As if on a mere fluvial whim, the Cávado decides to multiply.
There are several wide arms of the river that unceremoniously stretches the mountain ranges of Gerês inland. From the 829 meters of altitude of the Pedra Bela viewpoint, we could see one of them, contained by the sudden slope of the slope.
We still saw a second peek, facing northwest. And finally, a third pointed southwest, the direction of the main flow of the river.
Downstairs, on its banks, hamlets in a row announced the spa town that welcomes most of the vacationers and uses and abuses the region's name.
There, Gerês has its civilizational and logistical core. As a rule, as we move away from the village, the quiet increases in tone. The exceptions are the small gifts of nature with a reputation to match its beauty. This is the case of the nearby Arado waterfall.
Cascata do Arado: as Longed for as Hard to reach.
When we peeked out, a small crowd was scrambling for the edge of the observation rail. National park authorities discourage access to the natural pools carved into the granite that the waterfall supplies. Even so, a couple had ascended there. It displayed its exclusive bathing playground and generated a growing envy in the audience on this side of the canyon.
We were among those who, even at that early hour, already dreamed of diving and splashing around in such dazzling corners. Resigned to the lack of time and opportunity, we migrated to a similar scenario.
Filipa Gomes, a native of Campo do Gerês, continues to guide us through the areas where she grew up. “let's go to Mata da Albergaria. There must be a lot less people and there's also a small waterfall where my parents and I used to go!”
As a symbolic feat, we crossed the Spanish border of Portela do Homem. Filipa leaves us at the beginning of one of the unavoidable trails in the area, part of Geira.
Thus became known a military road that the Romans built between Augusta Bracara e Asturica Augusta (Astorga, Spain). In connection with another linking the Portela do Homem to (Castro) Laborer
The Irresistible Blackberries of the Old Roman Geira
This road would have been cataloged as Via nº18 of the Antoninus grid, a complex network through which the legions of soldiers and their Roman leaders moved. Built around the 215st century AD, the Geira measured XNUMX miles, with each mile corresponding to a thousand steps.
It was up to us to walk and enjoy the scenery and the cylindrical landmarks bequeathed by the Romans in a tiny part of the stretch between miles XXVII and XXXIV.
Filipa took the van in which she was transporting us to the end of this stretch, with the idea of picking us up at the end of the route. An unforeseen event caused us to take much longer than expected and that he decided to anticipate the meeting. The edges of the trail were thick with brambles.
The brambles, in turn, were loaded with ripe and juicy blackberries. By mid-morning, with the light breakfast gone, we were unable to reject the feast. As a result, we completed the distance in one of the slowest times for which there will be no record.
From one moment to the next, the trail reveals the rocky bed of the Homem river and its meander full of wells and crystalline river lagoons shared by four or five lucky bathers. To the detriment of our sins, we are again forced to continue without a recreational stop.
Vilarinho das Furnas Submerged, Terras de Bouro Above
Ahead, the Man opens onto the large reservoir contained by the Vilarinho das Furnas dam which, in 1971, submerged the homonymous village. In months of extreme drought, the dam's water drops to such an extent that the ruins of the village are uncovered. Despite the commitment of the summer, it was not something to wait there.
Instead, we crossed Man at the crest of the weir. We ascend through the rocky and abrupt scenery north of the river. We only stopped again in Brufe, a village safe from the flood generated by the dam but victim of the slow drainage of its few people.
Since the middle of the XNUMXth century, more than half of Brufe's one hundred and something inhabitants have departed in one form or another. Less than fifty are now left, souls that resist time and fate like the granite baskets in which they have long stored their sustenance.
The lands we continue to traverse are from Bouro.
As did the Búrios, a Germanic tribe that arrived to the west of the Iberian Peninsula (including Galécia) with the Suevi, in the beginning of the XNUMXth century and that settled in this precise mountain area between the Cávado and Homem rivers.
The Burians, the Swabians and the Visigoths
Shortly thereafter, the Swabian Kingdom was annexed by the Visigoths who invaded Hispania Romana and Galécia Sueva without appeal. The Burios remained. They adjusted to the Visigothic domain and ways. In such a way that they resist in the name of the region and in the genetics of its people.
The Burians arrived with pagan beliefs and customs. But by the end of the XNUMXth century, the Swabian monarchs (various theories point to different kings) had already given in to the evangelizing action of missionaries working in the Iberian Peninsula.
How the History of Gothorum, Vandalorum and Suevorum regions, the work of Archbishop Isidore of Seville, it was Bishop Martinho de Braga who achieved his conversion, influenced by King Teodomiro, considered the first Orthodox Christian monarch of the Swabians. This is, however, just one of several postulations that defend the protagonism of monarchs, missionaries and different times.
Regardless of how it happened, the Lands of Bouro became Christian. Over time, from Orthodox to Catholic. Liturgical and granite temples of the ancient faith dot the landscape. Some are more eccentric than others.
The Mythical Church of Santo António de Mixões da Serra
From Brufe, we go to Valdreu. There we find the Sanctuary of Santo António de Mixões da Serra, a church with unconventional architecture and origins at the dawn of medieval times.
We climb a staircase that leads to a rocky ridge. From there, the classic statue of the patron saint St. Anthony is projected, holding a Jesus Child and, at the same time, the Bible.
From that tall Christian, we admire the houses and small farms scattered in the wild surroundings. And, just below, the top of the church, with its twin turrets standing out above the pediment.
In June, the church of Santo António de Mixões and the large atrium in front of it are the stage for an unusual religious ceremony, the Blessing of the Animals. The tradition is said to have emerged in the XNUMXth century (other sources trace its genesis to the beginning of the XNUMXth century).
It will have been raised by a plague that spread to those confines and killed a good part of the region's cattle. Needing the animals, devastated by its death, the residents promised Santo António that they would build a temple for him if the epidemic stopped.
The Blessed Blessing of Animals
Santo António gave in to the prayers of the believers and they built a chapel for him at the top of the mountain. In addition to the building, the people of the region started to take their animals – from cows to dogs and cats – decorated with flowers, ribbons and other ornaments to the church of Mixões da Serra. There they attend mass.
Then, the parish priest sprinkles the creatures with holy water and prays for due divine protection.
From Mixões da Serra, we point to Santa Isabel do Monte. On the way, we passed by herds of cachenas and saw another one, made of groves, grazing on a carpet of ferns and gorse, below a fort of large granite boulders. All the animals we saw seemed to be in perfect health.
More than health, a vigor and physical prowess only possible in a green and fertile region like the one in which we continued to circle.
The Lands of Bouro apart from Santa Isabel do Monte
Filipa Gomes had a special affection for Santa Isabel do Monte. An additional affection that we quickly assimilated.
There, the hamlets seemed to appear even more remote and proud than those elsewhere. “Sometimes I pass here and I have to slow down because the animals roam everywhere.
The pigs, the chickens, the goats, it's all theirs! And so few cars circulate that the animals cross the road without any major worries. In fact, we passed pigs, pinks, chickens and even turkeys given up to a frantic search for food in the soil.
After the Abbots, the Casa dos Bernardos, lay version
Filipa took us to another elegant secular building, the Casa dos Bernardos, once inhabited by the (Cistercian) Bernardos Abbots and, since the pivotal times of the portuguese nation, part of the Couto do Mosteiro de Bouro, a domain that was donated to them by the king D. Afonso Henriques.
There we were amazed by the longest granary in the municipality of Terras de Bouro, an imposing cane with 16 meters in length and according to the historical description: “capacity to collect 18 bread carts” (read corn cobs).
Filipa introduces us to Dª Leopoldina. The hostess opens the door of the house's chapel and reveals the bright decoration, with obvious inspiration naive of the small nave of the chapel.
The afternoon was drawing to a close, but Filipa kept a last special place in our sleeves. At a certain point, we left the asphalt road onto an uneven dirt path that ran along the slope.
We made a little more progress, bumping. We only stop on the other side of the ridge in a different and much more open world than Terras de Bouro.
From then on, we had a complementary setting to the Pedra Bela viewpoint, where we had started the day. We climb to the nearest granite cliffs and enjoy it. Just below, the great monastery of São Bento da Porta Aberta seemed to bless the flow of the Cávado, “starry” as we were used to seeing it.
João Vieira. There are still Pastors like that.
We were given over to this contemplation when the sound of bells caught our attention. Behind us, a shepherd with a hoe slung over his shoulder followed a herd of goats.
We photograph him approaching little by little. Already next to us, the pastor shoots a "look that you still break those chambers from shooting so much!".
It was the beginning of a long conversation in which João Vieira never ceased to amaze us. The newcomer was in his late forties. He was a pastor most of his life, as his father and grandfather had been. He owned 50 goats that he kept next to the church of São Bento.
"The Wolves?" we ask you. "So they're not walking there?" it assures us. “Just me, twenty goats have already killed me. What do people do? Look…nothing, we try to keep them away but it's not always easy. ICNF says we should have one dog for every ten sheep or goats.
But who pays for the dog food? They say we have the right to get the dogs for free when the wolves kill the animals but, if you ask me, that, for me, is such a sham that I don't even open the letters they send me!”.
End of Day (again), high above Cávado
As we spoke, the pastor's cell phone rang over and over. João Vieira, he replied on one occasion. "Whoa, what do you want now? We've talked a lot today, you can't see I'm busy! I'm here with some people. "
We realized that the company of new people was extremely pleasing to him. So much so that the shepherd let the goats go their way and continued to inaugurate story after story. “Now, to finish, I'm just going to tell you this one more. You're looking at the monastery down there.
You know, I even went to mass. Once, when I was 15 years old, in confession, the priest decided to ask me if I went to the girls! I tell you something. I was even a kid but I was so angry that I never set foot there again.”
The cell phone rang again. João Vieira once again rejected the call. He said goodbye and ran after the goats that had been impatient for a long time.
We were amazed to see it disappear in the vastness of the Peneda-Gerês mountain range and the old Terras de Bouro, with those of Montalegre and Barroso on the verge.
The authors would like to thank the following entities for supporting the creation of this article:
Book your horse ride and other activities in Gerês and Terras de Bouro on the Equi'Desafios website.