Janh challenged me recently to post some photographs from around The Cave so, with some ambivalence and apologies for the amateur photography, please join me on a lope from civilisation up the hill to OZ’s lair.
Beyond cyberworld, The Cave really is located on top of a hill in deepest Portugal, some 1,500 feet above sea level and more than a mile from the nearest road. There is only one way in and out, an unmade track of rock and stones and dust or mud depending on season
with drops of 300 feet or more on the “interesting” side – enough to make even the most experienced Portuguese delivery driver clenched and sweating by the time they hit the tarmac again. I feel particularly for poor old Basílio, the gas man who has to deliver those shoulder-high canisters of butane up here every couple of months or so. If he went over the edge in his lorry they’d hear the resulting explosion in Lisbon.
It is in the spring that these hills are an absolute joy to behold. The riot of colour starts early on with the delicate almond blossom and its gentle tale of how a Moorish prince first planted almond trees in Portugal to remind his homesick Scandinavian bride of the snows of her homeland.
Yet only three or four weeks later the blossom is gone and the scenery changes spectacularly. The first gum roses appear and before long their nodding heads are dotting whole hillsides. Unfortunately, violent storms are still common at this time of year and the poor cistus often takes a battering, but in their untouched glory they are a remarkable sight.
Further up the hill and another few weeks later the track sides come alive with a rich variety of wild flowers. I can recognise a type of gorse
and sheets of wild lavender
but most of the plants are a mystery, at least to me.
But what the hell. Who needs classification in the midst of all that natual beauty? Nature mixes species and colours to provide a patchwork of complimentary colours and scents to assault the senses. Not only that, but the hills provide a vibrant habitat for all kinds of lunch, er, warm furry things from wild boar to “wabts” (rabbits, for those not fluent in Hemmett-speak),voles and shrews, not to mention eagles and other raptors, genets, salamanders, and even chameleons. The variety is astonishing.
As we climb towards the top of the hill one can look down into the valley and be thankful we’re not driving a lorry full of butane.
Anyway, at the end of our lope we come to the last climb on the hill, beyond which lies The Cave. Thank you for your company, gentle traveller, and boa viagem.