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Monday, 18 May 2015

No rooms for hire

The Hotel Flora in Vilafranca  was excellent last night, basic but clean, and even with all the celebrations I had a sound sleep. This morning was an early start in order to get the bulk of the walking done before the intense heat of the afternoon. The 19K walk from Vila Franca to Azambuja was horrible. It was along the busy N3 road and the traffic whizzed by. By 10 am I was in a small cafe in the main plaza enjoying breakfast. Because Azambuja is the end of stage two I had a decision to make. Stay in Azambuja or do some of tomorrow's walk. I decided to walk until about 2pm and then look for somewhere to stay. If the walk on the main roads in to Azambuja  was horrible  the walk out of it was stunning. A small tree lined road turned down on to a delightful path that  crossed over a canal which in turn led on to a wide farm track that went the whole way to  Aerodromo. The scenery was so colourful with wild flowers in abundance. At this point I met the two German girls from yesterday and we took a time out for a chat. Soon it was time to go so I left them and made my way to the small village of  Reguengo where I stopped for a coffee. I enquired at the cafe if there were any hotels or hostels nearby and was told that they didn't know of any. At this point the alarm bells should have been ringing. I left the village and the path again was really special with the river on one side and the vast fields of tomatoes and grapes on the other side. The walk was really enjoyable and I looked forward to reaching the riverside village of Valada where I was convinced I would get a room. The same story only this time in a different cafe. At this point it was about 3.30 and all I could do was accept the fact that I would have to do the long 20K in to the large town of  Santarem where I would get accommodation. The next 9K are described as a sand track that meanders through a rich agricultural landscape. All that is true but when you are walking in the intense heat with a wind whipping up the dust  you really are not looking at the scenery. At a small stone bridge I came across a walker from Munich who was very concerned that he would have to make the long walk to Santarem in order to get accommodation. I left him moaning and made my way through the dust. Eventually at about 7pm I came upon the sign informing me that I had reached the boundary of my destination. What it didn't say was that it was a steep uphill 4K climb in to the centre of the town.  Battered and bruised I finally found a good hostel and after a shower and something to eat I have recovered.

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