Portugal

In July 2013, the Portuguese municipality of Oleiros in Naturtejo Global Geopark (www.europeangeoparks.org) voted in favor of including the Grand Route Muradal-Pangea as the centerpiece of an IAT Portugal. More than 30 km will now be prepared along the Muradal Appalachian crest, with work beginning in late August or September.

Moradal (the Wall) quartzite ridge used as natural defense during the Iron Age and in the 18th century

The village of Estreito also hired a geographer to inventory the natural and cultural heritage along the route, that together with Naturtejo Global Geopark, will be highlighted in this new IAT chapter.

300 million year old trilobite ichnofossils in Naturtejo Global Geopark

The Moradal mountain ridge crosses the Centre Region of Portugal with particular relevance in the Oleiros municipality. The almost linear development of this mountain in a NW-SE trend reminds one of a gigantic wall from where the Portuguese name was certainly inspired. Rising more than 350m in comparison to the surrounding mountains, the Moradal crest was used as a natural defense since at least the Iron Age 2500 years ago, with some ruined fortresses and Moorish princess caves or mines still remaining. It was also part of the so-called Line Talhadas-Moradal against Spanish and Napoleonic Invasions during the “Fantastic Wars”.

The Moor Princess Cave

This almost unknown mountain rises hundreds of meters with a view of hundreds of kilometers in several directions, reaching the Iberian Central Mountain Belt. These flat-topped massifs pushed-up from the collision between the Africa and Iberia plates, to the North and West, and the Castelo Branco etchplain with Appalachian-type quartzite ridges (Penha Garcia and Vila Velha de Rodão) to the East and South, and penetrating well beyond the Spanish-Portuguese Boundary. This fact makes Moradal a privileged spot for landscape and nature lovers which, profiting from good accessibility, makes it suitable for walking and mountain biking, as well as other outdoor adventure sports which the IAT Project in Portugal is planning to develop, such as climbing and paragliding.

Walking on the Moradal Ridge

Besides its excellent natural condition, the fact that Moradal holds important geological sites recognized by UNESCO under the Geopark Naturtejo da Meseta Meridional increases the interest of local authorities and stakeholders to develop a new trail that unifies and maximizes the natural heritage value in order to protect and adequately promote sustainable tourism for the region, and thus foster local economic development. In this sense, the unique opportunity to include Moradal in one of the world's trekking icons, such as the Internacional Appalachian Trail (IAT), is considered a first priority by the Municipality of Oleiros.

Green - trail; Yellow - track

The addition of "Pangea" to the name of the Moradal Trail provides reference to the supercontinent that formed some 300 million years ago when the Appalachian-Variscan Mountain Belt was created, with Moradal being a small piece of a very fragmented puzzle of Earth History. Moreover, this was the geological foundation for the International Appalachian Trail which Portugal joins in celebrating. The importance of the geological landscape of Oleiros in uniting the region under the framework of a wider picture of Planet Earth in space and time reveals common characteristics and identity with the International Appalachian Trail as a whole.

Green - trail; Yellow - track; Red - Mountain bike

The project to implement the Grand Route Moradal-Pangea follows the main aims of valuing and internationalizing the natural, archeological and cultural heritages of Oleiros through integration in the International Appalachian Trail. The trail will also enable the development of Moradal mountain and surrounding villages through tourism diversification, including developing Nature Tourism and Culture and Landscape Touring as priorities. With interesting B&B and rural hotel projects popping up all over the region, it is of utmost importance to provide reasons to pay a visit to the region and stay for longer periods, encouraged by the diversity of product, high quality standards, and quality of natural, historical and cultural interpretation.

Picoto do Moradal Iron Age Fortress

The project is included in a tourism strategy for Oleiros – The Mountains Tour – developed together with Naturtejo, Tourism Company. In this sense, the Moradal-Pangea Trail is considered much more than a trail by the potential it offers for the development of the surrounding villages, namely Estreito, Sarnadas de S. Simão, Vilar Barroco and Orvalho. Following the spirit of the International Appalachian Trail, the Moradal Project will create benefits from the summits of the mountain and its beautiful views and foster new research, environmental conservation and landscape education, and promote local culture and traditional schist-made architecture. It will also create conditions for the development of existing and new accommodation, restaurants and outdoor adventure companies. At the same time new opportunities will be provided to make Moradal mountain a new destination for adventure sports in Portugal.

Crossing the Casa das Zebreira River

Definition of the Moradal-Pangeia Trail is now in progress and carried out in the field as a technical partnership between the village of Estreito, Estreito Trails Association, the Municipality of Oleiros and Naturtejo, EIM. They are seeking the support of local land owners where the Trail will pass, highlighting its importance as a fire break to prevent the spread of fires that afflict this mostly forested region from time to time.

Stay tuned for more news on the Moradal-Pangea Trail and IAT Portugal.

For information on Naturtejo Global Geopark, visit their website www.naturtejo.com

......or travel to Portugal and visit their Appalachian Mountains on foot!!