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About the Author

From bicycle touring to backpacking, watercolour painting to clay modelling, the exploration journal captures my journey through many different interests and travel adventures.

I love to find those out of the way places that whisk you away from the concerns of everyday life. Whether this is by wading through an overgrown river or trying new paint techniques is up to you!

Walking in Portugal: GR50 from Xertelo to Gerês

Walking in Portugal: GR50 from Xertelo to Gerês

This is the second part to walking the GR50 through Peneda Gerês National Park in Portugal. Read about the first section here – GR50 – Tourem to Xertelo

After camping in the gorse around Sete Lagoas we started the walk back to rejoin the GR50, this time following the more popular route that meandered relatively flat along the top of the hillside. It was a fair bit easier than going up and down through the gorge! It was then a short walk to Cabril, the next village.

We lost a lot of height descending into the village and then lower to the bottom of the valley before immediately climbing back up the other side. It looked like we could have contoured along the hillside tracks instead of losing the height. It is worth remembering that the GR50 route has a bias towards taking you through villages, and some unnecessary walking can be saved by finding alternative routes that stay up high.

The next notable stop was Cascata de Pincães, a couple of hours walk from Cabril. It is a dead-end up to the waterfall so we paused just off the path and left the rucksacks amongst the trees. It was then easy to explore unburdened up to the waterfall, a large fall that drops into a deep pool that the locals use for swimming. It was a bit too busy for us so we had a look and then carried on walking. Our rucksacks were still there, an advantage of backpacking is that it is unlikely that someone will nick a heavy rucksack full of used camping gear half-way up a mountain!

We continued following the route and found that it curled back around along the top of the waterfall, where the river runs through a craggy valley. It was ideal for camping, other than the usual problem of flat spaces being few and far between. Thomas had a rest underneath a couple of oaks and I did my best mountain goat impression all over the hillside. Eventually I found a flat spot half way up with a small spring trickling from it.

Unfortunately it was a bit too open and a goatherder turned up just as we were about to start cooking. For some reason we assumed he would take great offense at us camping in his goat valley so we spent the evening running around the hillside trying to avoid being spotted. He probably saw us from the outset and was completely confused at why we kept popping up in different places! I doubt he would have minded our small campsite anyway.

We were half way between Fafião and Ermida when it reached mid-afternoon and there had not been any camping spots all day. I studied the map and spotted ‘Rio de Camalhao’, a nice looking river that looked like it had plenty of potential. We left the GR50 and followed a footpath that cut straight to Cascata do Arado. Unfortunately the area was busy but we carried on beyond the cascata and found a path that ended in dead end at a little shepherd shelter called Curral da Giesteira.

There was a perfect flat spot sandwhiched between the decaying branches of a fallen oak tree. I think this spot will probably be completely overgrown if we returned in a future year.

Instead of backtracking to the GR50 we decided to carry on and follow the river up to Abrigo da Teixeira. It was a very steep, very tough climb, and sometimes hard to follow as the path goes over hard rock. Little cairns mark the way if your eyes are keen enough to spot them and you are confident, I always have my doubts that some tourist could have built them along a random route and leads people astray. The change in route was well worth it for the view from the top and seeing the mountain covered in brilliant purple heather.

We crested the top and found a tranquil lush green valley that looked like the perfect camping spot. The only downside was Abrigo da Teixeira (mountain hut) in use by a family for a BBQ and the cows scattered across the valley.

We found that water is not a problem in late May, there are plenty of springs coming up from the ground along the route and the rivers are still full.

After Abrigo da Teixeira we cut over the side of the valley and dropped back to the GR50 as it descends into the next valley, and Geres! The town was in full celebration mode when we arrived, for some sort of cycling competition and the streets closed off. We found the supermarket and bought tons of fresh food to eat at the campsite slightly further up the valley…

…Only to find the campsite was completely shut, presumably due to Covid. There was not anywhere else to camp so we followed the footpath in and found the furthest corner to pitch the tent.

It was a debate between 1. hiding away as much as possible in the woodland, 2. camping openly and hope that they would accept money and not kick us out if someone turned up, or 3. camping out of sight and hoping not to be spotted. We eventually settled on the third option and having money to the ready.

Not wanting to be rude about it, we decided to wash in the river and leave as little impact as possible. Though that was no hardship as the campsite was based around a series of cascatas with large pools, perfect for swimming. We used the campsite sinks to wash our clothes, though I do wonder what the campsite owner thought when he found his out-of-use filthy sinks magically cleaned.

Not wanting to outstay our welcome, we decided to immediately set off again the next day and continue along the GR50.

1. Walking GR50 in Portugal: from Tourém to Xertelo
2. PR9: Finding Trilho Sete Lagoas
3. Walking GR50 in Portugal: Xertelo to Gerês
4. GR34: Serra Amarela trail

Stag Beetle we rescued from being stuck in a campsite sink

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