May 13  Serra da Estrela National Park

(Ponte das Tres Entradas - Torres - Manteigas - Folgosinho - Casfreires) Breaking camp early, we let ourselves through the camp’s locked gates and returned the key to the drop box. The village was beginning its day, an elderly gentleman pushed his bike across the bridge to the village and a scattering of children waited for the school bus as we followed the Rio Alva north east. A mix of steepland forest, small agricultural terraces, and floodplain agriculture flanked the route to Sandomil where the we left the river and climbed to the plateau. Along the steep forested valley side, wherever a stream provided water for irrigation and the soil was deep enough, small terraces hand cut from the hillside forest and held in place by dry- stacked stone walls were cultivated with hoes and shovels and irrigated with buckets dipped in the stream. Looking down, terraces broke the monotony of forest and stepped down the steep slopes to the verdant, fertile floodplain of valley floor. Once on the plateau, we continued along the M514, passing the towns of Catraia, Catraia da Assamaça, and Santiago to Seia where we began our ascent into the Serra das Estrella National Park. Past the village of Aldeia da Serra, scrubland began to dominate the landscape and became increasingly moor-like. Trees gave way to broom, heather, and rock. The small village of Sabugueiro, at 1100 m and only partly sheltered in a shallow rocky valley felt exposed and isolated. As we continued to climb, the landscape became more barren, glaciers had scoured the land and large boulders scattered the landscape, bedrock was at or near the surface everywhere. What little soil there was supported heather and grasses and the bedrock was green with lichens. We began to pass small reservoirs and then what looked like the stone walls of a medieval fortress but were in reality a masonry dam. Far below lay the plateau we had traversed and the towns we had driven through. Despite the radiant warmth of the sun, the wind was cold and it was a bleak, but hauntingly beautiful landscape. Beside a small meadow, a shepherd's hut sat at the base of large bedrock hummocks tinged green with lichen and accented by the last patches of still gleaming snow, Meadow sedges and heather grew at its stoop. Torres, the highest point in Portugal, was bleak and dirty. A couple of  Department of Defence fibreglass domes, a couple of nearly empty tourist shops, some ski lifts closed for the season, and a large dirty parking lot. However, our descent had the same stark beauty that we found on our way up. Just past the summit we encountered a 7 meter high shrine to Our Lady of the Good Stara, a relief carved into the bed rock. An unpaved path lead down from the road and through a rocky gully to its base where, a small altar bore fresh cut flowers. Our maps had shown a long near perfectly straight route to Manteigas that intrigued us so further along, we took the long gradual but narrow descent through Val de Glacier along  the Zazere River to Manteigas. It was a long U- shaped glacial valley and felt familiar except that we drove  past stone huts and homes, some abandoned, some with a thatch of reeds and branches laid over plastic or newer homes the roof tile so bright an orange that we thought  they must be enameled metal. Even in the valley bottom it is a stark landscape, massive house size boulders fallen from above littered the pastures, one resting beside and dwarfing a stone farmhouse. Two rental motorhomes met an oncoming van but were afraid to pass. The local driver who could see that the RVs had more than enough room to get by refused to backup. After a lengthy stand-off, he eventually needed to get on his way so backed further off to give them another 2 meters of clearance. Fortunately, we parted ways with the motorhomes at Manteigas. Following them up the steep winding ascent back up the mountains would have been unbearable. Thick lush oak and pine forests carpeted with bright new green bracken provided only peek-a- boo views of the valley below. We passed more abandoned stone huts, roofs fallen in, walls crumbling and  more stone terraces some overgrown and failing, some still maintained and freshly planted before emerging back onto the rock, broom, and pine pocked heights. We headed off to the mountain village of Fol- gosinho and discovered an unspoiled village, no souvenir shops, no restaurants, no tourists, only a group of villagers sitting and gossiping at the local tanque (laundry pool). A tile faced alcove with taps and a small pool for drinking water faced a much larger tiled pool of crystal clear water, covered by an open shed with a red tile roof. Laundry hung from lines, drying in the sun and buckets and pails were scattered about. It was indeed so unspoiled that I felt uncomfortable and out of place with my cameras and strange clothes, an interloper, a voyeur and intruder and we did not linger. Leaving Folgosinho, we continued our descent and headed north to a new camp. It was a clean, spacious, well shaded, well maintained campground operated by two new owners. The young Portuguese brothers Victor and George, George’s wife Lydia, and their receptionist Daniella were so friendly and helpful that  Sheila described them as cuter than a pack of puppies.
`
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map Morning rush hour on the Pont das Tres Entradas. Small vineyard terrace climbing out of the Rio Alva valley. The town of Siea on the plateau. Glacier scoured high plateau and distant lower plateau Torres, the highest point in Portual. Beautiful bleak landscape approaching the Val de Glacier The plateau just before our descent to  Goveia. The public laundry tanque at Folgosinho.

May 13  Serra da Estrela National Park

(Ponte das Tres Entradas - Torres - Manteigas - Folgosinho - Casfreires) Breaking camp early, we let ourselves through the camp’s locked gates and returned the key to the drop box. The village was beginning its day, an elderly gentleman pushed his bike across the bridge to the village and a scattering of children waited for the school bus as we followed the Rio Alva north east. A mix of steepland forest, small agricultural terraces, and floodplain agriculture flanked the route to Sandomil where the we left the river and climbed to the plateau. Along the steep forested valley side, wherever a stream provided water for irrigation and the soil was deep enough, small terraces hand cut from the hillside forest and held in place by dry-stacked stone walls were cultivated with hoes and shovels and irrigated with buckets dipped in the stream. Looking down, terraces broke the monotony of forest and stepped down the steep slopes to the verdant, fertile floodplain of valley floor. Once on the plateau, we continued along the M514, passing the towns of Catraia, Catraia da Assamaça, and Santiago to Seia where we began our ascent into the Serra das Estrella National Park. Past the village of Aldeia da Serra, scrubland began to dominate the landscape and became increasingly moor-like. Trees gave way to broom, heather, and rock. The small village of Sabugueiro, at 1100 m and only partly sheltered in a shallow rocky valley felt exposed and isolated. As we continued to climb, the landscape became more barren, glaciers had scoured the land and large boulders scattered the landscape, bedrock was at or near the surface everywhere. What little soil there was supported heather and grasses and the bedrock was green with lichens. We began to pass small reservoirs and then what looked like the stone walls of a medieval fortress but were in reality a masonry dam. Far below lay the plateau we had traversed and the towns we had driven through. Despite the radiant warmth of the sun, the wind was cold and it was a bleak, but hauntingly beautiful landscape. Beside a small meadow, a shepherd's hut sat at the base of large bedrock hummocks tinged green with lichen and accented by the last patches of still gleaming snow, Meadow sedges and heather grew at its stoop. Torres, the highest point in Portugal, was bleak and dirty. A couple of  Department of Defence fibreglass domes, a couple of nearly empty tourist shops, some ski lifts closed for the season, and a large dirty parking lot. However, our descent had the same stark beauty that we found on our way up. Just past the summit we encountered a 7 meter high shrine to Our Lady of the Good Stara, a relief carved into the bed rock. An unpaved path lead down from the road and through a rocky gully to its base where, a small altar bore fresh cut flowers. Our maps had shown a long near perfectly straight route to Manteigas that intrigued us so further along, we took the long gradual but narrow descent through Val de Glacier along  the Zazere River to Manteigas. It was a long U-shaped glacial valley and felt familiar except that we drove  past stone huts and homes, some abandoned, some with a thatch of reeds and branches laid over plastic or newer homes the roof tile so bright an orange that we thought  they must be enameled metal. Even in the valley bottom it is a stark landscape, massive house size boulders fallen from above littered the pastures, one resting beside and dwarfing a stone farmhouse. Two rental motorhomes met an oncoming van but were afraid to pass. The local driver who could see that the RVs had more than enough room to get by refused to backup. After a lengthy stand-off, he eventually needed to get on his way so backed further off to give them another 2 meters of clearance. Fortunately, we parted ways with the motorhomes at Manteigas. Following them up the steep winding ascent back up the mountains would have been unbearable. Thick lush oak and pine forests carpeted with bright new green bracken provided only peek-a-boo views of the valley below. We passed more abandoned stone huts, roofs fallen in, walls crumbling and  more stone terraces some overgrown and failing, some still maintained and freshly planted before emerging back onto the rock, broom, and pine pocked heights. We headed off to the mountain village of Fol- gosinho and discovered an unspoiled village, no souvenir shops, no restaurants, no tourists, only a group of villagers sitting and gossiping at the local tanque (laundry pool). A tile faced alcove with taps and a small pool for drinking water faced a much larger tiled pool of crystal clear water, covered by an open shed with a red tile roof. Laundry hung from lines, drying in the sun and buckets and pails were scattered about. It was indeed so unspoiled that I felt uncomfortable and out of place with my cameras and strange clothes, an interloper, a voyeur and intruder and we did not linger. Leaving Folgosinho, we continued our descent and headed north to a new camp. It was a clean, spacious, well shaded, well maintained campground operated by two new owners. The young Portuguese brothers Victor and George, George’s wife Lydia, and their receptionist Daniella were so friendly and helpful that  Sheila described them as cuter than a pack of puppies.
`
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map Morning rush hour on the Pont das Tres Entradas. Small vineyard terrace climbing out of the Rio Alva valley. The town of Siea on the plateau. From 1550 m, we looked across the glacier scoured landscap and across the plateau. Torres, the highest point in Portual. The belak but beautiful landscape approaching the Val de Glacier. The plateau just before our descent to  Goveia. The public laundry tanque at Folgosinho.