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The Porta do Mezio: gateway to the beautiful Peneda-Gerês National Park

We ended up at the Porta do Mezio rather by chance during this summer holiday marked by Covid. We had spent a wonderful day at the nearby Ecovia do Vez, bathed in the river and followed the wonderful hiking trail until we had to look for a campsite in a hurry in the evening. The Parque de Campismo da Travanca was not only nearby, but also enticed us with the prospect of spending the night in a beautiful forest near the national park.

Cachena Cattle, Porta do Mezio

When we reach Porta do Mezio late in the evening, our expectations were exceeded. We saw the giant swing, Baloiço do Mezio, on a ridge at sunset, then passed several free-range cattle and even spotted a few wild ponies in the woods. The friendly cattle herder finally showed us the way to the campsite, which was situated quite high up. Here, the attentive manager of the campsite welcomed us and led us through the darkness to a lonely spot with a view over the mountains and valleys of the surrounding area. Above us, there was an impressive starry sky. Hundreds of cicadas played their midsummer night’s dream to music.

Lagoas da Travanca

The next day, we learned that the Lagoas da Travanca were waiting for our visit in the immediate vicinity. Over some wooden footbridges, you can easily walk down to a small river, which forms several small, very idyllic water basins and then some waterfalls downstream supply the largest pond with fresh water. Our children climbed in a hurry into the pleasantly refreshing water, then played for hours on the bank with stones and wood. We saw small lizards climbing nimbly up the rocks and once even an emerald lizard, which is quite large by European standards.

Lagoas da Travanca

Again and again, new holidaymakers, mostly families, came in and jumped into the wonderfully refreshing water, swam briefly through the small mountain lake and then warmed themselves up again in the sun. It was August and all of Portugal was on holiday, but it still never really got too crowded there.

On our further hike, we once again came across some impressive Cachena cattle and saw a small group of wild Garrano ponies far up the mountainside. As city dwellers, we felt almost as overwhelmed by the sight of those large free-range animals as we would on a safari through one of South Africa’s large national parks.

The giant swing at the Porta do Mezio

We walked to the Baloiço do Mezio with mixed feelings, because the swing at the nearby Vila Nova de Cerveira turned out to be purely a photo motif without any real function, but still had a waiting time of hours by the time we reached the mountain. The Baloiço do Mezio is located on a ridge of about 900 metres high with a wonderful panoramic view over the Soajo Mountains and far into the mountains of the Peneda-Gerês National Park.

Swinging at the Porta do Mezio

When we arrive there around noon, there were few other visitors. And while we watched the swinging children and romantic couples, our own children built their stone towers on the high plateau. The fact that there are quite a few of these suggests that even here at the Baloiço do Mezio, there is often a long wait. When was our turn, we enjoyed the wide swing of the swing, which is over 7 metres high. Of course, I saw Laura swinging far above the clouds like the cartoon Heidi from my childhood and afterwards I enjoyed the rare opportunity to try out a really huge swing myself.

Garrano ponies at the Porta do Mezio

Below the swing, we promptly found a small wild herd of the typical Garrano ponies, but they were mixed with descendants of released domestic ponies. The Garrano ponies have been living in this region for at least 20,000 years, so they are an ancient breed of horses that have adapted perfectly to the mountains and can also brave the Iberian wolf (which still exists) quite cleverly. When we admired them from a short distance, we did not yet understand their strange placement within the herd. The heads were all directed towards the centre of the herd and the rumps towards the periphery.

A little later at the information centre and adventure park Porta do Mezio, we found an explanation for this behaviour in a small exhibition about the Garranos. It serves to protect the herd from enemies. In the centre of the circle, the foals can be protected, while a stallion on the periphery gallops to attack and chase away wolves or other enemies.

Our older daughter Lia enthusiastically lunged about the tree climbing course in the adventure park, while Laura, who was not yet old enough for it, borrowed a pedal car and was no less happy driving it around. There was also a well-attended swimming pool, a miniature village, a special viewing platform, a land equipment exhibition and, at the entrance to the park, the megalithic tomb Anta do Mezio. All of them are small, rather insignificant attractions. But our children enjoyed their visit here very much and we were able to relax and fill in some gaps in our knowledge.

In the late afternoon, we left this beautiful area almost a little melancholically and headed through the national park towards Peneda. A narrow road curved into sparsely populated mountain valleys. We often saw cows and ponies at the roadside, sometimes we had to wait until the cattle let us through. At some point, the monastery Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Peneda came into view high up in a valley. We were overwhelmed by the sight. The frequent comparison with the Lhasa monasteries in Tibet suddenly didn’t seem so far-fetched anymore.

Santuario de Nossa Senhora da Peneda

Information centre and adventure park Porta do Mezio
GPS: 41.885614, -8.314007

Opening hours:
April – June, September: 9:30 am – 6 pm
July – August: 9:30 am – 8 pm
October – March: 9:30 am – 5 pm

Website: portadomezio.pt
Facebook: facebook.com/portadomezio/


Campsite Parque de Campismo da Travanca
GPS: 41.901585, -8.314566
Facebook: facebook.com/parquedecampismodatravanca/


Lagoas da Travanca
GPS: 41.902740, -8.314366
Bring along: Water shoes are very useful for all river beaches, because these let you walk relatively painlessly and safely on the rocks or pebbles.


Baloiço do Mezio
GPS: 41.895682, -8.318690


Refreshment:
The Adventure Park restaurant is said to be very good, but was closed in 2020 because of Covid 19.
A small mobile snack bar prepares delicious sandwiches and burgers right next to the car park.
There are also cosy picnic areas and a grill.

This surprisingly simple weather report does not even need a frog to understand the current climate conditions:

ObservationWeather situation
The stone is wetRain
The stone is dryNo precipitation
The stone casts a shadow
on the ground
Sunshine
The stone is white on topIt is snowing
The stone is not visibleFog
The stone swingsSlight wind
The stone bouncesStrong wind
No stone leftTornado

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