Mesão Frio, we received a double reward of a wild cherry tree with lots of ripe cherries and this view back down to the Douro, which had been largely hidden all afternoon:

2E4E3FEE-94B3-4C1E-9F9A-3B530513D5CF.jpeg

We had no expectations about Mesão Frio but it’s quite a nice town. We’re staying at the bombeiros in an adequate twin room and hopefully we’ll sleep well ahead of another big day tomorrow. Exhausted but contented!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
I’d love to hear about the current state of arrows for the Torres as you leave Lamego.
The waymarking is good now, with proper markers and not just painted arrows. These have been installed within the last three years, based on @Magwood’s 2018 blog saying she didn’t see proper markers on the Torres until tomorrow, whereas we’ve had them since Ponte do Abade, three days ago.

About 3.5km out of Lamego, the arrows diverge from the GPS tracks we have, but they join back up again at 5km out of Lamego just before the fork that takes the Torres one way and the CPI the other.
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Thankyou for brightening our days with your adventure - your photos are stunning and the description of your journey makes us yearn to be out there! I'm sure these camino routes will become more popular as you inspire us all!
Reading earlier in your travels about the different districts sometimes having non aligned paths reminds me of the early railway system in Australia where individual States built different gauge railway lines! Bon Caminho, Linda
Thank you for your very kind comment! And dare I say that the pandemic has shown that Australian states’ cooperation with each other hasn’t improved much since early railway times?!
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
You can walk along the Balsemão River along a very quiet country lane to see the chapel, with its impressive carved sarcophagus of a local bishop and wonderful corinthian capitals. Then, rather than heading back to Lamego, you can carry on and rejoin the camino a couple of km further on, shortly before Sande. I think it adds about a km to the walk between Lamego and Peso da Régua.
That’s good to know, thanks. We saw at one point today that we were a 35-minute walk from the chapel but since we have already seen it and this was already going to be a long day by our standards, we didn’t consider going back. For others who might be curious, here’s one of the Visigothic capitals:

195DFD85-6314-44C4-B735-CB638F5791B0.jpeg

PS. If you have the energy tonight, the walk up to the Santuário de Nossa Señora dos Rémedios is fun. Quite strenuous, up, I seem to remember, 365 steps interrupted by 7 terraces, with gorgeous tiles, and lovely views down onto town and out over the surrounding vineyards.
That’s the other thing we did on our flying visit three years ago which gave us an excuse not to do it again on pilgrim feet!
 
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This has turned out to be an amazingly accurate summation of the Torres in just 12 words!
It's been great following your posts which have brought back some very happy memories. I also remember some pretty sharp (but luckily not too long) climbs before Lamego. Are they still there?

Mesao Frio was all roadworks when I was there and climbing up to the windmills the next morning was all in mist. The three cities north of the Douro all have lovely centres once you have braved the walk in. I walked Amarante to Guimaraes in one day which I see you are wisely splitting in two.

I hope you enjoy the remaining stages. Are you going all the way to Santiago?
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 5: Mesão Frio to Amarante (~28km)

Yesterday we read on @Magwood’s blog that she had so much fog on this stage that she couldn’t even see the wind turbines at the top of the climb in 2018 despite being there at a similar time of year as us (@gns said something similar). I found that interesting because we had had nothing but blue sky for our first four days on the Torres with the next three forecast to be the same. So, naturally, what did we see when we woke up this morning? Fog!

Luckily it wasn’t thick and was already mostly below us at Mesão Frio. Above the fog, it was already a beautiful day and that created some interesting vistas. This is a vineyard shot against the light and into the fog at about 7:30am:

777C1733-ACC3-42BE-ACE0-C40FAC7B8336.jpeg

The climb to the highest point of the Torres was manageable and went by more quickly than we thought. The landscape was already changing from yesterday’s vineyard terraces on the way up, and by the time we looked over the other side, that process was complete as we were met by forests, ferns and boulders. It’s not often that you see such a sudden change in scenery at walking pace on camino, so that was one of the more interesting things about today’s stage.

7E5F2286-FEB5-4FB0-9E11-5FE2A2674FEB.jpeg

There were a couple of signs today that we’re now in northern Portugal and close to Galicia: the granite setts (‘neat’ cobblestones) are becoming more frequent, and, on a more positive note, we saw our first hórreos.

F8292502-FEA4-4EAB-A3CB-125D38D4C35A.jpeg

There was always going to be a bit of a letdown today after the euphoria of yesterday. The steady descent from the pass to Amarante was ~15km of mostly asphalt, with nice but not outstanding scenery. The last few kms into Amarante weren’t great, with part of it on a fairly busy road with no shoulder. By the time we arrived at about 4pm, we were pretty wiped out.

Amarante itself is a nice town on a river but we didn’t have a lot of energy for exploring. Plus, the town’s main attraction, the monastery of São Gonçalo, has scaffolding all over it and is closed.

After three long days by our standards, we are looking forward to three shorter ones by splitting tomorrow’s stage in two and staying in Felgueiras. There’s also a neat little side benefit to that which I’ll explain in a couple of days!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
This has been such a wonderful diary of a quite astonishing pilgrimage. Great writing, amazing photos, and lots of exciting new possibilities for many people.

Thanks so much and as always, bom caminho!
Thank you as always for your encouragement! Drinks in Barquinha sometime later in the year?
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
It's been great following your posts which have brought back some very happy memories. I also remember some pretty sharp (but luckily not too long) climbs before Lamego. Are they still there?
Thank you! Yes there were some ups and downs that day but the steep climb out of Régua at midday yesterday was the real killer.

I hope you enjoy the remaining stages. Are you going all the way to Santiago?
Yes we are, all going well. We’re going to take a rest day in Braga on Saturday and then switch to the Geira on Sunday.
 
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First 2016
Latest Camino Frances Jul-Aug 2020
Thank you! Yes there were some ups and downs that day but the steep climb out of Régua at midday yesterday was the real killer.


Yes we are, all going well. We’re going to take a rest day in Braga on Saturday and then switch to the Geira on Sunday.
I don't think anyone has posted an account of the Geira on here before so you will be trailblazers!
 
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After the Amarante stage, it sounds like I’d better ‘up’ my hill training (hehehe).

Nick, I remember your recommendation last year (the caminho from Lisbon) you suggested the hat museum in Sao Joao de Madeira. Have you and Wendy come across any other shoe/hat/wool etc museums in this part of Portugal? Just wondering ;)
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Nick, I remember your recommendation last year (the caminho from Lisbon) you suggested the hat museum in Sao Joao de Madeira. Have you and Wendy come across any other shoe/hat/wool etc museums in this part of Portugal? Just wondering ;)
Not exactly but there’s an olive oil museum in Sarnadas on the Nascente (first stage in the Beiras) that we went to and another one with older equipment a couple of towns back in Vila Velha de Ródão but it was closed the day we were there. There’s a cherry interpretation centre in Ferro (Beiras) and you can do a cork factory tour in Azaruja (Alentejo). Plus the owl museum in Corujeira before Guarda (Beiras), but it’s just a room full of owl figurines! Plus the embroidery and pottery museum in Nisa (Alentejo). We also passed a weaving museum on the way to Trinta (Beiras) but didn’t go in. Hopefully there is something of interest for you in all of that!
 
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Friend from Barquinha

Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
None yet; perhaps the Portugese (2021?)
Thank you as always for your encouragement! Drinks in Barquinha sometime later in the year?
We are really hoping so...haven't been there since early February of last year, and the Canada/Portugal flights are still off-limits. Maybe a quick visit in July, and a longer, better one in September? Fingers crossed!

We're only an hour or so by train, away from Lisboa...
 
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BombayBill

Still Learning
Year of past OR future Camino
2021
I like to ponder on your walk and how I feel it differs from the more populous routes. On the popular routes it feels like the Spirit derives from reaching out to other people and recognizing commonality.
With only the two of you on your journey it feels like acknowledging we’re on our own and taking pride in doing a good job of it.
We’ll done.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
I like to ponder on your walk and how I feel it differs from the more populous routes. On the popular routes it feels like the Spirit derives from reaching out to other people and recognizing commonality.
With only the two of you on your journey it feels like acknowledging we’re on our own and taking pride in doing a good job of it.
We’ll done.
Thank you! :)

This is something I think about a lot. I feel that the spirit of the camino on the popular routes comes from the shared experience with other pilgrims. On routes where there are few/no other pilgrims, I find the spirit cones from interaction with local people, whether those are brief moments when people wish us well or when we meet people who display the spirit of the camino in their daily lives (e.g. Dona Joana’s annex-albergue in her backyard on the Nascente). Walking through the vineyards two days ago I had a nice exchange with a woman outside her house. I said it was a marvellous day and she said with much enthusiasm, ‘It’s always like this! Portugal is the best country in the world!’ Little things like that help keep you going.

To expand on this idea some more, this is what I wrote as one of my Highlights of the Camino de Madrid:

The Spirit of the Camino Reimagined

Pilgrims accustomed to the bustle of more popular routes such as the Francés or Portugués should be aware that the Madrid is a much quieter and more remote camino. We only met five other pilgrims the entire way, and we only saw one of them more than once.

Although this lack of interaction with other walkers does deprive pilgrims of one of the most pleasurable parts of the popular caminos, the spirit of the camino is still alive and well on the Camino de Madrid. On this route, that spirit manifests itself in the interaction you will have with friendly locals who aren’t as jaded by the presence of pilgrims as they may be on the Camino Francés.

These encounters can last for just a few seconds, such as when a construction worker in Alcazarén saw me walking past and yelled out, ‘Bravo! Bravo! Camino de Santiago!’ Or they can be longer and more meaningful experiences, as you will enjoy if you stay at the wonderful cabin-albergue with Ray and Rosa in Manzanares el Real or if you chat for a while to the librarian-driver of the bibliobús, a mobile library that passes through the remote towns of the region.

Throughout the camino, pilgrims will be welcomed wherever they stop, by wonderful characters such as the lovely Margarita with her stamp and free pastry at Pastelaría Rosana in Nava or Kiki with his thumbs-up gestures and never-ending pilgrim breakfast, including an excellent tostada con tomate, at his bar in Villeguillo.

Being able to speak Spanish will enhance these experiences, but even if you don’t, a smile and a shell will go a long way.
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 6: Amarante to Felgueiras (~22km)

Today was a bit disjointed. It was supposed to be a short day but it felt like a long one, as we didn’t arrive until after 4pm. The arrows and the official tracks were not aligned for most of the stage (more on that later). We followed the arrows and there were lots of turns and lots of changes in surface, making it hard to get in rhythm. The arrows often led us off main roads for short periods - commendable in theory - but this led to longer and less direct routes with little gain in surface or scenery. In other words, these diversions often didn’t seem worth it. There was also some inconsistency with the arrows leading to some hesitation on our part; once we saw two different arrows taking opposing roads.

All that aside, the highlights were the path for the last couple of kilometres into Telões and the Romanesque church in Telões. The path into town was among vineyards but unlike the terraces vineyards of a couple of days ago; these were the arbor ‘tunnel’ vineyards used for vinho verde (Portuguese green wine). A few times the path took us directly into these tunnels with a vineyard ‘roof’ above us. It was hard to get a good photo illustrating this so here’s an artsy leaf instead!

C7382DBB-12D0-4684-AD85-B65FC312362A.jpeg

We have seen road signs for the Rota do Românico (Romanesque Route) for the past couple of days without actually passing any of the churches. The one in Telões is said to be one of the better ones, dating from the 12th-13th centuries and containing a 16th-century fresco. We were fortunate that the key master was at the café across the road when we arrived so we were able to go inside. I find that Portuguese Romanesque architecture generally doesn’t quite meet the heights of its Spanish equivalent but it was still nice to visit this church.

C6AF158B-1A46-4391-A802-CEF32948E6A3.jpeg

Felgueiras is a modern town without much to see but it has large supermarkets and other services. We only stopped here to break up the 38km stage to Guimarães, which is where we’re heading tomorrow.
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Something that came up during the second half of the Nascente and now on the Torres that I’ve touched on but that we haven’t discussed widely is the role of local governments in way-marking. To set this up, here’s a sign we saw today regarding the camino in the district of Amarante:

636870E6-0410-428E-8486-92CF216B59E6.jpeg

We have seen signs like this several times, and in other cases they were usually even more overt in promoting a ‘stage’ of the camino - which just means the camino as it exists in their district. The ‘stage’ starts and ends at the borders of their district which are usually in the middle of nowhere with no accommodation options to actually make it a practical stage.

In the case of Amarante, the district has its own camino way-marking (light blue square plaques with yellow shells and arrows), even designating alternative routes for pilgrims on bicycle or horseback with separate icons. As I understand it, this was the first ‘proper’ signage on the Torres, installed at a time when all other way-marking was basic yellow painted arrows (uniform signage apparently unlinked to local governments has since been added to almost all of the parts that we’ve walked). So on one hand, the local government was ahead of the game on signage and is trying to promote the camino within its area of jurisdiction, which are obviously both positive things.

The issue, if there is one, is that the government is using the arrows to divert the camino from the official tracks and to make it longer, presumably with the aim of keeping pilgrims in the district for a greater period of time. This is what led us to the Romanesque church today, which was interesting for us but may not be for others (especially as the suggested stage today is 38km as it is without this detour). But it also meant that once we left the district we hadn’t reconnected with the tracks yet and it was up to the next district or an overarching authority to add more arrows to get us from Amarante’s border back to the official camino.

What makes these tracks ‘official’ to begin with is something else that may be worth considering, but in any case there seems to be a bit of a breakdown here when arrows take pilgrims away from the tracks and it can be hard to know which way to go. Inconsistency in how signage looks throughout the camino also doesn’t give the appearance of cooperation.

Any thoughts?
 

Isca-camigo

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Various ones.
I was tempted to ask you a couple questions when you arrived on the Torres, one of them being what info have you seen about variant routes being offered by local areas as an alternative to the USAL official tracks. USAL posted on the rerouting of tomorrows stage away from the Ecovia, they were quite irate and less than complimentary about the possible reasons behind it.

I initially thought it has to be a better option than walking along a cycle path, I have plenty of experience of doing that in France and I rather have a bit of wander and see nearby churches or other places of interest, especially if they have an historical context but from your description it sounds a bit of a mess.
 
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Year of past OR future Camino
2020
It’s an interesting conumdrum, Nick: following waymarking using GPS vs local arrows.

I tend to follow the GPS tracks if I know they have come from a ‘reliable source’ but you never know if the arrows are a detour for safety or other reasons.
Did you follow arrows out of Amarante or try to head back to the tracks?

Not connected- did the town of Amarante have anywhere specifically for pilgrims to stay? or any info on suggestions for where to stay?
Cheers and thanks
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Not connected- did the town of Amarante have anywhere specifically for pilgrims to stay? or any info on suggestions for where to stay?
Cheers and thanks
Nothing specific but I’m told the youth hostel offers pilgrim discounts. We stayed at Hostel and Suites des Arts which was nice, well located and also gave a (small) pilgrim discount.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 7: Felgueiras to Guimarães (~19km)

Today was shorter than yesterday but with more sights, making it more pleasant overall. I’ll leave way-marking for another post and just focus on what we saw.

There were three things to visit in quick succession fairly early in the stage, bookended by the rhythmically-sounding Mosteiro do Pombeiro monastery and a Roman/medieval bridge. The ‘attraction’ that made the biggest impression on us, though, was the middle one of these three: an old seminary. Previous accounts had described it as abandoned, but what we didn’t know before visiting was that a fire had gutted it in July 2020. It’s now semi-destroyed and quite a haunting place. We managed to go inside the church and it was just a very eerie place - not as affected by the fire as some of the other buildings must have been, but still in a half-collapsed state.

EEF55F7D-D240-4269-AAB1-E323B754B01D.jpeg

Guimarães is a very historic town and is known as the place where Portugal was born, due to a key battle in Portugal’s original struggle for independence in the 12th century taking place near the city. By complete coincidence, today is Portugal’s national day and there was a great festive vibe in town. We managed to get in some tourism in the afternoon and I was happy to return to the castle on a sunny day as it was overcast when we visited last year.

50C99DF9-81B9-4708-A0DD-980361B8B9D4.jpeg

Only one more stage on the Torres! After we reach Braga tomorrow we’re going to take a rest day on Saturday to help reset for the Geira.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Some thoughts on way-marking today. The USAL/official tracks don’t go through Felgueiras, so we started by following arrows but lost them twice while still in Felgueiras, which wasn’t a good start. The monastery is where the arrows and tracks meet up, so we just Google Mapped it towards the monastery and eventually picked up the arrows again.

USAL posted on the rerouting of tomorrows stage away from the Ecovia, they were quite irate and less than complimentary about the possible reasons behind it.

I initially thought it has to be a better option than walking along a cycle path, I have plenty of experience of doing that in France and I rather have a bit of wander and see nearby churches or other places of interest, especially if they have an historical context but from your description it sounds a bit of a mess.
After the Roman bridge there are two painted arrows going right (the USAL tracks way to the cycle path) and a new marker going left, so if we weren’t aware of this issue in advance it would have been more than a bit confusing! We were on the cycle path briefly yesterday and it didn’t appeal much for the reasons you mentioned, and was asphalt anyway, so we decided to go with the new markings. We didn’t see anything interesting the rest of the way though, and I think the distance is about the same, so I’m not sure one way is significantly better than the other.

Did you follow arrows out of Amarante or try to head back to the tracks?
Arrows, because we wanted to see the church in Telões. But I’m sure that made it longer. The way-finding issues in general since Amarante make me e tra glad we didn’t try to do Amarante-Guimarães in one stage as it’s long enough as it is without adding detours and uncertainty into the mix!

My experience has been that way marking and other essential infrastructure for pilgrims tends to be the best when local associations of enthusiastic volunteers who walk the Camino themselves are involved.
Sounds very reasonable but unfortunately it doesn’t appear as though such an association exists on the Torres so it’s left to other actors to become involved.

Interestingly, we just read the official/USAL stage guide for tomorrow say that we will see yellow arrows for the first time on the Torres, so it seems extremely out-of-date.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Day 8: Guimarães to Braga (~19km)

Our ‘victory lap’ stage to end the Torres was the hottest day we’ve had so far (32 degrees Celsius), but fortunately a huge thunderstorm is in progress as I’m tapping this out this afternoon while we are safely inside in Braga, and the temperature has plummeted to 18. There are storms forecast for the next few days but I’m hoping this one is big enough to reset the weather and give us blue skies again by Sunday.

Most of today’s stage was the urban sprawl / asphalt that we’ve become accustomed to over the last few days. In amongst that, we crossed a Romanesque bridge and an unusual Roman bridge, saw the remains of a Roman altar, and saw a nice stone fountain dedicated to four brothers, who according to legend, fought each other over a beautiful woman, and all of them died.

84C4D732-B2AD-47DA-A951-FFE59C445589.jpeg

After the fountain we climbed up to a pass on a partial Roman road through (mostly eucalyptus) forest. Even though it was very hot and tough going, this was enjoyable because we hadn’t had scenery like that for a while. On the way down, in a more urban setting, we saw a fabulous piece of modern azulejo artwork depicting Santiago that I really liked. It’s next to the Church of Santiago in Fraião, just outside Braga (the apostle is Fraião’s patron saint).

593EE54B-3F33-4D59-878E-314EC102E5EA.jpeg

Tomorrow we’re taking a rest day in Braga to reset and prepare for the Caminho Geira e dos Arrieiros. Thank you to everyone for following our little jaunt on the Torres and for giving us support and encouragement!
 
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jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Some rapid-fire concluding thoughts on the Trancoso-Braga section of the Torres:
  • The stage through the vineyards and olive groves from Lamego is absolutely spectacular.
  • The mountain plateau on the first morning out of Trancoso is very beautiful as well, although way-marking can be an issue there.
  • There are plenty of interesting end-of-stage destinations with historic sites to explore if you have the energy (Sernancelhe, Lamego, Amarante, Guimarães and Braga).
  • There’s a LOT of road walking, quite a shock for us after the extremely rural nature of the Nascente.
  • The last few stages weren’t the best. Apart from the asphalt and the way-marking issues at times (between Amarante and Guimarães), there was a lot of urban sprawl where the towns seemed to merge into each other and there weren’t many stretches in nature.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
We have seen signs like this several times, and in other cases they were usually even more overt in promoting a ‘stage’ of the camino - which just means the camino as it exists in their district. The ‘stage’ starts and ends at the borders of their district which are usually in the middle of nowhere with no accommodation options to actually make it a practical stage.
To be fair, anyone who has walked the Camino Frances in the past 30 years or so is familiar with the same thing in Castilla y Leon, where there are big signs showing the Camino Frances in that region.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Year of past OR future Camino
1989
The issue, if there is one, is that the government is using the arrows to divert the camino from the official tracks and to make it longer, presumably with the aim of keeping pilgrims in the district for a greater period of time. This is what led us to the Romanesque church today, which was interesting for us but may not be for others (especially as the suggested stage today is 38km as it is without this detour). But it also meant that once we left the district we hadn’t reconnected with the tracks yet and it was up to the next district or an overarching authority to add more arrows to get us from Amarante’s border back to the official camino.

What makes these tracks ‘official’ to begin with is something else that may be worth considering, but in any case there seems to be a bit of a breakdown here when arrows take pilgrims away from the tracks and it can be hard to know which way to go. Inconsistency in how signage looks throughout the camino also doesn’t give the appearance of cooperation.
It reminds me of the history of our local roads here in Toronto, Canada. We are now one big municipality, but one that grew together as a lot of local villages grew and merged into one city. And when they did, the roads and road names didn't all line up perfectly. So you can be going along a road and suddenly it will change its name where a municipal border used to be. Or there will suddenly be a swerve in a road before it straightens out again where two roads were joined that didn't quite meet up.

I don't see the tracks on the Internet as "official" and governments can sign how they like, but it is important that there be some coordination between neighboring governments so that where the arrows of one region leave off, the arrows in the next region pick up. Otherwise you don't have a Camino, you have a series of separate, unconnected regional paths. And that is likely to drive down pilgrim traffic which isn't going to help anyone.

I don't see inconsistency in how signage looks as an issue. It's something I'm used to from all the Caminos I've done so far. But the route sections not connecting with each is a much bigger issue.
 
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what a day today! All things considered, a top 5 all-time camino stage for me without a doubt.
Finally catching up with this thread and am blown away. Thank you, Nick and Wendy! You may songle-handedly be resposible for a surge of interest for the routes you're walking, if my response is any indication (I wasn't interested in walking in Portugal. Sigh.)
Rota do Românico
I got all excited, but see from their very flash website that this is not geared to walkers, but rather to visitors with wheels under them.
I couldn't even find a map, other than a custom one that comes up when you indicate places you want to see. Still, it might be fun after a camino to come down and explore here.
They have a beautiful website.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Any news on whether they will make any efforts to get it off the road? It looks so tempting, but the thought of all that road walking is a deal-breaker for me.
Doesn’t look like it. The article was more of the self-congratulatory type than the ‘how can we serve pilgrims better’ type. 🤣

I don’t like complaining but the road walking was a problem. Between Sernancelhe and the entry to Amarante it’s at least rural walking with nice views (spectacular around the Douro) despite the asphalt. But from just before Amarante to Braga (and further to Caldelas on the Geira) there’s so much urban/suburban road walking. We have heard that the first half of the Torres from Salamanca to Trancoso is more rural with not much road walking.
 
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Doesn’t look like it. The article was more of the self-congratulatory type than the ‘how can we serve pilgrims better’ type. 🤣

I don’t like complaining but the road walking was a problem. Between Sernancelhe and the entry to Amarante it’s at least rural walking with nice views (spectacular around the Douro) despite the asphalt. But from just before Amarante to Braga (and further to Caldelas on the Geira) there’s so much urban/suburban road walking. We have heard that the first half of the Torres from Salamanca to Trancoso is more rural with not much road walking.
I agree about the last stretch but I did enjoy it as I was feeling fit and was looking forward to reaching Ponte de Lima. I don't find walking on paved surfaces as much of a turn off as a lot of people and I enjoy the experience of being in Portugal in general

The stretch from Salamanca to Almeida was my favourite walking on any Camino. The main issue is accommodation where there are few options including one night in a former school with no shower. You're definitely not likely to meet any other pilgrims.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
Finally catching up with this thread and am blown away. Thank you, Nick and Wendy! You may songle-handedly be resposible for a surge of interest for the routes you're walking, if my response is any indication (I wasn't interested in walking in Portugal. Sigh.)
Thank you 😊 Weirdly enough, the Torres might be end up being our least favourite part of this whole camino, but in any case, get interested in walking in Portugal! The Nascente and Geira (so far) are great and I’m looking forward to the CPI and the Raia, hopefully in the not-too-distant future. There’s a lot to like about Portuguese caminos if you don’t mind a general lack of pilgrims and albergues.

I got all excited, but see from their very flash website that this is not geared to walkers, but rather to visitors with wheels under them.
I couldn't even find a map, other than a custom one that comes up when you indicate places you want to see. Still, it might be fun after a camino to come down and explore here.
They have a beautiful website.
Sorry, I didn’t make it clear that it was a car route. Still, Sernancelhe on the Torres has one of the best examples of Romanesque in Portugal and Telhões, reached by following the Amarante arrows, is said to be one of the best on that route. So you can still see some impressive Romanesque churches on the Torres but in general, Spain is the better place to be for that style.
 

jungleboy

Spirit of the Camino (Nick)
Year of past OR future Camino
Francés 2017
Primitivo 2018
Madrid 2019
Kumano Kodo 2019
Português 2020
The stretch from Salamanca to Almeida was my favourite walking on any Camino. The main issue is accommodation where there are few options including one night in a former school with no shower. You're definitely not likely to meet any other pilgrims.
That’s good to hear. We might try to do the first part some time as a precursor to the CPI. We’re OK with no other pilgrims, given that we haven’t seen a single one yet in the 48 days of this camino!
 
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Isca-camigo

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Year of past OR future Camino
Various ones.
Any news on whether they will make any efforts to get it off the road? It looks so tempting, but the thought of all that road walking is a deal-breaker for me.
Same for me, I would love to start in Salamanca and walk to Braga and take the Geira up from there, but the last few stages to Guimaraes put me off, I don't mind the odd stage of asphalt but several all lined up one after the other would cause me problems.
 

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