24km. After spending a couple of days walking mainly on roads from Santarem to Vila Nova Barquina through Portugal’s vegie patch (lots of corn plus tomatoes, capsicum, potatoes, peas, olives and grapes), we spent the morning walking on forest tracks through eucalypt plantations. It felt like we were at home, although some of the understory plants would have been very out of place in the Australian bush, especially the lavendars. It was lovely to walk and not have to worry about the endless streams of cars we had to face on the road.
Early in the day we met a fellow pilgrim, John Smith from Manchester, and he walked with us to Tomar. This is John’s 3rd Camino in as many years. He did the Camino Frances in April-May 2010, the same year as we did ours, then late last year he did the Camino Ingles (the English route) a 110km walk from Ferrol near the north-western tip of Spain to Santiago. It was good to spend time with him and we wish him a Bueno Caminho. John is travelling faster than we are, so we may not see him again.
In addition to good company, we enjoyed a mostly dry day. It rained a couple of times in the afternoon, but by then we had left the forest tracks and walked mostly on quiet sealed roads. We passed through a few small villages and stopped for a drink and something to eat at Asseiceira, which has 3 or 4 cafes and a small supermarket.
There are a couple of tricky sections in the last 7 or so kms into Tomar (this bit is really just for anyone thinking about doing the camino, but the rest of you are welcome to read it until your eyes glaze over with boredom). Follow the yellow arrows from Guerriera along the main road over the Ribeira da Bezelga to the roundabout under the new IC-3 bypass which goes around Tomar. Head up to the Industrial Zone and cross the railway bridge. On the right-hand side, immediately over the bridge, take the track to the right which goes beside the railway line. There are a couple of yellow arrows on the footpath, but it’s not very well marked. If you come to a telegraph pole with a yellow cross on the LHS of the road, you’ve missed the path. Turn around and walk back towards the bridge and the path will go down on your left.
Continue for 3 – 4kms, walking parallel to the railway line until you come to a T-intersection. The Confraternity guide and John Brierley’s guide both tell you to go to the right and walk for several kms along the main road, the N-110. The yellow arrows point left and take you through much quieter roads back to the railway line with a pedestrian underpass which brings you to the N-110 at Capela S. Lourenco. This detour may be a bit longer than walking straight on the N-110, but the small section we did walk on that busy road from the Capela into Tomar was scary, and I was very grateful for the bypass.
We’re staying at the Hotel Cavaleiros d Cristo in Tomar for 2 nights to give us a chance to rest our sore bits and do some washing. We ate at the O Tabuleiro restaurant last night, in the Mall which is in the street next to the hotel. Delicious food, great service and the place was packed with people! Unless we find something else that looks good, we’ll probably go back there tonight.