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Discover the region Minho by hiking

The region Minho is known for its great diversity, which you can experience during the numerous tracks in the area. We have many walks around the campsite on paper and digital, there are signposted walks in nature parks and very regularly walks are organised with guides. You can find some of our walks on wikiloc.com. Every year we check our own tracks and to give you a taste we described one of 2 hours going to the neighbouring parish Cornes.

From the campsite we immediately go into the forest. The first stretch is on tar. This was built for safety in the summer, when tractors are passing and can start a fire, because everything is so dry. On this road you see every now and then a little tar going to the right or left. These are the paths people used in earlier times to get to their piece of forest. Even though some of them are not used anymore, they are still recognized. As when we bought our campsite. The first week different neighbours showed us two small plots which were not officially registered, but belonged to us. They all showed exactly the same borders.

In the forest we find tall eucalypt, next to the pine trees. They are 10m and higher. The eucalypt needs a permit to be planted, because it uses huge amounts of water. With the border of dryness crawling up North, this is dangerous. Some people used one tree near their cesspool to drain water from there. In the south of Portugal it is forbidden all together already for a long time. Here and there we see oaks, among them the cork tree, which has been here at least since the Celts around year 0. The large cork plantations are in the South though. The acacias and mimosa cheer up the winter with their yellow colour when they flower, from December till February. They show us how much difference there can be in climate within a few kilometres. They do so by the obvious different fase of grow they can be in. Along the road about 20 km from here the trees are a month earlier flowering than around our campsite.

The weather is quiet today, but sometimes in the winter when there is a lot of wind, it is amazing how far the tops of the trees can swing back and forth.

We turn right onto a sand path. The descending of the hill has started. The path is strewn with needles from the pine trees, one of the ways to ignite the wood stove. We also see huge pines, I´m talking 20x10cm, also used to ignite. In summer we collect those during the dog walk to use them in winter. With a day temperature of more than 30 degrees the pines will open up with a loud sound and the seeds will fall out. The dogs like to eat the pine nuts. They taste the same as pine nuts from the shop, but are a different variety and smaller.

Besides the tall trees, we see shrubberys, flowers and plants. These need to be cleaned before April for fire prevention. When something is on fire, at least over the ground it doesn't go that fast. This year, 2018, the government (read police), is watching close if we all clean our own forest and gives fines when not so. We mow ferns, blackberries, broom and all kinds of flowers and grasses. The wild blackberries are seen as dangerous for the fires and because they grow so fast as weed, but in fact they are very healthy (ripe in August) compared to what you buy in the shop. No Monsanto there. In springtime everything starts growing and blooming again. It really invites you to inhale and it makes you happy and alive. A lot of oxygen and hardly CO2 from cars. We do use wood burners though, but I think with the distance between the houses it is not that unhealthy.

We check the track every year because in a year things change. One year you have a view over the river into Spain, the next year the trees are too high. One year you walk through a forest, the next year there is an open space, because trees were cut down for fire wood or paper. One year you see a plot with a ruine, the next year it has a beautiful house. When we reach the bottom of the hill, we cross the road and enter a village. The view changes from trees to meadows with sheep, vinyards and a small stream. The houses in the village are a mixture of old and new, ruins and renovated. Sometimes the thick granite walls are used and on the inside a wall is placed to make the house comfortable. The authentic atmosphere is maintained and mixed with the comfort of today. In earlier days the stable and shed were under the house to keep cold and humidity out and the warmth of the animals would make it even better. Nowadays that is where the sleeping rooms are, and what used to be the house is now the living room and kitchen.

In the centre of the village we pass the church. The bells are ringing every half hour according to a computer program. On half it is one tune and 1 beat. On the whole it is two times the tune and the beats are the hour. One guest saves the tune as ringtone, the other complains about the noise. Even though it is quiet between 23h and 7h. The weekly mass and the ones in between get less and less people. The old people still go, but not in winter when it is too cold. The younger ones go till their communion in their teens and stop some time after that. The parents go when they feel like. Near the church is the graveyard where lots of families still put fresh flowers every weekend on the family grave. Here and there you start seeing plastic flowers, showing the modern times. No time or living too far away. These kind of differences with Northern Europe makes you think about the value of such a tradition. Once a year the village has a celebration of the patron with at least a musical event on Saturday at 22h and a procession on Sunday afternoon. Depending how money was collected the musical events might also be on Friday night, Sunday night or even Thursday night. Money comes from door to door-collecting, lunches on Sunday and emigrants. In our region a lot of Portuguese are emigrant in France, but also Switzerland, Luxembourg and Canada. In our parish live 6 families who have lived in Holland. Emigrants come often back after they have retired or they live half in Portugal and half in the other country, because of grandchildren.

We continue and pass a café. This is conveniently exactly halfway the route. During midday a warm lunch is offered for 6 euros, especially for workers. They all get extra money besides their salary to be able to take 'prato de dia'. A main course, soup (being the vegetable part of the lunch), 2 glasses of something and 1 coffee. The nicest time to eat out will be lunch hour. In the evening their will hardly be any people and they only eat after 9h. In the cities this might be different.

We continue passing some more houses and also vineyards. Every family has its own and makes wine for one year, called vinho verde. They collect the grapes the beginning of October and it is ready after 3 months, therefor it is called vinho verde (green, as in young wine). For their own use they make red wine, which is very dry and sour. In the region the Minho when you are in a restaurant you better order vinho tinto maduro (ripe red wine) when you want red wine. The white vinho verde is fantastic though. Families also make a few bottles of port wine which is ready and drunk at November 11 together with roasted chestnuts.

We go up the road, slowly climbing, clearly on our way back. There are some more renovated houses with the traditional style of little farm house. A yard where food is grown and some animals like rabbits, ducks, chicken, goats and sometimes a pig.  It occurs to me that those people have the biological healthy food by tradition where people in cities pay a fortune for. Also the animals have space to live and get a diversity on food. All the houses are guarded by dogs. Before they would live outside and chained. Slowly it changes into unchained and sometimes living inside. In the cities people have dogs for fun and company. The garden gives a great variety of vegetables, potatoes and onions. It also keeps you fit maintaining it. There is a nationally famous, regional vegetable called 'caldo verde' (green cole). You might have seen the green stocks with big leaves. They look like brussels sprouts plants. When the plant flowers we eat that as vegetables, tasting like brussels sprouts. However, we mostly eat the big leaves which taste like kale. They grow the whole year and are also used for the chicken. With the rules and regulations the people had to take a course on using sulphate and protect themselves when using it. You only can buy sulphate now when you can show you did the course. The elderly people refuse mostly and rely on the younger people now. Sulphate is the only thing they use for tomatoes and grapes. It is still far less than the big industries use.

We leave the houses behind and go into the forest in the direction of the campsite. Coming out of the forest we pass a house in traditional style renovated comfortably. It is a second house owned by people living in Porto. You can see they are rich by the fact that they have a green lawn. To maintain that, especially in summer, it takes more water than our campsite. Therefor the campsite has wild grass and everything that grows in between. Also because through the years we learned to appreciate nature more the way it is meant to be. A diversity of plants growing side by side and profiting from the synergy this provides. We only cut there where it is a nuisance for the guests. We don't believe in weed. Weed are plants which are in a place people don't want them to be, despite the fact that they might belong there. Nature thrives on synergy and needs the diversity of varieties and species. What the one plant needs is given by the other.

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11 februari 2018
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