Housesitting in Portugal, Neighbourhood Walks

Neighbourhood Walks and More – Ourique

As you know, we have been housesitting in the Portugal countryside, to be more precise approximately 7kms from Ourique, heading inland, for the last few weeks in September. Our first housesit in this intriguing country, though not our first visit. The laid back and friendly atmosphere of the countryside, has been a pleasure, so too has our interaction with locals and the animals under our care.  Which has included many hours spent wandering around the neighbourhood and further afield.

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The two characters we shared most of our walks with were Bob the Dog and his best mate Indy Elsa and funnily enough, the four felines [Nugget, Flossy, Bailey and Tiggy] declined to join us.  Though, Tiggy was already on her usual three-day trek that did last much longer than normal, which we were told is quite common for her to do.

This has certainly been one of our most unusual housesits.

Why? 

Mainly due to the freedom that Bob and Indy are allowed.  Both are rescue dogs with a disadvantageous start to life; they now enjoy the freedom of the countryside when they get the urge to wander, which occurs a few times a day.  Now, what’s also intriguing is that they won’t go off in the morning without their carers okay, even though they do have access out of the property when it suits them.  Now when it comes to listening to commands, their ears are not usually tuned into voice commands from humans let alone ones with a kiwi accent.  Though their ability to return when it suits them is, and they do return home usually around meal time, with more times than not it’s when the desire for sleep takes hold.  Unless they decide to walk 4kms to visit friends, then a car is their usual mode of transport home instead of their four paws.

Our usual morning walk is down a dusty gravel road, in the background, the sound of cowbells, occasionally there are bellows from the bulls or quieter calls of the lambs to their wandering mothers further afield all remind us that we are indeed in the countryside.

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The combination of dusty gravel roads and washing on a wireline flapping in the breeze is reminiscent of walks down a few country roads of my childhood.   Minus the scraped knees from falling off my bike or tripping up, thank goodness.

Further down the road and around a few corners, was a flock of sheep with two dogs as their protectors.  Not a usual sight on a sheep farm.  Even more unusual was the bell around the dog’s neck as well as a few selective sheep.

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The countryside surrounding Ourique is dry and barren, obviously due to the lack of rain.  One area that was a favourite for Indy and Bob to wander off to is the water reserve, which is situated not far from home. Let’s hope for the people here when the rain does arrive that it doesn’t come all at once.

What does seem to survive without too much water and can be still harvested is the cork oak and the olive trees.  Now the cork oak trees are the ones that have fascinated us while we have been out walking the dogs.  As with most people who have visited Portugal, we have seen an abundance of cork products on sale throughout the cities and more smaller communities where tourists are likely to be wandering.

Portugal’s National Tree – The Cork Oak

Although the ancient Greeks and Romans knew about the value of cork bark, it was seen as a viable product to be harvested commercially in Portugal about three hundred years ago.  The cork itself is stripped off the tree from Spring into Summer.  No tree is ever cut down for cork production which makes it a very sustainable product.

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The photograph above is a tree that we have passed numerous times on our walk and is situated along the side of the road.

Some more cork facts:

  • The average cork oak tree produces one tonne of raw cork which equates to 65,000 stoppers.
  • 340,000 tonnes of natural cork stoppers are produced each year.
  • One particular tree in Portugal, known as the ‘Whistler Tree’ because of the many singing birds attracted to it, is said to be 212 years old. With an estimation that this tree has produced more than 1,000,000 natural cork stoppers.
  • Natural cork can maintain its full sealing capacity for more than 100 years owing to its elasticity and the waxes and fatty acids in its composition.
  • Portugal produces more than 50% of all the cork in the world.
  • The number written on a peeled cork oak refers to the year it was stripped, e.g. “9” refers to “2009.”
  • With the best quality cork comes from the south of Portugal (Algarve and southern Alentejo).
  • Cork oak trees store carbon to regenerate their bark, and a harvested cork oak tree absorbs up to five times more than one that isn’t. 

There is something beautiful about the cork oak trees, not only do they provide shade for stock and are an environmentally viable product, it’s their vase shape, and contrasting dark colour trunks amongst the arid dry landscape is where their beauty shines.

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From the dry land to places near the ocean is where we headed to have a few breaks from Homebase.  We were very fortunate to have use of a car while here which we used to explore some of the smaller seaside and inland towns near to us.  As we have a rule not to drive too far while housesitting as we leave the more extensive exploring for our time off in between housesitting.

Here are a few places we enjoyed visiting all within an hour drive away:

Ourique  – Grocery shopping and a walk to see some street art, plus a workout for my gluteus maximus.

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Albufeira – A spot of sea air and an enjoyable walk along the beach and streets.

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Beja – This small town is one place we would have loved to spend more time exploring.  It is the most authentic Portuguese town we have visited in this district.  We had a surprise treat of street art around a few corners, plus many other interesting buildings scattered around the town.

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Then there was Villa Nova de Milfontes the pinnacle of all our outings in this part of Portugal.  It was a pleasable mixture of history and the wild Atlantic sea, what more could we ask for?  I shall write more about that outing at a later stage.

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As a side note before I finish off writing about our housesit,

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“The little house on the Prairie” is up for sale.  Interested? Or just curious, check it out.

Here:  https://www.primelocation.com

Portugal

33 thoughts on “Neighbourhood Walks and More – Ourique”

  1. I love the colorful street art! I think Beja sounds lovely. We were considering a quick trip to Portugal this year but I’m glad we decided against it, you’ve given us some additional destinations to consider! Lovely pics, Suz!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow! Although I certainly have used the product, I’ve never thought much about cork trees. Amazing and beautiful. Thanks for the education. Even though it’s arid, the countryside is beautiful. The little towns look intriguing too. I love the 3-D roaster mural! I really must get to Portugal soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jan, I am sure you will enjoy Portugal, she is a beautiful country, it’s becoming more popular each time we visit especially with the cruise ships in port. The cork trees are amazing aren’t they! It will be interesting to see what captivates you both if or when you visit 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Lovely photos Suzanne. Definitely reminded me of Australia too, and not at all how I’d have imagined Portugal. Interesting about the cork industry. Does that mean there’d be no screw-caps in Portugal?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It really is a dogs life for those pups! They are so lucky to be able to wander AND have all the fun of human slaves!

    This looks like another gorgeous place that you guys have lived in. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Another interesting area to add to your house sitting repertoire. It is nice that you were relatively close to the sea as well, and that you had use of a car. The Cork Tree reminds me of the maple tree, providing human kind with resources, while remaining alive. The best kind.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Looks like a fabulous housesit Suz. Bit different having the dogs doing their own thing but as long as they’re happy eh. Lovely part of the world, wouldn’t mind a sit in Portugal next year.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Again, gorgeous photos Suz…it looks like a beautiful place…the countryside look like somewhere in Africa, or desert-like at least….the cork tree photo is especially lovely, it reminds me of a Van Gogh painting or something like it.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Australia…of course…though I have never been there…hehe…its probably the type of tree seen in paintings from the south of France..actually I have just Googled and Van Gogh did a lot of trees…I may do a post on that!so thanks for the inspiration…I havent found a Cork tree but heres a Mulberry tree..http://imgsrc.allposters.com/img/print/posters/vincent-van-gogh-vincent-van-gogh-the-mulberry-tree-plastic-sign_a-G-9897203-9201595.jpg

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yes and you can use the photo of the cork tree if you want, I am not too precious with the photos, it is all public and if someone wants it they will copy it!! Thanks for the link. Giving my feet a rest and it’s too hot to do anymore hillwork 🙂 NZ has areas on the east coast of both islands that get very dry during the summer months.

          Liked by 1 person

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