When I drive into the camping grounds of “Quinta das Gralhas” , I am greeted by Albert. Together with his wife Agnes, he runs this old farm they have been transformed into “Camping on a farm”. Within 5 minutes I am surrounded by 4 Dutch who came out of their home to view the “unusual” motor home while firing some technical questions at the owner. I am introduced to the Dutch and their qualities: Technician small mechanics and car mechanics, engineers and others. They all have in common that they stay here for some time. Final or looking for a suitable residence in the region. I also get to know the horse, ponies, cows, cats, dogs, sheep, geese, chickens and the small (home)pig Coco. I am soon included in the “community” and we regularly meet while enjoying a drink or a meal. Occasionally also other motor homers visit the site and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere. In particular, the 65th anniversary of Albert is celebrated extensively. Unforgettable.

Meanwhile Piggy has not left her place for over 3 weeks. I have decided to slow down for a while after 7 months of travelling. The environment suits very well for this purpose.

The camp is located on the edge of the Serra da Estrela. The largest mountain range in Portugal with Torre as the highest mountain in Portugal (2000 meters). A suitable area for hiking. With good spirits I leave for a 4- or 5-day hike through the area. Inclusive tent, sufficient food and warm clothing, because it is already quite cold in the mountains. On departure the clouds hang low. I leave with fog and the first day I cannot look beyond 50 meters. At night I feel happy in my warm sleeping bag and in the tiny waterproof tent to keep the rain outside. ……Already after 2 days a taxi drops me at the campsite ….. My backpack weighed too much, the first day 1500 meters ascending and 26 km distance. Not so long ago this was not a problem, but now I have to take into account seniority and less condition. The 2nd day I feel broken. A swollen knee and sore feet. At the end of the 2nd day I decide to hitchhike to the town of Seia. Already the 4th car stops and a very friendly couple drops me in front of a hotel in Seia. As a consolation, I treat myself to a sumptuous meal and fall asleep like a baby in a comfortable hotel bed. The next day I take a taxi back to the campsite because the next bus leaves only at 5 o’clock in the afternoon. The following days I limp around within a radius of 50 meters, but fortunately it goes better now.

The prognosis is that I will stay here for at least a month, because I really enjoy myself here.

But let me go back to the end of the last blog.

Then I was about to go for a bike ride of several days. The weather was excellent. Not too hot or too cold. The first day was leading through the Monfragüe National Park. Beautiful surroundings. At this time of the year it is not busy. At the cliffs of Salto del Gitano, I watched the vultures that still don’t fly out early in the morning from their resting place in the rock, but in rising sun quickly take advantage of the rising thermals so that they can spread their mighty wings around 9 am . An impressive sight as they fly overhead. The ultimate goal of that first day of cycling is the pilgrimage town of Guadalupe, but since the distance turned out to be too long, I pitched my tent on a cork plantation at the end of the afternoon. The farmer investigates the situation but makes no further objection that I did spend the night there. The next day I reach the village of Guadalupe via an extremely steep shortcut. At last cycling was no longer possible because of the steepness, so it was finally the time-honored routine of pushing.

Guadalupe is one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Spain. Especially pilgrims from South America and the Philippines visit this place to honor the Black Madonna. Expecting to see a big sculpture like the black Christ in Guatemala (Esquipulas) I found after some searching a small doll of about 50 cm high. Splendidly dressed. Somewhere at the top of the main altar. Apart from the imposing monastery and church the town provides pittoreque streets to get lost in deliciously. I find a nice hotel near the square of the church.

The next day I mainly have to use the brakes to descend to Trujillo, 75 km to the west. The name of this town can be found in many places in South America. About 10 years ago I visited Trujillo in Peru. The Spanish Trujillo is in fact the birthplace of Francisco Pizarro, the conquistador of Peru. Under his leadership, the entire Inca empire was overthrown and “converted” brutally to Christianity. I see the Spanish visitors to his birthplace that they still admire him, despite the known atrocities. Plaza Mayor adorns a large bronze statue of him on his horse.

Trujillo is an attractive place to visit. Many narrow streets, churches, monasteries and hilltop fortress and of course the birthplace of Pizarro, now a museum about the life of him.

After 2 days I cycle 60 km to Cáceres. On the way to this town I see a black plume of smoke in the distance. It turns out a forest fire on the city’s outskirts. I see the flames reaching three storeys high. Some homes are threatened. The ordinary fire brigade cannot manage it and has enlisted the help of special fire-fighting helicopters. An impressive spectacle. In one flight thousands of gallons of water are being thrown on the flames. . Handsome, as the pilots unload their cargo in the right place. After about 1 hour the danger was gone. The houses are not affected. In this very dry months there have been many forest fires in Portugal and Spain. Most of which are lit by arsonists. Cáceres is an ancient city with a long and extensive history. The old walled part of the city is a jewel. If there are not so many tourists walking around (understandably) then you imagine yourself in the 13th century. The cathedrals, palaces, churches, squares and walls are well preserved and restored.

After a week of cycling, I return to the campsite where I was allowed to leave Piggy for free. From that day the weather changes right away. Rain and cold. Autumn is suddenly there.

When the rain stops after two days I pull out further north.

Salamanca, the ancient university town is my next goal. A free camping spot at a large parking lot not far from downtown. Again by folding bike the old town is visited. Again many attractions: The famous university, cathedrals, etc. etc.

For the moment I’m a bit tired of all the sightseeing of old towns with their monasteries, churches and fortifications. I long for nature and some rest. My zigzag journey brings me in Portugal again. Before entering the country I fill up all the diesel tanks, including two jerry cans of 20 liters. The diesel in Spain is 20 cents per liter cheaper than in Portugal. With full tanks I can still persevere here in Portugal.

I travel to the highest mountains of Portugal. The Serra da Estrela and there find there the very cozy campsite of Albert and Agnes. Camping “Quinta das Gralhas”. Rua das Piscinas, Sao Paio 6290-416, Gouvea. www.quintadasgralhas.com.

For now I’ll stay here for a while.

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