The fourth stage on the Camino Portuguese takes pilgrims from Ponte de Lima to Rubiães on 13 miles of mixed asphalt and natural paths. This stage brings pilgrims to the highest point on the entire route, the 1338ft Alto da Portela Grande. The trail to and from Alto da Portela includes some of the harshest terrain on the Camino Portuguese, with ruts and rocks adorning a beautiful path of single track through the woods.
Stage Map And Overview
- Distance: 13 miles
- Elevation Gain: 1834 ft
- Minimum Elevation: 66 ft
- Maximum Elevation: 1322 ft
- Time: 8 hours
- Stage Overview: Lots of natural pathways and asphalt. This stage has the highest climb of the Camino Portuguese. Some of the climb takes place on narrow rutted single track with big rocks and loose footing.
Camino Portuguese Day 4: Ponte de Lima to Rubiães
The Camino Portuguese leaves the city of Ponte de Lima behind by way of the Ponte Medieval bridge. The current bridge was rebuilt in 1368 on the foundations of the original Roman architecture. The 300m bridge connects the main southern part of Ponte de Lima with the smaller norther part of town.
As we walked along the bridge enjoying the early morning views of Ponte de Lima, my mind was looking forward to the climb up Alto da Portela Grande. The Camino trail up until this point had been asphalt, concrete, cobblestone, and dirt roads. This would be the first day of rocky and rutted single track, a real test for our stroller. Those thoughts abated as we crossed over to the north side of the Rio Lima and began our walk towards Rubiães.
The Camino pathway follows the outlines of Parque do Arnado and runs by the small Rio Labruja as we left Ponte de Lima behind. All of the recent rain had flooded this stretch of trail, which made for slow going and slightly wet feet before reaching dry ground. After getting through that tough stretch of water walking, we were greeted by a beautiful white horse and another ancient bridge.
We had quite a social morning and met a lot of fellow pilgrims. We made a point of it to take photos with everyone we were meeting to aid us in remembering them at the end of our journey. What makes these photos so special is that the people you see in them would be with us all the way to Santiago. The first photo is from a duo of Brazilian pilgrims that made sure to say “Hi!” and check in on Owen every day along The Way. The second photo is of our buddy, Marco. He and his wife Amira walked the Camino Portuguese alongside us and then continued on to Finisterre. Owen took a real liking to Marco and Amira, and the three became close friends. Marco and Amira spent a lot of time with us each day, and we’re looking forward to visiting them in Switzerland some day. The final picture is from an English couple that we walked with on our way out of Ponte de Lima towards Rubiães. We ran into them a few times along The Way, and again in Santiago. The growth of a pilgrim family is a beautiful thing to behold.
Our first stop for the day was around the 5-mile mark in the town of Revolta at Cafe Cunha Nunes. This was a very popular spot with pilgrims, which made it a lot of fun for Owen. He was really excited about the truck and tractor he picked up at the grocery store in Ponte de Lima and wanted to show everyone how they worked.
As we left Revolta behind, we could feel the grade of the trail begin to increase. We decided it would be best for Owen to ride on Julia’s back for this stretch of the trail, and I would push Julia’s backpack in the stroller for the rough bits of walking up ahead.
We reached the climb towards Alto da Portela Grande at around the 8-mile mark and were happy to see the trail was mostly dry and in really good shape despite the days of rain preceding this one. There were some really brutal stretches of rutted and rocky single track though. I earned my money on this day, as I had to push, pull, and lift the stroller over some nasty stuff. This would have been chalked up as an easy and simple hike on our trails back home…but things are a little different when you’re pushing a three wheel stroller!
We reached the Cruz dos Franceses and decided to take a little break. Pilgrims put stones here much like Cruz de Ferro on the Camino Frances. The area is most well known as the spot where Napoleon’s troops were ambushed during the Peninsular War. There were a few pilgrims here taking a break, and they were looking at us with a bit of shock. I don’t think they expected us to make it that far as quickly as we did.
We continued making our way uphill past the tree line and eventually made it to the top of the 1338ft Alto da Portela Grande. The views from the top were hard earned and very enjoyable. We took our packs off here and soaked up the views. It was all downhill from this point on.
The trail leading down from Alto da Portela was pretty rough at first, but seemed easy in comparison with gravity on our side. We were sailing smooth until I noticed we had a blown tire. I had packed two extra tubes for the journey and was able to quickly swap out our busted one.
We made it to Rubiães after a hard day of hiking and decided we needed to get something to eat and drink before checking into our hotel. Luckily, we were booked at the brand new Casa de São Sebastião which is right next to the albergue and the adjoining Cafe São Sebastião. The cafe is in a beautiful building with huge windows looking out towards the hills of Rubiães. We enjoyed a few tortilla (omelette) sandwiches and made sure to hydrate.
After our post hike snack, we continued next door to Casa de São Sebastião and checked in. Parts of the building were still under construction, but everything was still wonderful. The host even took our busted tube and had it patched for us. Our room was really nice and had an amazing view of Rubiães from the side window.
That night, we made the short walk into town to the amazing Bom Retiro restaurant. This spot is popular with pilgrims and has an amazing pilgrim’s menu. We ate well that night and enjoyed meeting other pilgrims. I even had one pilgrim recognize me from my documentary on the Camino Frances. This was a truly amazing day on the Camino Portuguese. We made sure to enjoy our final evening in Portugal, as we would be crossing the border into Spain on the following day.
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