Alpriate, Portugal – April 27, 2017
By noon I knew we wouldn’t make Lisbon. The hours weren’t there. I kept calculating, crunching, and anticipating when we might, if we just walked without stopping, arrive, but the numbers slipped as we walked, falling farther back, like a lame horse losing speed near the end of a race. Lisbon went from maybe 9 or 10 to maybe midnight to just tomorrow.
But the city’s outskirts remained, thick with houses, industry, and nowhere to camp. So we walked, knowing Lisbon would be too far, but having no other option but to keep walking as if we would arrive.
It was not a pretty day.
We ate breakfast sitting on a concrete block in an abandoned rest area pullout along a road. We had lunch on a shaded curb of sidewalk near the backside of an industrial park. We walked past power plants and wove along a train track. We clung to highway shoulders and relished the thinnest of sidewalks.
It was grimy navigation. It was cars racing by a foot from our bodies. It was exhaust, heat, and pavement. But we did it because days like these connect to other days and sometimes the only way forward is a thin foot of pavement next to a highway.
Near sunset, weary from the outskirts of Lisbon, slow from the day, bracing for a long walk in the dark to some dingy hotel, we turned a corner and saw the camino symbol on the door of an albergue we didn’t know existed. We’re almost finished following the Camino’s yellow shell on a blue field. Almost. But for one more night, it’s still our home.