Walking East Journal

Jan 2010 18

O Porto

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We arrived here in the late afternoon of 15 January by way of a curious route. We started out early enough. It was raining lightly with its consequent heavy overcast. We followed our yellow arrows faithfully for around an hour and then they disappeared. Well, we didn’t see them any more for a while. We missed one on some unknown corner. We asked a couple women for directions. “You have to go this way up to the National then turn left.”
the “National” (like a US highway: ex. US 30) is a highway with much traffic. We went that way but refused before getting there. We don’t like the traffic when there is an alternative. Deciding we could find our own way back to the arrows, we took a road to Sta. Maria do Feira, a town according to the guide, on the path.
After another hour we found ourselves at a bar (café) just outside Sta. Maria. By then we realized that the path was three kilometers (2 mi.) from Sta. Maria. The waiter spoke good English and gave us directions to get to Malaposta which was clearly on our path. I should have known from the name (“Malaposta”=”bad place”) it wasn’t going to be easy.
We lost ourselves in a coup-de-sac before 15 minutes. So we crossed a ditch and walked along the National for another kilometer or so—it does have a wide shoulder making the traffic somewhat tolerable. Finally we stopped an another bar and then a hotel to get more directions. In the hotel I realized we had walked the last kilometer southwest, the opposite direction from where we wanted to go. It is almost impossible to tell directions when the sun is not out and the roads are constantly turning. As you can guess by now we had no detailed map.
As we talked, I spotted the clock. It was 12:54. We had been walking for more than four hours and we were less than 4 kilometers along our way to our destination in Grijo, 20 kilometers from our start, still 14 km (8 mi) from Porto. We had been walking in circles.
As we came out of the hotel, Petra spotted a woman at a bus stop across the National, the opposite direction from where we were to go. She lead me over and asked her where a bus is going. “To Porto, express.” She says. The labyrinth we had been walking lead us here just in time for the next bus when the chances of making the original destination without a lot of effort were few. The rain and wind were once again heavy. We decided to celebrate my birthday and the first birthday of this pilgrimage in Porto instead of on the way walking there.
The bus came. We tied the cart in the baggage room under the seats. On the way to the autostrada we passed a sign, “O Porto 30 [kilometers – 19 mi, a long walking day.]” In an hour we were checked into the Quality Inn in Porto. We didn’t arrive walking, but in the way of our pilgrimage on this particular rainy day.

It never happened this way in all our walk across North America, but then we were not following yellow arrows there. We had to make our own route from the start.
We have been here since then resting, enjoying the city, and waiting for a break in the rain. Maybe tomorrow – or the next day. This is a great city to rest and wait in. As we arrived the music on the bus was “Let it be, let it be….” So we try to do as we continue eastward with this pilgrimage

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