While I’d been happy to wake up at 5am and be on the road by 6, the sun wasn’t coming up until past 7am and even then there was a slight chill in the air. I found myself in no rush to leave the Red Cross and no-one seemed to mind that I was there. I had no real need to get to anywhere at any specific time, and it was delightful after the previous looming need to get to Salvador in time for Carnival and my flight. While there was still the next goal – home by the 5th of March – that was long enough away and loosely enough defined that it was out of mind. This meant that I spent the morning people watching in a couple of the different plazas and a park that looked out east over the river and the flat lands to the north where I’d be riding through farmers fields of grapes and oranges.
Leaving Santarem gave further credence to the idea that the camino was not aimed at cyclists as the yellow arrows pointed down a very steep hiking trail that looped around the edge of the hill the park sits on. I tried riding but it was a ridiculous idea and ended up having to walk with my brakes on to stop the bike disappearing.
I rode along small roads, which while not completely the same as the camino were much more bike-accessible and generally ran within a few hundred metres. From what I understand, the camino is more of an idea than a well-defined path as things have developed on what might originally have been the way. I passed the vineyards and orange trees that I’d spotted from above, with farmers in small tractors working hard. The vehicles were on a much smaller scale than I’d have seen in the US, and in fact in my whole time on the camino I only saw 2 pick-up trucks on the road.
Around lunchtime I met Lois and Steve, a couple from Ohio that regularly take a couple of months off work to go travelling, who were on their second camino having done the Camino Frances. They’d been studying the weather forecast before flying over and so were massively over-prepared with lots of cold weather gear. I was the first pilgrim they’d met in their few days so they were happy to know that they weren’t alone.
By the time I made it to Tomar, I had taken a lot of breaks and it was around 5pm. I’d forgotten about the Convento do Cristo, the home of the Knights Templars from the 12th to the 14th century. I realised at around 4:15 and raced to get there for the last entrance, but they had closed the gate by the time I got there. A shame because it looked like it would have been worth a visit.
Tomar had bombeiros, but having been told the day before that they’d all charge me €10 I was almost tempted not to go. Thankfully, it was close to the road I’d be taking out of town anyway so I stopped by. I was immediately welcomed in, taken to speak to the chief and shown to the bedroom they give to pilgrims. I had my own hot shower and there was no mention of €10. Fire men save the day again.