Day 4 – A walk in the park. Almost. – Azambuja to Santarém (7 September, 33.0km)

After a tough day yesterday, despite its brevity, we were genuinely concerned about today.  We looked at the map and guidebook and saw a hard 33km with no place to eat or top up water for the last 13km. It was time to pull out all the old tricks that we learned on the last Camino. We loaded up with carbohydrates last night, drank plenty of water in the night and the morning, got to bed at 9:30pm, started walking at 6:30am, carried a pocketful of hard candies and some fruit.  By the way, some people would say that setting off time was late. Also, we only have two 750ml water bottles so it was important to drink a lot and refill the bottles at every town. The last 13km would still be dodgy.

As it turned out, we had nothing to worry about… for the first 28km.  The first 10km blew by before the sun knew we were already walking. The next 7km was easy too and just like that, we were more than half way done and we had already covered about what we did the day before. The last town we needed to pass through before reaching the barren 13km was a tiny, one café place but a vital stop to fill up nearly empty bottles, as well as to drink a lot and get a sandwich and an egg tart (love them!). Sadly we found out they were closed on Sundays!!!  Fortunately the owner saw us out the window of the house above the shop and took pity on us. His daughter made us great ham and cheese sandwiches (which is the only known filling for sandwiches in Portugal, so far) and just like that, we were sorted out. If not for those angels in Ponte de Muge, we would have had to retrace our steps several kilometers because going forward would have been completely foolish and dangerous. Even with what we had, the last 4km was extremely difficult. Normally, we’d cover 4km in 40-50 minutes even with the 135m climb at the end. Today. that last 4km took us almost two hours.

We also had fun with the rain & sun today. The sky was almost completely overcast, except the clouds formed a halo of sun above our heads and never once deigned come close enough to give us shade. At one point, about 6km from Santarem, it started pouring down rain, but only for enough time to get our raincoats out and not enough time for the rain cloud to move between us and the sun.

One new trick learned on the Caminho – as the sun is usually to your right (walking in the morning, heading north) – the water bottle should be on the left side of your bag to keep it cool. Left handed Melanie figured this out when right handed me let her take some hot water from my bottle. That girl is a genius.

We passed our first pilgrims today. A group of five Europeans walked almost our exact pace but they stopped longer at breakfast. We win. :p. I would narrow down their nationality if I could but I have found out I’m bad at asking and guessing. The German Olympic race walker is actually Spanish. He’s staying with us in Santarem Hostel (a FANTASTIC place with private en-suite doubles at 40€ and communal rooms at 10€ / bed – I think…. you can guess what we decided on). The Spanish guy with the Canadian woman is actually French. Westerners all look the same to me.

On the medical front, Melanie has a few small blisters that are bothering her. I’m luckier as I have one bigger one but in a place that doesn’t seem to bother me at all. Touch wood. Peace y’all.

This 33km section is known as The Tomato Walk

Along the River Tejo flood walls to Santarem

That weird tree in the middle reminded me of the “Burning Man” starring Nicholas Cage


Santarem on the mount, above the tomatoes

Looking across the Largo Candido dos Reis, Santarem