Stage two of the Camino Portuguese Central Route takes pilgrims on an 18 mile stretch from Vilarinho to Barcelos. This section of The Way incorporates natural pathways and mostly avoids busy roads and highways, unlike the first stage out of Porto. The major highlight of this stage is the arrival in Barcelos, where pilgrims cross a Ponte de Barcelos and then approach Paço dos Condes, the old palace of the Dukes of Bragança.
Stage Map And Overview
- Distance: 18 miles (13.5 miles for my GPS starting in Rates)
- Elevation Gain: 909 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 31 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 460 ft
- Time: 7.5 hours
- Stage Overview:
Camino Portuguese Day 2: Vilarinho To Barcelos
We woke up on our second day of the Camino Portuguese and heard an angry sky full of heavy rain outside. After walking through the rain on narrow and perilous streets on our first day from Porto, we began talking about secondary options to make things safer. We noticed on the map that the first 4.5 miles of stage 2 would mix in more of the same shoulder-less roads that we encountered on stage 1. It was then we decided to take a taxi ahead for the first 4.5 miles to the city of Rates to avoid taking the risk of walking that stretch in the rain. The part of my brain wanting to complete the “entire” Camino Portuguese had to let go for a second and prioritize the safety and well being of my wife and 2-year old son. Looking back, it was absolutely the right call.
So after the 4.5 mile taxi ride from Vilarinho to Rates, we found a nice cafe to have coffee and breakfast since the rain was still falling pretty hard outside. After warming up with a few espressos and croissants, we made our way outside to begin our walk towards Barcelos.
The walk out of Rates began on asphalt and cobblestone, but quickly transitioned onto a dirt road. On any other day the dirt road would have been more than welcome, but on this rainy day, the puddles and mud created a few extra obstacles for our stroller.
Despite the rain, we were really enjoying this path away from the roads and highways. After having to be “on” for every second of our first day, it was really nice to relax and find a peaceful walking rhythm.
Three miles outside of Rates we walked past a structure with it’s windows open and saw what appeared to be a handicraft toy shop. As we peered through the window, we heard a voice call out from down the road. We couldn’t understand all of the Portuguese this man was speaking, but realized it was his toy shop! We spent a while trying to chat about his toys and as we were leaving he gave Owen a toy rooster carving. The rooster is a very significant symbol in Barcelos, and we would see it a few more times on this day of walking.
The rain continued to fall as the miles passed beneath our feet, but with much less fury than it had in the morning hours. The dirt roads were beginning to dry and the air was beginning to warm.
There are so many little things on each and every day of the Camino that make the pilgrimage experience a special one. Seeing the wild flowers, row crops, yellow arrows, and fellow pilgrims reminded me of the many great memories I made on the Camino Frances. It was time to forge ahead and begin creating new memories on this new journey that was unraveling before me.
After 5 miles of walking, the Camino Portuguese met back up with the busy thoroughfare of highway EN 306. Luckily, there was a sidewalk for most of this section, but there were a few times we had to cross without a crosswalk or street sign.
The stretches on highway EN 306 were pretty short lived most of the time, and would usually kick us back out to a natural pathway or a less trafficked side road.
We stopped near the town of Carvalhal for a nice lunch to recharge before the last 4-miles into Barcelos. The rain had stopped falling at this point, and we were beginning to see blue skies for the first time on this day.
The walk into Barcelos passes through the smaller town of Barcelinhos. This stretch of walking is all on asphalt and cobblestone, but largely avoids the busy highway. It was at this point we passed the 200km mark for Santiago. Only 120 miles to go!
One of my favorite moments from the entire Camino Portuguese is the walk into the town of Barcelos. It starts by crossing the Ponte de Barcelos bridge with a view of the Paço dos Condes, or Palace of the Courts. This building used to be the palace of the Dukes of Bragança until it was destroyed by an earthquake in 1755. It now exists as an outdoor museum.
We spent some time enjoying the ruins of Paço dos Condes, but were mostly just enjoying the dry weather. It was nice to feel the sun, even if the sun’s warmth could only be felt in 5 minute spurts. My favorite part of visiting Paço dos Condes was the amazing view it provided while looking back at Barcelinhos.
Next to the Paço dos Condes is the Cruzeiro do Senhor do Galo, or Crucifix to the Lord of the Rooster. This stone cross tells the story of a hanged pilgrim being saved by St. James via three crows from a rooster. That might sound a bit strange, but I will touch on it more later on.
Right next to the Paço dos Condes is the Solar dos Pinheiros, a Baroque style building from the 15th century. In front of the Solar dos Pinheiros is the symbol of Barcelos, the rooster. The rooster is not only a significant symbol in Barcelos, it is significant through all of Portugal. There are many stories and variations of stories as to why the rooster became a significant symbol of Barcelos and Portugal, but one of the most popular goes like this (according to Wikipedia: “…a rich man threw a big party. When the party was over, the rich man noticed that his sterling cutlery was stolen by a guest. He accused a pilgrim and let him go to court. He protested his innocence, but the judge didn’t believe him. The judge was about to eat a roasted rooster when the pilgrim said: “If I am innocent, this rooster will crow three times.” When the pilgrim was about to be lynched, the rooster crowed. The judge released the pilgrim. The story ends a few years later when the pilgrim returned and made a statue over the event. The town remains on the Portuguese Way path of the Camino de Santiago.”
After leaving the entrance of Barcelos behind, we walked through the main square of shops and restaurants on our way to our albergue for the night. As any pilgrim can tell you, it is very strange to be in a big town after walking in solitude all day. Pilgrims are usually dirty, sweaty, and dressed for the trail. Walking through a town of people dressed nicely in street clothes and evening wear is quite the experience…especially when they all seem to be staring directly at you. It’s like being trapped in a fishbowl at times.
We arrived at our albergue, Residencial Kuarenta & Um, just as it began to drizzle again. I was once again very fortunate that we worked with Pilgrim.es on this trip to have all of our accommodations pre-booked. I had enjoyed enough rain walking for the day!
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