Alentejo to the West Coast of Portugal

While in the Alentejo near Castelo de vide the van broke down. It turned out to be the gear linkage, the bolt had sheared off and not the box itself. This was fixed by a kind local mechanic without a word of English followed by celebrations of beer, cheese, breads and chorizo at his garage/pub. Through our translator (the younger barman) he told us he was delighted to see young people travelling and I imagine he sort of took pity on us. We stayed the night in the garage and the following morning we were on our way. Not having any plans as such we decided to move in the direction of the West coast aiming for the town of Porto Covo. On the way we stayed in Estremoz, Redondo, Evora, Monsaraz , Luz, the Alqueva Dam and the Mina de St Domingos.

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An olive grove on route

The now closed mine of St Domingos where the British company Mason and Barry extracted gold and pyrite has left a toxic landscape. They exploited the people and the mineral wealth in the area until it closed in the 60’s. The river here is caustic and the scale of the site  vast . It really makes you think!

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Abandoned Mines of St Domingos and the toxic river

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The main pit

In the town of St Domingos outside the one-room miners’ cottages the locals were growing Brassicas under trees on the footpaths. Perhaps the legacy of using small spaces is still here within the community. Even an old toilet bowl has a use!

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The landscape surrounding St Domingos is characterised by low rolling hills covered in Lavander, Cercis and Holm Oak . Oxalis are now in flower growing everywhere.

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The hill top Village of Mertola lies on the confluence of two rivers, a town of terraces that run on contour and a very interesting place to visit. It was normal as one explores towns like this to stumble across small well tended gardens.

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Some plants seen in the region include this Oxalis now in flower, Asphodelus, Malva, Prickley pear , American Agave and a milk cap mushroom.

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Milk cap

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Malva

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Prickly pear (Opuntia spp) edible too!

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Agave americana naturalised

In the fields, storks follow goats and cows and every so often you pass a pile of harvested cork. Burning of plant material is carried out at this time of year to reduce the fire risk and everywhere you see smoke rising from the fields. Porto Covo and its crashing waves reminded us of the West of Ireland only sunnier. Hotentot fig carpets the ground in places. It’s an African plant and invasive. The colours of the landscape are breathtaking with the constantly changing sky and flora. We spent a few days walking sections of the fishermans trail and the historical way which run for hundreds of kilometres along the coast to the southern tip of Portugal. In a few days time we were to go volunteering nearby at A Quinta.

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Porto Covo

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The Fishermans Trail

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Hotentot Fig (Carpobrotus edulis )

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