Highs and Lows in the Beiras

13/11/2013

We checked the weather forecast and settled on another re-plan to our route. The forecast said sunny intervals, a rarity in this country, so we mapped a circular route over the Parque Natural de Serra da Estrela and onto the spectacular mountain village of Monsanto.

Here is our route.



Serra de Estrela

As always Mr Tom had a failure, taking us up an impossibly steep single track road before putting us on the N232. Another great road through the mountains and no problem for us in our big old lump. Don’t believe other motorhome blogs who say the roads in Portugal are rubbish, they are fine. Views were again total class up the lea side of the mountains. Here we are.


At the top we hit cloud but the quality of the road meant it was not a problem. It did have a hammer house of horrors feel to the place with desolate, part destroyed structures everywhere. We also came out of the mist to find encampments of people selling wool based products on top of a mountain. Weird.

We stopped off at a Lidl to get supplies before making a return journey back over the mountains taking in Portugal’s highest point, Torre or tower in English. At an altitude of 1000 metres we stopped in the village of Sabuguiro for lunch in the van. Here I was befriended by an Estrela Mountain Dog or EMD to those in the know.


Tourist Tip: The Estrela Mountain Dog is used as a herd dog to protect the flock historically from Wolves and latterly the (I was going to put the Welsh but that would be a cheap shot at a fine body of men and women, so I didn’t). It is golden in colour with a black face. Don’t have anything to do with a blue faced one. It is a well set brute of an animal with a thick coat. Unfortunately that thick coat moults like buggery, look at my knee. So as any dogger knows, wear plastic pants before engagement.

Torre, 1993m and Portugal’s highest point.

From about 1500m we were in the clouds with visibility of about three foot. What we could see looked like Dartmoor on Steroids with strange tor-topping rock formations interspersed with lakes and areas of desert. Just after the 1900m sign we got our first glimpse of snow which increased greatly to our journey to the top. Look.


The visibility wasn’t great so we didn’t linger but there were folks with a sledge. We descended down another great road, pretty twisty and we did have brake smellage by the time we hit the bottom, but no problems. A couple of views


Monsanto

Our guide book, the troubled lonely planet, informs us the village won the ‘Portugal’s best village’ competition back in 1938 and has not looked back since. Isn’t google handy when writing a travel guide? We parked in a car park just below the village for the night and looked forward to a full exploration the next day.


We woke up to a tempest, weather so bad it even got a mention on the BBC. We have seen some wet stuff on this trip but this day has surpassed the lot. Howling wind and bucket loads of water. I am surprised the streets are not full of frogs, fish and the occasional cat. The weather is biblical. We drove up to the village for breakfast on the terrace. Couldn’t see a thing, but we imagined. This place is like a cross between Bedrock and the rock people from that recent classic movie, Noah. Whatever has happened to Russell Crowe? His career seems to be in a parallel path to that of Mick Hucknell and Simply Red. A great start to the career but now in a never ending spiral to oblivion, the place not the movie. I have some pics we took in the rain but you can search the daily Mail/Monsanto and they have some poor HDR images to view. It is fantastic to see how man has used the elements and materials given to build this tellytubbyesque wonderland at the top of a mountain. Highly recommended to all.

Tourist Tip: When walking amongst this incredible place keep your eyes alert on the cobbles ahead as Portuguese dog dirt has a nasty habit of leaping up and biting you. If this does happen make use of the many taps around the town attached to people’s houses to wash it off.

We were meant to go to a national park to look at rare bird life. However, because of the weather we have taken refuge in a town that smells of cabbage.

Love to all and some pics of Monsanto

E & T

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