Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Arrived in Portugal - Beira

Tiled wall panel at Beira railway station 
Warning - Long post - Ensure comfortable seat!

Leaving Caceres presented us with a couple of not-so-pleasant moments. Firstly Dave banged his nose which then refused to stop bleeding for several minutes. Then the casing shattered on one side of the MotorMover as we pulled out of Camping Caceres. Grrr. Fortunately the drive to the border was breath-taking. Stunning autumnal scenery over the hills and we saw so many vultures. At one point there were eighteen together, all wheeling in a tower above each other in the sky.

Once through the border crossing, we overtook a man leading a horse before the smallest roads we've yet attempted with Bailey led towards Camping Beira-Marvao, our first Portuguese stop and definitely our favourite campsite so far. Its entrance is a steep sandy lane which nearly stranded us part way. The tranquil quinta site is owned by Annick and Rudy, a very friendly and helpful Dutch couple. They are harvesting their olive crop at the moment so frequently all we could see of Annick was her feet peeping out below tree branches at the top of a ladder! The pitches aren't marked so there's freedom to set up anywhere. The shower block is pretty new and has the Citizen M of camping showers - they're brilliant! The first evening, we walked into the nearest village, Beira, where we were very pleasantly surprised by being charged only 70c each for a small beer (which I ordered in my best Portuguese). We saw an abandoned railway station with several incredible blue and white tiled panels including the one shown above which depicts pride in local trades. The whole place felt distinctly eerie - perfectly maintained yet completely deserted

Next morning, after Dave had undertaken a lengthy bicycle reconnaissance, we chose Castelo De Vide to visit on our first afternoon. It's a perfectly picturesque medieval town with incredibly steep and narrow cobbled streets, tiny houses with thick wooden doors, and its own castle tower. We visited a one-room archaeology museum where the guide talked at great length about the varied local historic sites. We saw ancient pottery, beads and beautiful arrow heads which were almost like jewels, they were so delicately crafted. We did some food shopping including a delicious pineapple cake and another local cheese, this time a sheep's cheese from Queijos Fortunato. As dusk fell, we decided to put up the awning - perhaps we should have started a few minutes earlier as this got somewhat fraught in the dark! However, it was well worth the effort as we have since done all our cooking out there on the camping stove so are preserving our precious caravan gas. Temperatures are falling rapidly up here this week with a couple of nights dropping to below five degrees. it's reminding me of Gocek in Turkey because the early mornings and nights are cold, but its still almost t-shirt weather in the afternoons (if we can get out of the wind!). However, several sights have been positively spring-like - there's young lambs in many fields and I posted a photo on Facebook of purple crocuses on the edge of a footpath.
Baby lambs near Beira, 
photo by Dave Greene 

Day two saw us driving around ancient sites including a six metre tall menhir, a grass-roofed stone shepherd's hut and several lake-side graves marked with stone slabs. I'm not sure if the graves would originally have been by water because the river has been dammed to make the lake. And I think I saw an eagle overhead when we were by the menhir. None of the birds have got close enough for a good photo yet. Several motorhomes were parked at one end and we walked round for a couple of hours after eating our bread and cheese picnic on its shore in the sun. Idyllic!

The third day we started by walking. Annick and Rudy have created a selection of maps of walking routes around their campsite. They have a Google Earth map on one side and English language directions on the back. We took a short detour around the delapidated village of Cabecudos which has a stream running right through the middle - complete with stepping stone ford. Dave went off on his bike again in the afternoon - he's now done over 1000km since he bought it so well worth the investment. I tried a short (10 minute) jog and my leg was ok so that's encouraging.

We winged a walk on the fourth morning which looked like it should have been a loop on Dave's phone, but the track petered out into brambles so turned into an out-and-back instead. Dave had pain in his back from about 30mins onwards which I blamed on him getting cold while cycling on the day before and he blamed on getting cold while being on the laptop earlier in the day. One good and bad thing about Camping Beira-Marvao is that the wifi is only available outside reception. There are nice tiled bench-tables to use and the signal is strong, but it gets bitter sitting there for any length of time. This sounds bad but is good because we don't dwell online but go walking instead! (I'm supposed to be using this trip to rescue my eyesight after all.)

I was expecting Sunday to be ultra religious in Portugal, as in Spain, but Annick assured us the supermarket, Pingo Doce, would be open all day and it was - 8.30am to 9pm! Swordfish steaks from the extensive fish counter made a delicious dinner with sauteed potatoes and red peppers. In between shopping and eating, we tried another of the provided walk maps. Unfortunately, having walked for an hour and a half, we then found a padlocked gate right where a left turn should have been so had to retrace our steps instead of completing the circuit. I am missing ordnance survey maps and the security of yellow arrow footpath signs. Walking back home, we would have hopped over the gate. Here, you're likely to be confronted by a large, loud dog!

Then it was Monday and the last of our Beira days. We finally got to Marvao. Perched as high up as it is possible to get around here, the views are certainly marvellous. We weren't sure how far we could see - maybe fifty miles, maybe a hundred. Breathtaking - but almost completely deserted! One art gallery was open so I got my first culture dose from the papier mache sea-and-island paintings of Rui Da Rosa and we saw the courtroom of Mouzinho da Silveira, a very important Portuguese personage! Other than these, we weren't actually that impressed with Marvao so went back to Castelo instead.

And now it's Tuesday so I end this post with an appropriate YouTube!

No comments:

Post a Comment