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[Friday 8th September; Portugal Day 8, Camino Porto Day 3. Walking distance 35.4 klms (according to Strava)]

Those of you who have followed my previous travel blogs may recall that I start a walk without a particular blog theme or name for the day in mind – some might say with an empty head! In some ways the notion of an empty head is a pretty good analogy, in that it enables the day to unfold as it will.

So after a couple of hours the blog theme of Avalokiteshvara emerged. Avalokiteshvara is a bodhisattva who embodies the compassion of all Buddhas – in simpler English Avalokiteshvara is the Buddhist god of compassion. During my first few kilometres of walking out of Porto I found myself pre-occupied with a series of non-compassionate thoughts, and it was from this that the theme emerged. It’s handy having a team psychologist along with us (my daughter Natalie for those not in the know), so I chatted to her a little about my lack of compassion and this helped put things into perspective. And then a little later in the day I saw a lovely sign, extolling me to “Walk with your heart; and embrace our Camino”.

I have to say that this Day 1 has not felt all that “Caminoy”. I still remember very clearly the excitement, joy, wonder as Janet and I strode out onto the Camino Frances just over 3 years ago. I recall too the doubts – would I be capable of walking 800 kilometres across Spain and all that that entails – but the excitement as we charged off into the unknown was the dominant emotion. Today, sadly, that was missing. Nat and I talked about this too, me wondering whether it was because it is impossible to re-create the feeling of awe which the Frances held, because this walk isn’t truly new in that sense. And I wondered whether the very different group composition this time (there are 6, or 7, depending which way you count it, this time, as opposed to just the 2 of us before). That changes the dynamic a lot.

It was with these thoughts that the day started.

But what sometimes something happens which causes a new theme to emerge, and so it was today. I will come back to this.

Today was a huge day’s walking. Strava records that it was a 35.4 klm walk – a tad longer than expected and my biggest walking day ever. So it was a relief to finally arrive at tonight’s accommodation some 9½ hours after we started walking this morning (again, relying on Strava, of that 9½ hours my moving time was just under 7 hours).

But the actual relief came a little earlier in the day … but stand by as that story will emerge a bit later.

We left last night’s accommodation, which was in the centre of Porto, a little after 8am, and headed off to the Cathedral to start the walk. The Brierly guidebook describes the walk out of Porto and eventually into Matosinhos in less than flattering terms. I think that he’s fully wrong. He talks about the walk through unattractive industrial sites along the river; I must have missed them. The nearest thing I recall was when I walked past the “doof doof” music emerging from a warehouse type place – an 8:30 am nightclub obviously hung over from last night! The walk along the river was delightful. Old men fishing. Cruise boats waking up. A mere whisper of a wind across the Douro River. The gulls, wheeling, calling, swimming. What not to like?

A few shots follow:

The starting point …

The evolution of Pedro?

Foz do Douro …

An ancient tie point for a boat long past ….

Part way between Foz do Douro and Matosinhos, just a few hundred metres north of Castelo do Queijo, I had to stop for a coffee and rest. The others were some way ahead, and I had no way of contacting them, so I parked myself at a coffee shop and rested the feet and enjoy both the coffee and the view.

At the bridge over the river at Matosinhos a big container ship was coming in, and so the bridge was opened. The others had been waiting for me nearby.

A few more sights ….

One of the most unexpected sights came a little after 3pm, out of the little locale of Praia do Puço, near Vila Chã. On 17th September 1943 an injured Lancaster bomber landed on the beach after attempting to find refuge in Gibraltar. All crew survived, having been cared for by the local fishermen. The plane had bene stationed at Woodhall Spa base, a mere 18 kilometres from my father’s base at East Kirky, which I will be visiting later this trip. This was a most unexpected discovery, and one of the day’s highlights.

I could go on and on, so a photo and then then the cause of the relief …