This Spring, the pace of IAT developments in Portugal is picking up, with the local chapter of the International Appalachian Trail being featured in the community magazine of the Municipality of Oleiros. Follow IAT Portugal's Carlos Neto de Carvalho as he gives a step by step account of the Muradal-Pangaea Trail and Geopark Naturtejo da Meseta Meridional.
IAT Engaging Local Communities In Portugal
Communities surrounding Muradal mountain in Portugal are enthusiastically working together to open the International Appalachian Trail in Oleiros. From an idea launched by Naturtejo Geopark to the municipality of Oleiros, a beautiful social project is being built by rural communities with the sole purpose of developing an identity and reputation for Nature Tourism, including a UNESCO designation.
Broken apart from Newfoundland with the opening of the North Atlantic and from the French Armorican Massif by the ouverture of the Biscay Bay, Muradal mountain is an almost unknown element of the complex Appalachian puzzle, even for the people that live nearby. The work coordinated from the village of Estreito has been opening old trails in the mountain, tracks that once were the main way of communication between this mountainous region and the city of Castelo Branco, paths walked on for at least 5000 years. But the reopening of the trails not only enable the locals to return to the mountain to collect products from the forest, such as strawberry tree berries to produce a very strong alcoholic drink and homemade jams, but also the quartzite cobbles that are again used to restore the dry stone walls.
The new IAT under construction is leading to the discovery of new palaeontological and archaeological sites that will be studied by researchers. The Muradal-Pangaea Trail provides an ideal reason to appreciate the Bronze Age fortified settlements and proto-historical mines, the geological heritage and biodiversity that is now starting to be uncovered. Not surprisingly, the spring edition of the cultural magazine of Oleiros is devoted to explain the IAT and the latest discoveries. Land owners are offering a right of way across their properties to allow access to the sites and lower the risk of forest fires.
Every village surrounding Muradal mountain wishes to participate in the IAT. A climbing school was opened in the Zebro crest (Zebro was a medieval horse - now extinct - that lead the Portuguese to give the name Zebra to equids they discovered in Africa during their 15th century voyages of discovery) with the goal to prevent the destruction of marine fossils that crowd the now vertical bedding plane. On April 5, a large group of climbers met here to enjoy climbing before the official inauguration. Soon these high-hanging enthusiasts may face the void through a Via Ferrata on the Ordovician…ocean!
The importance of IAT for adventure sports was reinforced by the decision of the Canadian company Land’s End Expedition Racing to organize the Crossroads Portugal – 2015 under the Trans Pangaean Challenge. Organizers Jose Nicolas and Matt Nelson, with the support of local municipalities and companies, are planning an international 260 km self-supported race that will start at the Ichnological Park of Penha Garcia and follow the Appalachian mountains, crossing the Muradal-Pangaea Trail until they reach the highest summit in Portugal – “The Star Mountain”, 1991 m high in the Tower.
This Spring, the southern section of the Muradal-Pangaea Trail will open with a major event between the communities of Estreito and Sarnadas de S. Simão. More news will certainly follow from the reopening of these historic trails.
Carlos Neto de Carvalho
Geopark Naturtejo da Meseta Meridional, under UNESCO