Before we leave Évora we have to visit the Megaliths that stand 15 kilometres east of the town in Cromeleque dos Almondres. We decide to walk the 4 kilometres from the parking in Almondres village to the Megalithic stone circle. And what a treat it is.
We walk through ancient cork oaks and wild olive groves, the ground covered with a tapestry of Spring flowers, the air scented with chamomile and hot pines, the only sound the cuckoo’s cry.
The Megalithic circle of giant standing stones, some carved with mysterious swirling patterns, makes Stonehenge seem like a baby as the Almondres stones are so much older. Even better, they’re not fenced off. You can get right up to them.
A little girl is lifted onto one by her father. The area’s soil is sandy but these are granite monoliths. It is such a mystery as to how they were moved but as they line up with the rising sun on the summer solstice they definitely have a symbolic relevance.
After reconnecting with our inner Pagan, we drive to Serpa, a white hillside town, where the Azenha Da Ordem Walking Trail starts at the fountain in the centre of town and wanders through a pastoral idyll, through wildflower, cork and olive woods, to the Guadiana River.
We walk some of it, the air smelling of wild fennel, the cubic white houses with primary coloured edging postcard perfect.
The town itself has grand old houses, and small cottages; hermitages; churches; towers all glowing in white.
A castle tops the town. Marble fountains and black and white cobbled streets complete the picture.
Swifts dart in and out of the ancient walls and house martins swoop through the square as we enjoy an evening drink. Serpa’s botanic gardens are a sensual joy, the air so sweet from the Japanese pittosporum.
But the stars of the show are the ancient olive trees in the street, their trunks sculpted by Mother Nature into surreal creatures.
Our neighbours from the Forest of Dean, Lloyd and Julie, are seasoned explorers of Portugal and they recommend a stop off at the haunting old mines of Mina Sao Domingos.
The ghost town of old mining cottages is eerie. At 150 years old it was run by an English company, who even built their own walled Anglican cemetery, filled with cypresses and local legend has it, they even transported soil from England for it.
Locals had no love of the company, which kept workers in check with their own police force, though the closure in 1960 plunged the area into unemployment.
We amble up to the haunting Anglican cemetery, the photograph of the manager’s large family just labelled as English Family. Their faces stare out at us like a collection of Victorian ghosts. The old mine-shaft is filled with a strange blue coloured lake and the sheer rock sides are a poisonous copper green and iron red. Lead runs through it too.
The area feels haunted, not just by the 19th Century mines but by all the souls of the miners who’ve dug precious metals from the bowels of the earth here since Roman times.
If you would like to read my piece of flash fiction influenced by our visit to Sao Domingos click on: https://campervanbard.com/2023/05/08/flight/
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