Tag Archives: tomatoes

Santarem to Vale de Figueira

9/3 – our original plan for today was to walk 15 miles north, which would give us a short 5 mile walk the following day. Our host Mario suggested a different plan: walk 7 miles north today without our packs, take the train back to Santarem, then reverse the process tomorrow, giving us a 13 mile day. This sounded like a good idea for us, plus it would give Mario another night of our business.

Santarem is a confusing town with many little alleyways, and the maps don’t show all the streets, so we had a challenging time getting out of town in the morning. This is the last time we will see blue arrows for the pilgrimage to Fatima, as those pilgrims are now walking in the opposite direction:


There are several old churches with interesting architecture:




The cathedral had an open square inside, with palm trees growing within!



It was a foggy morning, and the view from the summit of the hill, where the old castle walls stand covered in morning glories, was breathtaking:




We shared the path for a while with Robert, a Pilgrim born in the U.S. but lives in France. Then we were back on dusty sand tracks, looking at today’s crops of peppers, corn, grapes and olive trees:

We reached the sleepy little town of Vale de Figueira by 11, and assumed we would be able to find the train station, either by hearing trains, seeing tracks, reading a sign, or asking helpful townfolk. No such luck! Google Translate gave us the Portuguese for Train Station, but the townfolk looked at us like we were speaking Martian. Then we tried making Choo Choo sounds, but that really didn’t help. Jim determined from our small map that the station was on a different road than the Caminho, but as soon as we turned left, EVERYBODY became a Nice Person of Portugal; pointing, prodding and gesticulating that we were going the WRONG WAY!

We found the station eventually, and in a half hour we were back in Santarem. Here are some of the lovely tile mosaics at the train station:

Tomorrow, we hoist our packs and head for Golega!

Morgado to Santarem

9/2 – after a hearty breakfast of ham and cheese sandwich, juice and coffee, Mario drove us back to where he found us yesterday so we could complete the remaining 10 miles of our walk to Santarem. This will be an easy day, as our heavy packs are at the hostel, and we are just carrying a camera and a canteen of water.

We walked along the levee until we left the river:




Then we had nine miles of dusty dirt road, with tomatoes, squash, corn and grape vineyards lining both sides of the road. And yes, we sampled both the tomatoes and the grapes – sweet and tasty, although a bit dusty!





Finally, we saw Santarem in the distance, and knew we were only an hour’s uphill climb from home.


Here are the first citizens of Santarem to greet us:


Halfway up the hill, we stopped at a cool fountain to clean off some dust before walking into town:



There is an American pilgrim from California, Anita, staying at the hostel tonight, and we had a nice chat while we cooked our respective suppers. It’s nice to be able to communicate without a language barrier!

Azambuja to Morgado

9/1 – when we arrived at the cafe at 7 this morning for our coffee, it was full of English-speaking men! Four Americans and two Canadians had arrived late last night, and, of course, they were responsible for the chorus of God Bless America that we heard in the wee hours. They are all veterans of other caminhos, and are all walking the 20+ miles to Santarem in today’s 93 degree heat.

We have opted to walk 10 miles to Morgado, and Mario, who owns the Santarem Hostel, will pick us up. We will spend the night in his hostel, then he will drop us back at this halfway point tomorrow so we can complete the segment. We want to walk every step of this Caminho, taking time to enjoy whatever there is to experience.

We were on the road as the sun came up, as we wished to avoid the heat of the day.




We walked along the water, along a path that was part of an old Roman road:IMG_1600

The path took us through miles of tomato fields:IMG_1606IMG_1605

We got to watch as the tomatoes were harvested by a big machine that sucked up the tomato plants, separated the ripe tomatoes down a chute onto a waiting truck, ground up the rest of the plant and returned it to the field as mulch, along with any unripe fruit. Darned if we could figure out how the the machine knew the difference, but only the red fruit went onto the truck!IMG_1607IMG_1609

We walked through the little town of Valada, with its 16th century church, and viewed the River Tejo from the levee that we walked along for several miles:image



Mario came for us at noon, and he stopped and offered rides to the other pilgrims on the way to Santarem, but they all opted to walk in. We were grateful for the private room, and I loved the artwork displayed throughout the hostel of cows engaged in very human pursuits: