The Portuguese government have taken reducing the risk of Covid extremely seriously with curfews, early closing of shops, not being able to travel through municipalities and stopping and fining people who are found to be flaunting the rules.
Obviously it is achieving the desired result, the R rate has dramatically reduced and with it came the news that some of the restrictions were being relaxed. We are now able to move around freely, the non-essential shops have re-opened and we can sit outside cafes and bars to eat or have a drink. We are also able to exercise and go for walks without having to wear a facemask as long as we are 2 metres away from anyone else.
We’ve really stuck to the rules 100%, not leaving the farm unless absolutely necessary, and although this has meant that we felt very safe, we’ve also felt very restricted.
With the relaxing of the rules we took the opportunity to drive into Castelo Branco to find out our options for installing solar panels to heat our water and to order some much needed building supplies to renovate the long house. There are some very fancy solar systems on the market but as we’re not sure if the water on our farm is suitable we have arranged for a site visit.
Having been here for 5 months now, unfortunately we are yet to explore the area we call home. We haven’t been able to meet our neighbours, look around the nearby villages or familiarise ourselves with local places of interest.
When working on the longhouse modifications in 2019, Mark spent an enjoyable day with Linda, Andy, Amy and Adam at the river beach at Castelo Nova but hasn’t been there since. I’m looking forward to when we can walk along the riverbank together, perhaps when we take a day out, or after a long day after we’ve been working on the farm.
With the news of the lockdown easing, we both really liked the idea of going for a long walk, so set off one evening with Wanda at around 5.30pm. We thought this would give us enough time to walk for a couple of hours and still be back before dark. Anyone that knows me will know that I’ve got a bit of an aversion to doing an “about turn” when out on a walk and generally like to try and find a circular route.
Checking with Google we found that we could turn right coming out of the farm heading towards the station and then walk up the hill through Corticada, on through Monte Leal and then cut across country down the mountain using a quiet lane to get back to the main road which would take us to our farm. In theory, this should have taken around 2 hours and with sunset at 8.15pm we figured we had plenty of time. We hoped that we would be able to catch a glimpse of our quinta from up high and see the nearby farms that were adjacent to our land.
We’d particularly chosen that route as it was a main road passing through small villages and past experience has seen that the back roads had a lot of dogs either loose in the farms or tied up on a chain.
We set off and for a while all was going to plan. However, we quickly realised that Mark’s phone which we were using for navigation was very low on battery and I had decided not to take my phone with us. With our poor senses of direction, this is when alarm bells should have started to ring as in the past even with the help of a navigational aid we have be known to frequently go wrong (those who know us well will remember Naples!).
However, intoxicated by the beauty of the landscape and the breath-taking views as we climbed higher along the mountain road, we forged on. This was slightly marred by the large number of dogs that seemed quite agitated by our presence and their loud barking didn’t instil us with confidence for our safety. The fences acting as a barrier between them and us was flimsy to say the least and although Wanda trotted along seemingly oblivious, we were glad when we had passed them. We knew that once through Cortecada and Monte Leal we needed to turn right. What could go possibly wrong?
As time pressed on, un-beknown to me, Mark was thinking to himself “I might not be wearing the moccasins of a North American Indian who learnt to track at aged 5, or be a budding Bear Grylls, but with those Gardunha mountains on our left hand side and with the sun behind us at this time of day, we are still heading away from Vale de Prazares and home”.
With the sun descending behind the mountain like a deflated helium balloon, he knew that time was becoming a concern and we stopped to review the situation. Although I was keen to press on in the hope that our right turn was imminent, we agreed to do the “about turn” that I so dislike. This was no small decision as we knew that we would have to run the gauntlet of the dogs again, so with a sense of urgency in our stride we set off at some pace knowing that we had some considerable distance to cover before darkness was upon us.
As we were making our way back, a familiar small white van pulled up alongside us with a very smiley Antonio (Ecositana) and Jose (our electrician) inside. Although we don’t understand Portuguese, it was clear to us that Antonio was gesturing with his arms as though running, that we needed to get a wiggle on. After exchanging pleasantries, we marched on.
Needless to say, by the time we returned home we had been out for over three hours and it was dark. Poor Wanda was hungry, as we were so after a very late dinner and stiff drink we slept well.
Since then, we have re-traced our “evening stroll” in the car and discovered that we had journeyed 9.8 miles. No wonder Wanda didn’t want to leave her bed for the next 2 days.
Before leaving the UK, as a birthday gift, I enrolled Mark on to a 4 week bricklaying course as we both thought this would come in extremely handy working on Project Portugal. The opportunity arose for Mark to put this into practice when Andy was building a wall around the raised flower bed. Happy to help out, Mark was also curious to find out how the Teluja bricks commonly used in Portugal compared to the standard UK bricks. The main thing was how much quicker the wall was erected du to the size of the telujas. In addition to the four week course Mark had also been watching back to back episodes of Auf Wiedersehen Pet and also found this quite inspirational and when things didn’t go quite to plan was often heard saying “Ahh Bollocks Man” (you had to be around in the 80’s to appreciate that one).
We’d been well fed again by Linda with a lovely lunch of chicken and ribs with lots of indian sides, so after a hard days graft (reference to Auf Wiedersehen Pet again) it was time for the lads to knock off and enjoy a couple of Cervejas (beers) while watching the Grand Prix. Weekends really don’t get any better than this!