Life and death on the Portuguese
Monastery or not, the bluebottle didn’t stand a chance.
The plump hospitalera grabbed my Brierley guide to the Camino Portuguése, took aim, swotted the insect in one deadly swoop, scraped it off the reception table and handed back the stained book with a satisfied grunt.
You can’t afford to be too sensitive when the price of a bed is €5 and the tiny black-clad lady takes you by the arm and opens every cupboard of the kitchen to show you her pots, plates and marmalades. And then hangs out of a top floor window to point the way to the “supermercado” and mimes what can be bought on its shelves.
And so began my first night on the Camino, in the Mosteiro de Vairão, a monastery founded in the eleventh century which now hosts road-weary pilgrims. All I needed for dinner after a nerve-jangling walk on the edge of fast traffic was wine and a taste of the marmalade on a bread roll, from the less than “super” mercado.
It will take time to adjust to being a pilgrim again. My legs feel strong after a summer of climbing, but walking on roads and cobbles is nothing like the spring of heather and moorland. And I packed with care, yet the backpack weighs heavy on my shoulders and I’m constantly adjusting and readjusting the straps to find a comfortable fit.
But the sun has transported me back to summer, my boots are eating up the miles and the characters on the road entertain and amaze. The young Dutchman now remembered as “The Boy Wizard” carried a massive pack that was five times heavier than mine yet he claimed to be “flowing with synchronicity”.
He did slow down when we reached the first hill. And I haven’t seen him now for some time.