Brief Backtrack to Douro Superior

When I visited Quinta de Ervamoira and Muxagat Vinhos at the end of March, I mentioned that the winter rains had washed out part of the railway track between Tua and Pocinho, and so had to complete the last leg of the trip by bus.

These photos are not brilliant quality, as I was taking them from a moving train (where at least I could let the window down) or the bus (where I couldn’t).  But still worthwhile to give you sense of landscape, I think.  These were taken 25th and 26th March.

Whilst still on the train to Tua, I was able to get a couple photos of the river:

This taken from a bend in the river approaching Tua – that’s Quinta dos Malvedos (Graham’s) on the left (northern) bank.  I think you can tell, even if you’ve never seen it before, that the river is high – the trees are up to their necks in water on both banks.

This was taken after the photo above, closer to Tua, I think from just below the Malvedos outbuilding (the white building nearest the river in the center of the first photo).  You can see there is considerable land under water that would not normally be, and from the white water breakers around the treetops you can get a sense of how fast the river is moving.

The Graham’s Blog has an excellent “Douro Insider” report which is a monthly summary of meteorological conditions in the Douro, as well as vinyard activity in the Symington’s quintas.  The report for March 2010 notes that 100 mm of rain fell in March, making it the sixth month in a row of rainfall in excess of 100mm.  No wonder the river was so high and so fast.

From Tua the bus wended its way well north before turning south to Pocinho – the roads are torturous and rather dizzying, the elevations in that area are between 500 and 1000 metres.  If you look again at the map in my Quinta de Ervamoira posting, you can see a long narrow valley running north from Pocinho – basically we drove roughly northeast from Tua to Vila Flor in the mountains near the northern end of that valley, then turned south.  So the ride was first very steeply upwards via a seemingly never ending series of switchbacks, then from Vila Flor we began the descent through the mountains finally entering the valley near the Douro and Quinta do Vale Meão (sadly my photo of the quinta is hopelessly blurred).  I admit at first I didn’t even try to take pictures – it was drizzly, I didn’t think I could take a photo through the foggy bus windows and honestly, I didn’t feel so good, between being cooped up in the bus, the motion of all those switchbacks and the visuals of looking down the precipices alongside the road!  I never was sick at sea, no matter how rough, but that road nearly did me in.

As we came into the valley the sun came out, and the valley was such a shock – so open and flat after what we’d just passed through – I tried a photo from the bus after all:

I thought of cropping that, but love the open-ness and drama of the sky.

Closer to Pocinho we began to go up (and down!) a bit again:

The angle of the horizon is actually indicative of the angle of the bus at the moment I took this, heading down hill rather sharply!  The line of those hills should actually be about horizontal.

Coming back on the 26th by the same route I tried to get photos in the hills above Tua, both weather and my poor skull and stomach were more settled on the return trip.

The landscape made me think of a crumpled paper, the mountains all crushed together every which way.  This was taken well inland from the river, on a guess, about 7 or 8 miles north of the river, and maybe half way towards Pocinho from Tua as the crow would fly.  Even here you can see there are some vinyards, and there is a flash of blue in the deepest fold on the left – I think that is the northern end of the little river that runs into the Douro just a mile or mile and a half east of Tua.

Finally, this one was taken just above (almost literally, vertically above) Tua.  That stretch of the Douro would be just upriver from the town.

Hope you have enjoyed the trip as much as I did – maybe more, without the slight motion sickness!