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Monday in Milfontes

Monday Rest in Milfontes
Casa das Hortensias

Since this is a holiday and not a race, we have taken some rest days. This is one of them.

Notes about the Rota Vicentina: the trail is marked with green and blue stripes which closely match flora and sky. I think some volunteers from the Bruce Trail could highlight the trail with a white stripe. According to the Vicentina website, the trail is well marked. Not as well as the Bruce Trail! It was not uncommon to find signs that read, “Skirt the dunes. The next marker is in 2 kilometres (or 3 km!)” This would be okay if the path you were walking did not have several paths crossing it. The good news is that you always want to keep the Atlantic on your right. With a little luck, you will not fall over a cliff or find yourself at high tide with no beach left. It is useful to download a GPS file that some kind soul has uploaded to the net. Carry extra water. We each went through 1.25 litres. The whole trail system which includes the historical way and several side loops is four hundred kilometres. We are not doing all that! This hike is through a national park. There are very few habitations between stopping points. We did not eat much while hiking but it is a good idea to have some food with you: nuts and fruit is what I like best.

We walked six kilometres this morning in Milfontes, admiring small courtyards full of trees and flowers including birds of paradise, palm trees, hibiscus. Mandevila, roses, bougainvillea and many I do not know. We walked the beaches on the shore of the River Mira. We will be hiking the beach on the far shore tomorrow. We sat in the sand and watch the waves crash at the mouth of the river until they were high enough to reach us. None of the three churches was open. They are all relatively small.

We walked back into town to our favourite cafe/deli. After four visits there we think we are recognized patrons. Pao Cafe is a very busy place. You pay for what you want then you hand your numbered order to a server who is behind a very long counter of delicious pastries, cakes and tarts. We shared chocolate almond cake with espresso for our dessert last night. This morning we had our breakfast of bacon quiche and cafe com leite. For lunch we had a hamburger in a baguette with cafe com leite and came away with a caracol: a specialty that looks like a twisted cinnamon roll but it is made with port. We could not taste port but it was sticky delicious. We have browsed the shelves of the deli/mini grocery store a couple of times.

We ate our shared plate of mixed fish at Tosca da Vila last night. The chef grilled everything at the wall of charcoal. Very good. Along with salad and drinks, our meal was 17 euros. We had a beer at the neighbourhood bar. We are “spreading the wealth” where the locals dine.

Our cleaning lady just removed all the sheets from the outdoor lines since a few drops of rain are falling. It is probably the first rain in months. It was not forecast but we are completely overcast. Highly irregular. A good thing the hammock is under shelter.

The Forte Sao Clemente was built at the end of the sixteenth century to defend the mouth of the river from pirates. Although classified as a building of public interest, it is a private home, not for public viewing on the inside.

The buildings here are nearly all painted white but the trim is varied: bright yellow or blue or red mostly. One newer set of condos stands out with a mosque look: domed roof tops and many tall narrow chimneys, all in a yellow sand colour with no trim.

I am intrigued by the variety of chimney tops throughout town.

We went ahead and booked our next few nights of accommodations as along our hiking trail, there are not many places.

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Regua

Regua
50 000 people, the biggest (only) city on the Douro besides Porto
7 1/2 hours on the river for 24 kilometres including an hour for lunch, 90 minutes waiting for and in the lock, plus an hour for pit stops and swim break

An amazing day! One of the first things Dad showed us as kids when we moved to Niagara were the locks at Thorold. We saw them from above and below and when we were old enough to drive visitors to the Niagara attractions, that was often on the itinerary. Today I was in a lock for the first time, in a kayak, along side a “medium” sized cruise ship. It looked pretty enormous to me. We arrived half an hour early for our appointed time to descend the river 115 feet in the lock. We rafted together along the river bank and waited for a cruise ship to ascend the river in the lock. Jack was told we had to be in the lock with another cruise ship. We had follow this ship into the lock with its black smoke billowing at us. Jack convinced the lock controller that we had to paddle to the front of the lock rather than die of asphyxiation.

Once there it took considerable negotiation with a lady on the ship acting as translator for the captain to convince him that once we had descended and the gate opened, he had to wait for us to exit first and that we would paddle to the left and wait for the ship to exit and continue down the river. I was hanging onto the ladder on the wall with John and Brian rafted beside me. The lady kept saying we would be crushed. That was not encouraging. She said we should never have been allowed into the lock with a cruise ship. We rather agreed that it would have been nicer if we had gone in on our own! The rest of our kayakers were rafted together on either side of the wall in front of the ship.

The good news is that all of us survived and I am here to write this tale. Since I was the one on the wall, the water raining from on high all fell on me. I was happy to be wearing my broad brimmed hat and delighted that it was another hot day. Once again I felt extremely small as we went down and the concrete wall in front of us grew ever higher. One hundred and fifteen feet is a big wall. We exited under water that showered us from the gate. The cruise ship passed us after we were out and we exhaled.

An hour later we were more than ready for our picnic lunch on the river bank. There were two swings strung up in a tree looking out to the water. Swinging was glorious. Our roast chicken, salad, potato chips and melon was pretty awesome too.

Kathy and Gary were celebrating their fifty-second wedding anniversary so they left us for the afternoon while we paddled 12 more kilometres.

Swimming was great. I do not usually like to sift around in a wet bathing suit but when it is so hot, I can make an exception. It was slightly cooler today, a mere 93F. I kept my long sleeved rash guard and skort on for my swim. In about an hour I was mostly dry and no longer enjoying the cooling effect of wet clothes.

We saw more vineyards and more rocks. We saw our first ferns growing out of rocks close to the water. We also saw huge patches of bamboo, an invasive species I would think. Herons glided across the river. Dragon flies buzzed by. A few songbirds flitted through the trees. People harvesting grapes called to us from the hillsides as we passed by.

At every bend, and there are many, we cross the river as a group looking out for cruise ships in either direction. Pinhao was our final destination by kayak today, then after a beer at a bar, we drove y van the ten kilometres along the river to Regua. Jack was not able to get permits for all of the locks. Quite okay we think! Plain hotel in the city. Going to The Black Cat for dinner soon.

Montserrat Memorabilia

January 21, 2017

The past two evenings we have reclined on the deck marvelling at the stars. Every now and then someone gets out an iPad to identify a constellation. The brightest star in the sky is the planet, Venus, in the northwest. It is so bright there is a reflection as it descends into the sea. When it disappears into the water, that signals bedtime, usually around 9:40 PM. I am not positive as I am often among the first to head for bed. We do not often, if ever, observe the heavens as long in Ontario, as we need more clothing and/or insect repellent. No mosquitoes send us for cover here.

Each evening one cruise ship sails past from north to south. While at Hank’s we watched the sun set with a sailboat in the foreground, a barge of sand crossing through the sun and platoons of brown pelicans putting on a comic air show crashing into the sea. What a pleasurable way to eat our seafood platters and drink Carib beer or rum punches.

Last night, for the first time we pulled our blanket, a duvet cover, over our single sheet. The temperature must have dropped to 25C.

The last two night’s the roosters crowing in the wee hours have been seriously in need of voice lessons or someone has been murdering them. For sure they have failed Crowing 101.

This morning after yoga and a swim in the pool we went to the Hilltop Coffee House in Brades to have their Saturday special of waffles with delicious coffee. After David Lea gave us a tour of his photo and memorabilia collection, we decorated our waffles with whatever pleased us from the dishes assembled on the bar: blueberries, raspberries, pineapple, shredded coconut, chocolate, raisins, peanuts, chocolate sauce or male syrup and whipped cream. No sugar highs here!

David and his wife Sun have been here since their hippie days. Their son, Sun, gives tours of Plymouth. He was not available for us. David has been involved in several video productions about the volcano eruption and Plymouth. He also authored a book, Through My Lens, about Montserrat which include his photo collection about the volcano, Plymouth and George Martin’s Air Studios. His photos cover the walls and the tabletops under glass. He also has posters from those early days as well as signs and memorabilia recovered from Plymouth and the buried Belham Valley Golf Course. David is the local historian, a very engaging host.

We found Plymouth Nuts in the narrow aisles of Ashoks’ grocery store. Benjamin’s factory is just down the hill in Brades, but not open on Saturday.

The waves are big again. Yahoo! And the sky is cloudless blue. The volcano is very clear. All we were missing was a water ready camera with a photographer in the water to get our ten bobbing heads with the volcano in the background.

We ordered roti for tonight from Joe’s wife. Joe just delivered them. We are having an awesome chocolate birthday cake a day late for Al, but just right for my sister.

Happy birthday, Rosemary!

Many Hands

January 19, 2017

Top left: the Taj, bottom photo: Nevis on the horizon with Redonda to the right

Many hands make light work. This morning between yoga and swims in the pool many tasks were looked after. I weeded, trimmed and sprayed plants with a soapy solution. Others removed old screens in preparation for new ones to be installed, cleaned louvres, added feet to chairs, measured for replacement cushions for wicker furniture. Local workers came and went: a productive morning.

This afternoon felt extra hot, quite still. Sleeping and reading in the shade were the preferred activities. I was perusing the book about the flora and fauna of the Eastern Caribbean. Fascinating. I might even be able to identify a few more plants and birds. Roosters and chickens are plentiful everywhere, but not exactly native species

Al and Barb drove to the airport to pick up our next two Canadian guests, Peter and Sharon. Our party of ten is now complete, or it will be as soon as they arrive. Bryan and Susan met with the gardener while Pam and John are busy preparing a fish feast. Brian and I walked to the beach at Hank’s Bar. Brian tried fishing while I walked the beach being entertained by twenty pelicans and a couple of frigate birds. We had a lovely swim. The water was the calmest it has been.

Looking forward to a full starry night.

Hiking to Rendezvous Bay

January 18, 2017

We are frequently awake to greet the day before 7 AM. The 5 AM call from the rooster has nothing to do with this. It is light from 6 AM to 6 PM; so, more daylight than we are used to at home at this time of the year.

Brian brings me my orange juice followed by tea but since it is so beautiful to read the Owen Sound paper looking out at the morning sea, I take my cup of tea out of the bedroom. I am keeping up my thirty minute yoga habit. After a leisurely breakfast I was surprised that folks were rushing to be ready for a 9:30 AM departure for our hike to Rendezvous Bay. I thought we still had an hour. For some unknown reason my iPad had not switched to island time so I was an hour behind schedule. I still was ready in time for ride north to Little Bay.

We walked past the concrete block factory to access the trail to Rendezvous any, the only white sand beach on the island. It was a hot walk to the top on a narrow path where we watched our feet diligently to avoid the prickly acacia. We had to stop now and then to admire the view back to Little Bay where sailboats bobbed and container ships glided. We picked our way down carefully to Rendezvous, fortunately more shaded as sweaty rivulets already ran off my chin. What a delight to shed running shoes and shorts and plunge into the sea. Brian scolded me for swimming out too far but it was sublime!

It took us an hour and a half to hike 3.5 kilometres, an ascent of 172 metres and descent of 189 metres. We spent an hour and a half swimming and walking or tossing a frisbee on the beach, also chatting with an American couple who had kayaked around to the bay in twenty minutes. They almost got flipped out of their ocean kayak by a big wave, but they managed to keep it upright.

Upon our return all eight of us were more than ready for a drink at Johnny Ponts’ restaurant, built into the hillside by Little Bay. Even I had a Carib beer even though beer is not typically my drink of choice. I followed it with a rum punch that almost flattened me. I was content to have a spicy pumpkin soup followed by a green salad while others had the full meal deal of Wahu (fish), ribs or chicken accompanied by potato, salad and veggies. As we ate and chatted we watched hummingbirds and banana quits dart in and out of the foliage and boat paraphernalia that dangled from the ceiling.

Bryan was alert enough to drive us back to the Taj where everyone settled in for a siesta.

Then a dip in the pool to wake up. Life is wonderful!

 

Volcano Watching

January 17, 2017

Barb, Kate and Fran, I know you especially want to know who won at cards. Although the men won the first game, the women whomped them in the second game.

Last night the loud downpour drowned out the tree frog serenade.

We saw more of the Soufriere Hills Volcano summit today than on any previous occasion. Streaming stacks of smoke continuously puff up from the summit.

The midday sun has a somnolent effect and draws us to recline in the shade or even to retire to our beds and doze. Of course we have to store energy to walk down to the beach. Although it is a ten minute walk, we do detours to make it at least a twenty minute hilly walk. We see plenty of beautiful homes and flowers: hibiscus, bougainvillea, azaleas and flowers the names of which I do not know. When we ascend to the Taj we need another swim in the pool followed by gin and tonic or a rum punch with nuts and or cheese.

Barb and Al met Montserratian Benjamin on the plane coming down. Apparently he has a cashew processing plant and sells Plymouth Nuts. We have tried to find his factory but so far no one even knows who he is and has had not heard of Plymouth Nuts. Apparently there was a time when cashews were grown on the island, but no more. The iguanas are happy lounging in the plentiful almond trees.

Chicken is on the menu this evening and Barb and Al are today’s chefs.

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Showers and Sun

January 16, 2017

Rain, Sun, Rain, Rainbow

It’s a loud downpour this evening after a day of intermittent light showers and sunshine.

A tough day: I read a lot, sometimes sitting in sunshine, sometimes retreating few feet to be sheltered from a shower. I enjoyed swimming in the pool and in the sea. The waves were enormous in the sea, fun to be in if you were tall enough to get past the breakers and able to jump up with the waves or dive into them. We had to time our race to shore between the big waves. Some of our party were too short to safely enjoy the waves.

After an hour and a half power outage we are now ready to challenge the men to a game of pepper.

Rolling Up and Down

From Shap to Kirkby-Stephen: The Old Croft House
8:10 AM to 4 PM
32 kilometres
Ascended 690 metres, descended 729 metres
May 30, 2016

Last night just after dining, a bus unloaded a boisterous crowd of all ages into the Kings Arms. These jolly revellers were all from Shap but they had gone to a christening twenty-five kilometres away. They were very friendly and quick to engage us and other hikers in conversation. They were incensed that at the christening they ran out of food and worse, out of beer, for the eighty invitees.

Our room was on the third floor and at the front of the hotel; thus, above the Main Street of Shap. It is the first time since arriving in England that we could hear traffic noise, and bar noise, from our bedroom. This did not keep us from sleeping. A long day’s walk is good for sleeping.

In the first eight kilometres after Shap, the land is quite barren ( ie no trees), the fields bigger with fewer stone walls and fewer sheep. There are limestone quarries with two large cement factories outside Shap. We wondered if farmers switched to being labourers at the factories for a more secure income. We saw a lot of limestone, with fields that were covered in limestone or only had a thin layer of dirt and grass over the limestone.

The fields became more rolling and greener as we moved eastward. On every horizon we saw high hills, notably the Pennines which we will cross tomorrow. Whereas yesterday’s walk had most of the climbing in the first few hours, today’s climbing was in the last few and here we thought we would be going steadily down. Not so.

We have now left the quiet of the Lake District but we are still very much in rural England. Kirby-Stephen is the largest town we have been in since St Bees which had a population of 1800. Here there are 22 more residents. The smallest was Ennerdale Bridge at 220 with most of the rest in the 300 to 500 range. There are three fish and chip stores in town. Since we have not yet had fish and chips in England, we have now stuffed ourselves with that at the Archway Fish and Chip shops. With the exception of pubs, all of the stores closed between five and seven including the fish and chip eateries. I was able to buy some blister bandaids before the outdoor store closed. Sadly I have one blister on my big toe.

It did not feel as if we descended more than we ascended. Thirty-two kilometres after yesterday’s gruelling day was no picnic. Brian and I decided that twenty-five kilometres in one day is more than enough. Fortunately we only have one more 25 kilometre day and every thing else is less.

Kirby-Stephen has very interesting architecture. It is a very old market town. There has been a market in the square since 1353. Our B and B is the best yet. We have a large spacious bright room furnished with antiques we love. Rachel and Nick are friendly helpful hosts who provided us upon arrival with a pot of tea, elegant China cups and scones with jam and clotted tea. Bliss.

There is a Romany horse fair in Appleby. There have been horses pulling sulkies with drivers young and old trotting up and down the main street. There really is only one street through town.
In the past few days we saw one red squirrel. Red squirrels are unique to this area of England. Maybe we could ship from home a few cases of red squirrels and chipmunks to England.

We have seen some interesting birds : curlews, falcons, chaffinches, English robins, redstarts and peewits. We have heard more than we have seen. The birds move faster than sheep; so, photos are lacking.

The fields were covered in yellow buttercups today. We also passed three stone circles all of which are said to be 6000 years old. There were archaeological sites but mostly these were not easy to discern without a guide as a pile of stones is pretty common around here. We saw a numbers of abandoned stone barns and houses today. Brilynn, you would have been delighted.

We are glad that sheep and cows are not aggressive as we shared their fields continuously. To pass through each field we had to open and close a gate or climb a stile.  In this area all stiles are made of stone and known as slot stiles. It helps to have long legs to climb over these stiles as well as for climbing many of the fells. Big feet are more problematic, lots of places to get them wedged.

Again we did not pass through any village in nearly eight hours of walking. No cappuccino!