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PORTUGAL    INFO & DIARY  1

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 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Portuguese Republic is an Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic, covering 92.212 square kilometres. It is the home to 10.341.330 citizens of which 84% are Christians.
The currency is Euro, worth 7,46 Danish Krone. The GDP is US$213.001 billion.
The climate is a pleasant Mediterranean climate. Among the more interesting larger mammals are the Iberian lynx (Lynx pardinus), Common genet (Genetta genetta), Gray wolf (Canis lupus), Brown bear (Ursus arctos) and Spanish ibex (Capra pyrenaica).
The flora changes with altitude, and although here are quite a lot, none specific I will look for.

DIARY
16/4.
I arrival late in the afternoon from Spain, and head straight for the camp, three kilometres from the oldest border in the world (1297); The Minho river. It is a real nice camp, and cheap too. The host opens a cabin for me, as he expect the solar heated water is insufficient in the common showers. It is a real nice warm afternoon, but after ten, I start freezing in the car.

17/4. It is a crispy morning, and I actually wished there was a longer drive to the first sight, so the car could heat up. But Miranda do Douro is just around the corner. The old town is surrounded by a large wall, and within is the remains of an ancient fortification.

Here are still some remains of its former glory in form of buildings and bridges. Other parts are worse than the farmers huts. Many of the houses are build in nice cut granite boulders, some with fine ornaments. I walk around town, trying to find the most interesting buildings. Here are no signs of a tourist industry, but quite some local people in the sunny streets.

I have not found more in this north-eastern corner of Portugal, but I am looking forward to the 350 kilometre drive to the coast out west. The first 100 kilometres is by small countryside roads, which winds their way around small mountains and large hills.

Here are some real nice villas and some real worn down farmers huts. I stop at a field with several huge long horned bulls. Here are several small villages, where old, black dressed people are enjoying the morning sun, and one woman is walking her mules.

At first, the fields are with green wheat, then more and more granite is found in the ground, and small oak trees take over. The walls are real nice, made up by both huge and small rocks. Here are also a few olive trees.
I stop and botanise several times, while I also enjoy the sun. It is time for flip-flaps and T-shirt!

The landscape change into another kind of rock, and the hills get steeper. The oak trees are overgrown with lichen, while the pines avoid it. A few vine fields turn up, but nothing big at all. Here are some round buildings, I can't figure the use for. Just grain or?

The road is generally descending, and more and more flowers are found along the road. Lavender start flowering, and I get a sample to freshen up the air in the car - should have brought more...

I spot an old arched bridge, way out on a field, and try to get to it. The old road leads down to it, under a fancy new bridge. It seem like it have been renovated recently, and it is a great work. The area is so quiet, except from a nightingale and a cuckoo - and some other birds.

I enter a hilly part of the road, and huge cork-oaks are found in-between the smaller crooked oaks. Most are harvested recently, and it does look a bit odd.
Over the next little pass, and the olive fields grow big. Some are newly planted, others are real old. Some have a bed of yellow flowers underneath, and it does look great.

I don't notes the names of the villages I pass, except Chos. It look pretty neat though. Outside it, storks are nesting in a tall, dead tree. The landscape flattens out, and I find a highway for the next 150 kilometres. I goes around some mountains in a huge "S", and I don't feel I get anywhere.

The road passes a lot of flat hills with olive trees or other farming, along with some larger cities. Some of the larger hills are worked into numerous terraces, made for olive trees. Others are covered in pine trees. The heater start flowering. It is huge plants, up to one meter high. Other hills have flowering broom.

I pass a pass at 1070 meter, and start a long descent. Some areas have so many walled fields, although the houses are fairly modern. I'm ready for some more winding country road, and set a path over Pvoa de Lanhoso on EN 205. It is a great call, as it leads through  some great looking landscape.

But first, I have to pass the waste hills with burned pine trees. No wonder it have been a big fire, and I'm sure the patches with gum-trees help fueling the fires! Then I reach a rather populated area; scatted villages and small town. Many of the nice houses have large palms in their gardens, along with yucca and orange trees. Well, some a lemons.

As I get into the countryside again, I pass a field with short snouted, long horned cows. Great looking animals! Here are not much vine, but along each farmhouse are some plants.
The landscape change again, this time into more forest like. The big oaks are getting their leaves right now, and it  is a great sight. It is getting warmer, and now, the houses have huge Cereus cacti in the gardens along with huge, flowering Azalias.

The last 50 kilometres is by a bigger road, and then I reach Valenca do Minho. It is a huge fortress from the 17. century, but without any castle. It is just nice houses within the huge walls. And it is a fairly modern construction: Star-shaped, and every stone in place.

I park the car in in one end, and start walking the streets. Most shops are with lining by some strange reason. The tourists are retired Portuguese, and they seem to enjoy it. I do too, as the blue sky with a few white clouds make any picture great. In one square, a lot of people are gathered to some entertainment for the kids - I think.

I look inside one of the churches, and where the Spanish ones were a it barren, this one have a magnificent art work. Some houses are well decorated, others more plane. In general, all is well maintained, and in a sunny day like this, it is so neat.

I only have 40 kilometres to the coast and my camp, and I make it a bit passed six, CET-time. Portugal is one hour behind, but I don't bother for a few days. There are a lot of office work involved in checking in to the camp, and I get a cart to display in the car, one card to check in the car on the sight and another for me.

I start cooking; for once, I have bought eggs, and try boiling them in my teacup. It works like a charm! I was not able to find chopped vegetables, but only a letish head. Along with olives and sweet corn, it make kind of a meal. At least it is fast, as I have 357 photos to work with.
The Minho river, Miranda do Douro, Northeast, Northwest, Valenca do Minho

18/4. I drive the short way down to the sea, and especially the beach, not knowing what to expect. It is truly an ocean: the huge waves are hammering in on the rolling rocks, and it is a harsh environment. A few succulents (African), make it here, but here are not many mussel shells to chose from. As the pilgrims on the Camino del Santiago, I would have liked on shell, but I have to do with a limpet; Patella vulgata. Well, it is not Santiago anyway.

A little fortress; Forte do Co is build in the surf, and it is holding uo well, even the wooden door is in place. I walk a bit along the shore, and admire the natural sculptures in granite, formed by volcanoes and the sea. From time to time, a series of extra strong waves reach the upper part of the beach, and I have to run several times.

From here, it is a drive along the coast at first, but without actually being able to see it. Then I turn inland to find Guimaraes. It is a 14. century town with both a palace and a castle. The castle is not that big, but quite impressive, placed on what today is a grass hill. The palace behind is nice as well, but I refrain form investigating it inside.
I try to find the town, but I only find a few interesting houses scatter around more modern buildings.

As I head on, many of the valleys are covered in smoke from relative small fires. I guess it is controlled fires (cold fires), to avoid the massive fires Portugal have suffered under the recent years. Again, the eucalyptus don't really bother, and here are more and more of these fast growing Australian trees.
I also see a lot of flowering fruit trees in the gardens and a few orchards, and a lot of windmills in the heights, among the round boulders.

I reach Rio Douru, and follow it for almost a hundred kilometres by the real narrow roads along it, known as Via Alto Douro. Here are small farms with a few sheep, some vines and one have a little field with oranges.
Almost all houses are build in large, square granite boulders, even the brand new ones. The fields on the steep hillsides are one massive wall after the other, also in nicely cut granite. A railroad follow the river, and its tall bridges are arched and build entirely in granite.

It is a perfect weather, and here are so many nice motives, although it is the same themes that are repeated most of the time. Ancient vine plants, supported by tall and slender granite columns, white houses with red roof or dark granite houses with stone roof. If more than ten houses are found next to each other, there will be a little church.

Some of the steep fields are being renovated with modern machines, but end up looking like the old ones; terraces, but not even. Many of the walls are overgrown with Wisteria, and some are real impressive. Some have palms and other exotic plants in their well kept gardens.

I reach a more modern city, but find another little road on the other side of the river, avoiding the highway on the tall bridge, way over the city. It offers even more great motives of steep farmland and old houses, along with the river views.

The next target is Lamego, a old city with a many old buildings, a fortress and especially known for the Stairs to Igreja de Nossa. I remember something about 1160 steps, but I might be wrong. Anyway; I am not tempted, and walk to the fortress instead. Some of the huts I pass is wrecks, build by plywood and corroded tinplates. Others are real nicely made in artificial carved granite. The fortress is rather disappointing, and the view  not that entreating.

It is a huge square, and elongated. Along it more wrecks and beautiful buildings are found. One is the Capela de Sao Pedro de Balsemao from  600AC. I pass the stairs on the way out of town, but they are still not calling for me.

The next sight I have found - or not found - is Mata Nacional do Bucaco with 700 plants. But as always, it is hard to actually find the location of a forest. Most I have passes the last hundreds of kilometres are either burned of eucalyptus! I had an idea, but I just end in a private driveway a bit out of the village of do Bucaco. Well, it is late anyway, and I just set the GPS for the next camp.
Where the last two camps in Portugal have been a bit over 7, this one is 17,50, and less nice, more crowded. Well, I do not pass many signs during the day, and I can't be picky. As a treat, there are two large colonies of orchids in my lot.
Day 3: The Sea, Forte do Co,
Guimaraes, Via Alto Douro and Lamego.

From here, I head east in Diary 2

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