Milfontes to Almograve

Milfontes to Almograve
15.46 km in 4 hours 21 minutes
No wind, hot, sweaty

It is only 8 kilometres by road to Almograve but as with any hiking trail, it winds in and out, up and down to turn 8 into 15. We knocked off the first five kilometres in an hour and Brian had visions of being in Almograve by noon. The first part was on pavement and took us across the long bridge to the south side of the river Mira then through a farm gate where a sign warned us to respect the cattle. We skirted the edge of the brown pasture in the shade of cork and acacia trees. I felt sorry for the cattle browsing in the dirt.

A salty mist hung in the still air for half of our hike. This hid the Atlantic from us as did the fact that a good part of the trail drew us away from the cliff edge. We could hear the ocean but not see it.

We could have used a machete today to trim the trail for tall people. We brushed through and under acacias, bamboo and brambles. That was the shady part but otherwise we were on dunes with low vegetation. Brian was eyeing the juniper berries and thinking about making gin. I was only thinking about drinking a cold gin and tonic. It was very hot today with no breeze to cool us. I do not do heat very well.

We came upon a sod farm. The bright green was startling. It matched Brian’s shirt. We do not know where the sod is going. We have not seen much green grass. Perhaps golf courses in the Algarve? Brian told me to slow down so that the large sprinkler rotating to water the field would not get us wet. What was he thinking? I hurried ahead to catch a welcome shower.

We caught up and passed two other pairs of hikers. A mother/daughter duo had left Milfontes half an hour ahead of us. We passed them just before having to descend a steep hill via ladder. The one woman looked as if she wanted to approach the ladder a different way. I was afraid to watch her. I was glad she changed her mind and followed our procedure. We passed a young couple who had found the first good viewpoint. They were emptying their shoes.

I emptied my shoes after the first nine and a half kilometres. I had tried Brian’s flat footed walking method without success.

As we entered Almograve there was a bar/restaurant. That appeared to be where everyone stopped. The establishment across the roundabout was not collecting as many customers. We had a beer and cream of vegetable soup with bread. Vegetable soup is the standard soup of the day in Portugal. It is usually tasty although it varies in flavour and thickness but is always green.

We arrived a few hundred metres later at our hotel: NaturaMaris. The manager left the neighbouring restaurant to greet us. He asked if we ran here. We were earlier than most arrive from the trail. His hotel has 13 rooms. He has lived in this village all his life. A very nice man. He sat and chatted with us later as we had a drink. Yes, I scored a gin and tonic.

The manager was worried we would not fit in our room. It is the smallest room we have had and the first with twin beds but it is fine. There is a swimming pool and although the manager thought it might be cold, I thought it was awesome, especially after walking an extra 2.39 km after we checked in. This we did so that we could cut a bit off tomorrow’s 22 km.

It sounds as if fish is the best item to order on this evening’s menu. It is sold by the kilogram.

We were disappointed this morning when we went for breakfast at Pao Cafe. They were taking the day off for personal reasons. We were taken care of at another cafe-bar. The selection of pastries was not as great but I was satisfied with an enormous chocolate croissant while Brian had grilled cheese and ham. We both had a freshly squeezed orange juice made from 2 1/2 oranges each, our daily quota of vitamin C.

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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.

Vila Nova de Milfontes

Vila Nova de Milfontes
Hiking the Rota Vicentina or Fisherman’s Trail
20.65 km in 7 hours with pauses, just over six hours moving time

Yes, it takes six to seven hours to walk twenty kilometres when three quarters of it is in soft sand. We got quite the workout today. We did not feel the need to do any of the exercises on the exercise circuit we saw near the end of our hike. There was a light breeze, that kept us relatively comfortable in spite of the bright sun with 25 C. We had very little shade, just a few short pine trees in some parts of the dunes. Fortunately it was not as windy as the last two days or we may have been blown off the cliffs. We were told that it was best to walk this trail from north to south as the wind is from the north and would be in our backs. Good advice! I could empathize with anyone with vertigo. More than half this walk is not for people with vertigo.

Antigua claims it has 365 beaches, one for each day of the year. I think Portugal must have two year’s worth. Admittedly these beaches are colder than Antigua’s but beautiful and quite private. We saw plenty of campers parked in isolated places. It appears
You can camp anywhere as long as you do not want electricity and water.

We were on clifftops much of the way, looking down at beautiful coves and sandy beaches. I must qualify that the beaches in many coves are only there when the tide is low. At high tide water completely hides the sand. This morning we started walking at 8:45; so we had low tide for a couple of hours. We were able to walk on the wet hard packed sand for about a kilometre. I never thought I would say that I liked walking on pavement but I was relieved to be on pavement for the last two kilometres. I was also delighted to find an outdoor bar where I had a beer.

I emptied the sand out of my shoes just before going to the bar. I emptied my shoes three times along our hike. Each time I dumped half a cup of sand out of each shoe. Brian only removed a teaspoon of sand from his. He said that was because of the way he walks. I cannot explain this difference!

The dunes are home to a variety of succulents, one is most prevalent and quite red. Only a few were blooming. I identified thyme. We saw animal tracks but no animals: snake, rabbit, mouse, horses. I did see a black beetle and Brian spotted a lizard.

There were not many hikers: a total of seven going in the opposite direction and four that we spotted well ahead of us. We passed a Roman fort on an island and a sixteenth century fort on a cliff. A small ferry will take people to the island. Surfers swam on their boards more than they stood up.We saw some terrific spills from on high. We think red is a better colour than black for wetsuits. Those ‘seals’ look like good shark bait.

We have another beautiful accommodation although it was not easy to find. It was on the Main Street but at the opposite end from where we entered. It did not have a street number but said a bank was ‘in front of it’. There are four banks in Milfontes. Thy are not close together. The man in the Information Centre looked it up online for us. Note to self: always check the GPS location when we have internet before arriving in a place.

Hot shower and laundry done and we feel like new again. We even have an outdoor clothes line. The wind is up again; so, things should dry quickly. It took six findings to de-sand our socks…seven for mine!

We are in a private house where they have begun to rent out rooms with ensuite. Our bathroom has double sinks with lovely tile and large mirror, shower and bathtub as well as bidet and toilet. Our bedroom is large with double doors that open onto a patio and garden. We have yet to try out the hammock.

 

Porto Covo

Porto Covo
Saturday siesta

Porto Covo is a sleepy seaside town of white painted house with orange tiled roofs and sky blue trim. Every now and then a rebel has painted her door and window trim red. Seagulls swoop, soar and squeal over the gigantic waves crashing on the rocks and sandy shore. We scrunched down on a rock with our backs to the north wind to watch the seagulls and two fishermen. The fishermen perched on rocky outcrops sixty or seventh feet above the waves. They carried rods that were at least twenty feet long and dropped their lines to the water. They were reeling up fish that were probably only six inches long. They often through R.E.M. Back down to the water, just as often hitting the rocks, but the seagulls were quick to snap up the fish.

Bus loads of people arrive all at once walking down the main street armed with cameras or iPhones and selfie sticks. Several people descended the steep steps to one of the beach coves. So did we. Although I was wearing a bathing suit under my skort and top, I opted for wading knee deep into the salty water. I really did not have to enter the water, the waves brought the water to me. Georgian Bay cold is how I would describe it: 68F. One. And flung himself in, swam back with a wave then lay on the beach. Swim over! It is only on the sand at the base of the cliffs that we are sheltered and warm. There are a few benches on the cliff top. These are prime real estate in spite of the wind.

We saw four twenty-something youngsters renting wetsuits and boards. We do not know where they went with their equipment but no one is surfing near the rocks of Porto Covo. There appears to be a longer beach a few kilometres south of us. We should be hiking on that beach tomorrow.

This town has a hippie vine. There is a shop called, Hipiie Chic. According to the small van advertising it, there are subsidiaries in Sines and Milfontes, twenty kilometres either side of here. There is not one but three old Westfalia campers, one of which has been parked at cliffside at the bottom of the Main Street since we arrived. The top is up but we have not seen any people. Many of the cars here are coated with a salty dust. Long graying hair, long flowery skirts or flowing pants are the norm, topped by long wool sweaters or down jackets. Many people smoke but thankfully this is not allowed indoors. It is still allowed at the outdoor tables.

The Saturday market was happening just behind the churrosqueria where we had our morning coffee, fresh orange juice and shared a gigantic pastry. We walked up and down the side streets to discover the small grocery stores. At the market we bought two small rounds of cheese, one of them sheep, the other, goat and apples. At the grocery store we bought prosciutto and at another store I successfully ordered three fresh buns for Sunday morning at 8. At least I think my Portuguese worked. We will know tomorrow at 8.

Pizza for lunch was Alenteja style: thin crust with thin slices of chorizo, onion and olives. Very good.

Most stores closed at 1 PM for siesta and do not open again until 3PM; so, it is
Siesta time for us too.

Tomar to Porto Covo

Tomar to Porto Covo
267 kilometres by train to Lisbon then bus via Setubal
10 AM to 6 PM with 3.5 hours near the Oriente station in Lisbon

Without a car it is not easy to go from Tomar to a small town on the west coast. Porto Covo is the beginning of the fisherman’s walk. Getting information online or in person was not easy or it was conflicting. No trains go there and the bus employee in Tomar did not know much past Lisbon unless we were going to the Algarve. The ticket agent in Lisbon was more knowledgeable. It was good that we bought our ticket upon arrival in Lisbon just past twelve because the 3:30 PM bus was full.

We filled in our waiting time with lunch and walking. The very large Vasco da Gama mall was right across the street from the Oriente train/bus/metro station. We had no desire to spend our time going to Lisbon Centre only to come back. We found the food court in the mall then shared a large plate of Chinese food from stools looking out at the sparkling Tejo estuary.

Then we went for a windy walk along the water. At 25 C the breeze was welcome. We alternated between sun and shade, watched the gondolas overhead and fishermen setting nets from their small boats that were bouncing in the choppy water. We passed sculpture evidence of Expo 1998. The shopping mall itself had two tall towers on either end, the fronts of which were curved like the prows of ships.

Most of the countryside we have passed today has very brown dry ground even though the trees look healthy and green. We saw a herd of cows, the only cows we have seen that were not colourful life size sculptures. We also saw as many as twenty horses at a time, either white or brown. Before today we had only ever seen one white horse here and there.

The earth became more and more sandy as we headed south of Lisbon. Instead of fruit trees there are cork and pine trees. The pine trees look like overgrown mugo pines, lollipop style.

We arrived in our little tourist beach town (1000 people…maybe not that many today). The Rua Vasco da Gama is the Main Street leading straight to the ocean. It is also the street for our lodging. Less than a block from the shore, we rang the bell at number 48. An older bent over thin Portuguese woman answered and pointed us up the street telling us in Portuguese this was the street but our room was opposite the campground, past where we got off the bus.

This room above the owner’s surf shop is not a palace or a monastery but it is clean. The biggest improvement would be if we did not have to share a bathroom. The owner has had this place in the ‘new’ part of town for seven years but he is still known as ‘lot 48’. One day he will have a real address and people wanting a room will not have to disturb the lady first. His surf shop is not thriving but renting rooms is going well; so, he is going to convert his shop into rooms and add s suites. Good idea!

It appears that this beautiful each location is bringing an increasing number of people here who want to spend months at a time. There is a condo building boom in progress.

We have not tested the water yet but we won’t stray far as the waves are way too big for us. We still have to find the beginning of our fisherman’s trail. I now know what Imammgoing to do with the four long sleeve tshirts I have…layer them and wear them. That is a stiff Atlantic breeze. The parkas some are wearing seem a tad too much!

We have learned how to order supper. We ordered one soup, one salad, one pork entree and one piece of fig cake then we shared. We should be able to sleep better tonight. We dined at Ze Inacio’s at the suggestion of our concierge. The place was packed with locals; therefore, the right place to eat.

Tomar

 

Tomar
Home of the Knights Templar
140 kilometres by train from Aveiro

What an incredible place: our lodging, the Convento do Cristo, our supper at Sabores so Rubao. Magnifico!

I am so glad because as we stood on the bare platform in the middle of nowhere at Lamarosa station, I was beginning to question our sanity at coming to Tomar. Of course it would have been my fault if after 4.5 hours of train with two transfers and waiting at stations, this had been a bad decision since I planned this.

I made a great decision. I do not know how we are getting to Porto Covo from here, but I am so happy we came here. I love Tomar. When we got off the train at almost 4 PM, we only had to walk two blocks to our lodging: Conde de Ferreira Palace. It did not have an encouraging entrance that made us think we were entering a palace or even a hotel. There was no sign to say we had arrived. I cautiously entered a huge wooden door. A young land was working on a laptop and looked up from his paper filled table. I asked if there were rooms here. He pointed me to the young lady in the corner who hurried to greet me. She asked if I was alone since she had a reservation for two of us. I told her my husband was waiting below in the yard. Brian did not want to climb the stairs if we did not have the right place. I waved him up.

The concierge gave us a tour of the house starting across the hall with the dining room then our bedroom. Our room is 24 feet by 30 feet with 12 foot ceilings, a chandelier tall casement windows and doors, ensuite with shower and a door to our balcony which has a stairs to the grapevine covered garden below.

Our guide took us into the private quarters of the father and son who live here. This mansion which takes up most of a city block with two foot thick stone walls has been in the family for two hundred and fifty years. She also showed us to the space for guests from the eleven guest rooms. We have access to a salon and library with drinks and cake laid out for us. She gave us a map of Tomar and told us how to walk up the hill to the Templar Castle and Convento de Cristo. She gave us directions to her two favourite restaurants, not tourist ones. She also gave us two massive keys on an orange bell pull rope so that we could get back into the house and our room. We had to hustle to get to the castle before closing time.

Half way up the hill a tuk tuk driver offered us a ride for five euros. This seemed excessive but we did not want to miss our visit; so, we took it. Have I said how great it is to be a senior in Portugal? You show ID that you are sixty-five or over then you pay half price. It cost us six euros each for our train trip and three euros each to tour the monastery. Climbing the parapets of the castle was free. It turned out that we had until 6:30’PM to tour everything. We took that long. The place is massive and beautiful with incredible detailed stone carvings, painted murals and domed ceilings. There sure were a pile of monks living here back in the sixteenth century. I will have to research this place.

We had a couple of beer below in the town centre by the river while waiting for our restaurant to open. Sabores ao Rabao lived up to its name of Best Tastes. Brian had Roquefort Steak and I had grilled cod, both with homemade chips or fries and a medley of vegetables. We could. It even think about dessert.

The temperature rose to 28 today but is down to 20C tonight.

Life is good!

 

Aveiro: Day 2

Aveiro
Quiet walking around day

Admist English speaking tourists in the dining room of our hotel we had a delightful breakfast. Our server was very entertaining. She sang a song, cheerfully brought us scrambled eggs and bacon, made espresso for those who wanted it and told us stories. The buffet had plenty of fruit including blueberries, pineapple and mango. As well as croissants and toasts, yogourt, cereal, Nutella cake and another cake were offered.

I had a message waiting for me at the front desk. Daniel gave us the name of a restaurant where we can meet him for supper. John and Kim will join us.

We spent some time today considering our next location. Eliane is going to take the bus to Nazare and hopes to heal her ankle on the beach. Walking is not doing her any good. We booked a hotel in Tomar and will take the train there. We still have to look up the schedule.

We walked around Aveiro. Brian found a shoe repairman to sew some stitches into his sandal. The man was very meticulous in finding a matching blue thread and triple stitching the problem. He asked for half a euro. Brian gave him more!

We went back to the same cafe for lunch. Eliane and I had enormous salads. Mine was topped with the equivalent of a can of tuna. Brian helped me with mine. He had a goat cheese wrap.

Later we were in need of an ice cream cone. I had dark chocolate ginger. Awesome! Brian had chocolate. Eliane had a nap. We walked through a large three story open air shopping mall. All the American brands were there. We were not tempted to walk into any store. The fish market was more interesting, but we did not fill our pockets with raw fish.

This was also laundry day. A pleasant breeze is drying our belongings hanging in the window.

We ran into John and Kim twice and will find them again shortly studying the craft beer selection.

 

Aveiro

Gaia to Aveiro
By train 73 km

We took a walk down to the port and toured the market. Since it was not market day there were only a few fish, fruit and vegetable stalls. The 2.5 kilometre round trip walk gave a good leg cardio workout. Steep hill. Lots of different patterns and colour of tiles in narrow streets.

We said our goodbyes last night and this morning as our group dispersed. Kim and John took a taxi with us to the train station where we waited in line for tickets. Eliane found us there when she arrived from Porto. Eliane flew into Porto yesterday from Roanne.

The train to Aveiro was quite full but quick: about 50 minutes. Only 3.15 euros for what was considered to be the slow train. Six times more if we wanted a fast train. We are not in a hurry.

We walked to our hotels from the train station, less than two kilometres. Once we had our directions working with google maps we were much more confident a out where we were going. Eliane twisted an ankle on the cobblestone streets. This type of walkway is pretty with designs but hard on ankles!

What a beautiful town! I love looking at the architecture of each place. Besides lots of colourful azulejos (tiles), there are many unique carvings decorating buildings and several bronze statues. We had a simple lunch of teas and sandwiches at an outdoor tea shop. I loved the combo of goat cheese, apple, walnut and lettuce. I had tea from the Azores. Brian still had beer.

We went for a boat ride in the canals in a moliceiro (a traditional canal boat used for moving salt from the salt marshes. There is a slightly bigger boat with shorter stern that was used for hauling seaweed. Now both types of boats only haul tourists. There are twenty-five boats motoring around the canals showing off the sights. There were only three of us on our tour and it was given in French which worked well for Eliane and me. Brian understands most of what is said. The guide pointed out the locks that only open at high tide so that these natural canals can be kept at the same level. They were pretty small locks compared to the ones we were in this past week.

After a brief rest in our room we went to the craft beer pub half a block from our fabulous hotel. There are 140 different beers available. John and Kim showed up there after a walk around town. John thought there might be enough beers to try for a couple of days.

We asked the proprietor where the locals dine and he suggested a few places, one of which was the restaurant under our hotel. He did tell us that he owned it but that truly it was good food. He was on his way to dine there with his wife and children. The hotel, OC Salon Charm is owned by his mother in-law. A family affair! The hotel was built in the forties and was purchased three years ago. It is a charming hostel that also has private rooms and beautiful furniture and decor. It is also close to the centre of everything.

We were totally satisfied with our wonderful dinner in the restaurant below. Only Eliane had cod as the rest of us have had plenty of cod lately. Our salmon, beef and pork dinners were all delicious. We declined dessert. I know our fellow kayakers will find that hard to believe.

Kim and John walked the two blocks to their hotel. I convinced Brian to go for a ten minute walk to start the digestion process.

Arrived!

Crestuma to Gaia
5 hours 35 minutes
Including lunch and a river rescue
22.5 km

Three cheers for all of us! We made it back to Porto and the mouth of the Douro River. This is the first time that Brian and I did a multi-day kayak trip. This was true for many of our companions. I had reservations about sitting in a kayak for hours each day as I have more experience hiking. I am happy to report that I loved the trip and I had a full body workout. It’s a good thing I did because I sure consumed a lot of calories. I am hoping the scales will also show that I burned most of what I consumed, but I have my doubts.

Hats off to Jack and Rui for organizing this exciting adventure. It was not always easy for Jack to lead such a good looking group as we kept paddling ahead or too far into the middle of the river. Many thanks to Jack, Rui, Carlos and Daniel for their patience, good humour, wit and diligence in keeping all of us safe, well nourished and well accommodated. We can heartily recommend the Douro Kayak Expedition.

The team even knew how to order perfect weather with fewer headwinds than normal and lots of sunshine.

That coconut cake did resurface at breakfast as requested along with the largest croissants of this trip. Fruit, yogourt, a variety of cheeses and ham were on the table with our coffee and hot mile for cafe com leite. Perfecto.

We had asked Jack how long it would take us to reach Porto. He was rather vague about that but I think it might have been because we started arriving in Greater Porto fairly soon with the tide in our favour and no strong headwinds that lasted too long.

We pulled over for a pit stop after 45 minutes of paddling. That seemed too soon but we had already covered 5 kilometres. It was a very interesting beach bar with old bicycles suspended from the ceiling.

We lunched on the beach at Oliveiro where our picnic team was waiting for us in the shade of eucalyptus trees with a view of the first of Porto’s six bridges.

We had to watch out for fishing lines as many men were above us along the river bank with their long poles and longer lines. Usually we could kayak under their lines rather than around them. Lots of folks took photos of us as we were certainly a colourful flotilla, much smaller than the river taxis and many tourist boats motoring up and down the river.

By now we were pretty experienced with avoiding being tipped over by other boats’ wakes. Unfortunately one sideways wave caught Gary and flipped him over. He came up laughing. Eric was able to empty Gary’s kayak and a family team went to work to ensure Gary’s safe arrival on the riverbank. Brian’s rope bracelet was put to good use. Gary in his kayak was towed back to a shipyard. All of us kayaked back to there and waited for Carlos and Rui to arrive with the van. Then we continued obj our triumphant conquering of the Douro River.

I have written this missive while reclining in sunshine at our IBIS Gaia Hotel. Our room faces the bird sanctuary at the Atlantic Ocean. It’s time to walk down to the riverbank for a fish dinner grilled on outdoor barbecues.

Quinta de Santa Cruz

Entre dos Rios to Melres
15 km in 3 hours
Lodging at Quinta de Santa Cruz above the Douro River

Brian and I slept in this morning. The rest of the group kayaked 8 kilometres in two hours before we met them at 11 AM. We needed five and a half hours of sleep. We took a break from eating last night, not intentionally. We were just eating soup when I needed air. I passed out before I got any. The next thing I knew was that Brian was holding my hand and Carlos was calling an ambulance and giving particulars of my situation. The ambulance arrived very quickly. In spite of my saying I was okay, my temperature was 35C and I was clammy. The ambulance attendant was very sweet even though she would only let me wet my lips when all I wanted a glass of water. I really was confident I did not need to go to the hospital but the ambulance driver was just as certain that I did, to protect himself as much as me. Had I known that the hospital was 20 kilometres away I would have been more insistent about not going. Rui accompanied us as interpreter. I could understand much of what was said but could not think how to respond appropriately in Portuguese. Before we got to the hospital Brian looked more in need of a doctor than I did. The winding hilly roads, many covered in cobblestones, bounced the boxy ambulance around causing motion sickness.

After five hours of waiting to see a doctor while watching Saturday night dramas unfold and broken limbs being set into casts, all we wanted to do was go to bed. It was finally sorted out that I had been given the wrong colour of wrist band and taken to the wrong waiting room; so, I had missed hearing my name being called to see a doctor. It was then assumed that I had left the hospital and did not need a doctor. My file was closed. I figured I had passed the test that I was fine after sitting for five hours; so, Carlos, Rui and Daniel, who had also been waiting drove us back to the monastery. The good news is that the ambulance ride did not cost us anything. The caring and support I received from the Kayak Douro Expedition team was outstanding. Brian said I had a history of fainting in church even though I have not done so for a long time and certainly not while eating.

Besides being tired, as everyone else is after kayaking, I feel great. I think I needed to drink more water.

Just in case anyone is wanting to buy an incredible property that boasts two million trees, the 95 year old owner of Convento de Alpendurada will entertain offers of ten million. Euros or dollars? Negotiable.

We had less wind today although we had gusts of ferocious wind that made us paddle vigorously. Brilliant sunshine with 25C and a light breeze felt good. We passed under two very high modern looking bridges at Entre dos Rios (where the Tameka River meets the Douro). There was a statue of a large golden angel beside one of the bridges. This was in memory of the people who died fifteen years ago when one of the bridge pillars collapsed. A bus and three cars plummeted into the Douro. Some bodies were never recovered. Some were found upriver in Spain.

The forested hills continue with more eucalyptus stands, cork trees, large oaks. After a couple of sandy beach stops we exited our kayaks onto a dock at Melres. We had to wait for our table of sixteen to be reset since we’re were more than an hour late arriving. We had the specialty of the riverside restaurant: patiniscas (round cod fritters), tomato rice and tomato salad. Our drink was served in cold pitchers: a blend of vinho verde and white wine.

When asked after lunch if we wanted to get back in our kayaks and paddle across to the sandy beach to practise rolling our kayaks or go to our hotel, one of our number responded for all of us, “That is like the choice between stabbing my knee with a fork or having an espresso. I’ll have the espresso.”

Our trio of vans and jeep with kayaks loaded took us back up river to a fabulous estate called Quinta de Santa Cruz. The original chapel was built in the 1700’s. The rest of the main house in which we have awesome rooms was built in 1888. The current owner is the grandson of the owner who restored this estate after it had been abandoned for twenty years. The grandfather established his business of extracting sand fro the river. This practise is no longer permitted. The grandson has some ships to sell. Brian and I hiked on winding roads higher up the hill and looked down on the house and river much farther below it. Groves of various hardwoods and fruit trees were planted in terraces.

Our bathroom with towels colour coordinated with the beautiful red and white tiles wins the prize for most striking decor.

Our cheerful family of kayakers is punch drunk on food, wine and the magic of the Douro. Still stuffed from lunch we sat down at an elegantly laid table at our Quinta. The owner and three male servers carefully laid plates of appetizers, then soup, followed by potatoes and cod baked with mayonnaise, then platters of lamb and beef with roasted potatoes and carrots, bowls of salad. Bowls of rice were largely ignored. Each course was whisked away while vinho verde and water were continuously poured. There were plates of bread on the table and a multigrain bun at each place but everyone was slowing down in food consumption. We kept apologizing that we were too full from lunch to consume all this awesome food. And then the desserts came out and we turned into ravenous wolves. Coconut cake, caramel apple crumble, chocolate mousse with almond cookie straws, bowls of melon and strawberries disappeared in the blink of an eye. Although there were still leftovers we took care of more desserts than main courses. Groaning as we rose from the table we are hoping to see the desserts show up on our breakfast buffet.