I have just returned from walking parts of the Camino Portuguese. I have much to tell you. I will start by offering some observations about how this Camino was different, and similar, to my 2010 pilgrimage along the Camino Frances.
1. The Camino Frances was, if memory serves me correctly, about 80 percent dirt path. The Camino Portuguese, at least from Porto onward (from where I started), was about 80 percent pavement and cobblestone. The cobblestone in particular was a killer on my feet. After walking on this for three days, my companions and I adopted Plan B, which involved moving further north to an area that offered more dirt and rural walking. It meant we arrived in Santiago earlier, allowing us to walk to Muxia, which I am so happy we did. If you are considering doing a Camino and taking this route, know that you will be doing a lot of road walking.
2. On the Camino Frances I travelled by myself. While I spent time walking with people, I had a fair bit of alone time too. This time I walked with three other people. I enjoyed their company very much, but I think for my next Camino (Via de la Plata in 2019), I will plan to go solo. A huge plus of this trip though was that one of my friends speaks Spanish, and this opened up a whole new world in terms of being able to more deeply connect with the local people. I have made a commitment to get serious about learning the language before my next trip to Spain.
3. No need for earplugs! There were fewer people travelling this route, which meant the albergues were not often very busy, and that in turn meant fewer snorers and better sleeps.
4. The albergues have really addressed the bed bug issue. Seven years ago, these critters were somewhat of a problem. While I was not bitten, I know of others who were. Now, almost all the albergues have rubber covers on the beds, and many provide disposable or cloth sheets.
5. No injuries! It may have been because there was less up and down walking, but my knees gave me no trouble whatsoever this time (unlike in 2010 when my left knee caused me a lot of pain). I didn’t have poles on this second Camino either, so I was a bit nervous about how my body would hold up. I was pretty pleased with how well my feet and knees cooperated.
Same beautiful spring flowers, delicious food, and delightful people. If anything, I found the Portuguese people even kinder and more friendly than the Spanish. I wanted to hug them all!