Walking is a very civilized way to travel. So much of our uncivilized, everyday lives is hurried, rushed, squeezed into ever-shrinking packets of time. So much is mechanized, digitized, quantized down to fractions of seconds; so much is performed at speed, on the go, ad hoc, toute suite. The idea of doing something slowly seems to run counter to everything society tells us we must do, must be, must achieve. Faster is better, even if it means skimming over the surface of things without absorbing much of it.
Walking is different. Walking is all about taking time, absorbing as much as our senses can manage, ignoring clocks and schedules to the greatest degree possible. The human is defiantly not mechanical in any sense that isn’t metaphorical – and even then, the metaphor is limited and imperfect.
Walking eschews skimming in favour of immersion. It happens at a speed that allows us – encourages us – to absorb the world around us.
We rose to the countryside sounds of dogs barking, cocks crowing, and a church tower announcing the arrival of dawn. We dressed and packed our things, ate a light breakfast, and then set out from the peaceful village of Balugães. Cobbled roads and tarmac gave way to dirt lanes between vineyard and cornfield, and beneath arching tree branches. The air was cool and the sky was bright and clear. It would be a longer walk ahead of us, but only by a fifth.
We walked, sometimes talking, sometimes in silence. We stopped when we wanted to rest, or to sit and drink limonada in a cafe. We didn’t hurry.
We met others on the Way. There were greetings of bom Caminho and bon dia. We met fellow perigrinos from Canada, South Africa, and Germany. We ate sandwiches at the roadside, and bought bottled water that someone had put out in a cooler for €1. We tried to coax birds and cats to come closer, and generally had the opposite effect.
About five hours after we first set out we arrived at our hotel in Ponte de Lima. It is near the entrance to the city, close to restaurants and bars. There is a market and a fair being set up nearby.
Tomorrow, when it comes, will be the most challenging day of our journey, with an approximately 400 m hill early in the 22 km walk. We may even have to use our trekking poles. I expect we’ll arrive a little later, as a result.
But we’ll deal with that in due course. In the meantime, we have more pressing matters to deal with. Soon we will go in search of dinner, and a bottle of vinho verde.