Dizzying heights of northern Portugal

It’s like a mini-sauna in here, but it’s dark and instead of wood it smells of tent canvas

I kick off the sleeping bag and fumble for the opening of the tent. A cool waft of air enters as I look outside at a bright blue sky and a sun that is nearly vertical overhead. That is probably the cause of soaring temperatures inside the roof tent, but thankfully it is a shade cooler outside once your bare feet touch the ground.

An Early Start?

I check the time and am surprised that it is getting on towards midday, the result of a hard day’s driving and the luxury of leaving the alarm clock behind. Add an hour’s time difference and the day will get away from you real fast.

First things first. Get your swimming trunks on and head for the pool. A nice, clear pool that is fed by a mountain stream. Cool and incredibly refreshing.

From the pool deck, you can see the hills and rough terrain populated with eucalyptus trees, wild ferns and imposing boulders.

The dust swirls in a small gust of wind and the trees sway slightly as far above us a wild bird soars on the thermals. The brightness of the light is twice that of what we’re used to and the smell of earth reminds us of Africa.

What a way to wake up. No time schedule, just take it as it comes. Eventually, curiosity gets the better of us. We need to explore all the hundreds of hills around us.

Remote

There is little development in this region except for the town of Cabeceiras a few kilometres down the valley and hidden from view by the forests.

Lone farmhouses are dotted about the countryside. There are vineyards – crude and dishevelled compared to the clean-cut order of France’s wine-growing community. Cattle herds roam the steep hillsides.

Many houses are seemingly unfinished, with brickwork showing and roof tiles missing – possibly due to tax law? We ponder such trivialities as we make our way to the camp office to secure a roadbook in order to tackle a route in the mountainous area.

Top of the World

Northern Portugal, inland from Porto, is remote. Some small villages are scattered around but mainly there are open hillsides with fields of fern. Forests of Eucalyptus (bluegum in the South African vernacular) cling to the slopes. Endless vistas taking in far mountains in the distance. The only signs of habitation are rows of tall wind turbines on the horizon.

The route is not particularly challenging (although that can be arranged if desired) and we take our time to have a look around us. We scale the lofty heights to within a touching distance of these enormous windmills and gaze down at the amazing views. Rolling hills that stretch on as far as you can see. A sandy track winds its way down, across and over the valley below. The air is still and quiet…. Well worth the drive. Good to get away from the bustling city centre in our daily lives…

We turn and head back to the car, happy to be away but looking forward to some lunch and a dip in the pool to combat the heat… Yes, Portugal – in summer – yet no tourists to be seen anywhere. Perfect!

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