On Thursday, 5 October 2017 I walked out of Porto and on Sunday, 15 October I walked into Santiago, Spain and stopped due to fire and rain, having covered about 250 km. The fires were large forest fires burning behind me in northern Portugal and western Spain (Galicia) that produced so much smoke that by Sunday afternoon it was difficult to breathe. Then on Monday morning it started raining, and once it starts raging in Galicia it doesn’t stop.
Once one leaves the old town of Porto with its colonial atmosphere, everything is new. Beautiful sand beaches extend for 50 – 60 km north of Porto and the entire length is like a modern beach resort that has been built within the last 30 years. But with the foggy fall weather much of it was closed and shuttered for the winter, most of the people gone. A boardwalk extends along the beach for most of the distance. The occasional bar or restaurant was opened for the off-season crowd, naturally with loads of fresh seafood available. One of the specialties is a large pile of grilled fresh sardines with boiled potatoes and vegetables. Another is bacalao, salted and dried Atlantic cod.
Once the beaches and resorts end the terrain becomes more varied, first over dunes and then through rolling hills with eucalyptus forests. This entire area of Portugal and Spain is traversed by numerous “GR” and “camino” routes, so there are choices available each day of traveling closer to the coast or further inland. The routes are well used; there aren’t crowds of people but you see runners, trekkers, and mountain bikers each day.
At Caminha, Portugal there is a ferry across the Minho River to A Guarda, Spain, a picturesque little fishing village. From here the coast becomes more jagged, with fjords cutting inland from the coast. The path runs north along the Atlantic, through the village of Oia, then turns east along the Ria de Vigo to Baiona, which has a really nice recreational marina with more pleasure boats than I saw anywhere else along the coast.
Another day of walking through the hills and along the beaches of Ria de Vigo brought me to Vigo, a large commercial port city. It has a very well maintained old city with steep winding streets that was deserted when I arrived in the evening. The next morning the place was packed. This is unusual in Spain – mornings are usually quiet, and things never seem to really get going until at least 8pm. Then I noticed a lot of the people were wearing funny hats and spoke English, and when I looked out towards the water there were two cruise ships at the dock.
From Vigo it is just a few more km to the end of Ria de Vigo, then there is a cross country trek to Pontevedra which is at the end of the next fjord to the north, Ria de Pontevedra. Another day of walking and I was at Caldas de Reis, Saturday at A Picaraña, and Sunday I had to stop at about noon in Santiago. After a couple of days of rain I gave up on the rest of the walk to A Coruña and took the train to Pamplona instead. I’ll spend a few more days in this part of the country, then head south.