Varião, Portugal – August 12, 2017

It’s difficult for me to accept that one-third of my 30-day vacation has already passed, and only yesterday did I start bicycling the Camino Portugués. I didn’t even cycle the whole stretch. I decided that the best thing was to take public transport out of the city, and as bicycles are permitted on Porto’s metro, I used it to get outside the worst of the city traffic.

The least enjoyable part of the day’s journey was cycling from the hostel to the metro station in Porto. My Garmin Edge 1000 refused to give me directions, so I had to frequently stop and check the route on my cell phone using Google Maps. In addition to dealing with heavy traffic including frequent city buses, there was one hill so steep that I got off the bike and pushed up it. The old steel bike plus the four loaded panniers and the handlebar bag are very heavy.

Here’s my bike, finally on the metro train heading out of town.

After I got off the metro, cycling was slow, because most of the roads are narrow and paved with cobblestones. If I tried to ride too fast, the constant vibration became very annoying. I was glad to have a mirror attached to my cycling glasses to check for traffic from the rear. The locals drive these narrow roads at suicidal speed. However, most drivers, I would say nine out of ten, gave me lots of room when passing me. I wonder how long automobile suspension last in this area under these conditions.

Below is a picture of the outside gate of the converted monastery where I stayed last night. The orange stylized clamshell drawing is a symbol of the Camino. I didn’t frame the picture very well, because I was straddling my bike, which the overeager volunteer at the pilgrim’s hostel was trying to pull through the gate.

Out here in the sticks, almost no one speaks English, which is a big difference compared to Portugal’s cities, where it seems that almost everyone speaks it. I conversed with the volunteer who welcomed me in a mixture of broken Portuguese and broken English. Later a young couple arrived to take over the welcoming job, and they both speak perfect English. I had to search my limited Portuguese vocabulary in the local café to order a beer and a cheese sandwich. First, I went through the pilgrim ritual: I took a shower, and I washed my dirty clothes by hand and hung them on the clothesline outside to dry. No one doing the Camino carries much in the way of spare clothing, and I am no exception. After I spent a good part of the day pedaling my bike in the hot sun, I probably stank to high heavens when I arrived.

Beside the monastery there is an old but very ornate cemetery. I shot the picture of the arches in the cemetery from a nearby street. The white building on the right is part of the monastery complex.

I will have to find a place to upload this blog on the way today. May establishments here, as in the USA, advertise free WiFi. However, the monastery boasts that it is “Wifi free.”

Oh, I might as well show you the mess I made when I arrived fatigued at the monastery. Here’s a picture of my humble bunk with my junk piled on it and beside it. I had just arrived and thrown everything down when I snapped the picture. If you thought up to now that I might be a neatness freak, I hope this picture sets you straight.

How far will I get today? I have no idea. I am about to turn 75 years of age, and I think I’ve earned the right to lazily pedal along without trying to get in my 100 miles a day as I did when I was a 23-year-old pedaling through Europe. If I ride more than 20 miles tomorrow and then spend the afternoon reading, I will be perfectly happy.