It was almost 3 PM by the time we turned off the main IP2 highway at Portalegre, taking the small and twisting N359 up into the Serra de Sao Mamede mountains as we approached Marvao. This was a very nice drive as we climbed up through the forest toward this village 2800 feet (850 meters) above sea level. While pottering along here with our windows down, we gradually began to hear the tinkle of dozens of bells. We soon saw a huge herd of goats moving through a treed pasture beside the road, so we had to stop to fully enjoy this symphony of bells! It was not long after we got out of the car to take some photos that the two sheep dogs began to bark and very quickly came over to check out this possible danger to their flock!
This forested mountain range rises to a peak of 3363 ft (1025 m) and is home to several species of wild animals, including cat-like genet, wild boars and red deer. No wonder the dogs were on the alert! The area was designated as a Nature Park in 1989.
As we traveled around the country, I found that Portugal did not seem to have much variety in the availability of local beer in its supermarkets and bars. It was pretty much the standard amber lager stuff, just packaged with different labels! Some of the ones that I tried were Sagres, Super-Bock and Cintra. That being said, a cold beer or two of any kind usually went down very well after an episode of castle wall or mountain climbing! This particular 4.8% alcohol Cintra beer met its fate at the little cafe in Marvao! It was always a pleasant experience to sip a cold one at an outdoor cafe in the warm breezes - who could complain?!
Portugal is home to many White Storks, a large bird standing 1 m (3.3 ft) tall and with a wingspan of 2 m (6.6 ft). They like to nest near wetlands, marshes and fields where they have a better chance of catching their desired prey of large insects, eels, fish small mammals and even other birds. As we drove around Portugal, we saw these birds in many areas, with these ones enjoying their nest atop a chimney as we passed by Portalegre. They prefer to nest on high isolated perches, adapting from the use of trees to church steeples, chimneys and especially high-voltage transmission towers. It was nice to see so many of these large birds because, not too long ago, they had to be placed on the protected species list in order to survive the many dangers of their annual migration to sub-Sahara Africa.