"... In the end I even felt the bug to prove that I am stronger than the prophecy!"
A new day! A little nervous… maybe! The words of the boy I had met in the village the day before, echoed in my head during the night and I didn't know if I should pay any attention to them. Well… after a delicious almond tart and a long-awaited and well-deserved coca-cola, sitting on a terrace in the village square of Cercal, I took the bike again. To my surprise… another hole! And inner tubes don't even see them! After all, she couldn't be quiet yet! This is all part of the adventure, isn't it? And who has a mouth goes to Rome! A few more corners and was already being unclogged in a workshop that, despite having nothing to do with bicycles, always had trifle air chambers. And it was right at the door that I dealt with the matter! I solved the question, tried to do some shopping and went looking for the fire station to wash the muddy bicycle. And that's when I met the nice guy who took me there. The usual question led to the usual answer. And that was when he said he intended to end in Odemira, that he started to disturb me saying how difficult it would be to do it all at once. A multitude of reasons that I don't even remember ... And now ?! Will I be ambitious and relaxed or will he be doubting my abilities ?!
And we came back in the morning of the third day! The restlessness and uneasiness about what awaited me quickly sent me out of bed. I woke up early, maybe earlier due to yesterday's "warning". I wouldn't do it worse and at best it would come at a good time. Deep down I even felt the little animal proving that I am stronger than the prophecy!
In front of me ... about fifty kilometers with almost a thousand meters difference. The numbers certainly didn't scare me, although this may be the hardest day. However, the challenge of discovery and the constant unpredictability of what happens along the way make everything uncertain. And that's the beauty of the real adventure! That's what makes me have butterflies in my belly! It's what makes my eyes shine and my skin prickles!
After leaving the village fields, the landscape of chaparral that has me so passionate. I start to enter the Serra do Toiro, the one you could see from afar. The climb is gradually and effortlessly… however there is a certain desolation when the slopes appear torn by the terraces of the eucalyptus. Underneath these trees, bare soil, poured with life and color!
The climb now starts to get more and more steep, and soon I find myself forced to jump off the bike and carry it by hand. A scorching sun makes rivers of sweat run down my face. “Hardness” is the word that is said along the way, as I strive to make the bicycle pass through a floor laden with stone. I stop for a moment in the shade of a small eucalyptus. Just to gain a few more minutes of strength for the next hundred meters. "I'm already close to the top!" The summit stands out in the distance for its Penedo. A rocky outcrop that is an authentic island of biodiversity surrounded by a landscape covered with eucalyptus. And still overlooking the Atlantic!
"... the challenge of discovery and the constant impresibility of what happens along the way make everything uncertain."
"... And there was the perfect tree! The tree that served as a shade to a scorching sun ... that served as a back for a tired girl and a drying rack for sweaty clothes. The tree was the Cork Oak!"
Do Penedo to the village of São Luís they are about eight kilometers, made almost always going down. According to the description of the Rota Vicentina this would have been the most mountainous stage, characterized by being more demanding due to long climbs on hard and irregular terrain. Being in the final phase of the descent, with the Penedo to stay behind, I started to relax. After all, I was always up to the challenge! I could now enjoy the first longest descent to enjoy the bike along the way. After all, that would be one of the main reasons why I decided to carry a backpack on my back instead of the famous saddlebags. The freedom you could feel, thus enjoying the bike to the fullest! And I was happy with that decision. The weight should not exceed eight kilos. And, although the backpack was not the most suitable, it started to be part of me.
I glanced at the small village of São Luís and just stopped to get water and some supplies at a mini market. I looked at the sun, it was still high! Then I bent down to check the hours ... it was just after midday. And how pleased and proud she was! After all, he had already done almost half the way, and soon the hardest part. Everything was going well, but my belly was already ticking. The day was so beautiful that I just wanted to stop for lunch in the shade of a tree. So, I followed the trail marks that took me along a rural path, along farms and agricultural fields. And there was the perfect tree! The tree that served as a shade to a scorching sun. The one that served as a back for a tired girl and a drying rack for sweaty clothes.
The tree was the Cork Oak!
How I wanted to stay a little longer. Maybe even let me stay for a nap. I was so carefree that I let time pass through my fingers. The breeze was felt very lightly in the branches of the chaparro and the shadow tempted me to stay a little longer. Suddenly, a farmer stops the van on the road in front of me. With a smile on his lips, he asks with such an affable air if I need help. I was as surprised as I was excited. These are the little things that warm our hearts. A simple question of who cares and cares, even without knowing it. Here, in nature and in a world that lives from it, simplicity and values go hand in hand and those who pass by never forget.
The discovery of the path was stronger than the temptation of shade and breeze. I got on my bike. Brave and fearless! Towards the water stage, where a Alentejo green and vibrant.
At the beginning of this stage we find agricultural fields, mounted and undergrowth. A territory where Man and Nature coexist harmoniously. I see mountains in the distance, endless hills and valleys, patches of native trees and green fields, where wild flowers bloom on spring days. Here and there, cows of various patterns slowly graze, completely unconcerned with the lives of others around them. And I can see them from this side of the fence, to them and the landscape that surrounds them.
"... I was so carefree that I let time pass between my fingers ..."
"... an idyllic and unexpected scenario that announces the incredible environment that characterizes this stage."
This was definitely one of my favorite steps! Shortly after crossing the bridge over Vale de Ferro river we found the Pego da Laima, an idyllic and unexpected scenario that announces the incredible environment that characterizes this stage. From this point, the main protagonist is the beautiful Torgal river, the main tributary of the river Mira. This place completely removes the idea that we have to expect to see in Alentejo. It looks like someone took the landscape from somewhere else and put it here.
The banks of the waterline are covered by species that love this more humid environment. Willows, alders and ash trees, never forgetting the imposing cork oaks that always remind us that we are in Alentejo lands!
It’s so easy to let the bike roll around here. The path is smooth and smooth. The temperature is more pleasant due to the proximity of the water and the shade accompanies us everywhere. An unexpected oasis! And I pedaled happily, stopping just to watch the watercourse here and there. I took the opportunity to take a look at my giant map and moved on.
A diversion can bring a thousand surprises. And it happened to me, a surprise. A few kilometers ahead and a sign with the name “Pego das Pias“. I look at the clock and take a look at the sun. "It's still early," I thought. My effort had paid off and there was little left to end the incredible day in Odemira.
"Come on, jump on the bike and pedal with a girl's soul!" A kilometer ahead and I arrived at what I can claim to be the region's ex-libris, the Pego das Pias. If until now I was wondering how I could be in a place so lush and rich in water, when soaked in a piece of the great Alentejo ... when I arrived there, I vowed to appear to be in one of those typical places of Gerês.
I already felt the frenzy at hearing the happy voices and seeing colorful silhouettes among the alders. They were people who, like me, discovered this little corner of paradise. I parked on the banks of the river and without delay I changed from a cyclist to a bather. In my backpack, however simple, nothing was missing! Not a bikini, nor a small towel for the eternal “you never know” that usually comes out of my mouth. It looked like a magic backpack!
“In front of me, a huge natural pool, greenish in tone and glowing in the sun. Without practically any human intervention, this place is unique! The banks are full of vegetation, leaving only a few corners of land and grass to lay a towel on. Perfect for those who love nature! True Nature! On the other side of the river bank, a slab of limestone rock and trees with branches that fall to the surface of the water. Charming!
"Come on, jump on the bike and pedal with a girl's soul! A kilometer ahead and I arrived at what I can say is the ex-libris of the region"
"Grab yourself, shrink your knees and let yourself go ... wait for the right moment and let go! How refreshing!"
Making friends is the easiest thing in the world when we're in places like that. Reminds me of when I was little and went to the beach. My brother and I spent long afternoons entertained with new friends. The ease of making myself known and, in a way, giving myself to someone I don't know is something that was always natural to me. It is something that is part of me and has brought me great moments and great friendships. They happen spontaneously. Because it is not so simple and easy to acquire for many, it is that I give so much meaning to this characteristic of mine that gives me so much happiness!
And there I met with the group of friends who were in front of me, amused by something that I had been walking for so long to find. That joke that I only saw in the movies… there it was…. right in front of me! A wooden swing, tied to a tree by a rope, and used by the most daring in order to send themselves into the water.
One after another, there they clung with their hands to the round piece of wood. And in a more or less audacious impulse, they were sent into the river. I laughed with them, amused, as I was also taking some pictures of them. And of course, my turn to try it! “Grab yourself, shrink your knees and let yourself go… wait for the right moment and let go! How refreshing! Once again and it gets better! ” And what I wanted to spend the rest of the day sending me into the water.
After a few more dives, we decided to go exploring that place. A few steps ahead on the trail and we reached a rocky area. Now unencumbered by the majestic trees, it allowed us to see what makes this place so unique. THE Torgal river, where it had snaked before, gives way to something completely different and unexpected.
Over the years, the water, passing through an area of monumental rocks and with some slope, created swirls, which with a higher flow and a greater force, was digging circular cavities in the rock. These cavities give the name to Pias.
Today, we can see the sinks filled with water, making this section of the stream more wild and deep. Surrounded by impressive rocks and situated in a valley of hillsides full of cork trees. To never forget that this remains our Alentejo!
"... located in a valley of hillsides full of cork trees. Never to forget that this is still our Alentejo!"
"A landscape that does not belong to us and which, out of control, is dominating what was once forests of oaks, cork oaks, pines and all those genuinely Portuguese trees."
And because the world we live in today is a balance between good and less good things, it was not necessary to travel many more kilometers to reach an eucalyptus forest, or rather, the memory of one, lost in an Alentejo where biodiversity has also been lost over time.
I had to pinch myself to believe how much the landscape had changed a few minutes ago. I remembered the selfishness of the human being, the one who covets, who conquers everything, and shapes everything for his convenience. Hills bare of life, gray and terraced ... Logs cut close to the ground, branches fallen at random, and dry leaves covering a dry, infertile and hard soil. It is heartbreaking, bringing a sense of despair and sadness to those who pass by. But you must see! See with the eyes of those who want to see what is happening and cannot tolerate it! It is the reality of a country devoid of native forest, where there is not enough legislation to protect habitats, and where money continues to be able to speak louder than values.
I'm already “used to” seeing a Coast Center replete with this invasive species that only serves half a dozen people and in return destroys habitats, threatens species of fauna and flora and ruins the soils, making them infertile. There are hundreds of hectares of ecological “void”! A landscape that does not belong to us and that, out of control, is dominating what was once forests of oaks, cork oaks, pines and all those genuinely Portuguese trees.
There were five strenuous kilometers along the mountains and valley, covered with a recently devastated eucalyptus. Despite having seen little of this species in Alentejo I couldn't help feeling sad. I cycled hard to get out of there, although this reality is also important to touch. I cycled and cycled… until I finally found the banks of the Mira river.
Life came back with the river! A river that, like me, reaches Odemira! And what a magnificent village, even more embellished by decorative effects that were found along its streets. I climbed full of energy on the white sidewalk. I passed the white houses, animated by the colors that stand out in the contours of the doors and windows. And I arrived at a small garden in the center of the village, where I was finally able to celebrate the victory of another unforgettable day.
"... Life came back with the river! A river that, like me, reaches Odemira!"
"... The blue shutters window was open and letting out the essence of a village still in turmoil."
It was not necessary to go very far, in fact, it was enough to look across the square to be able to read on the wall "WOW Alentejo", the most spectacular hostel I have ever seen.
As soon as I entered, I immediately felt that the owner of that place would be someone who longs for his guests to feel as good as at home. The spaces, although small, were well used, and the environment is not lacking. The colors of the walls, windows and door jambs bring immense serenity. And all the corners are lovingly filled with a decoration that makes us happy and makes us feel so good.
I was alone in a super cozy room. Mine even had a small bowl with pieces of chocolate. How could I not feel welcome ?!
The blue shutters window was open and he was letting out the essence of a village still in turmoil. I stayed there for moments to appreciate the sweetness of the place and the view of the little square covered with trees. The place where I had just cycled that big day.
There were still fragments of light outside, which hurried me out of the house! I went to explore the village to the sound of “Deolinda", which so well matched that place! First I went down to the Mira River, where I stayed watching the sun hide behind the hills where I had once ventured. Now there was only dusk left, enough light to look at the village from a higher point.
Odemira… Touched by the end of the day, it made me dream!
I was delighted to be there, because everything was going so well, because I felt so free ... free to do whatever I wanted! And what day was today if not the day Freedom, the memorable 25 April! I felt so lucky to have something that, apparently unquestionable, a handful of years ago was an immaterial thing that could only be dreamed of.
At dusk the lights that animated the village came on! Lamps that leave a trail of warm color. In the background, Republic square, colored lights drew the “25 April". I let myself go against the sound of the party! Down there I met the people and followed them to the camp! From now on everything was a surprise! I sat alone at a table, for dinner by the stage. Soon after, I was surrounded by new friends! Listening and telling stories to the sound of José Cid, on a night where the Freedom in such a genuinely Portuguese land.
It was well into the morning when I said goodbye to my new friends and there was almost no one on the streets. “Where have I seen this before?”, I thought, and started to laugh when I remembered other similar stories.
I arrived at hostel overflowing with nostalgia. The window was still open and warm yellow tones came through the room, lighting it up. “How beautiful,” I thought. But something was missing there ... now alone, leaning over the parapet, I thought about how much I liked having Jorge by my side. To be able to share that magic with him. I remembered how good it is to be able to share life with someone who loves and understands us. How it all makes more sense when it is lived together.
One tear fell, and then another. It's there… "I knew it was love for life, that it was with you my whole life".
"One tear fell, and then another. And there ... I knew it was love for a lifetime, that it was with you my whole life ..."
vicentina routeAlentejo, Portugal
also in Rota vicentina