Week’s End – 12-13 March

In Photo, Portugal, Travel 2011, WWOOF on March 14, 2011 at 2:23 am

Even in a place where we rely on our own hard work to provide, we enjoy the weekend, tucking into a Friday night around a table with wine, Aquardente, the wicked Portuguese spirit made from a local fruit, and a bottle of port – all to accompany Arlene’s most recent masterpiece from the kitchen.

We even crowd comfortably into the living room to watch a film before heading to bed for some well-earned sleep, only to wake the next morning ready to enjoy the environment and opportunities that will greet us.

Eager to introduce us to the land around us, Andrew led us on an adventure up painters path, one of the roads wrapping around their valley. With his guidance and the company of Eloise and Josh, Peter and I gained a bit of perspective on our temporary home and the mysterious history it holds.

Climbing over terraces built with stone walls from centuries ago and crossing rivers to find ancient houses in ruins, Andrew tells us of generations of families who lay claim to the land. Most of them far from here now, some of them still living in the village.

In the afternoon we visit the village to meet Laurinda, the woman who owns the local cafe and shop, and the woman who Andrew claims can get you anything you could possibly need. This is the woman who sat in her house during a forest fire, debilitated by a broken leg, accepting the possibility of death only to have the fire avoid her entirely – the woman who in the past year has lost both her husband and her mother, both 20 years her senior. The woman who, as Andrew says, seems to exist on both sides of the thin veil between life and death.

She welcomes us and makes us coffees. Along the ceiling and on shelves are rolls of toilet paper, boxes of Tide, cartons of biscuits and canned goods. If you don’t see it on the shelf, chances are she has it out back, and if it isn’t there, she’ll get it for you and let you know when it arrives.

We drink coffee and she shows us the crochet work that she makes and sells herself. Eloise and I rifle through a box of crocheted roses and lavender scented pillows. I can’t resist buying a few flowers for my hair. Even Peter picks a scented pillow.

Laurinda suggests that Eloise and I return the following day when there is to be a car rally race. She can teach us her crafts while we wait for the cars to arrive. Of course, we agree, and in fluent Portuguese Eloise sets a time for us to come back.

After a look in Laurinda’s adega, a Portuguese winery, accompanied by a bottle of wine to take with us, we head on our way to an abandoned village where Andrew knows of some orange trees that we can pick from.

We return back home with our treasures, ready to enjoy another evening of good food, good company and a bit of entertainment, compliments of Andrew’s streaming skills.

Sunday brings another lazy morning with mountains covered in mist and a steady drizzle softening the soil for the next days work.

Eloise, Vonny and I spend the morning working out how to use the sewing machine that has been tucked away in a box. Vonny is eager to learn so she can finish the curtains for the house. Eloise is just itching to make something, crafty fingers like mine, and sets to work straight away on a small purse with a flowered upholstery fabric from her grandmother in England.

The hours move quickly, and, sooner than we’d like it is time to go back to Abitureira. Despite our reluctance to leave the warmth by the sewing machine, we head back to the Pajero, ready for our lessons with Laurinda and for the excitement of the rally.

Andrew navigates the winding roads expertly and we reach the village in about ten minutes. Part of the road is already barricaded for the race. We wave to the spectators as we drive past and drive the 300 meters or so more to the cafe.

Another woman from the village is there, waiting for her friend. Andrew and Peter have a coffee, sweetened with Aquardente, and head back to the rally. Eloise and I settle into the side room of the shop, next to the wood burning stove, sitting at the table with it’s fruit printed vinyl table cloth. We empty the bag of yarn for Laurinda’s approval.

Our yarns are a bit bigger than she would like, but after careful inspection she selects a needle and skane for each of us. Her 73 year old hands steadily demonstrate the basic stitch as she instructs us in Portuguese. Careful observation and occasional translation from Eloise leads me in the right direction and eventually earns me valuable criticisms and even compliments. My pink yarn is starting to vaguely look like the edge of one of the flowers I purchased the day before, but there is still a visible difference between the stitches I created and the ones formed expertly by Laurinda’s hands. She laughs sweetly, and points it out, explaining that with practice my stitches will be even like hers.

After a couple hours it is time to go to the rally, despite my uneven stitches. Laurinda leads the way up the hill, stopping to feed her chickens and collect and egg. We join the others along the yellow tape and wait in the cold for the cars to come by.

The lead car finally flashes past with its orange lights, signifying that the leader is not far behind. Souped up VWs and BMWs zoom by: blue, yellow, red and even pink. Some try to expertly drift around the hairpin turn, and one turns a three-sixty, unfortunately stalling and then having to restart.

The last car finally passes, and only the truly dedicated remain to wait for the second lap, determined to stay through then end – three hours later. We meander back to the cafe to gather our things and have another coffee, eager to get back to the dinner that Josh and Arlene will surely have waiting for us when we return.

The table is already set when we pull in with fresh orange juice from our oranges in pitchers on the table. Josh proudly presents us with ribs, red beans and rice, and a cucumber salad.

After dinner Andrew serenades us on the baby grand while Eloise and I wash up. He then jumps from culture to culture, first testing out the didgeridoo, then the djembe, the shakers, maracas, and even a trumpet.

Josh interrupts to let us know that the fruit crumble is ready. We willingly break from our drum circle to enjoy the warm pudding with custard – well rested from the weekend and feeling reflective as one by one we head off to bed for some much needed sleep before welcoming another week.

Pictures from our walk along Painters Path and most of the family’s land:

Looking out over to the main house.

Moses – they’re just about ready to welcome guests all the time.

The famous Moses.


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