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Field (and mountain) report from Portugues Interior - June 2018

surya8

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues Central, Santarem-Santiago - 2017; Portugues Interior, Sanabres, Fisterra & Muxia - 2018
#1
We walked CPI in June 2018, starting from Viseu in Portugal - all the way to the Spanish border and onwards to Camino Sanabres from Verin/Laza to Santiago. It took us 8 days to cover CPI, and 16 days in total (CPI + Sanabres) of going up and down the hills. Here is some info that might be helpful for planning the trip. Attached is the map of CPI with the distances and albergues.

Albergues and food on the road: June 5th to June 13th 2018

Albergues: Regarding the municipal albergues it's advisable to call and arrange your stay in advance, at least one day before, we didn't do it, just went with the flow as on other Caminos. Called all the albergues the same day we were walking, usually after 1.30pm, after their lunch. Most of the phones were not from albergues themselves but from the municipalities, so somebody on the other side redirected to us to the ones who could help with the question or took our info in to account and just said that we needed to call when we got there later. People who have keys from albergues usually live somewhere nearby and come soon to open up. We found out that all the municipal albergues on CPI are very well equipped, usually well located, warm, have blankets, heaters, clean and tidy. And mostly geared for the Portuguese discovering their own country rather then pilgrims to Santiago.

Food: I’ve walked 2 Caminos in Portugal and usually went out for pilgrims’ menu or menu del dia a lot. This Camino we decided to try a different approach - mostly self-catering. I am vegetarian, that means limited options in the cafes, I don’t eat fast-food, and I like quality home cooking. Also it doesn’t hurt the budget as well. On some stages on CPI it’s better to have some food with you just in case. The first indication for pilgrims’ menu we saw only in Chaves, almost at the border with Spain. For the first time I took a coil with me on the Camino - to try to make coffee or tea, used it a lot on the road – it’s faster then the ovens/cookers (I don’t use microwaves).

Calde/Almagerm: Albergue de Almagerm, 3 euros, easy to locate, old school building, in the centre of the village, near the roundabout with the tree. Kitchen in a separate building then the dormitories, warm blankets there. Had some food with us and cooked dinner there. Didn’t see any shops in the village, but there is a small bar/café, the old couple lives and serve there. Was possible to eat there but we’d already had dinner in the albergue. So we had a drink there instead and asked for newspapers to dry the shoes. On the stage there was a village called Moes between Almagerm and Riobolhos, possible to do shopping for food there.

Riobolhos: Albergue de Riobolhos, 5 euros, in the former school, behind the small fence, blankets, cutlery was there, cooked again, some food left from before. Plenty of heaters to dry clothes. Not sure if there are cafes or bars in the village as we didn’t look for one at the time.

Warning: no accommodation between Riobolhos and Lamego on the permanent basis now. Called about the albergues in Bigorne and Penude but no luck as either closed or never existed. Bigorne: ask in the café, they have a contact of the woman who rents out rooms from time to time but was busy?/couldn’t take us when we passed through. Had to continue to Lamego instead. On the way passed by the so called albergue in Penude, saw the big building with the name on it, wasn't possible to get in though.

Lamego: Solar da Se hotel, 40 euros for bdl room with breakfast, they had a hairdryer, so I tried to dry everything with it as no heaters there. Breakfast was ok. Did some shopping in the supermarket there for the next days. Plenty of options to eat out but was very late and we didn’t check as had food with us.

Bertelo/Cumeeira: Albergue de Bertelo, 5 euros, was hard to find without maps. Belongs to the local association, called them for directions.
Name: Albergue do Caminho Interior Português de Santiago or Albergue de Bertelo, Santa Marta de Penaguião. On the map it is before Cumeeira, after Horto Osorio Wines on the right of the road, go to the village that is on the left of the road. Small insignificant one storey building without a name, old school. The woman came in the evening to collect the money.
One room even had a double bed and very nice linens! Didn’t check if there are any cafés or bars in Bertelo. Cooked our own food.

Vila Real: Municipal Albergue in the centre was renovated but not open yet. So had to stay in Douro Village Hostel, 20 euros for a bunk bed , they put us in the separate room with 2 bunk beds as the hostel was almost empty, but the room was tiny and uncomfortable, maybe other rooms are better. Bombeiros host 4km out of town, there are 2 other Bombeiros stations in town but they didn’t host. Big supermarket near the police station in the centre of town where we got food later. Plenty of options to eat out.

Parada de Aguiar: Albergue de Santiago, 5 euros, in the village few km before the town of Vila Poca de Aquiar. Albergue is uphill the main street. Big area, possible to make a bonfire behind the building, some storage place outside with some dry wood there. A small bar in the village, predominantly male, didn’t check for food there. Cooked food in the albergue. Didn't see any shops in the village but there was a phone number of a restaurant where you could be taken by the taxi. Plenty of maps and guides of the area on the table in the albergue.

Vidago, Firemen/Bombeiros: 5 euros. My first time at Bombeiros, was very impressed! On the main road leading to the centre, huge building, upstairs on the second floor. Clean, bunk beds, blankets looked a bit worse for wear but were ok. No kitchen there. Several small shops in Vidago. Plenty of bars/cafes, bakeries and some small restaurants. Although was Mon and in the evening only bars/cafes were open, mainly fast food. Was also possible to eat/do shopping in the morning when passing through Vila Poca de Aguiar, several kilomers from the albergue.

Chaves: Called Bombeiros there, but they stopped hosting, either permanently or temporary. The alternative private albergue, Pensao Flavio, in the center was closed on that day, we diddn't know about it so didn't book in advance. We called but it seemed like they didn’t like to open up for 2 pilgrims but could probably open up for a group, especially if they decide to eat in their restaurant. So had to find a hotel instead: Jaime Jose Ribeiro Pension, 25 euros for a bdl room, pilgrim discount. Address: Alameda Tabolado, bloco 5, ph 276 331 180/189. A nice pension/hotel with a restaurant, a part of a big building with more hotels, cafes, etc. Near the small park not far from the thermal water source.
Very relaxed feel about town, many tourists. Plenty of cafes, bars and restaurants. Warm mineral water is great to drink! We had a meal out. Supermarket with a bakery where I found one of the best bread in Portugal.

Verin, Albergue Casa de Escudo: municipal albergue, 6 euros, not far from the center of town. Big but minimalist kitchen, almost no cutlery. . Nice old historical buiding though. Supermarkets in town, plenty of options to eat out.
Crossed the Spanish border that day, it’s roughly in the middle of the stage. It’s possible to stay in Vilarelho da Raia before the Spanish border, it belongs to Centro Social e Cultural, we passed by it on the way and decided to have a picnic there on the grounds. Albergue was closed but the bathrooms were open. Plenty of chairs and benches outside, in the shady area under the big roof there, great swings as well. In the last Portguese village before the border there is a very frienly cafe/bar. They give a free bottle water to all pilgrims.
 

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surya8

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues Central, Santarem-Santiago - 2017; Portugues Interior, Sanabres, Fisterra & Muxia - 2018
#2
Equipment: I’ve never walked in the mountains or even hills so I braced myself for a hard walk. It was harder then normal, but manageable with the right shoes and trekking poles that were essential for this Camino. Walked in trail running shoes, was fine, a bit slippery on the cobblestones in the rain sometimes but out in the wild was perfect. Got used to having wet feet while walking, dried shoes overnight with paper inside. No blisters thankfully. Had a poncho that worked well in the rain but regretted not having taken the rain trousers.

Terrain and weather: Had to walk almost all the CPI in the rain, ranging from light drizzle to heavy showers, with some sunshine in between. The rain period had begun long before the start of our Camino, but surprisingly the ground was not soaked all the time. I guess the earth there was very dry and needed plenty of rain to recover from the last year’s drought and fires there. Had some mud in the fields somewhere around Parada de Aguiar, otherwise was ok.

I’ve never walked the Primitivo or Norte so can’t compare the altitudes and hardness of the way with CPI. In general I usually find it easy to walk 25-30-35km on a flat terrain, here on CPI that was more of a challenge. I’d noticed the tiredness creeping down on me after 20-25km of walking up and down those hills. I blame it on lack of training before the Camino. Important: it usually took us longer then we expected to reach the destination, tricky to get the timing right in the hills!
In the retrospect I see that we were lucky with the weather as it’s easier for me to walk in the hills in the rain rather then in the heat. Missed seeing some of those hills in the fog or just looking downwards on my feet during heavy rains, with streaks of water running down the face.

Water: Carried only a couple of small bottles of water at a time as were not thirsty most of the time because of the cool and rainy weather, otherwise in the heat you would definitely need some more. Most of the time there were water fonts on the stages to fill in the water bottles although cafés were not frequent in general.

Roads: all kind of roads on this Camino, some little asphalt, very few main roads, many secondary roads, but mostly natural paths through the fields and forests. Gravel, dirt, sand.
Just one small artificial lake on the way but many rivers and brooks to cross, some walking on the big stones. Very little cobblestones, especially in comparison to Lisbon to Porto stretch, or even Porto to Santiago.

Big towns on the way: Viseu, Lamego, Regua, Vila Real, Chaves; otherwise it’s mostly villages.
The hardest stage on CPI for us was Riobolhos to Lamego, 38km, all day in the rain, thankfully there was a café in the middle.
The easiest: 1) first day out of Viseu, 17km, relatively flat. 2) Vila Real to Parada de Aguiar on the eco track/old corgo line, 26-27km, but also relatively flat.

Nature: not so many wild animals as you’d probably expect to see in a far away area like that. We only saw a snake and some birds of prey. Plenty of wild flowers though, the amount and scope was beyond amazing! Lots of wild lavender bushes. We saw some wild edible mushrooms on the way, mostly in the oak forests, we cooked them later on the way. Some burned woods but not massive areas, I expected worse before the trip taking into account last years’ fires. The land is recovering but slowly.
Also this year’s June turned out to be a season for cherries! Late spring and summer, I guess they usually ripe earlier in the season.
The most picturesque and varied Camino for me so far, especially in comparison to Portuguese Central from Lisbon to Santiago.
 
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surya8

Active Member
Camino(s) past & future
Portugues Central, Santarem-Santiago - 2017; Portugues Interior, Sanabres, Fisterra & Muxia - 2018
#5
Camino markings:
Yellow Camino arrows mostly, very well-marked from Viseu to Peso da Regua, freshly painted over the old faded arrows. Then some less frequent and irregular arrows all the way till the Spanish border. Some arrows were missing in some strategic places. A couple of arrows pointed in the opposite direction. Some yellow arrows go along with the local trails that are marked with red and white signs. The way to Fatima is marked with blue arrows pointing in the opposite direction, but at some point after Regua or Vila Real the indication for Fatima had disappeared altogether and in some places further up the road we saw blue arrows that were pointing in the direction of Santiago. We presumed that the local association had run out of yellow paint, but who knows.

Important: we walked without internet, didn’t use any online or offline maps, GPS tracks or printed maps. So my comments and descriptions here might differ from the ones who walked this route with the gadgets. We managed ok although had to ask the locals for directions several times. They are usually knowledgeable about the directions and the roads but don’t always know about the Camino Interior. Passing through the villages was much easier, they mostly know, in towns it was more of a challenge.

Tricky stages for us: as it was easy for us to walk before Regua, I am posting some info on the way after that.
Bertelo/Cemeeira to Vila Real, we got lost among the wines at some point. There is an arrow in the village (name?) pointing downhill, from the asphalt village road it took us to the narrow path leading through the vineyards, then there was an arrow, maybe pointing in the wrong direction altogether as there were some recent repairs there so it could have been moved. And then nothing, we spend some time trying to find the way but finally decided to get back to the main road and follow it all the way to Vila Real.

Vila Real to Parada de Aguiar: we walked along the old disused corgo rail line, a very picturesque area, mostly flat or small hills only, easy on the feet. Straight and simple to walk. To find the beginning in Vila Real: cross the river, walk past the train station on the right, take the small side road on the left from the main street, before the tall green(?) building with a small shopping centre on the ground floor (there is a self-service launtromat in that tall building, was very handy to find it on the previous day to dry the clothes). I think it was gravel road. It goes through the town first, among the high buildings then out of town it resembles more of an eco-trail. The yellow Camino arrows appeared later, so it joins with the corgo line/eco track at some point.

Parada de Aguiair to Vidago: some marks missing in the fields. We mainly followed the small river as the way goes parallel to it. There was a fork on the road not very far from Vidago, in the fields: left road led slightly uphill to some (private?) property as there was an open run-down gate there, don’t go there. Follow the right path instead, it will lead you to Vidago, you could see it in the distance from uphill. There will be a big arrow pointing in opposite direction on that road but that’s a mistake, just keep going straight, follow the direction of the village and you’ll be there.

Vidago to Chaves: got lost in the woods. The sign pointed left from the main road to the dirt forest road, then markings vanished in the woods at the strategic cross road. Tried all 3 roads out of 4 to find the right way. You can hear the small river down the hill, don’t go in that direction, don’t cross it and don’t go anywhere left from there! Finally we got back to the crossroad where we lost the way and took the right turn there, leading uphill, following the direction of the main road. Got into a small village, there was a sign pointing left for the shortcut/alternative way (locals said that) that we didn’t take. Followed the regular Camino signs that lead through the village. After the village it was relatively well marked.

Chaves to Verin: long way out of Chaves, signs at one roundabout in town were misleading, take left instead (sign points to the right), you will pass by a big busy market there on the way in the morning, scarce signs appear later.
Relatively well marked till the border, and even after the border there were still some Portuguese signs.
Spain: on the first day Camino goes also along the main roads. Not very well marked. Walked in the direction of the next town/Verin.
 
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Kanga

Moderator
Staff member
Camino(s) past & future
Francés x 5, Le Puy x 2, Arles, Tours, Norte, Madrid, Via de la Plata.
#6
Thank you @surya8 for some very useful information. There are sure to be forum members thinking about this route or planning it in the future.
 



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