I’m having a hard day today. I can’t seem to bring myself to write like I usually do, but I’m determined to stick with this project either way. The 5th day of hiking–from Fernanda’s house to the city of Ponte de Lima–was beautiful. We saw sheep, we walked through stunning landscapes, and we met a small dog that looked like Toto who shepherded us from one side of town to the other.
It was another short walking day in comparison to the Camino Frances, and we mainly walked it together. My knee started to ache and I hadn’t slept well in days, but my spirits were still high. I hoped it would stay that way.
Since I’m in a weird headspace today, I’m going to tell you the story of Ponte de Lima, Portugal’s oldest village and my stopping point on day 5. I’ll start by saying that I fell so deeply in love with the town’s beauty that I plan to retire there. You’ll find me someday sitting by the river eating a pastry.
The city sits on the River Lima, a river with quite a story. There is a legend that in 139 B.C., a Roman army was preparing to cross the river on horseback, but refused. To them, it resembled the River Lethe–or, the “River of Oblivion”–one of the rivers of the underworld. The army believed that crossing or drinking the water would erase their memory.
When the army’s leader ordered them to cross, they refused, fearing their minds would be wiped clean. To comfort them, the commander rode across the river on his own and called their names one by one to prove he still had his memory.
The bridge that connects the two sides has an archway with stones placed there in the 1st century. So for a brief moment, you get to cross over a 2000-year old bridge. And if you’re wondering, no, your brain cannot comprehend it in the moment.
On the edge of the river today, sits a series of statues–the soldiers on one side and the commander on the other, calling out their names. I read somewhere that you’re supposed to shout your friends’ names as you cross.
We arrived early in the afternoon and checked into a hostel off the beaten path a bit outside of town. We had a beautiful outdoor dinner together and wandered through the dark town before the end of the night.
I didn’t sleep well. My knee was starting to swell. I’ve had knee problems since my hike in 2017 and I started to panic that this was the sign my luck was running out.
I realize this isn’t much of a blog post, and it’s very out of character for me. But I’ve been proud that I’ve stuck to my vow to write about each day as it happened one year ago today, and in a way, I still did.
I miss being in a world filled with old myths and magical legends. There are so many festivals in places like that.
Tomorrow I have a bigger story–crossing La Bruja–the steepest mountain on the north side of the Camino Portugues. I’ll tell you about someone special too, a man named Michael who I walked this Camino in memory of.