After a very delicious afternoon in Cáceres, M, J and I headed to our bed-and-breakfast in La Fontañera, a small village-population:52!-that straddles the Spanish-Portuguese border. We settled in, went to the nearest Pingo Doce supermarket to buy food for the night, and discussed our plans for the next day. We had previously talked about doing an all-day hike and decided on setting Marvão, a Portuguese village that can be seen from La Fontañera, as our goal.
Before dinner, we went outside at sunset and gazed at Marvão, which seemed to be many kilometers off in the distance. According to J, we would have to cross at least two valleys to get there and it would probably take us all day.
Do you really think we’ll make it, guys? I wondered aloud.
Both M and J shrugged.
I guess there’s only one way to find out.
The next morning, we woke up early by vacation standards (9am!) and put on layers and layers of clothes for our hike. Despite being March, it was still quite cold outside. We had breakfast, made our lunches and packed our backpacks for the day’s journey.
The first part of our hike was relatively easy since it was mostly downhill. After passing by some goats in a pasture, we carefully made our way down a semi-steep hill, dodging rocks and bushes in the process. We then proceeded to hop over a fence and walk along the main road. About 30 minutes into the hike, we stopped at the bed-and-breakfast owner’s house, and chatted over coffee. Little did we know, the easiest part of the hike was over. We had quite a challenge ahead.
After our brief coffee break, we decided to pick up the pace a little. We were told that it would take us at least four hours to get to our destination by foot. Although it seemed to be a daunting task considering we would have to climb up a mountain for a good part of the walk, we were determined to reach the top.
As we hiked through the hills and valleys, we could always see Marvão in the distance. It was a constant reminder of what lay ahead of us. Our goal was always in sight even when we considered giving up and taking a taxi to the top. Fortunately, the three of us supported each other and pushed ourselves to reach our goal.
The walk was pretty quiet for the most part and we rarely saw people, except when we were passing through small towns. Besides our own company, we really only ran into animals in our journey. It was a very peaceful and relaxing walk for the most part.
However, once we hit the last town on our path, things started to get more challenging. From there on out, the only way to go was up.
Walking up mountains has never been my favorite thing to do, but I didn’t mind it so much this time because we went up using an old Roman road. As we ascended the winding, narrow road, I thought about the ancient Romans riding up to Marvão in chariots or on horseback.
As we got closer to the top, something caught our eyes. There was a car stuck in a bend on the side of the road. As small and curvy as the road was, we couldn’t figure out how the car got there to begin with. We imagined someone having a crazy night at the top of the mountain in Marvão and accidentally trying to go down the Roman road in their car. The car might have hit another bend and spun backwards. The other possibility was that the car came up the Roman road, but there were some parts of the road that were not wide enough for a car to fit. After a good fifteen minutes of speculating, we decided to “leave that chapter out [of the book] and call it a mystery” as my mom would always say when she didn’t want to answer my questions when I was younger.
After walking for about ten more minutes, we finally made it to the top! I stood on part of the village’s walls and contemplated the gorgeous landscape. I couldn’t believe we had walked so much. And to top it all off, we had only taken three hours to get to our destination, not four like J’s friend had told us.
We were exhausted, but more excited to explore Marvão, so we continued walking around.
After exploring the ancient village walls and staring in awe at our surroundings, we decided to do what every civilized person does to celebrate such a great accomplishment: grab a beer!
Never had a beer tasted so sweet and refreshing as after our three-hour epic journey to Marvão.
After sitting and enjoying our beers, we started to get a little cold and decided to check out the Castelo de Marvão, or Marvão’s castle.
The castle itself dates back to the year 1299 and it is considered a crusader-era design. The style is quite different from other medieval castles in the Iberian Peninsula. Many of the architectural elements were brought back from crusading orders in the near east in places such as, present-day Syria.
We climbed around the castle walls, taking in the beautiful views of the surrounding towns and villages. Since most of the area was not as developed as other places in the Iberian Peninsula, many of the scenes we saw were exactly the same as what those who built the castle back in he 1200’s would have seen. We could understand exactly why they had decided to build a town and fortress in that spot.
Inside the castle, there were a few souvenir shops, so we checked them out. On the way out, we grabbed a snack at a small bakery and chatted up a few locals. Luckily, they knew some Spanish so I learned a few things about Marvão. Apparently, the population of the town is only about 3,000, but they receive a lot of tourism, which helps keep the village alive and well.
After talking to the shop owners, we decided to head back. We had at least three more hours of walking to go.
As soon as we started to descend the Roman road, we were greeted by the mystery car yet again. This time, it was being towed up the road by a construction vehicle. What a sight!
Since J knew some Portuguese, he decided to ask how the car got there. Even the guys towing the car didn’t know. I guess it will always be a mystery.
The walk back seemed a little bit longer than the walk there, but mainly because it started to rain. We walked along the main road the whole time because it was easier to follow. We stopped for a late lunch in a small town along the way and realized we had about 9 more kilometers to go. It may not seem like much, but after all the walking we had done, we were wiped out.
Luckily, we had some furry friends to keep us company.
When we finally made it back to La Fontañera, I was so happy to be back that I almost kissed the ground. It was a very long and tiring day, but also a really rewarding one. We reached our goal and even made it back in one piece. We had considered taking a taxi back, but I was happy we didn’t.
That night I had one of the best night’s sleep I had had in a long time. I passed out right as my head hit the pillow. The next day, we embarked on another adventure to the Portuguese city of Évora. Stay tuned!