Lisbon to Porto: Deep Thoughts

caminho portugues002

There are three primary camino paths in Portugal, although, you can step out of your house anywhere and blaze your own trail.  The Coastal trails hugs the coast and is the furthest left on the map.  Central is the middle route, which, I took (Lisboa → Santarem  → Tomar → Coimbra → Agueda → Porto → Rates → Barcelos → Tui → Pontevedra → Santiago).  Interior is the furthest to the right.  Starting in Lisbon is relatively new.  Up until recently, the Portuguese camino meant Porto to Santiago and many maps and guidebooks only reference that leg.  BTW, the Spanish border is at Tui.

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Trail:  I’d guesstimate that 80-90% of the Lisbon to Porto portion is on asphalt, concrete or stone roads.  This is tough enough on the feet but throw in extreme heat . . .  Ouch!  It’s also more industrial.  Via Lusitania manages the camino trails in Portugal and rerouting is one of it’s objectives but is hampered by lack of funds and viable options.  Because of the road walking and industry, quite a few people who start in Lisbon end up skipping this section and regrouping in or near Porto.

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Facilities & Services:  On the Camino Francés there is a cafe/restaurant every 4/5 km.  Albergues are also nearly as frequent.  You’re not going to find that in Portugal or anywhere else for that matter.  There are fewer albergues until you get closer to Porto and, so, a greater reliance on hotels and B&Bs.  They are also farther apart.  Personally, I found the quantity and quality of facilities to be adequate and never had any concerns of finding a place for the night.

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Other Pilgrims:  Very few, especially the first week out of Lisbon.  The number starts increasing as you get closer to Porto, at which point there is significant jump.  But it’s still no where near the numbers on the Francés or the traffic jam that occurs in Sarria.  So, you don’t get the same camaraderie or fall into a “camino family” as on the Francés.

Drivers:  Portuguese people are great; they are warm, hospitable, kind, happy, name your superlative . . .  Except when they get behind the wheel of a car.  Then, it doesn’t matter how narrow or curvy the street, shoulder, no shoulder, how crowded, raining or not; they will not slow down or yield to you.  This was in the South, before you get to Porto, and I attribute this to the lack of familiarity with Santiago pilgrims.  I was clipped twice by a car, actually they hit my trekking pole.

Many of the Portuguese people (once again, in the South only) expressed surprise that there was such a path through their town/neighborhood.  I was a curiosity and many thought the whole idea nutty.  In France and Spain everyone along the camino knows about the Santiago pilgrims.  Spain, especially, has done a tremendous amount of work to educate the public.  There are huge signs along roads, warning drivers to watch for pilgrims.  Much of this stems from a 2013 accident where two German pilgrims were hit by a truck and killed.  There is a culture in those two countries where most drivers slow down and many, if they can, will also move over.


Dogs: There are dogs along the trail in France, Spain and Portugal.  However, in the first two and Northern Portugal, most are tied up or behind locked gates and are familiar with walkers pass through.  In Southern Portugal, that is not the case.  In the farming communities, especially in the early morning, there were more dogs that were loose and more packs of dogs.  I never got bitten but had several close, hair raising calls with packs.

Since posting this, I read that one of the ways to stop a charging dog was to stoop down and act like you were picking up a rock and throwing it.  Evidently this works well with farm dogs and will not only stop them but cause them to run away.  Perhaps you could act like you were throwing one of your trekking poles.  Of course, it’d be my luck to end up accidentally flinging the pole and watching the dog run off with it.  The dingo ate my pole!


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