My time in Portugal has been a very satisfying “Time out” in the travel party. Ray’s farm outside of the small town of Fornelo do Monde felt incredibly comfortable and at home from the moment I arrived. I did not feel overworked, yet I felt like I learned a few things and had enough to do to keep me busy and feel like I was contributing. For being half a world away, the setting felt surprisingly familiar. Sure the town itself was distinctly different with its narrow streets, stone walls and a language I didn’t know, but the shapes of the hillsides and vegetation easily could have been rural Maine. Ray’s dog Yogi and Ranger, the nicest cat alive did their domestic animal duties of making me feel at home too. After the first few rainy days had passed making way for warm sunny days, I started sleeping on the deck outside the yoga room every night, falling asleep to satellites and shooting stars, waking up to the sunrise. Multiple times I hiked up to the ridgeline over Fornelo do Monde to stand in awe under the giant wind turbines that reside there, an interesting juxtaposition to a town that’s only had electricity for 30 years. I jumped in the stream running through the property and didn’t hesitate to wash my clothes in it the one day the water pump wasn’t working. I seriously think the laundry came out cleaner than it’s been in months! Ray made sure to show me around his solar and hydro power systems the day I arrived, however it became apparent that just having renewable energy sources does not guarantee you’ll get hands on experience with them as the systems required no management during my stay. No regrets on this workaway choice though, the comfort and serenity gave me the much needed opportunity to plan the next months of life and consider how best to achieve my longer term goals. I also had the chance to spend the weekends exploring both alone and with company. I shared portions of my farm stay with 1-2 other wonderful workaway-ers. The first rainy weekend after I arrived, we meandered to Aveiro, a small coastal town known for the beautiful tiles covering each home’s facade. The second weekend I took a solo vacation from my vacation and hopped the train down the Douro river, where mountains often terracesd with vineyards stretch their flanks down to the water and provide us with most of the world’s port wine. Further up the river the terraces give way to undeveloped rugged cliffs. I got the genius idea of taking a ill-fitting rented hardtail mountain bike up and down about 4000ft of vertical climbing over 25 miles of road, cobblestone and dirt trail through the mountainous vineyards. As we say in Colorado, third degree fun! Then on my third weekend, Ray Maude and I pitched the castle of a tent borrowed from the young family Ray invited to share his property at the first ever Orbits festival. The location of the electronic music festival was ideal, on the flanks of a river just outside a natural mountain park, but the planning of the festival was not so much so. We showed up a few hours after the festival was supposed to start to find that the stage and grounds had not even been fully set up yet. I couldn’t help but think of my friends back in CO attending the Telluride Bluegrass Festival at that very moment, where it’s typical to show up a week early alongside the performing artists and the campground is a full-on festival in itself. It’s day 2 of Orbits fest and the music is supposed to start in 20 minutes, here’s hoping for a turnaround, I was promised dancing!!! 🙂
Update – music came through and 12 straight hours of dancing commenced! But I the next morning I decided that I’d rather experience Saturday night in Lisbon vs another night at the Orbits fest so I hopped the next bus and with that I left behind the countryside for a week of Portugese Metropolitan life in Lisbon and Porto!
Views from around the farm:
Douro River Weekend:
And I apparently took no pictures from the Orbits music festival itself, but I did take a couple photos from the tiny town I hiked to before the music started…