Portugal in the Box – #32

Monday 30th June 2008

Miranda do Douro

„… I am walking along a riverbank, heading upriver from the sea. At a certain point the river flows into a circular lake. I see how the water is gradually receding from the lake and I think it is because of the tide. As the lake is totally empty I see that the bottom is made out of concrete. Lying on the ground, forming a perfect circle, with their feet pointing towards the centre of the circle, are many women, clothed in long white habits. They don´t move at all, they are dead…”

There was much more to that dream, I know it because of the way I felt, simply exhausted as I awoke. I could have tried to remember but again it would have meant a big effort of memory, and I could not do it…

A new surprise greeted us this morning in the campsite. Yesterday evening. at our dinner outside by candle light, we had praised again the peaceful atmosphere here, and how it is good for me who loves uncrowded places, to spend some days here, after all these crowded festive towns we had crossed, almost alone in this beautiful place. By the way, I forgot to tell an anecdote about Chaves, some days ago. It was a busy town too,  but at least the big parking had not been chosen as a display for the biggest firworks of the century, like some nights before. However… the first night as everything was wonderfully quiet around, we suddenly heard some cars arriving, and shortly after some young laughter, and then:
„Happy Birthday to you,
happy birthday to you…”
and yes, in English1
A glance through the curtains revealed to us the most incredible birthday party I had ever witnessed. In the middle of the parking the young people were giving their birthday presents to their friend, and they were all displayed on the bonnet of the birthday child´s parents car, so that everybody could look at them. One really wonders why on a car park… and these young people surely didn´t look as if they had nowhere else to go, on the contrary!
Anway, a big surprise this morning here: the campsite was invaded by about 40 children, from ages between 12 and 16  I would say. A summer camp! Within one hour they had pitched their tents and invaded the whole site, playing all kinds of loud games.
I have no doubts: they will surely have a great time here all together!!!

We rapidly took our bicycles and escaped. We wanted to explore the area a little bit more and drive along the river Douro. The most exhausting bike tour was awaiting us, good that we did not know it before. The Doura is surrounded by high vertical cliffs, and Miranda is situated on a hill, high above the river. Consequently the way to the river was a long, vertiginous ride down the hill. Yes, a wonderful feeling to ride down the hill at 50 kilometers an hour although I could not help thinking in my head:
„How the hell will we come  back?”
We are both not adepts of cycling up hills, we are more from the enjoying kind, downhill, no hill or only downhill, no wind, sunshine… in fact no effort at all is the best!
I was quite worried too about something else: the bikes had been submitted to incessant, strong vibrations on the bad roads, for many days, and we had never checked the screws. I had the worst scenarios in my head as I watched Kevin rolling down the hill with this incredible speed… but don´t worry, nothing really bad happened!

We arrived at the Doura banks, it was incredibly peaceful there, and beautiful. I read that recreational boats and so on were not recommended between April and the end of June, as the birds there were nesting and should not be disturbed. It reminded me two years ago, when I was canoeing in a canyon in Spain, near to Sepulveda, at the occasion of a family party. It was July and the nests up on the cliffs were full of little babies, and it was wonderful. I really think that we should get a canoe one day, and take it with us in our trips. We both enjoyed it a lot together last year in the Perigord, in France. We saw some great inflatable ones in Scotland last year… We will give it some serious thought!

At this place the Douro is the border between Portugal and Spain and  we made a point to cycle to Spain, crossing the bridge. It was such fun to cross the border on a bike and to make the impressive photos under the sign „Espana”!.
I told Kevin:
„Well, laugh now because it will be the last occasion for a long long time!

And in fact the ride back became quite a horror. More than anything I was suffering under the sun, which was extremely hot and high above our heads all the time.
We tried to find a shorter way to get up the high hill again, but we ended up pulling our bicycles through high grasses and big stones for a couple of kilometers, and having to come back the same way as it was leading nowhere. More than anything I was scared of the snakes, not so much for me as I had boots and long trousers on, but Kevin wore low trainers and shorts… how appetising must have been his pretty legs for the snakes!!! These places are exactly the kind of places where snakes live, and I really felt panic inside, but didn´t say one word until we were safe again on a concrete road, much later.

We finally arrived at the campsite, proud but of course totally exhausted. We even had problems to move the mouth muscles to eat the well deserved lunch… The kiddies from the summer camp were still there, of course, loud and moving all around like before… just for some half an hour we had peace, suddenly they were gone: they had been called for lunch.
„This is the only way you can get the kids to move so fast and all at once to a certain point: food!”
said Kevin.
You won´t believe it, but it is a new knowledge for me. I never realised that kids are after food like that. I thought a while about it, quite shocked that I reached 53 years without knowing this elementary fact. I don´t think I was like that as I was a child, in fact I remember that I often hid when it was time to eat. I was always very difficult with food, in fact I was a real nightmare for my parents … I did not like anything… except the divine „tetes de negres”, the licourice „negro heads” (I guess they are not called like that anymore ….) , which I used to  consume everyday in big quantities…

The rest of the day was spent resting, reading, painting a little bit, eating ice cream. Early in the evening I needed to move again and we had a walk, then we sat to drink a beer at the camp site bar, amongst the children and some older guys making a live gig on a keyboard. Kevin would have loved to jump into the session and make his own gig, but I guess he didn´t dare disturbing their party… But what a great time we had!

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