May 9th 2022 – Day 3
Before I walked this stage, I knew it would be challenging. We would be moving away from the coast – albeit for the day, we would also reach the highest point of this Camino at Igreja de Santiago at Neiva and the heat would play a considerable factor.
I am just looking over my notes for this day from before I left. They say “Fao – Anha – 23.4km. First challenging day of this Camino. Two climbs over 100 metres and a tricky bridge to cross.” This is quite an understatement. After walking by the coast for two days, it was nice to witness some climbs but I would be lying if it didn’t take a lot out of me.
The stay in Fao was great and Sandra was a perfect hospitalera. I would recommend The Spot Ofir Hostel to any pilgrim walking the Coastal Route. We left Fao early – before 6am – and I hoped that the alarm didn’t wake our companion in the bunk next to us. He was a young chap from Germany walking in reverse to Porto. Many seem to be doing that nowadays after arriving in Santiago. Maybe if I had enough time off work, I would do the same.
Leaving the albergue, it was misty, and it wasn’t long before we were back beside flowing water. There was a bridge we needed to negotiate first. This would bring us to Esposende. The bridge was metal and it was slippery. We all watched our steps. I clearly didn’t have enough time to take any photos for this part of the walk. Esposende is much bigger than Fao and has much more accommodation. The sun rises and we are back on the boardwalk close to the coast.
At Marinhas, we have some breakfast and turn inland. The boardwalk made way for cobblestone which I was not looking forward to. It wasn’t all too bad though as we took it slow and there weren’t many pilgrims. We did comment that there were a large number of pilgrims from Germany since we started. We have yet to meet an Irish pilgrim – maybe we will before we arrive at Santiago. We pass through the towns of Belinho and Antas – basically run-down towns. We could see the coast from our position but we couldn’t move as we had a river to cross.
Leaving the towns, a monument greets us as we enter a forest. We walk by the River Neiva, and the pathway is flat but ever so often there is a deep drop and my attention is needed. I am not great with descents, and I sometime lose balance, so I grab a rock and gently slide down until I am safe. The next pilgrim gets over this with two jumps so what can you do! The two lads are behind me, keeping themselves company. I know we need to cross the River Neiva over a stone bridge and this approaches us quickly. I had seen many videos of this and was apprehensive of this thin slab of rock but the size deceives. I walked across with no problem. The three of us took a rest here talking to other pilgrims after they walk over the bridge. We have a 100 metre climb ahead of so I wanted us to be rested for the climb ahead. Next stop Igreja de Santiago.
And it was a tough climb, but it was worth it. When we arrived at the Church, we got a sello and rested for a bit. I was running low on water and we had another 6 km to go. It was good to know that it was a gradual downhill from there on. Many pilgrims walk to Viana do Castelo, which is the end of the stage, but I saw Casa da Carolina in Anha and decided to stay there. The walk into Anha was long but it was all downhill and I was so happy to arrive at the albergue.
We were greeted by Carolina at Casa da Carolina and we had our own room. It was so homely, it had hammocks and its own garden – something you will struggle to find in an albergue. The albergue filled up as more pilgrims arrived and I understand why. This day was one of the hottest days and I felt it. I was worried about my brother as he was suffering with his feet again. He wanted to continue however. The following day would be back on the coast and would be less challenging. We went to Café Catete and had some food. The local church was nearby and we got a sello there. We had an early night and decided to get up early again.
To Vila Praia de Ancora tomorrow and I looked forward to returning to the coast.