IAT Members Tour Portugal's Naturtejo Geopark
From June 30 to July 4, American IAT geo-adventurers Rebecca Marvil and her husband Brian Smyth toured Portugal's Naturtejo Geopark, exploring "geological wonders, ancient mines, quaint villages and breathtaking landscapes." The Geopark is also the core of IAT Portugal, and one of approximately 10 European Geoparks (www.europeangeoparks.org) along the IAT Europe route.
In their own words:
“The Naturtejo Geopark of Portugal has over 1700 square miles of geological wonders, ancient mines, quaint villages and breathtaking landscapes. It's also the place where IAT-SIA Portugal is being laid out and built. My husband, Brian and I, spent five days there in early July walking on the ancient cobblestones and river paths and checking out the latest IAT-SIA trail.
Geologist Carlos Carvalho, the scientific coordinator for the Geopark, met us at the park's headquarters in the city of Castelo Branco. He had books, maps and four full days of great walks.
(left to right) Carlos, Rebecca and Brian
The first day took us the village of Salvaterra do Extremo and the “Vulture Trail”. We walked in the shadow of a 9th century castle and along the banks of the Erges River between Portugal and Spain. We even saw a few vultures, griffons and white storks.
Erges River between Portugal and Spain
Next we went to Penha Garcia, a larger village with the impressive “Fossil Trail”. The walk took us through a Templar castle,
past bedding planes that revealed Paleozoic trilobites and their trails
and back to town through small farms, cork oaks
and olive groves.
The trail is impeccably maintained by Mr. Domingues who is happy to show all visitors the fossils and restored ancient mill.
Monsanto, known as “the most Portuguese village”,
is a lovely town built around boulders and protected by another Templar castle.
From Monsanto we walked to the village of Idanha-a-Velha along the Trans European Grand Route (which runs from Portugal to Romania).
Idanha-a-Velha has the distinction of being the “smallest Roman city” and the inscribed blocks attest to its place in the Roman Empire.
Day three took us to the small village of Perais and a walk down to the Tejo, the longest river on the Iberian Peninsula.
We walked to the Tejo again that afternoon from the town of Santana. The trail took us by a vast boulder field - the remains of an immense Roman gold mine – pine plantations and small shaft mines. A large group of griffon vultures living in a nearby cliff circled overhead.
Brian at entrance of ancient gold mine
We spent our last day with Carlos, Monica, a Naturtejo Geopark intern and Daniel, a geographer from the village of Estreito who is responsible for the new IAT-SIA trail here in the municipality of Oleiros.
We walked parts of the new trail - some of it shared with gigantic windmills - and ate cherries from Daniel's family orchard."