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The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Garrano horses at Peneda-Gerês National Park, Portugal

The Garrano Horse at Gerês National Park, Portugal

Wild horses in Portugal at Gerês National Park.

Why are the Garrano horses so important?

In a territory with such ancient boundaries, such as Portugal, and where the human presence is almost everywhere, there are not so frequent wildlife sightings.

When these sightings happen, as it was in this case, it is always an exciting moment.

Garrano is a breed of Iberian horses.

We often tend to refer to Garrano horses as being Portuguese but the fact is the animal knows no boundaries and they can be seen both on the Portuguese side and on the Spanish side.

On the Spanish side, the Gerês (Gerês National Park) is called Xures, very similar.

These are horses of small stature, wrongly often referred to as ponies, adapted to the harsh conditions of the Gerês and with working horse characteristics.

It’s difficult to find the word to express how much I love seeing these free animals in the wild.

They are no longer in danger of extinction as once they were, it is a sign of hope in the future of coexistence between humans and wildlife.

This was a moment to remember.

David Monteiro

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Unknown places to walk – the river Alva dams

Unknown places to walk - the river Alva dams

The river Alva starts in the southwestern part of the Serra da Estrela and goes into the Mondego River upstream of Penacova, around 230km north from Lisbon.

At the mouth of the river Alva, and near Penacova, there are a number of small dams that allow a very interesting walk where we can cross the river several times from one side to the other, as we can see in the photographs of the various walks I led there.

With a good knowledge of the region, it is possible to predict the level of water passing over the dams in such a way that it becomes possible to do the crossings without taking your boots off.

 An unknown location, which does not come in tourist guides but well worth a visit and the hiking is fabulous, especially if it’s finished with a typical regional dinner with dishes such as “Chanfana” or a Lamprey Rice. I will write about these dishes later.

Let’s walk?

I will be expecting you.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2015-12-28 12:37:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Climbing our way up to Canchal de la Ceja – Spain

The day was perfect to climb up to Canchal de la Ceja. The ice was hard, the snow was very firm and the sun was shining … just perfect.

Sometimes is just a question of luck, some other times it’s a result of a good planning but when you get a little of both you might get the best of all, like the day we spent at Laguna del Duque, not too far from Salamanca.

The access to the parking area is some how bizarre because you will need to remove an apparently locked chain that makes you wonder if one day you will arrive there and find it really impossible to open.

At Solana de Ávila you will find a narrow road that will lead you to the weirdest parking area and from here facing the dam wall, on your left you will find a trail, that’s the one.

Please be aware that on the right side of the dam wall there’s a hut you can use in case of emergency.

Usually I do a trail on the right side walking up to the summit, is a nice trail, not too difficult at all, accessible to most of the walkers.

On that day we wanted a more “vertical” wall so the left trail would suite us much better, a more technical way offering a moderate challenge.

The summit, Canchal de la Ceja is the highest point of the “Sierra de Bejar y Candelário” with 2428m and climbing up here via the Laguna del Duque is the most challenging way.

The day started quite foggy and I was not very enthusiastic but by around 10 am the sun came out and the day just turned to be perfect.

It was such a nice that I will repeat it.

Who will join me?

David Monteiro

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Canyoning with the three stooges at Salto de Bierge – Spain

Once in a while I find astonishing  places, truly amazing locations.

It’s not easy for me to point one single place in between so many incredible places I know but sometimes there is something I can’t explain that makes location to shine in a different way it get stuck in my maind.

On the case of Salto de Bierge is quite obvious, just look to the pictures, the spot is definitely wonderful and, I can assure you that what you cannot see gives it even a greater interest.

This small dam of the river Alcanadre is located in the Sierra y Cañones de Guara Park, the Spanish Meca of canyoning. For those who don’t know what canyoning is please check this clip.

After a quite windy canyon the river Alcanadre arrives to a wide area where its waters slows down and spreads along a shallow bathing area.

Around here, besides being a pleasant area for a bath, one can jump from the river dam wall. It’s a 9,5m high wall and the falling will end in deeper waters, egnouphly deep to jump safely.

I came here for the first time on vacations with two friends, I was far from imagining that one day I would guide tours here.

At the time we thought it was a good idea to hire a local guide to l
ead us throughout the canyon, a real treat, really vacations time.

We was so excited that we didn’t pay too much attention to the guy saying: the canyon will require many jumps to the water increasingly higher along the way. The point here was that one of the three stooges was afraid to jump from high places.

As you can imagine it was quite an amusing morning until the moment that we arrived to the river dam wall and I realize that is was impossible for my friend to jump.

I never in the world could imagine he could say what he said: I WILL JUMP!!!!

I grabbed my disposable camera … dreadful camera … but the only one I had at the moment and I jumped to be able to capture his jump from a bottom up angle.

I was so excited that I almost lost the camera. Fortunately I was able to retrieve it.

One step to the void and there he was, the guy that refused all the jumps during all the canyon was jumping from the highest one.

The jump was immortalized in a lousy picture and all the crowd was clapping theirs hands … How did they knew? The third stooge had given short a speech before the jump telling everybody present about what was happening and the second stooge had is moment of glory.

What a day 🙂 thank you my friends for such memories.

David Monteiro

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A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

A hard day at Sierra de Gredos – Spain

The wind was blowing tremendously strong intensifying the wind chill effect and the fog was preventing us to see more than 50m ahead.

I knew the summit Almanzor was not too far from the point where we was standing but we were still missing the most difficult part to climb.

The team was not prepared to overcome such a difficult task and, on top of that there was no point to continue.

I knew everybody was eager to reach the top … we were so close …

“THAT IS IT GUYS … WE HAVE TO RETURN”

It’s hard having to “stop the fun” especially when I knew that everybody had traveled from so far away to climb this mountain but I know today that was the right decision at that time.

(one day earlier)

I can’t say the day before was sunny and with a blue sky, was not. Was kind of foggy day but good enough for a ice climbing introduction and I had the opportunity to explain all the techniques I was supposed to and, at the end was a wonderful working day.

We spent the night at the Refúgio Elola, the local mountain hut and I remember the substantial dinner we had, was something like a goulash in a Spanish way, whatever that is.

The climbing day was supposed to have better weather but Nature has its mysteries and during the night the Gods might had some disagreement in between them.

I slept regularly, in mountain huts I never sleep deeply but the fair amount to rest. Anyway, inside the mountain hut one cannot have the perception of the weather outside.

We left the hut around 5am, just before sunrise. It’s always better to start walking with hard snow.

There was no way to see the clouds and or to assess the weather for the next hours.

Around 8am the weather was already giving us a hard time and we was right before being exposed to the most severe area, we was about to be at the north face of the mountain, the windiest part.

Half an hour later I had all the team tide up to a rock, all prepared to climb the last section but there was when I realized the team couldn’t continue and you know the rest.

I’m joining a picture of the place but with god weather so you can understand where was we 🙂

The mountain is still there so we will try another day.

David Monteiro

 

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Walking to Cape Roca, Europe’s mainland westernmost

Cape Roca
Cape Roca

Have you ever walked to Cape Roca, Europe's mainland westernmost point?

Walking to Cape Roca is a way to prepare my guests for mountain walking tours.

Walking from Guincho to Cape Roca is one of the classic walking trails in Lisbon/Sintra area.

Quite close to Cascais, at Guincho, you will find some trails along the seacoast.

Walking these trails you will have the sensation of “I’m at the end of Europe”.

In fact, you are at the westernmost point of Europe mainland, the Cape Roca (38°46’49.59″N 9°29’56.19″W).

From the Cape Roca, or arriving here, you can walk many different trails.

I am going to focus on only one, from Forte do Guincho to Cape Roca, means from East to West.

North from Guincho, at Abano beach, you can find an XVII century fortress named Forte do Guincho.

This is one of several Portuguese military fortresses built after the revolution of Dec’1640.

An interesting flower to look for and to care for, around here, is the Armeria pseudarmeria.

This species is at risk of extinction both because tourists pick them up due to its beauty during blooming and because it only grows along these cliffs.

Granite is the king of the area.

It offers us magnificent cliffs often with more than 150m/492ft (+/-) high and with standalone rocks.

Some of these rocks look like guardians of the coast, always searching for the enemy boats at the horizon.

The sunsets at the west so one can take amazing sunset photos from the Cape Roca or very impressive photographs of the waves hitting the rocks.​

Map-Guincho-Cape-Roca

I usually come here with Portuguese guests before mountain hiking tours.

The trail is wonderful as a pre mountian tour preparation.

Have fun,

David Monteiro

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Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees – Spain

Walking the Congost de Mont-rebei, halfway to the Pyrenees - Spain

Nothing better like a nice walk to stretch your legs during a long van transfer, even better if is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

After a long flight, there is nothing worse than being seated in a car for 4 hours driving to doesn’t matter where. But that is what can happen when you are traveling to the Pyrenees after landing at the Barcelona Airport if you don’t have a backup plan.

Of course, you can fly to a closer airport like Huesca or Zaragoza. However, there are not many flights to those airports and in the end, it can take more time than getting there by car.

So, what to do to, at least to soften the long car ride? The answer is to stop somewhere nice for a walk and enjoy the place and instead of a long drive you just add an extra interesting day.

I was searching for a walk halfway to the Pyrenees because of the above reasons and this place caught my attention, is the Congost de Mont-rebei.

The Congost de Mont-rebei is the narrowest canyon of the river Noguera Ribagorzana, right in between the provinces of Huesca and Lleida, Spain.

Is located in quite remote hills and until the beginning of the XX century there were no roads to connect some local villages or with the existing roads, it was a very long ride. So, in 1912 a walking trail was built in the canyon to connect Corçà to Alsamora and other tinny little villages.

Later a river dam was also built and the first trail was flooded (you can see that in one of the photos) and was needed to build a new trail again but now in a higher altitude. In 1984 the second walking trail was finished allowing the people to cross from one side to the other.

More recently an iron bridge and some catwalks were added.

Map-Congost-Mont-rebei

The trail (red line) is not too far from Tremp, has 13 Km to each side without relevant elevation gain. Obviously, you can do a shorter distance because the most beautiful part of the trail is the canyon and it goes until the first 8 Km.

Allow me to suggest you take a sandwich or something else to bite, you will find a perfect place to do it, like my colleague in the photo.

Have fun.

David Monteiro

Location: Tremp, Spain

 

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The Way of Saint James

The Way of Saint James

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

What is the Way of Saint James? How did it appear? Why is so important?

More than a pilgrimage is a spiritual journey within us, steps towards to self-knowledge.

The History of the Way of Saint James dates back to the time of the birth of Christianity.

In the middle ages pilgrims came from all over Europe on the road to Santiago de Compostela with the intention to pay a promise or any other religious intent. In this way they contributed to what would later be called the Way of St. James or, as it is known in Spain, “El Camino”.

After an impressive growth over the centuries it felt abruptly to the point of to be counted 40 pilgrims, during the 19th century.

But something happened that made the flame burn again and in 1999 an impressive number of 155,000 pilgrims were counted.

What happened?

This is a long story that I will tell in a few posts.

Keep tuned.

David Monteiro

Originally posted 2013-06-15 09:26:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Walking from Lagos to Burgau – Portugal

algarve-portugal-005

Walking from Lagos to Burgau – Portugal

A 16km’s (10mi) long trail that connects Lagos with Burgau always walking along the coast, without much gain in altitude, is an excellent and relaxed walk.

Walking along the Algarve coastal line is one of many fine activities you can do.

The Algarve’s coast, at the southern area of Portugal, is composed by a very compact yellow sandy rock.

This sand, with such warm color, matches perfectly with the remaining colors.

It is like a painting where the artist want’s to transport us to a summer setting but with such perfection, only Nature can achieve.

This walk is a 16km’s (10mi) long trail connecting Lagos with Burgau.

It goes always along the coast, without much gain in altitude, is an excellent and relaxed walk.

Besides the beautiful sea landscape, there are other points of interest in this walk:
– Farol da Ponta da Piedade (Ponta da Piedade’s lighthouse);
– Caves by the sea level near the lighthouse
– Romans ruins at Luz Beach;
– Overview of the sea and cliffs.

The suggested length of the trail is not compulsory, you can do a shorter trail.

There are many possibilities where to start/end the trail.

One of the places you pass when doing this walk is Praia da Luz.

Praia da Luz is a perfect place to relax for a while. Is where you will find the Roman ruins.

There are many bares and restaurants to have a beer or a snack.

If you are walking from Burgau to Lagos, your last possibility for a nice stop before the lighthouse is at Porto de Mós Beach.

Like many other beach areas, Porto de Mós Beach has a couple of restaurants/bars where you can chill out.

And, in the same way, just before arriving at Lagos you can visit the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse area.

Although is a touristic attraction, is quite iconic and you will find many references in touristic publications about this place.

From here you can take photos that will dive a sense of the place in your photo album.

Something else totally different but worth to notice: you will not find many Portuguese people walking around.

Why?

Well, walking is not YET the “thing” around here.

Have a nice walk.

David Monteiro

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Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Arrabida Natural Park, a special walk (part 4/4) – Portugal

Sesimbra is one of the jewels of this quadrant

South/West Quadrant

When I turn to the quadrant W/S and face down, exactly where we will have to go to get out of here, I see some crosses on the silhouette of the hills to the sea. They belong to the Arrábida Convent complex.

By their modesty and quiet life, isolation and description, this convent always has an aura of mystery around it. Looking at the road we see a complex of old buildings and, further up, across the hills, a set of shrines and crosses that give us the feeling of being meditation cells of the monks of the convent.

The construction of the Arrábida Convent dates back to the 16th century and today covers four structures: the Old Convent, the New Convent, the garden and the Bom Jesus sanctuary.

A local curiosity refers to the existence of a chapel prior to the construction of the convent and it was a place of pilgrimages. A long time ago, four of the friars who came to join the convent, lived for two years in excavated cells … hard life.

Toward the West, we can’t see the village of Sesimbra because is in between two hills. Sesimbra is a small fishing village with a very busy port and also has a beach that is filled with swimmers during the summer. Summer nights in Sesimbra are animated by the numerous restaurants that serve fish dishes grilled on barbecues in the middle of the streets. 

Continuing West we have the Cape Espichel, whose sea view is also fabulous and is an excellent spot for night photography on Full Moon days.

Maybe it’s time to walk down … This is a great walk that I will repeat whenever I can, perhaps in the gallery of the most emblematic walks in Portugal.

One day I will walk up here to stay overnight and see the sunrise.

David Monteiro