Today started really well. We slept better than expected in our dormitory of 18 people. The mornings walk was a delight with warm sunshine, wild flowers and old farmhouses.
Then things got a bit harder. At 17 km Clare”s blisters, which had got partially healed, got worse again. Funny that something so trivial can make walking so tiring, especially over cobblestones. There was a guesthouse 1km ahead and Noel kindly carried her rucksack there but it was fully booked. Waiting in the courtyard was another pilgrim who had hurt his knee. Just then his taxi arrived to take him the 17 km to Ponte de Lima, the nearest municipal albergue. We made a decision for Clare to go there too, and stay connected by mobile phone whilst Noel made his way there on foot. The albergue was in a beautiful setting (see photo). One snag. At 4pm the albergue was already close to it’s maximum of 60 pilgrims. They had a policy of issuing the 5 euro bed tickets only one per person, so Clare couldn’t buy one for Noel. And they were running out fast. What to do? A very friendly slovenian couple we had met at an earlier Albergue were there in the queue to get their camino passports stamped for the day before going to a campsite. Tomich very kindly bought a bed ticket, which he then passed on to Clare. Problem apparently solved! Other new/old friends from previous stages of the Camino were there too. It is becoming a very warm and supportive community on move. Another snag. The albergue did not supply blankets, just a bare mattress. The weather had turned bitterly cold and windy and the albergue was huge and drafty with 30 to a room. We conferred by phone and agreed to bail out and go to a guesthouse. Good decision, as Noel arrived at 7pm frozen to the marrow from his 35km walk. We returned our bed tickets to the albergue staff who were very understanding and gave us a refund, which we hadn’t asked for or anticipated. The guesthouse owners were full of kindness. Father and daughter fetching us by car from the beautiful and historic but by now icy cold bridge, settling us in with extra heaters and blankets, with good wishes from other pilgrims at the guesthouse (Latvian, French and German, some of whom we knew). We fell asleep deeply grateful for the kindness of people who had been strangers, but are now friends.