The last time I was in Porto, Portugal I left with the feeling of having unfinished business and this visit was going be the same. We stayed for 4 nights on the coast an easy bike ride into the city. The hope was we would bike in and out to explore the city. This just wasn’t meant to be. We only had one day that was rain free and when I say rain I mean sideways, driving, drowned through to the skin in 30 seconds flat rain. Believe me I speak from experience.
We explored the south bank, with its amazing art installations and the many Port wine cellars, we crossed the iconic Luís I Bridge and made our way up through the winding streets to the Cathedral. We took in the beautiful tiled facades and architecture of many of the buildings. We ventured down narrow cobbled streets and then the weather turned and we had to hightail it back to Tigín. Porto I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’ll be back.
A few days later, in pouring rain, we left Porto behind. We climbed and descended multiple times, crossing several major river valleys. We passed through the vine growing region before starting our climb onto a plateau in the north of the Alentejo region. The landscape had noticeably changed, gone were the eucalyptus trees and the lush green vegetation. Here there was little in the way of pasture, just small stubby olive trees dotted the landscape. We saw mostly sheep and goats grazing on the slim pickings. Whitewashed low sized stone houses with red tiled roofs abound. But then we spotted the magnificent old cork oaks with their gnarled branches and bark and distinctive bare trunks, from which cork had been recently harvested. This area alone produces more than two thirds of the world’s cork.
Our stop for the night was a beautiful campsite near the village of Barbacena. This is rural and wild countryside, what feels like the middle of nowhere. When the rain eventually let up and the wind died down we decided on a walk to stretch our legs and to search for some nearby geocaches. The sandy paths were rutted from the rains, rounded granite boulders jutted up out of the earth. We had to ford a river as recent rains had caused some flooding. The trails wound their way up into the nearby hills and in a short 5km loop we encountered both a Roman bridge and a pre Bronze Age dolmen as well as two young cows complete with horns who had escape their enclosure.
As we made our way home the wind picked up and the sound it made as it moved through the trees was like voices whispering stories from ancient times. This is a ruggedly beautiful land and we are already talking of returning here for a lengthier stay….more unfinished business.