Saturday, 17 May 2008

Memories of Spain, part 12

This proved to be our hardest day. It was also one of the most rewarding. Our exit strategy for Portugal was to travel through a national park, in which wolves were said to lurk and into Spain. There was a slight hitch that the roads we would need did not appear on our maps. Using internet resources such as Google Earth and Mapquest, we were able to determine that the roads did exist. The problem was identifying them.
The scenery was gorgeous, if rather precipitous. I think it is no accident that Portugal choose this bit of land to be a national park as there weren't that many people using it. There were a number of hamlets in the park that clearly pre-dated it. I submit to you this cart by the side of the road.
The reason for the lack of human activity I put down to the precipitous geography. Who would want to farm this?
Of course, what person in their right mind would really want to cycle up and down these mountainsides? Well, us. And it was really gorgeous.
We arrived at the other end of the park and were faced with the task to choosing which road would lead us to the town we were planning to spend the night. (Verin, in Spain). The road had been very peaceful with very few cars. However, now we wanted a car to go by so we could flag it down to ask for directions. An older man driving a pickup with his wife turned up at about the right time. It turned out that he was a police officer (currently off-duty) for the area and knew it well. He was very pleasant and gave us a very good idea of where to go. He also informed us that while the route he was suggesting meant that we had to face an immediate hill of some size, but after that hill, it would be virtually all downhill from there.
As we were climbing this hill, pushing our bikes, Margo, I think, spotted this carved stone. "P" on one side, and "E" on the other. It was a border marker from another time.
A few minutes later we passed this waterfall. A little beyond that, there was a sign saying this was "Ye olde smugglers' route 3", or least, a Spanish variation on that theme. I believed it was correct given the low population and the traditional work ethic of the Spanish Official. That they are now tarting it up for tourism makes lots of sense given the lack of EU borders.

If I have used a lot of photos in this entry, it is because it was so beautiful. It was sunny and hot. However, if I were to do it again, I would have cycled 20 km beyond Braganca to the last town before the park the day before to ease the amount of cycling to be done. Margo found it particularly tough. That night she seemed a mite down on herself. To cheer her up, I said to her "There is only one relative of mine of your generation that could have done that any better..." She stiffened at that, fearful that I was about to name her sister and sibling rival, (i.e. my mother) "...and that's Chris!" Whereupon she relaxed as it was very evident Chris had handled the day's exertion better than she had. As well, Chris isn't the threat to Margo's pride that my mother is.

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