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LIVE from the Camino On the camino Zamorano-Portugués

2020 Camino Guides

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Greetings from Ricobayo del Alba, first stage on the Portuguese variant of the Vía de la Plata. I'm the 27th person this year in its excellent new albergue and the first Brit. It's in a converted dovecot, first one of those I've ever stayed in. Paul Garland, the outstanding resident hospitalero, cooked up a delicious dinner and we had a very convivial evening, culminating in a couple of people from the town hall arriving to fire up the new pellet-burning stove, so Paul's now ready for anything winter can throw at him.

Most people arrive here from Zamora, but I came down from Montamarta, detouring slightly to see the lovely simple visigothic church of San Pedro de la Nave, rescued from the waters of the Esla's massive reservoir. Some time very soon, an albergue will open in Almendra, quite near the church, making the trip out from Zamora much easier.
 

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Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
Another option for visiting that absolute delight of a church is to stay in Valdeperdices. There is a hall with a wooden stage that makes an adequate bed.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
A leisurely breakfast with Paul, after "waking up and smelling the coffee" made from beans he had just ground. And then a really good day, straight out into garrigue-like country with pines and sweet smelling junipers, gently undulating through deserted countryside, with a few wind turbines and a hen harrier for company. Before long some oak trees with their trunks stripped for corks reminded you that Portugal was nearby. And then up onto open bare heathland with wide views back, and the foothills of Sanabria to the far north.

Fonfría is perhaps not the most exciting place to spend a night, with three bars firmly not serving food, and one of Spain's less attractive churches. The first bar didn't have a key to the albergue, but did have a bloke with a basket of ceps, who was a little surprised when he asked me what they were and I answered "boletus edulis, yum". We agreed fried in rendered smoked bacon fat with garlic was the best way to eat them. At least I think we agreed that, as many people round here have a thick Portuguese accent.

The albergue has hot water and a roof, and the one blanket between 5 bunks was enough for me on my own. When I picked up the key and tried to pay, the barman said it was free as it needed "reformas", which was more than fair.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Fonfría to Alcañices

Another pleasant day mostly on agricultural tracks. Overnight had been my first frost, so I had to dig gloves and woolly hat from the depths of my rucksack. On the mountains to the north and west, a thin line of snow was just visible, some over the Padornelo pass on the Sanabrés. Bright sun soon burnt off the frost for me. None of the village bars was open at 8, so I set off and was rewarded by an excellent hot coffee and tostada after 6km at Fornillos de Aliste.

A similar mix of wood and open heath takes you to Alcañices, where the treaty agreeing the Portuguese border was signed in 1297, and where Margarita Ferreras, one of the poets on the generation of 1927, was born.

There is an excellent purpose built albergue, just celebrating its tenth birthday, with half a dozen rooms each with two bunks, washing machine, kitchen, sitting room, books, WiFi: a pilgrim parador.

I was the 53rd person to stay here this year, up from 26 last, so over 100% increase year on year. Josep, the usual hospitalero, was away, but I was amply cared for by his temporary stand-in Enrique, a new convert to the camino, and I was his first pilgrim. Hope I didn't put him off for life.
 

peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
Another option for visiting that absolute delight of a church is to stay in Valdeperdices. There is a hall with a wooden stage that makes an adequate bed.
Rachel, I have taken a look back at some earlier posts when you were arranging your visit to San Pedro de la Nave as a detour from the Vdlp. Did you continue on the way Alan is going, or did you go from Valdeperdices up to Montamarta and continue on the Sanabrés?

As the albergues get up and running, Zamora to Santiago via the Zamorano-Portugués looks like an excellent untravelled Camino option. And Bragança is another one of those well-kept secrets with lots to see.

My rough estimate shows about 15 days, but of course Alan will fill us in live!
8 days Zamora to Verín
3 days Verín to Ourense
4 days Ourense to Santiago
 

Kiwi-family

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Past: (2012, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2018)-Frances, Baztan, San Salvador, Primitivo, Fisterra,VdlP, Madrid
@peregrina2000 we stayed in Valdeperdices overnight, then walked along to the church the next morning, leaving our packs in the hall. We then grabbed our packs and headed on to Montamarta as you recalled.
We were using google maps to do this detour which often coincided with mojones - it turned out we could have just followed the arrows!
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Alcañices to Quintanilha

Enrique kindly made breakfast and I set off in a light drizzle which lasted most of the day. It was a bit difficult to tell in low cloud, but it looked like lovely countryside, with quite a lot of fruit trees, almost entirely off tarmac, and with well spaced bars to stop for coffee. Enrique's half brother runs the Frontera bar just inside Spain, next to an abandoned customs' post.

Once across the Manzanas/Maçãs border river, having remembered to put my watch back an hour, the camino, still reasonably well marked despite the horror stories I'd read, follows the river under chestnuts and the motorway bridge for a few km to Quintanilha. The albergue there has three bedrooms with 9 bunks and plenty of blankets, donativo. Hot water for the shower would have been a bonus, and I expect it's available during the week when the camara municipal downstairs is open. There are a couple of bars and a small shop, several threatening dogs and many more very welcoming people.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Quintanilha to Bragança

An hour from Quintanilha, at the apparently deserted village of Refega,an elderly lady appeared, took my arm and led me into the social centre, where she made me an industrial-strength espresso. She strongly advised me to take an alternative route onwards saying that the arrows went on a path that was muit mal. I took her advice and was quickly rewarded with glorious high open countryside,with ridge after edge in every direction. 5km on, "my" path rejoined the arrows, I think on a very slightly shorter route. I don't know what the official path is like, but the high road was muit bom.

Nearly 15 long km out, you get you first sight of Bragança far below, and of the wide empty Trás-os-Montes uplands ahead. Shortly afterwards a jolly convoy of young shooters stopped and gave me a bottle of beer. A little early for me, but I pretended I was still in Spain, where it was (just) past midday.

Slightly flagging after a long and quite tortuous descent, at the village of Gimonde I stopped at Don Roberto's friendly taberna, where I refuelled with a delicious fabada. The final 6km to the city are not great, fairly suburban, but at least mostly off tarmac. Even on a Sunday afternoon, it was easy to see that Bragança is a very fine city, with wide streets, and some fine modern architecture to go with its ancient centre and dominating castle - ancestral home of a Queen of England, Charles II's long-suffering Catherine of Braganza, who brought us Bombay in her dowry, and who is sometimes credited with making tea fashionable in the UK.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Bragança to Vinhais

A slightly late start after ambling around central Bragança, rather wishing to take a rest day here, but preferably not on a Monday. Then quite quickly out of the suburbs and back into peak chestnut. No danger of starving here.

Today the camino (sorry, caminho) passed two impressive rivers and their equally good gorges and rapids. And of course has to do a fair bit of climbing up between the valleys.

At Soeira I was having a quiet beer when a party erupted. A local character was celebrating his 45th wedding anniversary, and everybody had to toast it in orujo. Not my favourite drink, and 2pm with 10km to go is not the best time to drink it, but I couldn't refuse.

Having left a bit late, and dawdled enjoying the uplands and valleys, it was moonrise before I got in sight of Vinhais. The local fire brigade chief personally stamped and signed my credencial, which is why I know he is a comando. Pilgrims are put up in a room at the fire station with 5-6 bunks, loos and showers. The more fastidious might prefer to stay somewhere else, but it's fine.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Vinhais to Edral

The fire brigade wasn't called out, so I had a good night's sleep after a generous portion of bacalau in a nearby bar, which was also giving out hot roast chestnuts. Yum - the raw ones picked up on the path are fine, but I do like them hot.

From Vinhais for the first couple of hours it is a series of glorious golden tunnels. I read that Portugal's oldest tree is nearby, and saw some huge ancient chestnuts which must have been several hundred years old. Then onto a long ridge about 900m up, the highest point on the Portuguese Plata, with fabulous views over the Terra Fria and northwards into Spain.

What goes up must come down. And then go up again, and da capo several times. The most impressive exercise for the thigh muscles came at the day's end, 280m down in 2km to the impressive gorge of the Rabaçal, and then 350m up in 3km to the village of Edral. It's no worse than the up/down to/from Belesar on the Invierno, but in an almost totally wild landscape, unlike the neatly manicured vine terraces of the Miño. Very different but equally beautiful.

Edral has a social centre, a bar and a lot of old tractors without roll bars, which used to cause a funeral most years where I grew up. Pilgrims are welcome to sleep on the two sofas of the social centre, once it stops being used as a day centre for elderly people at 6.30pm. I arrived a bit earlier as it was getting dark and starting to rain, and they very kindly treated me to supper with the others, an excellent caldo and some chicken with rice, much nicer than the hard tack in my rucksack. Currently enjoying the music of the rain pelting down, in the hope that it means it will have passed over by morning.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
Edral to Vilardevós

I looked out at 5am and it was still chucking it down, but by dawn a couple of hours later the full moon was setting to the west, and there was hardly a cloud in the sky. Surprisingly the village bar was open early, so I got my coffee and left the hospitable day centre just as the first workers were arriving.

There was then a very lengthy descent to praha fluvial of Segirei, a pleasant picnic spot, although the river Mente was in full spate after last night's rain, so a morning dip was not on the cards. I passed a couple of farmers taking their cows to the fields after milking, otherwise no one. Quite a lot of wild boar scat and once, miles from any house, I saw what I think might have been wolf prints - heading in the same direction as a lot of deer tracks, which might not have been good news for the latter.

From the Mente gorge it's about four hours of continuous uphill, mostly fairly gentle, but with a few stairways to heaven that weren't pleasant walking after the rain. Partly following the smugglers' Ruta do Contrabando, which crosses the border on a tricky goat track, goes past the jaw-dropping mare's-tail waterfall of the Fervenza da Cidadella and then on up the Río Mouce, past an almost absurdly pretty series of waterfall staircases: luckily for me the sun was still "gilding pale streams with heavenly alchemy". A few km later you start slowly to go downhill and to pass a few inhabited villages, and in Vilardevós, 13km shy of Verín, there was the chance of food and a bed, both of which I took. The nice lady in the bar tells me that snow is coming.

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Jay Es

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017 the del Norte, home via the Portuguse to Vigo, Planning a Via de la Plata for October 2018.
Watching your journey with interest. It sounds a very dramatic route. Can I ask about how much Portuguese I will require to do this ruta as we are thinking of coming this way in the spring next year? I speak a little , but find rural accents hard to understand.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
...
My rough estimate shows about 15 days, but of course Alan will fill us in live!
8 days Zamora to Verín
3 days Verín to Ourense
4 days Ourense to Santiago
From Verin you also have an option to connect with Sanabres already in Laza.
 

alansykes

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
Except the Francés
@Jay Es I speak virtually no Portuguese. It wasn't a problem: almost everybody seemed to understand me when I spoke slowly in Spanish - even if I didn't always understand the answer it was usually fairly easy to work out. The only real conversations I had were in French, which a lot of people speak, having worked in Geneva or France. Nobody I met spoke English.

It's a very lovely route. The final stage to join the Sanabrés at Verín is nothing special, involving quite a lot of tarmac and crossing the main motorway to Galicia. But it might well be nicer if not attempted in something close to a blizzard, and the discovery that my waterproof gloves aren't quite as waterproof as all that.

That apart, I would recommend the Camino Zamorano Portugués to anyone - especially the four days in Portugal.
 

Jay Es

Member
Camino(s) past & future
May 2017 the del Norte, home via the Portuguse to Vigo, Planning a Via de la Plata for October 2018.
@Jay Es I speak virtually no Portuguese. It wasn't a problem: almost everybody seemed to understand me when I spoke slowly in Spanish - even if I didn't always understand the answer it was usually fairly easy to work out. The only real conversations I had were in French, which a lot of people speak, having worked in Geneva or France. Nobody I met spoke English.

It's a very lovely route. The final stage to join the Sanabrés at Verín is nothing special, involving quite a lot of tarmac and crossing the main motorway to Galicia. But it might well be nicer if not attempted in something close to a blizzard, and the discovery that my waterproof gloves aren't quite as waterproof as all that.

That apart, I would recommend the Camino Zamorano Portugués to anyone - especially the four days in Portugal.
We are quickly coming to the conclusion that it will be our Way of choice from Zamora. Thank you.
 

KinkyOne

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
I'am not perfect, but I'm always myself!!!
...But it might well be nicer if not attempted in something close to a blizzard, and the discovery that my waterproof gloves aren't quite as waterproof as all that.
...
You thought you have waterproof gloves? Oh, you really disappointed me, Alan :D :D :D

Keep on and wish you better weather! ;)
 

Paul_Garland

New Member
Camino(s) past & future
Frances 2012-18, VdlP 2013, Primitivo part 2018, Fisterra/Muxia frequently, VdlP Portugues parts
Some really good and up to date (!) info for pilgrims, I will be able to pass it on as appropriate to those staying here in Ricobayo. Thanks for making the time to write! And for the humorous asides and alusiones... I've put a link to this thread on the Ricobayo fb page (hope it's ok and not (C)). Go well, keep warm!
 

J Willhaus

Veteran Member
Camino(s) past & future
24 May- 14 July (2016)CF
Hospitalera, Zamora Dec 15-31, (2017), Hospitalera Grañón Dec 15-31 (2018)
Sounds wonderful. You always have such thick descriptions. I can almost see the journey.
 

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