I bike through Ourense and then along the river Minho to Caminha where I meet the Atlantic and bike along the coast down to Porto.
I have been spoiled the past few nights and experience the flipside of that now. I start to assume all people are accommodating and want to hang out with me, they don't. I hurry out of Montforte de Lemos and come on a long busy way between the highway and barking dogs. A house with a large orchard seems promising but the lady answers a strict "No" when I ask if I can put my tienda die campanha between the trees for a night. As I keep biking I meet a sheepherder who brings me to a field, "se passa nada," he says. The neighbors look at me as if I am a criminal, I read incomprehension in their eyes and I understand.
The morning brings crying dogs and sudden shots sounding around. The birds shoot up to the sky, the morning is not in a rush. I hang up my tent to dry and wait for the sun to give me life.
To Ourense it is climbing and descending, until I get to the Nacionale. I admit it is a cycling paradise, but unnatural. Large roads keep you far away from the land in which you are, they get you where you're going quickly but without experience.
People in the city
Don't look at you
Have no time
Must go on
You drink slowly
No one with eyes
Will see you.
The smell of Portugal I know, her language I knew, and her people are dear to me. Yet I feel heavy to leave Spain. A country that surprised me, became my home and I wish to remain with her.
No passa nada
I sit next to a fountain and look over the valley. Spain smiles at me softly from across the river Minho, which separates the two countries. A man with purple teeth drives by a few times and then stops, gets out of the car and approaches me. But Spain has made me tough.
A village along a river. People bathe and laze in the water. A drunk Spanish man walks around naked, the Portuguese pretend not to see him. I sleep in the garden of a bar, where I drink red wine from a bowl.
In the evening I walk over the cobblestone roads, the sun paints the walls of the houses an orange yellow and I feel a moment of peace. Then I am overtaken by a small old lady. She grabs my arm "Are you the girl who is all souzinha, alone, cycling?!"
"All souzinha, without a fiance?!"
"But that can't be!" Her eyes become large with disbelief and her hand shakes holding my arm tightly. When she calms down she tells me she worked in Paris for 43 years, and was adventurous herself. She cleaned houses and asks me if I ever clean. She insists on getting me food, even when I tell her I've just been to the grocery.
Her friend joins us and we walk into the village. They show me the church and say I must sleep there, "no se passa nada", nothing will happen there. I explain I cannot put my tent on tiles and also that I will sleep in the garden of the bar. They shake their heads in disbelief, and it takes a lot of convincing before they let me go. "Better to do this with your boyfriend next time, okay?" are the last words of the old lady as she smiles and walks away.
In the evening Portugal plays against Sweden and I drink wine at the bar with the men watching television.
The air is cool and fresh when I wake. The sunlight is filtered through a large tree and birds sing songs, something about saudade.
I walk along the small river and meet the old lady's friend. She babbles endlessly in Portuguese, not minding that I don't understand. She asks if I will stay longer but I tell her I want to get to Porto. She takes me to the fig tree and watches as I dissolve the figs in my mouth. She asks if people in other places are also nice, and I assure her they are. She fills a bag of figs for me and then becomes a memory.
When I leave the village I meet a woman who knows more about my trip than I do at that moment. She has wise eyes and invites me to stay with her in Lisbon. No way I will go to Lisbon, I think to myself. She writes her name on a piece of paper, "call me when you're there."
The town Caminho is authentic and welcoming, I then meet the sea which is the OCEAN and feel a moment of arriving. Tomorrow I will be in Porto, I feel it. How will I spend the last night of my journey?
I find a parking space between the vans, many surfers and people from the North, people like me. I meet two Dutch retired people, who sold everything in the Netherlands to travel the Iberian Peninsula with their van. Before the sun has gone down I go to the beach, the sea is a beautiful lake and behind me burn two eyes. The fire has been going on for days, smoke covers the mountain tops. No one seems to mind.
In the evening I sit with the Dutch in their van. We drink tea and they tell me about a friend who lives on a mountain in Spain and is truly happy.
There is much traffic towards Porto, it's a road of exhaust pipes and trash. Even here the signs remind me I am on the Caminho to Santiago, all roads definitely do not lead to Rome. I enter a dark eucalyptus forest where women with wearing make-up on plastic stools behind the trees. Sometimes a car is parked by the side of the road. Instead of nature and villages, Portugal seems an endless boulevard of construction and garbage. But people smile and clap, they wish me a bom caminho.
When I leave the national road I pass countless greenhouses, which are a strange contrast to the beach and sea behind. In Aguçadoura I stop at a bar where a few men yell at each other. They buy me beer, Campos says "better to drink Heineken than Superbock, it drinks more easily." He buys houses, fixes them up and then sells them. They ask me if I have enough tomatoes, they grow them here. "The greenhouses protect the plants against the sea salt."
Langs de weg staan kraampjes waar tomaten en uien en knoflook en meloenen verkocht worden. De vrouwen zitten hier op plastic krukken en lachen je toe en verkopen eten. Later in het volgende bos, droog en vies en vuilnis zitten weer vrouwen op plastic krukken, ze lachen je toe en verkopen hun lichaam.
After 3,000km I have made it to Porto. The colors of the city breathe peace and beauty, people clap and cheer as if they knew I was coming. It's a true coming-home.