Camino Portugués: Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis |

Back in October I walked from Porriño to Redondela, on the Camino Portugués with a large group organised by the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués (details about that stage here). I skipped the next 2 domingos (Sundays) because I had already walked those stages.

I walked Redondela-Pontevedra in 2020, right before the confinamiento (lockdown). And I have walked Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis twice now. Both times in julio (July), a year apart. It is my little contribution to the Luz del Camino project.

 

The first time I walked the Pontevedra-Caldas de Reis stage of the Camino Portugués was in 2020. I was part of a small group of 5 pilgrims, so I wasn’t alone. But it was a very lonely experience: there were no other pilgrims around and everything was closed.

The second time was in julio 2021. Again, I was part of a small group. But it was a very different experience. This time around, there were lots of other pilgrims walking too (mostly españoles but other nationalities too). Bars and cafés were open for business. The Camino felt alive again.

 

Peregrina Pontevedra

We had a very hot day in 2020, so we left at 6.00am, in the dark.

This time around, the weather forecast was not as hot. There was no need to start so early.

We left from the Peregrina Church in Pontevedra at 7.30am.

We crossed the bridge, and once out of Pontevedra and Lérez we met the first pilgrims of the day. It was a group of cinco polacos (5 Polish people) who wrote a message on the notebook that travels inside the mochila de la luz.

After Alba, I noticed an improvement on the route. There was a stretch where pilgrims had to walk on the side of the carretera (road). They’ve now added a new pedestrian path away from the road. Much safer than before.

 

Meeting other pilgrims

And then we crossed the road and quickly got to one of my favourite parts of this stage, a beautiful forest area. We met several other pilgrims here.

One of them was a Spanish woman who was walking from Tui by herself. She had wanted to walk the Camino for a while but could never find the right time. A few weeks before we met she found out she was embarazada (false friend alert! This means pregnant, not embarrassed). And she thought that she probably wouldn’t be able to walk for a long time if she waited until the baby was born. So, she packed a few things, got her partner to drop her in Tui and started walking.

 

We ended up walking together most of the rest of the stage and talking about all sorts of things. We got along quite well and the conversation kept flowing naturally.

Roughly halfway to Caldas we took a café con leche break. The place where we stopped was so busy! Full of pilgrims. So different from 2020.

 

 After the break, we kept walking through bosques (forests) and aldeas (villages)… and meeting more pilgrims. Not what I’m used to. I know the July 2020 experience was kind of extreme, with everything closed and no pilgrims at all. But I must say I wasn’t used to meeting so many other pilgrims on the Camino. It actually felt crowded at times, especially coming out of a strict lockdown and over a year of so many restrictions and not socialising that much.

 

When the Camino joins the busy N-550 road (5 or 6km before Caldas de Reis), I recommend you cross it and take the short detour to “Parque Natural Río Barosa”. It’s a beautiful place with waterfalls and old watermills. There’s a picnic area there. It’s a popular spot for the locals to go for the day. It’s about 500m off the Camino, but it’s well worth it. That’s what we did again, although our stop was shorter than the previous year.

And before we knew it, we were in Caldas and we all went our separate ways. Somehow I lost sight of my new friend and couldn’t find her again. I would have liked to say goodbye and wish her luck with the rest of her Camino and with her pregnancy too. No pudo ser (it couldn’t be).

 

* Caldas de Reis and Caldas are the same place. Caldas de Reis is the official name of the town, but we usually refer to it as just Caldas.