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Cycling the Caminho Português 3 - From Coimbra to Santiago de Compostela

After the start in Lisboa and the first stretch to Coimbra (read here and here in German) I had to push hard at times when I cycled the Portuguese Way of Saint James to Santiago de Compostela - the Caminho Português. But it was worth it!

I guess every pilgrim has one version of this picture: Pilgrim in front of the Cathedral in Santiago de Compostela. 

Iberian countryside

What I loved most about the Caminho Português: It gives you an impression of real rural life on the Iberian peninsula.

There were many great views, but not all  of the stretches were super stunning and instagramable. I passed little villages that were completely empty except for a few elderly inhabitants.

Church and Mother Mary on the Caminho Português. 

I also saw industry. And I saw endless eucalyptus forests that were surely not planted for biodiversity but for quick profit.

Industrial area on the Caminho Português. 

I guess, I just saw the real life.

These crosses could be seen on the Caminho Português near Santiago. 

Uphill to Porto

A strenuous altitude difference had to be mastered between Coimbra and Porto. So I switched to a lower gear, stopped to pity myself and slowly slowly went uphill!

Alright... I never actually STOPPED the self-pity, but steadily made it to Porto anyway.

Me cycling the Caminho. 

The Coastal Way from Porto to Caminha 

The city of Porto. 

Porto is a real beauty and the start of the nicest stretch of the Caminho Português: the Portuguese Coastal Way to Caminha.

Clouds over the Atlantic Ocean. 

This coastal diversion from the original way became more and more popular in recent years.

The Portuguese Coastal Way. 

Most of the times I cycled directly by the coast, partly because I preferred the national roads and the cycle tracks over the official Coastal Way. Thereby, I also avoided annoying copperstone roads in the villages.

So if you are by bike, you need GPS tracks and/or a guidebook with recommendations for cyclists.

Copperstone on the Caminho Português. 

On my first day I illegally used wonderful wooden footpaths that connected the beaches. Nobody seemed to care because there weren't any pedestrians on that cloudy and rainy day in January.

Pedestrian way near Porto. 

Offroad in the forest 

My guidebook failed to warn me from two short passages, each of them completely unsuitable for bikes. I had to push it over sticks and stones.

The Caminho Português was sometimes unsuitable for bikes. 

A hiking fellow pilgrim had to cautiously climb over the slippery stones in the forest. "Oh no," she complained. "I chose the Coastal Way to avoid THIS!"

Walking on slippery stones but seeing signs of other pilgrims who have apparently survived. 

A few metres later we were meant to cross a bridge that did not exist anymore. Unsuccesfully following the diversion signage, I ended up in a field in the mud.

How to cross the river now?

Cafés that are no cafés

Every morning, I had my first "cha preto" (meaning "black tea" in Portuguese) in one of the many cafés that were actually no real cafés but more like bars. At least according to my definition.

The majority of guests were men. Thus, these sometimes quite shabby looking places reminded me a lot of Turkish tea houses (check out blog article in German).

Black tea English style woke me up in the mornings. 

The only difference was the consumption of beer and "vino tinto" ("red wine") even in the morning hours. Well, nothing can shock a German!

French fries en masse 

In the countryside I had lunch in very simple restaurants, together with agricultural and construction workers.

The chefs were always very kind and gave me something without meat. This usually included egg and salad, and always "patatas fritas".

Typical vegetarian lunch menu: Lots of egg, salad, and of course french fries. 

Francesinha, eaten a lot around Porto: A sandwich with lots of cheese and served in tomato sauce with beer. To be honest: I did not understand the hype. 

Pilgrim Lena was even poorer. Being a vegan, she kept soy butter like a treasure in her backpack.

We met in an almost empty public hostel led by the municipality of Pontevedra in Spain where we chatted the whole night.

Ferry on the river Minho between Caminha (Portugal) and A Pasaxe (Spain). 

"Ulisee y Maria Celeste" by Eduardo Gruber in Vigo. This Spanish town surprised me with an excellent Modern Arts Museum. 

Out of season

In January, the Caminho was super quiet.  From time to time I was the only guest in the hostels. Female pilgrims were rare.

This decoration in one of the hostels let me get nightmares. 

However, the host in Caldas de Reis told me it would become very crowded in August. People would get up at 4 o'clock in the night just to get a bed in the afternoon.

Me and the bike. 

Made it! 

When I finally arrived in Santiago de Compostela, I was overwhelmed by the number of pilgrims and tourists.

My journey ended in the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. The place's dignity suffered a little bit from the vast construction work going on inside.

So I walked through the church in the most dignified manner to celebrate the completion of the Caminho Português.

Cathedral of Santiago under construction. 


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