We've been cautious about crossing the border into Spain, so lingered in northern Portugal. We've been in Ponte da Barca for nearly a week, and rather than head north, we headed east - to the relatively unknown Parque Nacional Peneda Geres. An area of hills and mountains running along the Spanish border. We rented a car, booked a base camp in Soajo and off we went...
First stop was the Nossa Senhora da Abadia - remote sanctuary established in the year 883 after a visitation by Mary in the form of an apparition in a cave to one in prayer. Like Fátima, it's a shrine to Mary, and therefore, of real interest to Kiki. We spent a very pleasant few hours exploring the sanctuary, the cave of the visitation and the surrounding hills.
Soajo seems carved into the mountainside. The mountains are granite. Monolithic rockfaces and huge boulders. Soajo is one of about 100 small villages scattered throughout the park, with signs of habitation back to paleolithic times. A Roman road still runs through the park. The villages are all stone, many made with rough hewn granite blocks, dark and damp with small windows. The people tend goats and raise cattle and work terraced fields. It's a place where time feels slower than elsewhere. People sit out in the squares and talk about the rain and smoke cigarettes.
We did two super sweet hikes: the Caminho do Pāo e Fe (literally, the 'way of bread and faith', a 5km loop up a valley) and the longer PR17 Peneda trail, which begins at another gothic sanctuary, then runs up around Peneda mountain, a stunning granite mountain with a dammed lake at the top and a climber's crag. Peneda is the name of both the mountain and the village sitting in the valley beneath it. Peneda is Portuguese for boulder, so good name for the place
We came down from the mountains, back to the relative busyness of Arcos de Valdevez, where we quickly learned about the state of the world with respect to the pandemic. And then, we went for lunch to have a family chat and think long and hard about things.