Week 7 Friday Saturday Sunday Portugal
In case you didn't realize it, you can click on the pictures for a bigger images.
22 June 2001
We started our trip only about 30 minutes late, 33 of us from 14 different countries and three generations. After tossing our luggage in the the storage compartment of the bus, we boarded and held still long enough for Helene (from the International Office) to make sure that everyone was onboard.

With the administrative details taken care of, we started on our way shortly after 1730h (5:30pm). We were supposed to leave at 1700h and reach the campsite by 1830h (6:30pm), but guess what! We were a little late getting to the campsite; we finally pulled into the park just after 2100h (9pm) and got our things off the bus. Augusto (our fearful leader for the expedition) told us to get our tents set up and our gear stowed, then be back on the bus by 2145h.

No problemo! For those of us who have been camping, at least. Some of the folks needed a little help figuring out which side of the tent was up, but we all helped each other out and got back just in time. The bus took us the short way to the dining hall so that we could all see the area and get used to our home for the next two days. The two score of us (including a few who joined us and the bus driver) pretty much filled up the small restaurant that we turned into our own dining hall.

My table was a pretty diverse group, with people from 9 different countries. From the bottom left and going around the table: Spain, Italy, USA (Woo Hoo!), Holland, Czech Republic, France, Romania, Sweden, and Brazil.

After dinner, the split into a few groups, and some went on night hikes, while others just headed back to the campsite, but the group I went with headed out to explore the village and join the locals in their late-nite activities. We all had a lot of fun sharing our different experiences and we didn't get back to the 'hotel' (our campsite) until shortly after 2am, and I didn't crawl into bed until well after 3am.
23 June 2001
I planned to get up early in the morning to get a shot at the showers before we were supposed to leave for the day. I was actually woken up by the sunrise, which was spectacular, but only a couple of hours after I finally got to sleep, so I went back to sleep until around 0830h. That's when I grabbed some clothes and bee-lined my way through the cold morning air to the showers.
I returned to find some of the others milling around waiting for the showers and others still trying to wake up. I didn't think we'd all be ready on time, so I sat back and wrote up some of Friday's story on my steno pad. The showers kept going from hot to cold but I felt a lot better after a nice (mostly) hot shower.

Somehow we all made it on time to the meeting area at the campgrounds entrance. Augusto was due there at 0930h with our bag lunches, but he was late, so we all hung out and chatted about Friday night and our plans for the day, which was mostly speculation since Augusto was the guide, and hadn't filled us in just yet.

I took these pictures as we approached the Albveira Vilarinho das Furnas which is a large reservoir behind a dam on the Rio Homen. This is the area we hiked into Saturday.

Before we crossed over the dam, I made my own little trip down to its base to get a closer look. There's the gang hanging out and getting a drink of water before the next part of the hike. As I go further down it really started to sink in how large the dam was and how much water was on the other side.

When I reached the bottom, I could tell that the dam gates hadn't been opened in some time, but the scenery was still pretty nice.

We found a good spot for rappelling and swimming, so we stopped for a while. As hot as it was out there, I decided not to gofor a swim just yet, especially when I heard how cold it was.
I took the chance to do a little rock climbing on my own and started up the side of the mountain. That's how I got the picture on the right.

After a few hours playing around on this part of the mountains, it was time to move on to a new place. We started back along the road. The bus probably could have made it most of the way here, but it's not the same.
At one point we found a rockslide that hadn't been completely cleared and I got Jannie to pose for the picture on the right.

We stopped at one of the waterfalls for a water break, and everyone decided to take some pictures. We ended up taking turns in front of it, and I jumped in the first chance I got. From left to right: Alessandro, Aamir, Giusi, Jannie.

When we found a nice open area along the reservoir, we stopped to cool off from the heat and just relax for a bit. It was like a beach out there, and the water was a little warmer than the last place. Not much, but enough. Everyone got into the act this time, and we stayed there most of the afternoon.
I was trying to teach Jannie to skip rocks on the surface, and made the mistake of standing a few feet beside her. Somehow she managed to pop me right on the nose. I'm just glad we didn't find any big rocks. We stayed well out of her way and she got better. She managed to skip a few just before we left.

We started back to catch the bus at the dam late in the afternoon and rode back to the campsite. The sunlight looked pretty cool over the waterfall, so I took the picture on the right. Once back at the campsite, we got cleaned up and walked up to the restaurant for dinner.

After a great dinner, we headed out to join in the Festa de São João which is a big holiday all over Portugal. I didn't get any good pictures from the local festival because of the strange lighting. Besides, I was too busy dancing around and having a great time. In Porto (a big city) there were people running around with plastic hammers bopping people wherever they went. Here in this very tiny village, one little girl had a hammer, and I talked her into letting me borrow it to get in a few whacks of my own.

We worked our way from the festival to a small tavern to get something to drink, and ended up hanging out there until they closed. Although the locals made some pretty funny comments about us, they joined in on the fun after a little prodding from us.

At one point we went around the room and had each person (or people) give a traditional toast from their country. Each toast was followed by a Portuguese drinking song with the words changed to set up for the next person in line. This eventually turned into a party where we sang drinking songs from our respective countries.

When this place closed down, a group of us went looking for a way back to the campsite. At least that was the plan. We took a wrong turn in the dark and ended up trekking through some very strange places, until we ended up at a country bar off the main road. Most of us found our way back to the campsite, but a few stayed. I remember hearing them returning to the campsite an hour later.

24 June 2001
We got up the next morning and left the campsite to meet the bus by 0900h. The bus took us about 10km (We hiked about that far on Sat) to a place where we could hike up one of the mountains in the area. I stopped about halfway to admire the view and take a picture of it. It's even more breathtaking in person.

Augusto stopped us at one point to scout for a place we could set up to rappel down the mountain, so I got Rogerio to do a quick pose with the two youngest members of our party. As I climbed down from my picture-taking vantage point, Rogerio snapped the one on the right.

We then headed over to find Augusto so we could decide on our next adventure, challenge number 2 for the day. If you look in the picture to the bottom left, that's Augusto on the right side of the picture.

We had a cool bus driver, and he agreed to join us for the day and hike around everywhere. We realized that we should take good care of him since he was the one who would have to get us home. The view (right) was pretty nice.

As we all milled around for a little bit and took a breather, I walked around looking at the scenery in every direction. Augusto promised us lots of big rocks, and he certainly delivered.

Some of us climbed a little higher up the big rocks and posed for a quick shot before moving on to challenge number 3. We all got together and had the driver take a couple of pictures, but the cameras just kept appearing.
Everyone had a camera, and he had to work out a system to keep track of which ones he had used and which he hadn't. There are a few of them pictured on the right above.

We squeezed between some of the rocks that were too large to climb over. We got to know each other pretty well because to get through a lot of the areas we had to help each other out to get up or down. There wasn't really any way to get through some of the areas otherwise.

The pictures to the left were taken as we climbed up a narrow crevice in the mountain. This was one of the more strenuous parts of the day (challenge number 3). It took us about two hours to work our way through the crevice to the peak.

At the summit I found out that we were at an altitude of 1500 meters, and the view was even better than before. I noticed that we weren't quite at the top of this mountain, so I managed to work my way up a little more, then I convinced someone else to join me.

Shortly after I got to the top, we were called down to start working our way back down the mountain. About 20-30 minutes into our descent, Augusto climbed back up and told us there was a slight miscalculation.
Apparently we couldn't get down the way he had started, and we had to go to the other side to find a way down. Eventually we found a reasonable way to get down to the lower lands where we found a path back to the bus.

The bus ride back to the campsite was really quiet because we were all too tired to make a lot of noise. We were resting up to shower and break camp before going to lunch. When we finally reached the campsite, about half of us rushed to the showers while the other half packed and took down their tents. We then got everything loaded onto the bus and headed up to the dining hall to finally have lunch at around 1500h (3pm).

Needless to say, the lunch vanished pretty quickly. We were all famished, and we scarfed our lunches in record time. We kept chatting for a while, though, then began doodling and playing games on the tablecloth (it's paper). Once all the details were taken care of (making sure everything was paid for, etc.) we boarded the bus.

After lunch we headed into Braga, which is considered Portugal's religious capital. We were actually about 5km outside of Braga at Bom Jesus do Monte, which is a pilgrimage site set on a large hill. We visited the Escadaria do Bom Jesus, which is a pretty amazing staircase with allegorical fountains and chapels along the way.

Braga has always been an important centre for culture, commerce and religion in Portugal. The Romans dedicated it to their Emperor and called it Bracara Augusta, making it their Galician head-quarters in 216 BC. The city was repeatedly invaded, then rebuilt by Bishop Pedro (1070-1093), who established it as one of the most important religious centres in the Iberian peninsula. In the 12th century, it became the seat of Portugal's archbishops, and the country's religious capital.

The bus dropped us off at the bottom of the staircase and the driver agreed to meet us later at the top. The little chapels were pretty neat. Each one contained a scene depicting a part of the story of Jesus. I was able to read a lot of the inscriptions (they're in Portuguese) and we had fun talking about them all the way up.

We could see most of Braga from the top of the stairs, which is where I found the cathedral. It was built almost a thousand years ago, and is still a place often visited by pilgrims. There wasn't enough time to
really explore the surrounding gardens, but I did see some of them. I didn't have room to take any more pictures so I'm going to see if I can get some to scan.

Eventually, the time came to meet back at the bus and begin our journey home. We spent the ride home talking to our new friends, and exchanging contact information. The trip was definitely worth the time and effort. I only wish I had time to go on more of these events.

Week 7 Friday Saturday Sunday Portugal

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