I feel the sweat running down my back and the heat burning every inch of my face, it’s official I’m lost in Ródão.
I look down at my shiny black shoes and I realize if I make one wrong move I’ll be rolling down the valley. How the hell did I end up here? Not even 5 minutes have passed since I walked by the 8km route sign and I am already freaking out.
The bees seemed to be particularly drawn to my hair, so I kept covering my ears to avoid making any sudden moves that will result in a nasty sting.
I looked ahead and I knew there was no way I was going to make it with these shoes. I was alone in the middle of nowhere, the path was way too narrow and my phone was running out of battery. Plus, I’m pretty sure if I screamed for help no one would find me here.
So I chickened out and made my way back to the village. Just the night before, I was wandering around Castelo Branco when I decided to book a mini trip to Ródão before heading back to Lisbon. I had exactly 6 hours to explore this small village, home to one of Portugal’s most beautiful natural sites, Portas de Ródão.
I must have asked a dozen people how to get there, the taxi driver, an old lady on the street and the guy from the local café, I ended up following the road to the pier and stayed there for a bit before venturing out to the top of the hill (well, almost the top).
Vila Portuguesa was the name of the café where I ended up spending most of my time in Ródão, first because I needed a place to charge my phone, second because it had an incredible view of the river and also because they organized boat trips, which was another great way to pass the time while I was here.
After my second coffee of the morning, which was really just an excuse to stay more than 5 seconds at the café, I decided to walk up to the main viewing spot. If you follow the brown arrows saying “Portas de Ródão” this is where you will wind up, clearly I was so bedazzled by the riverfront that I completely miss them at first!
It’s hard to imagine this structure has been around for more than 2 million years! These so-called doors belong to two different districts, the North is part of Castelo Branco and the South is part of Portalegre. Between them flows the Tagus river, the same one that runs by Lisbon.
It was the most breathtaking place I’ve been in a while since our trip to the Tatra mountains.
I had enough time to walk up to the castle, but due to the incredibly high temperatures I thought it would be best to skip that. Instead, I decided to explore the centre of the village, I had lunch at a local café, walked around the church and even visited the cemetery. The streets were pretty much deserted and for a second it felt like I was the only living soul around here.
There are several hiking routes worth taking in Ródão, but I would definitely recommend to dress appropriately, stock up on water and carry a map – all the things that I did not have with me at the time. I went there during Easter so a lot of things were closed, I definitely suggest visiting the local tourism office before venturing around on your own.
Since I had plenty of time to spare I decided to go back to the pier and bought a ticket for a boat trip. “How many people?” – the ticket guy asked. “Just one” – I replied confidently. I handed him my 10 euros and half an hour later I was on a boat full of families and couples sailing between Portas de Ródão.
It felt weird to be here on my own, though being surrounded by this majestic landscape made me forget all about it. This was the whole reason why I was here and if I could, I would have drift off to sleep right there. Suddenly, the voices started fading away, all I could hear were the eagles flying over us and the water hitting the sides of the boat. The wind caressed the recent sunburn on my face as the boat went faster and faster and I put my camera down to relish this moment.
I walked back to the train station, where I sat alone for a couple of minutes before any other passenger emerged. Right before the train arrived, a cat showed up on the opposite platform, he had a bright red scarf wrapped around his neck, which stood out well against the whitish tiles covering the station’s walls – no owner in sight. He crossed the tracks rather slowly and I feared for his live.
By this point there were already a few more people waiting, the cat rubbed his head against everyone’s legs as if to bid farewell to these occasional visitors (me included). At 19:21 the train arrived and we all left Ródão behind…