An extremely icy and early morning start from Porto at 7.00 a.m. wasn’t the slightest deterrent for the 115 participants and our new 4 legged participant Nino, in Terra Verde’s 5th sector of the Coastal Walk, which this time promised to be very exciting being our first walk in Spain.
We arrived in good time at Caminha (where the 4th sector had finished) where for some, there was an extra hearty breakfast boost of hot ‘meias de leite’ (delicious creamy white coffees) and fresh Portuguese style croissants, before we were all given our marching orders to meet at the quay for ‘Credential’ stamping and make our way to the local ferryboat which would take us and our coach across the River Minho. It was particularly nice to be in Caminha again, even at that early hour, to take in the history of this town dating back to the 5th century.
As we boarded our ferryboat and began our journey out onto the river, one had an amazing view of the estuary and Caminha and it was a sheer pleasure to be able to see both countries lying on either side of the river. The silence of the group on the ferry trip across was an inevitable sign that everyone was observing the beautiful scenery around them.
Arriving into Spain at the small port, we made our way to the special reception area that has been set up especially for receiving pilgrims on their way to Santiago and once again all lined up to receive our first Spanish ‘Credential’ stamp given by a local representative of the Spanish group of Camiño de Santiago.
Just opposite the quay and reception area is a huge and beautiful building, now sadly abandoned, of what was an old Jesuit college founded back in 1875 by the Jesuit Order of Santiago Apostles. It was a University School during 8 years (1877-1885) and carries the Jesuit Santiago Cross on its front wall. We were told that it was used as a prisoner of war facility during Franco’s regime.
Right before setting off there was the inevitable group photo and for those who needed an additional boost, a shot of Port wine (Portugal’s best), was served up to ‘warm the cockles of the heart’! We were introduced to two Spanish gentlemen (Camiño specialists) who would accompany us on our journey and answer any questions we had about the region. This was not only helpful in understanding the history of the region but they also made sure we didn’t wander off track!
Finally it was time to get underway and everyone fell into their own pace enjoying the beautiful scenery around them. We began with walking through very old and narrow, cobbled paths and then taking a side track which suddenly took us deep into the hills through beautiful forests until we reached a small town right on the coast where the local fair day was in full swing. It was extremely difficult not to stop and just enjoy all the goings on around us!
From here our walk followed the rugged Galician coastline, passing through A Guarda, and I realized that although I personally had seen all of this before, I had never had the opportunity of being so close to its natural beauty. Along the way, we crossed paths with friendly Spaniards wishing us goodwill, beautiful animals of all descriptions, amazing architecture and just the most incredible landscapes with nature at its best. We couldn’t have wished for better weather and as the day warmed up and we also warmed up, it was a sheer pleasure to be able to take this journey.
Typically in Spain, lunch is much later than in Portugal and we were programmed by our organizers, Terra Verde, to arrive at our final destination of Oia at around 3.00 p.m. where we would all be able to finally sit down and enjoy our hot lunch.
As we all gradually rolled up into the old fishing village of Oia at our own paces, we were confronted with the simply beautiful Santa Maria de Oia Monastery sitting right on the beachfront. Incredibly, construction was begun on this Cistercian monastery in the year 1185 with the last contribution being made to the church in the 18th Century. There are artistic architectural references to the monastery in 1230.
Lunch was at A Raiña, a local yet modern hotel close by where we enjoyed a typical Galician style meal of hot soup made from the broth of a variety of cooked meats (chicken, beef and pork) followed by the actual cooked meats themselves served with boiled kale, chick peas and potatoes – all was really delicious. Right at the end, we were surprised by a group of local musicians who treated us to a session of the typical folk music played on a variety of instruments including the well known ‘gaita’ (Galician bagpipe). Some of us even found strength to get up and dance along to the music.
We closed our final leg of this walk with an informal visit to the Church of the Santa Maria de Oia Monastery as the monastery itself is now privately owned with our Spanish Camiño guides explaining the history of this magnificent monument. The Church’s front doors open up to a view to die for, stretching out over the beach of Oia and the beautiful Atlantic Ocean giving the visitor an opportunity to observe amazing sunsets at the end of the day right from the church’s front wall!
We all had a wonderful day with everyone, including Nino the dog, keeping good pace and completing the walk. Our coach was there to take us back to the Spanish border where we had begun our journey that morning. We once again boarded our ferry and just sat watching the lights flickering in Caminha (Portugal) as we slowly crossed the river to home.
Once again special thanks go to our organizers, Terra Verde, for arranging a great day. Part 6 will be happening at the end of this month and I know everyone is looking forward to it!
Follow this Coastal Walk from Porto to Santiago:-