As we progress through life, the need to connect and experience new things becomes part of who we are as human beings. Understanding the earth we live in with its complexities enhances a need to fulfill our lives. Earth provides all we need and demands to be respected so that all can experience what it has to offer. Man has done its best to challenge earth’s existence by imposing destructive forces which may impact its majestic reality as we know it. Fortunately, there are still places that provide opportunities to contemplate earth’s greatness. Life has smiled on me by providing the opportunity to seek places which have filled the voids of my existence on this planet.
The Douro Valley and the mountain ranges of northern Portugal such as Peneda-Gerês and Serra De Agra provided the atonement needed to appreciate the reality and majesty of the earth we live in. Such experience was embraced by me on a solo trip trekking five days through enchanted valleys, meandering rivers, imposing trees, and rugged paths which were surrounded by the green of nature with all its challenges to produce the intended fruits within a landscape comprised of beauty and magic.
This trek was not to describe the beauty and challenges of the places visited, because it was a trip of self-discovery meshed into a spiritual cleansing within God’s earth. Reflecting on each day and the experiences and challenges from the unique cultural landscapes, provides an expansion of our soul and a new level of respect for the soil beneath our feet.
When Portugal was founded in the 12th century, it was in northern Portugal that it became a people and a nation. The north provides a mirror to near perfection by combining sea, rivers, mountains, and the beauty of the people who live there. This trip began in Porto, a city whose history is part of the fabric of Portugal. With its tiled walls, museums, historic churches, and gastronomy, it provides a perfect point of departure up the Douro River valley towards the Spanish border. Take the train, boat or car and lose yourselves in the suffocating beauty of valleys and vineyards confronting you at every corner. From Porto the destination was Pinhão. Next day traveled to Alijo where the personal discovery began and started a walking voyage to Pinhão. About 20kms through mountains and vineyards, internalizing the hardships of those who cultivate the vines for our enjoyment. 40°C temperatures made the trek arduous but exhilarating. Finally, back in Pinhão with tired feet and realizing that challenging the hardships is self-illumination of our spirits and courage.
Next day traveled to Ervadosa do Douro, where after an invigorating consumption of espresso coffee, a 10km trek through rugged mountains began. The ascent of the valley was challenging and often the feet grumbled because of the blistering heat. A wonderful picnic at Quinta das Tecedeiras overlooking the Douro River followed, providing flavours of the region from products hand-picked that same day. A 30-minute rebelo boat ride down the Douro River took me back to Pinhão awaiting the next adventure, which took me to Ponte de Lima and Hotel Paço do Vitorino. To appreciate Ponte de Lima, a visit is required to embrace its medieval architecture, culture and traditions. Next day I traveled to Lindoso (Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês) for a walking tour of Yellow Mountain (16km). Definitely the toughest trek through the rugged mountain side, appreciating the ever changing beauty provided by Flora and Fauna. Unforgettable experience on the wild side of nature surrounded by small historic towns which contribute to the history of Portugal. Ended at Lindoso with its historic castle and its magical granaries, which deserve exploration on their own. Back to Ponte de Lima to prepare for the next adventure on Serra de Arga, a trek of 14km. This was a highlight of the trip as it exposed me to cultural visuals near the area I was born but totally unbeknownst to me. The visual fulfillment ended with a traditional unforgettable lunch made with regional ingredients washed well with champarião.
My spirit was realized and complete. The tiredness of my feet was balanced with the lungs full of fresh air and smells of every place visited. Will return.
WORDS & PHOTOS: MANUEL DACOSTA