On a nice spring morning, although a little cloudy, I decided to walk a little of the Portuguese Caminho. This section of the Portuguese Caminho Central starts in Tomar and continues on to Coimbra. As I have the previous section done from Golegá to Tomar many times, I was interested to see where it went next.
Tomar is located in the District of Santarém, within the old Province of Ribatejo, approximately in the geographical centre of Portugal. I started my walk in Republic Square by the church of Sáo Joáo Baptista and continued down the main street. It is well marked. Strolling across the old bridge, up the hill and turning left, I was soon away from the hussle and bussle of Tomar. As it was Friday and market morning the city was a buzz with locals coming and going with their wares.
Along the little streets with small cafes I passed a large group of pigeons feasting on some spilled corn. Then onwards where some road repairs were happening, good to see as new footpaths are going in also. I found myself very quickly on a little track through the euclyptus trees and along the river bank. A nice time for reflection with the rippling stream and many birds twittering in the trees. Then I came across rushing water and to my amazement a large weir built by an old local textile factory, now closed. You can't help but stop here it's so impressive. Lots of birds. Heron's, cormorants, ducks, coots etc.
I strolled on after a time on the river bank. Spotted an otter in the water but unfortunately I wasn't quick enough with the camera. He slithered along underneath the water and bushes. Of course he had seen and heard me long before I discovered he was there. A few steps more and I spotted two cormorants streaching their wings to warm up in the peeping sunshine. I stood still but indeed they had me spotted and glided upstream. A large heron on the riverbank took off as soon as they did. Disturbing their fishing, how dare I.
Continuing by the river bank I noticed the silence and peacefulness of the place. Except for the odd farm animal in the background. Hens, geese and a donkey in the distance. The track was easy walking, covered in leaves at this time of year. Passed a few old wells and then a hut. This hut is for caminho walkers to rest. A shelter, a timber box to sit on and even some cardboard and a blanket for the very weary. And a sign on the wall Bom Caminho! I thought it was a lovely gesture from past walkers to welcome you along the way.
Along the track again I imagined what this would be like in the summertime. It almost reminded me of a rainforest from another place at times. I arrived in a wooded area with pine, euclyptus, oak and of course olive trees. Some house ruins, a reminder of times gone by dotted here and there. And then a clearing and the track approached several roadways and tracks. I was glad of the shell and arrows here. Up and down a hill and I arrived at the remains of a Roman bridge. It was a remarkable structure of its time. I stood again for a long time taking in my surroundings, the bridge, it's history, the sights and smells and gentle sounds.
I noticed a bottle of water underneath the bridge attached to a stick and just hanging there. I wondered if it was for walkers but felt unsure. Over the bridge the Caminho continues through the mountains but I decided for today I had seen enough and I was looking forward to getting back to the river to watch any activities I may discover there.
Doubling back to the weir I crossed over the river to the other side and went away form the marked track on a circular route back to Tomar. This took me through forest tracks with very little sign of anything other than trees on either side and the odd little bird who seemed to enjoy my presence. Then on the left a big wall similar to a large domain and I felt as if I was walking in ancient times. I didn't meet a single person until I was almost back in Tomar where I was greeted by a lady and two cats, 'Bom Dia'. She was going to feed her chickens and tend to her vegetable plot which were lined along the road, helped by her two happy cats.
Now I can see the old textile factory, laden with more birds watching for fish in the river, and the Convent of Christ Castle in the background. Back across the old bridge and up main street for a coffee and pastel de nata.
All in all a lovely morning out. It took about one and a half hours and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
This is a lovely stroll for anyone spending a day or night in Tomar.