Our first stop was in the Portuguese hamlet of Alcoutim. In October 2013 the first international zip wire to cross boarders was opened. It takes people over the river Guadiana from San Lucar on the Spanish side to Alcoutim on the Portuguese side of the river. If travelling from Portugal you first ride the ferry over and then zip wire back. It looks to be great fun but unfortunately the wire wasn't open whilst we were there. Apparently it's over 720 meters in length,and travels at...or I should say you would travel at between 70 and 80 kilometers per hour. I will return to gain a zip wire experience. Despite the disappointment with the zip wire, we still had a lovely two days visiting the local castles, parks and of course taking the ferry over to Spain for lunch and back in time for an evening meal.
Back in history these sites were more about protecting and defending boarders rather than fun. Castles stand proudly on either side as reminders of past battles and no doubt blood shed. It was quite surreal at times, the old with the new. We became a little fascinated with the goat who lived at the property, which backed onto the area where we parked. Campers and tourists one side of the fence and a very elderly woman and her goat happily planting and grazing the other side. They clearly had a harmonious routine, the goat with his bell who seemed to spend the whole day eating and the elderly woman who put the goat out first thing, did her planting, disappeared into her house, no doubt doing all her other chores. She'd come back in the evening in a fresh change of clothes, perhaps dressed for dinner, and take to goat in for the night. The writer in me just wanted to know more about her life.
Our second stop was an old mining town, Mina De Sao Domingos. Seem to have a thing for those mines. It area was however well developed for the use of motor homes, the Aires site was surrounded by a barragem, which had been developed as a park for locals, as well as tourists. The local canoeing club appeared to make great use of the area. The town had local shops, cafe's, hotel and restaurants and of course a museum, generally very pleasant. With it's150 years of history the museum is well worth a visit.
From there we went onto the town of Mertola, situated in the Alentejo, on the river Guadiana and within the national park area. This is a thriving town quite large, The Castle stands as a monument to the past. Looking down into the town and river one can imagine how it would have been possible to see invaders coming from miles away. I was more fascinated with the way in which the castle has been modified to accommodate tourists and visitors. Marble paths, steps and walkways have been constructed, they look very well crafted but all I could think of was the health and safety. If they are damp, or wet they could be very slippery. Few hand rails in place but mostly not, lovely to look at. But be careful if it' raining. Apart rom Mertola having a castle with worrying steps it also has a lovely indoor market and some amazing street art and shops. I really liked the town.
I really enjoyed this trip. Much more history along this route than I imagined, Roman ruins, Castles and beautiful landscape.