I collapsed into the sofa. Renko, clearly concerned, said are you alright? Of course, I’m English, I always look like this, I replied with almost my last breath.

Three hours earlier, the discovery of the albergue ‘completo’, prompted some keen internet searching and a place to stay had been found some eight kilometres distant. I could manage that, five miles, a little over two hours. We left the pretty village down a lane crossed a small bridge and turned into a forest. Stands of self-exfoliating eucalyptus, either smooth skinned or ragged with their strands of bark hanging ever lower to the ground, surrounded us. The path led up, a forest trail, rutted and rain worn. My energy began to falter like a device that moments after convincing you its full, suddenly flashes lights warning of an impending shut down. Time to employ the stick, so far unused, and yes for ten minutes I was fine.

We stopped for lunch at a fork in the track, a sandwich, crisps, a carton of juice. We could hear, somewhere below us, the sound of rushing water. It was hot, even in the shade. I measured and calculated distances not yet covered. Manika leapt up and plunged down a narrow path, I’m going to find the river. A few minutes later Mikey went in search. Minx returned, still dripping and glowing. Tash followed her back. Eventually the squeals and cries drew me through the brambles to a beautiful pool below a small weir. Crayfish eyed us curiously.

Bags were donned and we carried on up the path. Minx and Mikey retreated into the distance, was I moving at all, or in stopping going backwards? I rested on my stick, pausing for breath, a shower of unlikely energy or the journey’s end. The little yellow rock rose, flowering gorse and heather at the margins of the track spread ahead of me, but always up. The afternoon sun reached down through the canopy. My stops became more frequent, even when we began to head down. A road appeared, and I found the place we were staying on a map. Send me a pin, I asked Tash, I need to know how far. In the end we walked past Renko’s place, even as I was staring at the twitching movement of my magic blue dot.

We had two rooms in a simple house, a delcious chilli had been made for our evening meal, the fridge was full of beer. I showered, lay prone and recovered. I went and explored his property built on the side of a hill and overlooking the valley below. Down some steps, past a lifesize fibreglass gorilla, was an open sided barn cut into the hill. A kitchen, a generous table and a sofa with a grandstand view populated with my dozing companions. By evenings end we were all restored.

The next morning after an early start and with a kilometre under our belts, I realised I had left my hat and sunglasses. I’ll catch you up, I said. As he saw me returning, Renko just laughed. For the next two hours I walked on my own past the now familiar street side lacework of all manner of ruins knotted together with forty years of semi-suburban curiosities – cheaper to build new than tend to the old – and then a beautiful forest of managed cork, the spray painted numbers on their trunks showing the year of their harvest. The sudden change in the trunk from thick corrugation to smooth almost embarrassed nakedness brought to mind the limbs of Beryl Cook’s heroines.

A grand house with history came into view, walled and magnificent, meadows nudged against the density of trees. Across a wide road, ALERT MIND THE CROSSING, not a car in sight, a desolate petrol station, like a scene from fortnite, and up a long gentle hill, the landscape now mediterranean, olive trees and scrub oak, wonderful spring flowers taking their chance. I hesitated as a track headed off to my left with the red lines on a short post indicating a walking route. No, the yellow arrow of the Camino lay straight ahead. Ten minutes later I sat on my bag in the shade of a solitary tree. I imagined my companions sitting enjoying a second coffee and a pastry somewhere ahead.

Twenty minutes later they caught up with me, having explored coffee options at the derelict petrol station, whilst I unobserved had marched on.

We passed a great looking albergue, no coffee but a barn full of ancient horseless vehicles.

The path took us off the road and down a lane, the lane became a track and then a path. Stone walls of unknown age and purpose guided us on. I was reminded of Cornwall, trees rich with moss and lichen drooped overhead, the lane became a narrow cobbled street and as we rounded a slight bend the smell of jasmine, rose and wisteria drenched the air. A garden with lemon and orange trees, flowers, a large vegetable plot wrapped around a single story house, and the delicate white and lilac blooms wreathing the fence. It was the perfume counter in the garden of eden.

The young ones pressed on with their bright energy and some time later were found enjoying a coffee on the forecourt of a petrol station on the outskirts of a town. Tash and I convinced of better options nearer our albergue carried on.

We had arrived at Alvaiazere, at the albergue of our host, the warm, eccentric and entrepreneurial Carlos II. Little did I know how familiar I was going to become with both the town and our host.