S. Luis to Cercal
After a day of rest, we strapped on our packs and headed northwards.
S. Luis, on our way through and out of town. Even though there are modern street lights and pavement, a goat bids us Bom Dia.
The trail was the most mountainous we've trekked in Portugal, and offered expansive views stretching to the coast and beyond. (You'll have to use your imagination, here. My photos just don't do these justice.)
While some forests we walked through were natural and wild, there have been stretches of unsightly eucalyptus plantations, apparently harvested for paper production.
Much friendlier feeling are the cork oak forests, where the trees are routinely stripped of bark in such a way as to save the tree for future gleanings.
Descending from the mountains into the plains, we came into agricultural areas..... fields of hay, pastures of goats, sheep, and cattle.
Without the shade of trees, on such a toasty day, as I came across an abandoned home with a pool, I couldn't resist some wishful thinking.
A Good Day For a Nap
I love naps. Just about any day will do--- today is no exception. We are staying another night here in S. Luis, allowing this day to unfold slowly.
Our packs sit in the corner.
I find the simplicity of this day appealing. Hand washing clothes and hanging them out to dry. Shopping for a few items to make meals looks like walking to the local indoor municipal mercado, where several locals are selling fresh fish and vegetables. Then to the one jumbled tiny store (maybe 500 sf?) where you can find, somehow, everything else you need.
A lazy stroll through the village reveals another unbelievable backyard garden. This elder could probably feed half the population here with the abundance from his plot. What else? Two men loading a flatbed truck with cork tree bark. A forgotten, weedy, little cemetery with a handful of markers from the 1800's. A tiny park in the center of town, shaded by citrus trees. On a bench, there, a nicely dressed elderly man in a jaunty cap steals my heart. He is napping, peacefully.
Oh, I enjoyed the last two days immensely! Yesterday, after a free breakfast, we left S. Teotonio and its sweet old-school hotel with the tile hallways. Just out of town we passed a farm where a little boy sailed past us on his tiny bike, legs pumping like mad. "Ciao!" he shouted cheerily, waving.
Since then we've hiked about 45 k, stopping last night in Odemira. There, we walked into town and met up again, by chance, with Susanna from Amsterdam, for a beer. (We'd met her on the trail several days ago.)
Last night in Odemira
This morning, we left before the sun came up, along with men heading to work with their sack lunches. Russ and I were soon trekking through cork, eucalyptus and pine, as well as pastures of cows, sheep and goats, along creeks and slow rivers.
These were long hikes, for us, to do with packs. My left pinkie toe has been swollen and blistered, so I taped it well and hoped for the best. And, it was the best.
Walking allows me to drop into what is happening in the moment. What is that sweet aroma? Sticky Monkey Flower? Feeling the rising sun melt the chill from my skin. Listening to the welcoming chorus when we enter another town: cows, goats, chickens, dogs and doves. Plucking berries and figs along the way and popping them into our mouths. Watching a praying mantis dine on a grasshopper. It's very much like holding space for someone on the table. It's one moment at a time, with curiosity and openness. Life, unfolding. Extra-ordinary.
Everywhere is Walking Distance if You Have The Time
Rather than backtrack, we took a local bus from Carrapateira back to Aljezur, a good place to stock up on items we might not find in the smaller towns, like energy bars. Before errands, we decided to try a trail that is not part of the Rota Vicentina, out for several hours, and back. I enjoyed it thoroughly, despite the honeybee bites I collected as we passed farmer's hives.
Later, at the supermarket, we found bags of fresh-like "soup greens". We brought this, and eggs, back to the hostel and cooked up a home style meal. We were happy to share good conversation and chocolate with Tatiana, from Germany.
Again, we took a bus to hook up with a section of the trail we hadn't hiked yet. Started in Odeciexe, at the bakery. Fueled wirh lovely pastries and tea, we marched over hill and hill and hill and pastoral dale, all the way to S. Teotonio.
An enviable S. Teotonio back yard.
The Body's Capacity to Heal
Today we left most of our pack contents in our room, and hiked an easy 10k coastal loop. We met a couple from Poland, who took a photo of us, and later hiked and chatted for a while with an ambitious couple from Prague, who are hiking the entire Fishermen's Trail and camping along the way.
The scenery was gorgeous, and reminded me of Big Sur, in ways. As Russ and I hiked, we remembered that it was just six weeks ago he was in the hospital, having an inguinal hernia repaired! For a week or so afterwards, he could barely hobble to the bathroom. The surgeon told him not to lift anything over 5 lbs. for at least two weeks. I began to wonder if this hiking trip in Portugal would be possible. Today, he is trucking up and down mountains with a 20 lb.pack, no problems. Once again, I am witness to the body's amazing ability to heal. This is an aspect of my work that enthralls me, regardless of how many times I watch it happen.
Correction: I must apologize for the awkward sentence at the end of my post several days ago. I am posting via phone, with intermittent connection and a sometimes awkward blog app. Perhaps using "today" twice in a sentence further illustrates that it doesn't really matter what day it is, as long as I'm here for it.
Why I Walk
Walking is, for me, an intimate way to connect with both the present moment and the immediate environment. My senses can fully engage with the here and now. What sounds like a cacophony of pots and pans reveals itself as a field of goats with bells. My feet connect with many textures, even through hiking shoes: tiles, bricks, hardscrabble, eucalyptus leaves, shards of the past. Details abound. This is not simply acres of forest. These are cork oaks, shorn of bark and numbered. Strawberry trees dropping the same fruit we enjoyed the other night in a liqueur along with thin, crisp and powerfully dark chocolate cookies. I observe ants that, within minutes, find the grape seeds we spit out and tenaciously lug them back to their nest. And the smells! I do not know the names of many of the native shrubs and herbs we hike through. But I am always breathing in their scents, pinching bits of plants between my fingers and holding them up to my nose. Sun and ocean breeze and high fog chill tease my skin.
And people! When I walk, I have the opportunity to say hello, to smile, to listen. To pause and share.
And there is this: How does my body feel after a day of hiking? (Today we travelled 24 + k.) How does my body feel after a day of driving?
Now we are in Carrapateira, tired and happy. We'll stay here two nights and then decide what's next.
Wait, what day is this?
Hiked 18 k to Aljezur, yesterday, Through farmlands and forests.
And today, a short 12 k today to surf town Arrifana, from farms to acres of reforestation to sea.
Our space in Odeceixe
This is a "mixed salad". Which we ordered, hoping to find some leaves of some sort. Foiled again! I noticed some kale and collards growing in our neighbor's front yard. I can see it now. Local newspaper headline: "American Woman Caught Stealing From Residents' Gardens"
Now we are in Odeciexe, a sweet village arranged on a hillside above a lush valley and a river which runs another four k before it flows into the Atlantic.
We're staying in a magical tiny-tiny house with a lovely courtyard. Carlos, who built this house, comments on how early we arise in the morning. Like him, he says. I tell him, actually, we slept in, by several hours.
Yesterday, we hiked along the river to the sea, then north along the bluffs, about 8.5 k out, then back. Along the way, we met folks from Italy, Germany, France and the UK--- all hiking town to town. All friendly, all young.
Today, we headed north, a bit inland and along a canal, through small-scale agricultural areas. (Moo!) Stopped for picnic lunch, then backtracked to an oceanside loop. So much open space. Quiet, except for birdsong. Racked up 23 k, today. We're feeling confident we can make the treks between towns, now.
What I wonder, as I hike:
Why no washcloths, here?
What does it take to get a bit of greenery on a sandwich?
How long will it take for me to sleep in until most everyone else does, here?
Is it possible to feel heard, if the one listening doesn't understand the words? Without words, how do I connect without touch?
Yesterday, I overindulged in the feast for the senses. The day started sensibly, exploring the neighborhoods of Lisbon. Never have I climbed so many stairs! We discovered intriguing murals, hidden shady parks with fountains, secret alleys with tiny, mysterious doorways into ancient buildings, a cafe where we ordered by pointing, and then translated the menu board afterwards to see what we were eating.
Back at our room on the fourth floor (no elevator, stairs with more rise than tread), we thought about resting but decided to take the metro back to the airport to rescue the bag that didn't make the transfer.
I pretty much unraveled when we headed back out for dinner. We were swept up in surging crowds, pounding music, strobe lights and honking cars as downtown became one big throbbing Vogue Fashion Festival. I had to retreat, and call it a day.
A decent night's sleep, and we were ready to stuff our backpacks and leave our suitcase behind once again. We hiked through the city for about an hour to the bus, which took us to Santiago de Cacem, where we checked out castle ruins, found a cobbler to tighten our pole tips, and noshed on fried pockets of, um, stuff, at a local cervejaria. Back on a bus, beneath a full moon, we are now headed to Odeciexe, where we will stay several nights between day hikes.