Day 3 – Be careful what you wish for – Villafranca de Xira to Azambuja (6 September, 22.3km)

After a fantastic night’s sleep, we woke at dawn for what was expected an easy 17km up to Azambuja. After dressing and packing the gear, we took a quick look out the window.  It was overcast and humid but it didn’t look like it was going to rain.  That’s why I am not working as a television weatherman. By the time we tied our shoes and walked down a single flight of stairs, a steady hard drizzle was coming down. We walked and prayed for it to stop the whole first 70m to the train station where we decided to put on the rain gear. Now I may not be able to predict rain but I found out that we are experts at making it rain and making it stop. For most of the walk today, all we had to do to have sunny skies was to put on our rain gear. Within a few minutes, it would be blistering hot and sunny. When we packed away the rain coat and backpack cover, the rain would come pouring down. This happened more than just a few times and it drove me crazy.  Now we’ve washed the clothes and as I hung them to dry in the sun, a huge cloud came over and it started pouring. After gathering everything back inside and hanging them on a makeshift clothesline, it stopped raining. My son should hire me to irrigate his fields.

Other than the weather, it was an unremarkable walk today. A lot of it was along a barely used back road followed by about 7km along a major road with trucks whizzing by. There was enough of a road shoulder that I wasn’t worried but it’s not fun walking. We missed a left turn arrow as we entered Azambuja but it was a blessing. I knew we were supposed to aim for the train station and it turned out we shortcut a circuitous route through the town. Two pilgrims who were at least ten minutes ahead of us when we entered town arrived at the same pensao (Flor da Primavera) five minutes after us. By the way, this place is great. It’s a small room but  with two single beds, attached toilet / shower and air conditioning for 35€. If it stops raining, it also has an excellent place for drying laundry.  The office is on the trail, on the road leading down to the train station, just 50m away but the rooms are down the street.  Only the office has internet.

One dilemma we’ve now had on each walking day is that we cross a fair number of train tracks at stations. At the first station, we realized the only way to get to the elevated walkway to cross over was by an escalator. Was this allowed?  How can I say I walked every step of the Way after using an escalator???  The medieval pilgrims would not have stood for this. Then again, they didn’t really have to cross too many train tracks, did they?  By the time we neared the end of the walks and were faced with stairs or an elevator, we took the elevator every time. When legs are sore, traditions go out the window. We did, however, use the stairs early this morning. We still have some humanity.

We met several perigrinos (pilgrims) today. More accurately, we were passed by several perigrinos. Amazingly, the first “Bom Caminho” we heard was from some pilgrims on bicycles, the scourge to the French Route. There was also a young Portuguese man that looked fresh out of army boot camp that zipped by as well as a what we guess was a German wearing sports gear and a tiny pack. Finally there was the couple who are now next door. She’s a younger Canadian and he’s an older Spanish man. I’m not sure they’re a couple but who cares. They’re nice.

Seriously, the highlight of the walk to Azambuja.  Okay, half-jokingly.