Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012 - Portugal - Terena

Today was our second walk from Terena and our fourth in the Alentejo area of Portugal. The day started with a breakfast of delicious baked apple and the usual mueseli and yogurt. We took the extra bread, cheese and ham to have for lunch.

The sky was grey and overcast - lucky for us but not so lucky for the farmers - there was no rain.

Our walk was about 15.5 km. We walked directly from the Casa - heading down the steep cobbled streets of Terena and then along country tracks where a four wheel drive could go - but we didn't see any traffic. It was a pleasant walk with a only a couple of places where we weren't sure of the directions. Our biggest puzzle was searching for the Castelo Velho which was supposed to be our destination. I think the countryside in the area had been covered with "bush and scrub" when the walk was first written up. However, in the meantime, there has been quite a bit of ploughing and planting of what we think are eucalyptus. Apparently eucalyptus are planted for firewood because they grow so quickly but also use up a lot of water. The new plantations meant that there were a lot of extra tracks - so we didn't know where we were. We did notice what we thought was an old walled garden but it didn't seem to be in the right place for the castle and it sure didn't look like what we thought a castle whould look like. But in the end, we decided that it actually must have been the castle or at least the castle walls. Eventually we found ourselves back on the right track. The ploughed fields revealed how completely rocky the ground really is. You can see a picture of me with my foot on a slab or rock in what appears to be a rock patch. But it's not - its a newly ploughed field where formerly millions of white blossomed rock rose (cistus) bushes and some wild lavender grew. Other fields, of course, seem much more fertile - with green wheat, yellow daisies, or even potato and vegetable patches.

We saw a few people - a couple of shepherds with sheep and each time they had one large white dog and one small black dog. As we passed one herd, a couple of sheep got away from the dogs and galloped into the nearby wheat field - but after being chased by the black dog and yelled at by the shepherd it eventually returned to the wild grass in the olive grove or cork oak forest where it belonged. We also saw a couple of men working in their vegetable plots. Eveyone basically ignored us - so it was a very peaceful walk. We ate our lunch sitting on a log beside a dried out section of the reservoir. There is water in the resevoir - but the water level is very low for this time of year.

Portugal is the world's second largest producer of marble and they literally build roads out of the small bits of marble and prop up their fenceposts with marble chunks! The biggest excitement came at the end of the walk. We were crossing the paved road to go up the cobbled road to the Casa, when we saw 4 sheep heading up the steep narriw street into the town. Two local men eventually convinced the sheep to go back downagain but they knocked down some washing that was hung out to dry above the sidewalk on the way. When the sheep got to the of the hill, they turned up another cobbled steet where there was a big argument going on between 2 women. Maybe they were yelling at the men who were gently trying to guide the sheep or maybe they were yelling at the sheep - or maybe they were arguing with each other. Whatever it was, the yelling went on even after the sheep had passed.

When we got back to the Casa we were hoping for a cup of tea - but no-one seemed to be in and we don't have a kettle in our room. Se we ate a couple of oranges and half a KitKat that I bought in YVR. Dinnner was at 7. We shared the big dining table with some people from Ireland who were just here in the Alentejo for a week. It was fun to talk to them about their travels. They particularly liked Ephasus in Turkey. The meal was delicious and when we finished, Jose went off to his friend's to watch the soccer game. Michale, one of the Irish people was also a huge fan of ManU (Manchester United) and set off shortly after to see if he could find the small bar where the local men were probably all watching the game. It seems that the Portuguese and the Irish are as mad about soccer as Canadians are about hockey and Indians are about cricket!

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