It’s the turn of the Caldas-Padrón stage of the Camino Portugués today.
And it’s back to walking with the big group from the Asociación de Amigos del Camino Portugués. The number of people was roughly the same as when we walked Porriño-Redondela. A couple of new faces, others missing, but mostly the same.
Another Sunday morning, as usual. It had rained the previous 2 Sundays, the ones I skipped because I had already walked those stages. The forecast for the day was good. Chilly in the morning. But that’s to be expected in November. Otherwise, bright and sunny. ¡Perfecto!
We got on the autobús at the usual spot, beside the capilla de San Roque in Pontevedra and left for Caldas de Reis. It’s a short drive from Pontevedra, so we were soon in Caldas, taking our group pictures outside the Santa María church.
Group picture borrowed from the Association’s blog.
Caldas de Reis
After the fotos and the oración, we started walking. We crossed the bridge over the río Umia into the town centre. One of the first things you’ll see is the fuente termal (hot spring), that Caldas de Reis is famous for. In fact, the town gets its name from the hot springs present in the area: Caldas comes from the Latin caldus, meaning hot.
So, if you’re stopping in Caldas, look out for one of its 2 balnearios (spa). Caldas’ thermal waters are meant to be good for your respiratory tract, rheumatism and skin conditions, among other things.
Another thing to do in Caldas de Reis: visit its botanic garden. It contains species from almost every continent, as well as a carballeira (that’s Galician for oak grove). Unlike the eucalyptus, which is an invasive species in Galicia, carballos or robles (oak trees in Galician and Spanish respectively) are native to Galicia. But they have been decimated, so carballeiras such as the one in Caldas are hard to come by these days.
The second part of the name, Reis, means kings in Galician. This was added to the name in 1105, after future king Alfonso VII was born here.
But Caldas de Reis goes much further back.
There is evidence that the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times. In 1940, a group of local farmers found several objects made of gold while working on a viña (vineyard). They kept the discovery secret and started selling pieces little by little… until they were discovered a few months later. The remaining pieces (36) are known as Tesoro de Caldas (Caldas treasure) and can be seen at the museum in Pontevedra. They weigh around 15kg and it’s one of the biggest gold treasures found in Europe. They date back to 1500-1600 b.C.
Later, the Romans built 3 puentes in present-day Caldas. We crossed one of them on our way out of town.
On our way to Padrón
As a whole the Caldas-Padrón stage is my favourite stage of the central Camino Portugués in Spain. Other stages have nice stretches, of course. But this one goes mostly through gorgeous bosques (forests) that are virtually eucalyptus-free.
I’ve heard so many pilgrims mention how much they love walking through eucalyptus trees on the Camino. Sorry, but I can’t agree. Walking through eucalyptus trees makes me sad. They smell good. I agree. But the nice scent is not worth the environmental damage they’re causing in Galicia.
Anyway, I’ll leave the rant for another occasion… But walking through these native forests felt awesome. It was a little tiring on the legs, because of constant ups and downs. Nothing too difficult, though.
Before you get to Padrón, you have to go through Pontecesures. If you decide to take the Variante Espiritual after Pontevedra, Pontecesures is where you join the central route again.
After you cross the bridge in Pontecesures, that’s it. You’re in Padrón. That was my memory of going through Padrón with my parents as a child, either on our way to Santiago or to see family. Well, the Camino takes longer, as I discovered that day, because it takes a detour away from the main road. So, when I thought I was already there, I still had to keep walking for a while. Not what you’re wishing for at the end of your stage. But nicer and safer than walking along that busy main road.
I eventually made it… with time to spare before taking the bus back home.
Remember this was a Sunday?
Well, there is a very busy mercado (market) in Padrón every Sunday. One of the biggest markets in Galicia, in fact, with more than 600 stalls where you can find all sorts. From socks to legs of ham. Vegetables, clothes, shoes, tools, crafts… you name it!
It was a bit of a shock to suddenly walk into so many things on display and so many people after the idyllic walk in the forest seeing only the occasional person and listening to the sound of birds. One other disadvantage: I didn’t know where our meeting point was, so I was following someone from our group… but I lost them in the crowds. I had a second of panic thinking I wouldn’t be able to find it and I would miss the bus. Just a second. Truth is, it wasn’t very hard to find.
By the way, we met in front of the Pementeira (in Galician, pepper lady) statue. Of course. Who has walked the Camino and not tried Padrón peppers? This is where they come from. Well, they come from neighbouring Herbón, to be precise. But we still call them Padrón peppers.
Padrón is quite a relevant place in the history of the Camino, but I’ll leave that for the next post about our Padrón-Milladoiro stage.
Today’s Spanish words
For the pronunciation of río, fuente, puente and autobús, check De Pontedeume a Betanzos.
For the pronunciation of oración, check Camino Portugués: de Porriño a Redondela.
For the pronunciation of Pontecesures and Variante Espiritual, check Variante Espiritual.
For the pronunciation of bosque, check De Pontevedra a Caldas de Reis.
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