Yesterday we’d planned to have a boring route planning and admin day in the only cafe in town where there’s internet, but we ended up walking the reserve with a visitor and going to a wine festival!
Niek had slept out at the reserve at our campsite the night before then gone into town in the morning to meet Johanna and Fernando, a prospective member of ATN. The three of them turned up just as we were finishing breakfast and we all headed off for a stroll around the reserve.
Fernando is a portly man with the air of someone who has become used to being in charge. As we led him around the site and showed him what was what, he delighted in sharing some of his own stories with us, too. He used to spend the summers in Algodres when he was a kid and his cousins still have a house there. He worked in Mozambique for fifteen years as a teacher, fish exporter and construction magnate and is now setting up a hotel on the coast in Portugal.
We walked up to a good pace to watch the vultures in the river valley. One of the dogs from Algodres, who has been named Rowdy, followed Johanna to the reserve today. He was super happy after finding a piece of bone that the vultures had overlooked!
After walking to get a view of the vulture nests on the other side of the valley and visiting the 500 year old cork oak, Fernando was keen to get back for a nap. He said he was going to a wine tasting festival in the afternoon and invited us along!
So we walked back into town and sat in the cafe whilst he disappeared into his house for a few hours. Then we woke him up and he drove us in his car towards Vila Nova de Foz Coa where the wine festival was.
We got in the car and Fernando announced that we might not like it, but he was going to put on some jazz. We drove with the windows down and the saxophones blaring, passing vineyards and villages and taking a few nice detours. He took us to the top of a big hill for an amazing view of the valleys. Then we sped into Foz Coa for the festival.
It cost €2 to get into the wine tasting. All of the best wines in Portugal there for the tasting for €2! It was absolutely delightful. Fernando was in his element, sauntering from stand to stand, the four of us trailing behind him soaking up his every word. “This is the best wine in Portugal! Smell the tropical fruits, then taste the flavour explosion in your mouth. Hmm!” They were indeed delicious.
After a while we started to feel a bit rosy-cheeked and went around the stands seeking out the bread and olive oil snacks rather than the wine. We were there for several hours, tasting, eating and having a sit down. Dave got very into it and spent time talking to the wine makers, asking them how it all worked. At the end we tasted some delicious ports before Fernando was rushing around buying bottles and loading them in his car. He said he wasn’t drinking, just tasting, so he was fine to drive…
“Let’s listen to some rock!” and Coldplay was blaring as we drove around vineyards in the setting sun, Fernando taking the corners wide and pumping his fists to the music, soaking in the scenery. We think maybe some wine slipped down when he was tasting. We toured around the vineyards in the Douro valley where they grow the grapes for the wines we had just tasted. The lazy wide river has a bit of a floodplain then steep hills where the vineyard rows are cut into the mountains. We stopped at a water fountain for a refreshing drink and a quick wash of the feet on the way. The late afternoon light was orangey-pink on the vines, a calm landscape that we sped back through on our way up out of the valley to head home. Coldplay was exchanged for some early punk and we were treated to Fernando’s enjoyment of Patti Smith on the drive back. What a day!
We arrived back into town around 8pm and were all pretty tired. We thanked Fernando for a fabulous day out and Dave and I cycled the bumpy track back to camp whilst the others headed to bed.