Anni in Italy, Spain and Portugal 2007 travel blog

Sao Domenigo Lead-Zinc mine

Sao Domenigo town

Old mine works

Old mine works

Acid mine drainage


Southern Portugal Field Trip

Southern Portugal Field Trip

Southern Portugal Field Trip

Southern Portugal Field Trip

Southern Portugal Field Trip

Old town - Faro

Old town Faro

Boat trip to salt marshes and barrier islands near Faro

Salt marshes

Beach where we swam on Ilha da Barreta (barrier island)

Solar powered restaurant on Ilha da Barreta where we had lunch

Fishermens huts

Seafood lunch (I had lettuce and potatoes)

Grilling fresh fish for lunch mmmmm.....

Illegal island houses

Faro old town from the boat

Old town, Faro

The boat trip to salt marshes and barrier islands near Faro, Oscar...

The Gang - Richard, Nico, Me and Tomas

Traditional Portugese house with azulejos covered exterior facing

The hills outside of Faro - a lot of olive trees !

A walk in the hills to see the springs

Cottages in the hills

The boys in the springs - too cold for me !!!! Jose...

Baskets for sale made from cane in the stream

Local basket making

The valley we walked in

Cork tree, lower bark has been harvested

Check out that fault contact !!!

Villa in the hills

Harvested piles of cork bark

Me swimming in the springs pool, cold but refreshing !

Laundry house at another spring

Little town where we had lunch (& I had too much vinho)

As part of the post-conference activities I attend the hydrogeology field trip to the south of Portugal. After a somewhat chaotic process of picking people up from hotels much later than expected, then realising that our bus was too small then arranging for a bigger one, we headed onto the highway south. The roads are amazing, quiet and empty ! Many seem very new, as does much of the infrastructure in Portugal, and I am told that since inclusion in the EU, Portugal has had a huge injection of EU money for improvements. Consequently, it has a fantastic efficient new metro in Lisbon and train lines, and the roads are really good. They are really into wind-power (HELLO WORLD) and many of the hills even close to Lisbon are graced with these mighty turbines. And did I mention how clean everything is ? These guys put us to shame, with recycling bins everywhere even on the beach, and not a speck of litter to be seen. No bad urine smells, an hardly any beggars.

Our first stop was to an abandoned lead-zinc mine 5 km west of the Spanish border. There is now a huge acid mine drainage problem coming from the site and billions of the above mentioned dollars are being spent on rehabilitating the landscape. The only problem I could see is that they are still keen to "preserve" the site as a tourist attraction so have left piles of lead-rich ash etc lying around exposed to the elements. In addition, their sediment runoff control measures didn't look too effective. Not sure that tourism and rehabilitation are actually compatible in this instance. The water in the open pit (memories of Kalgoorlie ...) is a nasty brown and has a pH of 1 !!! They have just started investigating groundwater conditions and the links with surface water.

We had lunch at a local restaurant (mostly seafood so us veges have been subsisting on lettuce, rice, bread and potatoes). Later on there were 2 ?cavalleiros (guys on horses) having a beer at the bar and then trotted off keeping their huge fit frisky horses barely in control.

In Faro we spent a day out boating around the salt marshes and then on several of the sandy outer barrier islands. I can only say that I totally loved being out on the water and the swim we had was something else. The sea was not too cold, but I would say in another few weeks it would be too cold for swimming. WE checked out some shallow water extraction wells on the island followed by a delicious seafood lunch (if you like that sort of thing) and accompanied by the mandatory vinho to ensure a somnolent afternoon.

There are lots of illegal houses on these islands which are actually part of a protected nature reserve. The problem was that for years the local fishermen had shacks which were allowed, but that grew by addition into houses, holiday homes, bars and restaurants. Now you would think you were on the Costa del Sol to see some of them complete with BBQ areas, electricity, gardens, huge boats etc. It was a fascinating look at the problems they have in managing this fragile ecosystem that is partially maintained by submarine groundwater springs driven by the head from the land. I even managed to sneak in a cup of tea to takeaway on the boat as we headed back to Faro !

One evening, a gang of us wandered through the inside of the old town and I was amazed by the lack of tourists (compared to similar places in Italy) considering.that we saw a constant stream of planes landing at the Faro airport. Apparently the tourists all head west to the coast. At dinner one of the guys asked me to help him choose some jewellery for his wife from a guy sellng stuff on the street. There were some lovely pieces and I bought a copper necklace. The guy selling it was from Brazil and is supporting his travelling by making jewellery. As we talked he deftly twisted a piece of silver wire into a gorgeous ring which he gave to me for free. WOW !

We have on our tour retired John Moore and his wife Dicky from Denver USA. They are most entertaining, complaining about everything than smiling, play fighting with each other then smiling. John was president of the IAH for a while, and has also worked for the USGS. I really feel that I am among gods here. Our tour leader is hydrogeologist from Algarve University Jose Paulo Monteiro. But like all geologists and hydrogeologist, everyone is really nice and down to earth.

Another day we headed into the hills and visited a number of springs discharging because of and East-West fault that runs across the slope and forces groundwater up along it. We had a most pleasant 3 km walk around the topography through olive and cork trees. In Lisbon I have seen all sorts of things for sale made from cork - handbags, aprons, even shoes and an umbrella ! We passed and visited a small cottage where they were making baskets from the cane gathered from the stream. Not more than once I rued the 20 kg baggage allowance ! We lunched late at a lovely restaurant out on the terrace overlooking the valley, and I had far too much vinho and consequently I loved everyone and kept them all entertained until several minutes later I fell asleep in the bus !

Precipitated by the severe AC in the bus and in combination with the lack on smoking laws and abundance of smokers in Portugal (and most probably the lack of sleep...), I have developed a chest infection. Good thing I have brought antibiotics with me for such an event. Not letting it stop me though !

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