Camino Portugués 2023 – Day 3 – Fao to Viana do Castelo.

It was another eventful day – slightly hot, but one I will remember. I was more anxious starting out after last year and I didn’t take as many photos as normal. I have a genuine fear of heights and there are number of bridges to cross, steel or otherwise, that I needed to be careful on.

I woke up around 7am. I am not sure I have ever started a day as late, but there is a first for everything. I remembered that there would be a communal breakfast, so I decided to stick around. I met 4 other pilgrims staying in The Spot – 2 from the UK, and 2 from Germany. We shared our stories about our Caminos so far. One had walked many Caminos – some in France – so it was nice to get that perspective. The breakfast got me on the road running and I have to thank Sandra for being so kind. Fao and the Spot Ofir Hostel has left a mark on me and I can’t pass it if I walk the Portuguese Coastal Camino again.

I said my goodbyes and made my way to the river, passing an unique red telephone box. If you are in any way lost, there is an arrow on the building of the Bombeiros leading you to the Cavado River. The first bridge of the day brings cars over the river but has a small walkway to the left hand side of the bridge. As the morning was misty, the floor of the bridge was wet, making my crossing that bit awkward. With time, I got to the other side. Next stops Esposende and Marinhas…

The mist burned away quickly and it was shaping up to be a nice day. Before Esposende, I had a long flat walk ahead of me. An odd looking building was offering a “carimbo” and I couldn’t refuse. I struck up a conversation with the owner – who appeared to be German. Little trinkets, bracelets and keyrings lined his shop. I offered a “donativo” but he refused. He asked where I was from and I walked on, giving him a hearty “Bom Caminho” as I left. I love these kind of meetings. It was as busy morning in Esposende. People were out doing their chores or shopping. There was also extensive works going on the town centre so I was unsure which way to take. I headed for the church for a few quiet moments before moving on. I saw the first few pilgrims of the day making their way out of the town. The next few kilometres were along the coast – much like the last few days. The walking was easy and I kept up a good pace.

I arrived in Cepaes, and stopped for a snack. The pavement had turned from flat to cobblestone but it was relatively easy going. I knew from last year that there would be a climb ahead as I moved away from the coast. Marinhas was next. The hospitalera was busily cleaning the albergue as I passed. The parish church was closed, I was slightly dissapointed. Fortunately, the local priest saw me as I passed and told me to go around to a side door of the church and he will let me in. He gave me a stamp and wished me well. The ascent after Marinhas was slight and gradual. It was hot but I took my time. Cyclists flew passed me like I wasn’t there, wishing me a “Bom Caminho”. “Phew..I am so out of shape”..I thought to myself.

I hung out with some German pilgrims in Belinho before getting peckish and started looking for an open cafe. Unfortunately, the cafes were located on the main road – off the Camino – so I made a slight detour to a great cafe before returning to the Camino proper at Antas. Also, another thing to note is if you pass the now closed albergue in Belinho, Bom Caminho is written out in quite a few languages, including Irish. That is something to look out for.

You could hear the river close by, and the terrain was changing – there were no more cobblestones to contend with. Now I was greeted with boulders. I put away my phone at this point and focused on my feet as I didn’t have any sticks. The sound of the river was soothing and it was pretty enjoyable, I just didn’t want to trip over myself – that’s all! Arriving at the stone crossing, I stopped for a while and let two German pilgrims pass before me. I walked across as fast as I could – I didn’t want to be in the water!

A steep climb to the Igreja do Santiago later and it’s all downhill to Anha. Anha is a lovely town and I would have stayed the night there but I had plans. It would have to wait another year. Leaving Anha, I encounter another uphill and it’s all downhill to Viana do Castelo. Note to self – I must remember to buy a walking pole next time. This descent was tricky. Oh and the less said about the bridge to Viana, the better. I serious thought about getting a taxi to avoid walking over it.

But I arrived in Viana do Castelo, and it is a beautiful town. The sun was shining and there were many people out and about. I couldn’t see any pilgrims though. I was staying in a fantastic guesthouse – Alex Point, in the centre of the town. Alex – the owner, was really helpful and was a fountain of knowledge. I got a great recommendation for dinner, just on the outskirts of town – in a place called O Marques. It served traditional Portugues food at a great price and I was full when I left. I was quite happy with the day, but I discovered I developed my first blister – let’s hope the walk to Caminha wouldn’t be as strenous. Looking at the forecast, there was rain on the way – I had all my fingers crossed.

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