Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Madmen across the Water – Part 2 – Portugal 21

Mark and Scott test their newly-rebuilt engines

Mark and Scott test their newly-rebuilt engines

Killing time before the Powerboat competition at the weekend, Miki and I decided to set off on the bikes and explore the surrounding area. But not before I was co-opted onto the British National Team to assist in lowering two of their craft into the water. They were testing the new engines after completely rebuilding them this week. Apparently they’d blown them up in competition in Lisbon last week!

We headed out of Barca d’Alva and almost immediately regretted it. Our muscles howled in protest, and we realised just how strenuous our trip down into the ravine at Miranda had really been. But this is the only way to combat it; ride through the pain!

Sure enough, it got a little easier, and we discovered an old railway track which led us to a host of delights including a vast abandoned railway station, and a huge freight warehouse. Beyond was the sidings, leading to an enormous iron turntable that serviced the three-arched, brick built engine sheds.

Engine sheds Barca de Alva

Engine sheds Barca de Alva

An enormous melancholy hangs in the air here, as one imagines a bygone era, with a bustling station and gleaming engines emerging from their slumber into the sunlight. The whoooosh of steam and the piercing whistle echoing across the water. But now, it is only the ghosts of plumes of steam curling into the rafters, and the turntable’s burden is simply the rust of ages. How sad when these railways fall into decline.

Miki on the tracks

Miki on the tracks

We half-rode, half-pulled, our bikes along the track, beyond a rockfall in the cutting and around a bend to reveal the old iron bridge spanning the river. Not the Douro, this time, but a tributary, the Rio Agueda, the Spanish border abandoning its grand mistress, and running away south now, following this lesser waterway.

Kev on railway bridge into Spain

Kev on railway bridge into Spain

We crossed the nearby roadbridge and entered Spain again, just for the hell of it, because we could. Perhaps we are all Madmen across the Water, the Powerboat competitors, hurtling across it, or us, crossing rivers wherever we find them. Something deep in the human psyche draws us to water. It pleases us, calms us, revives us. Water constitutes the majority of our being, and from water we came. Does that evolutionary thread still connect us? I’d like to think so.

Kev points the way to Portugal

Kev points the way to Portugal

As we steal another night of electricity, and watch the grand river cruisers come and go at this, the farthest navigable point of the Douro, we once again ponder whether to leave for a day or two, returning for the competition, or simply stay here by the water. Breakfast is had, and the jury’s still out…..

View of Barca from the old station

View of Barca from the old station

Kev Moore

 

 

Advertisements

July 19, 2008 Posted by | culture, fun, humor, life, personal, travel, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Madmen across the Water – Part One – Portugal 20

The Bridge at Barca (Boomobile visible thru last arch)

The Bridge at Barca (Boomobile visible thru last arch)

We headed South, keeping faith with the mighty river Douro, and, by default, the Spanish Border to the East. After about 20k of fairly unremarkable scenery, the landscape changed dramatically as we began to thread our way through towering slopes terraced with hundreds upon hundreds of vines. This was serious wine country. The river, an azure ribbon winding its way down in the valley, and the Spanish slopes on the far bank home to a myriad of Olive trees. The old stone signposts at the side of the road told us we were approaching a place called Barca de Alva, but it wasn’t on our map. We checked the bigger road map, and found it; a small settlement where the Douro turns West and heads for Porto.

Looking down at the river, I was wondering how navigable it was, as it seemed very broad for the last few kilometers. Just then, we spied a huge river craft at its moorings.

The Douro Queen

The Douro Queen

We had arrived at Barca de Alva, and discovered that a series of River cruise ships seemed to operate out of here. As we drew nearer to the docks, we saw a number of motorhomes – but with a difference. Attached to each was a huge awning, and beneath, a powerboat! We had stumbled on the venue for a huge Powerboat championship this weekend! All the early arrivals were English, though an international field was expected for the weekend. Even more amazing, the little town had laid on electricity!! Possibly the only place in the whole of Portugal where they had free juice, and we’d found it!

These crazy people race these craft at speeds reaching 160kph across open stretches of water such as this. It seems the Douro at this point is ideal for the huge oval circuit that the boats will be competing over. We resolved to watch this spectacle at the weekend, but with around 40 competitors eventually turning up, our time by the riverside may be limited.

We decided to stay a second night, see how many are arriving, then perhaps leave for a day or two, exploring the river, returning late Friday night to try and get a parking space again.

The more sedate river boats also appeal to me – I love the idea of languidly heading off downriver to Porto. But to be honest, we don’t really know if that’s what the boats do. We’ve made a note of the website, and intend to check it out when we get home.

Douro Queen and Vasco de Gama

Douro Queen and Vasco de Gama

As we settled down for that first night in Barca, we watched the English and American passengers chatting amiably on the top deck. We sat and drank our tinto by the riverside enchanted by the beautiful reflection of the illuminated bridge in the waters of the Douro.

Wonderfully romantic! – and a frisson of excitement, awaiting the roar of the engines that will shatter the tranquility this weekend….

British Powerboat awaits the weekend

British Powerboat awaits the weekend

Kev Moore

July 18, 2008 Posted by | culture, Entertainment, events, life, personal, photography, Valentines, writing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment