One of the ways I would describe the experience of walking through this river valley is: an intimate encounter with life. Life in all the ways you can imagine; plant life, animal fife, microbial life, your own life, the cycle of life and the lives of the many people you meet along the way.
This post is about the people we meet along the way.
Walking through a rural landscape is walking through the places where people live their lives and with a bit of interest and effort you talk and connect with the people that are part of the land. This is definitely one of the biggest joys of being out and about in the world on foot; the personal encounters, conversations and snapshots you get of the lives of locals. In the field or in the village, two different worlds get to meet for a moment in time, the one being a life in place (the local) and the other a life in movement (the hiker).
Maybe one of the reasons why the encounters are often so animated is because curiosity between hiker and local is usually of equal measure. What I experience here in Portugal is when you dare to be curious, behave respectfully and show appreciation most people are open, sharing and equally curious. For a few minutes we get a glimpse of the life of sr.Nelson and hear what donna Maria has been doing in her garden today. These moments with the locals are very touching and strengthen the sense of connection that we as hikers feel to the Dão valley.
This is an expression of gratitude (gratidão) for the warm conversations with:
Sr. Nelson Costa who lives in Barranha near the source of the Dão.
Sr. António who moved from Switzerland back to his native grounds and is rebuilding his family’s quinta near Dornelas.
Donna Maria Alice the old lady (with the most joyous puppy dog) who stays active walking between the woods and fields collecting wood and growing food as she has done her whole life.
Sr. Caseiro who shares the passion for hiking and invited us to come visit in Vila Real.
The ladies on the bench in the shade in Forninhos who joked that we had also left our husbands at home.
Tó, the jovial owner at Casa do Rio on the reservoir of Fagilde.
The Ferreiras family who continue to mill grains and corn in the 100+ years old mill complex little below Alcafache.
Donna Maria Amélia & Sr António who have been cultivating the floodplains of the Dão near Sangemil and their love as husband and wife for over 60 years.
Sr. Jacinto from the Café Central in Papízios who expressed genuine happiness when seeing the second Caminho do Dão group walk into his café and offered us a drink.
AND for the best hospitality:
Donna Agusta & Fernando from Terreiros de Santa Cruz in Carapito where we stayed the first two nights, the lovely ladies at Pastelaria Pena D’Alva in Penalva do Castelo, Pedro from Café Central in Alcafache, Donna Celia and sr. Salvador from Hotel BeiraDão and Jorge from Casas do Zagão in Carregal do Sal.