Praia do Barranco is THE hippie beach in Portugal. Its peculiarity is extensively documented on the internet. Those who have mastered the 5-kilometer, muddy dirt road, which is paved in the lower part, from the nearby village of Raposeira to the parking lot on the beach, will find an alternative community of surfers, drop-outs and life artists who are not even bothered by police raids early in the morning. In addition to the various, partly self-built mobile homes, you will also find backpackers camping in tents on the beach, hidden behind bushes or in the caves above the parking lot.

The way of life is quite simple and reminds me to the Kraho Indians that we visited in the state of Tocatins in Brazil (see http://www.segunda-feira.de/?p=2197). The influence of modern civilization consists of a few public dumpsters at the end of the parking lot. Because of the lack of toilets, nature’s call is discreetly relieved behind bushes off the parking area. Life takes place in the car park itself, on the beach and on the nearby cliffs, where you can admire the impressive sunrises and sunsets.

During my five-day stay, I met a few natives and the advertising writer Mike from Berlin, who makes his dream of working on vacation come true in one of the caves above the parking lot.

On the last morning, I witnessed a police raid. A patrol car arrived shortly after dawn and blocked the exit. The three police officers knocked on each camper van to wake their residents. Then, too conspicuous camping such as the erection of pavilions, tables and chairs was punished, and the correct parking order was enforced. I watched the scene from a distance during a dog walk from a cliff.

After the police had left the parking lot, I returned. A Dutch aborigine on the beach told me that the officers had also knocked on my truck. However, he told them that I only parked there to take my dog ​​for a walk. People just stick together here.

The rigorous approach of the police is very conspicuous compared to other places in Portugal. When I got a visit from a police patrol at a lake in the Alentejo, I was greeted with a handshake. Afterwards, the truck was admired during a cigarette length while we made small talk. Afterwards, the officers said goodbye, saying that I should not leave any garbage behind. The message at Praia do Barranco, however, is very different: accumulations of people who live a nomadic culture are definitely not welcome here.

Why, actually? The beach is miles away from any settlement in the area. The people who stay there for a long time leave behind only what the numerous goats grazing in the open spaces throughout Portugal leave behind. In countries such as Australia and Brazil, nomadic peoples get entire areas of land as a reserve so that they can live their culture. Why can’t a secluded beach in Portugal be left to an alternative community of nomadic people?

The natives, who are used to such police actions, were extremely unimpressed by the raid. After the officials left, the parking regulations were abandoned within minutes and people continued their every day life like before.

When you like to stay in abandoned places in Portugal and do walks with your cat, you need to observe the sky for possible threats to your pet. This encounter with a flock of eagles, most probably Bonelli’s eagles, happened during a late afternoon walk at the Barragem de Odelouca in Algarve, Portugal.

This is the cat that I successfully protected from the birds of prey:

Update: I met two rangers the day after that encounter and told them about the birds. They said these birds were vultures. I looked it up and the only vulture in Portugal is Rüppell’s vulture. These animals are even bigger than Bonelli’s eagle, but less dangerous for cats, because they feed on carrion.

I think much of democracy, consensus, personal freedom, individual rights, principle equality before the law, separation of powers, freedom of information, open society and a free education system. In my opinion, self-responsibility and responsibility for the environment is based on that. Our Western society seems to be well advanced in this aspect, if there were not something else that exists parallel to it, which drives the whole liberal, democratic and egalitarian construct to absurdity.

In capitalist enterprises, which almost all people depend on to maintain their existence, there is only little democracy, no consensus, little personal freedom and rights, no principle equality, no separation of powers and no freedom of information. As long as entrepreneurs, landlords and money lenders accumulate capital at the expense of their fellow human beings, as long as there is a systemic, increasing material inequality that results in not all being equal and having an equal impact on the decision-making of a society, the whole talk about democracy is more or less pointless.

There are two basic ways to deal with this contradiction. Either we ensure that material inequality decreases, so that the actual influence of all people on the decision making of society does increase. Or we can abolish democracy and reintroduce a monarchy or oligarchy. For the few people, who have tremendous power because of their material wealth, creating a social consensus through mass media is a painstaking obstacle, useful only as long as the vast majority of the non-rich are convinced of living in a real democracy.

My goal in our transition to an alternative life is to live in a model community where there is more material equality. Only in this way, from my point of view, can the contradiction that we experience in our Western societies be dissolved and real democracy established. In search of such a model community, we recently arrived at an eco-farm whose founders blatantly stated that they give a damn about democratic decisions and consensus, that they are unwilling to divest some of their land ownership to us to produce material equality, and that they rely on “natural authority” regarding decision-making in the group.

Sylvia wanted to give the community the chance to get to know it better, because their participants were very sympathetic. However, I am extremely glad that we have come to the consensus that such a project makes no sense if only one of us is backing it.

Portugal is awaiting anxiously the arrival of yet another big storm. Exactly one year ago, a similar hurricane in the Coimbra region, where we spent two months at the eco-farm Quinta Cabeca do Mato, led to a fierce forest fire that claimed 44 lives. This time the storm seems to turn north.

The Mediterranean region is a hotspot of climate change. The impact is much higher here than in other regions, even in Europe. A temperature-rise between 4 and 7 degrees is expected by the end of the 21st century. The Alentejo, the province we are in right now, will most likely become a desert. Already, the extreme drought is not only measurable, but also clearly visible.

According to satellite images, we are standing with our truck in the middle of a reservoir. But the water in the lake is now, at the end of summer, 10 meters below the highest level. The gras covered shorelines prove that the lake was not filled completely for years.

The abandoned farms show that in many places agriculture is no longer profitable due to the lack of water.

Climate change is, next to the danger of a nuclear war, the most important subject of our epoch, for the whole of humanity. What I do not understand, what I cannot get into my head, is the fact that an incredible number of people behave as if they were not involved in this phenomenon. As if the global weather change took place in another dimension. As if somehow everything well be fine, without having to change ones life and behaviour significantly. Actually, I have a pretty good idea, why people act thus schizophrenic, but that’s another story, which you can follow on http://www.karstenmontag.de.

However, the climate politics of the most important polluters, the industrialized countries of Europe and North America, is currently failing completely. It is time to finally remove the incompetent politicians who regularly buckle from the power of economic interests. If that fails, one can always change ones own culture, and already live the way we will be in the not-too-distant future.

On our way to Monte Estrafego, an eco-farm run by a German couple in the province of Alentejo, we found a very calm and nice place at a reservoir. A good opportunity to do some maintenance work. I had to re-tension the v-belts and to grease the bearings of the leaf springs, the drive shafts, the front axle-joints and the back axle.

I was a bit nervous, because I never tilted the driver’s cab before. But after understanding how to unlock the cabin and to use the built-in jack, it was actually quite easy. I like this truck. It’s so tough and the technology is so easy to understand, though the fuel consumption is breathtaking. The ground clearance is big enough to get under it without jacking it up. A car for real men, who like to run around unshaven and dusty.

When we arrived in Vale das Lobas (Valley of the She-Wolves), located about 15 kilometres away from the northern edge of the Serra da Estrela, we first met Chan and Diana from Spain and their little son Arun. They live part-time in the little village of Sobral Pichorro, which is built into one of the slopes of the valley.

Chan supports the project and the vision of a British called Tony Conway, who bought an old chapel and quite some land in and around the village 9 years ago. Since then, Tony has been raising capital from investors and public funding to initiate a project to rebuild the chapel and other ruins in order to create a nature resort for well-being and education (project website: www.valedaslobas.com).

In contrast to a lot of little mountain settlements on the Iberian peninsula that became ghost towns in the last decades, Sobral Pichorro is still an active and living Portuguese community. The landscape itself is very beautiful and totally different from the the last place, we stayed, though the distance is just 50 kilometres. The reason is rather obvious and plain to see: no Eucalyptus plantations. Without this foreign tree that brings a high risk of fires the real beauty of Portugal becomes visible.

The region was inhabited by Lusitanians 4.000 years ago. Next to an impressive rock formation close to the village one can find the remains of an ancient stone circle of that time.

The actual rebuilding of the project has not started yet. But when we finally met Tony, he told us that the constructions will begin by November this year. We like the place, the landscape, and we like Tony. He is a visionary, who persistently follows his dreams. We are looking forward to report about the upcoming changes in and around Sobral Pichorro that will take place the next months.

 

The actor Bruce Willis was well known in the 90s for his Die Hard movie series, in which he did not die at all despite all odds. He became the perfect example of an indestructible type of his species.

In the past, the word Eucalyptus used to remind me to menthol candy. Since my stay in Brazil, I know that the fast-growing tree is used extensively in forestry to extract pulp for the paper industry and charcoal for ore smelting. If you travel by car through the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, you will inevitably cross huge eucalyptus plantations.

The Tasmanian bluegum or Eucalyptus globulus from Tasmania and southern Australia has also spread in Europe. Large plantations can be found in northwestern Spain and Portugal. The tree species became a contentious issue in Portugal after two big fires in 2017, in which mainly eucalyptus plantations have burned. The fact that this tree increases the risk of fire is due to its specific properties: its deep roots lower the groundwater, and the oil it develops is highly flammable.

Nevertheless, the eucalyptus loves the fire. Rhizomes and seeds survive the flames, which, at the same time, cause the destruction of parasites. The seed pods of some species even need the fire to break open. After a fire, the eucalyptus recovers faster than other plants and can therefore spread more efficiently.

The pictures below show how eucalyptus trees and sea pines, which were the most important tree species in Portuguese forestry before the introduction of eucalyptus, developed after a fire that occurred just about a year ago. While the sea pines have died, new shoots from the trunk of the eucalyptus are sprouting and the forest floor is covered with new eucalyptus trees.

We contacted an alternative British network in the region, where Steve and Caryn run their eco farm, and went to one of their parties in Benfeita, a little village next to the mountains of Serra da Estrela. It was nice to be among people and enjoy good music and talks. We realized that there are quite a lot of British in this region and  they almost know all of each other. Since we have been in Portugal we are speaking much more English than Portuguese.

After working one month on the Quinta Cabeca do Mato we retired for two weeks to the ocean, until we will have our next appointment with another eco-community.

Actually I am fed up watching and posting sunsets, so please pretend not to have seen the picture above and watch this:

Well, I am tired of posting images of our truck and our pets as well. So, please forget that picture, too, and take a look at something much more serious:

Any suggestions how to set a German word with these letters?