Paul Symington’s son Rob, together with friends Gareth and Alexander, took to the Douro by kayak the past few days, beginning at the Spanish border. Well, mostly by kayak. There was the taxi ride in an old school bus (which luckily fit the kayaks!) when they were told to get off the river for a stretch which was closed to all traffic at this season, and the three hour portage to go around the dam at Pocinho.
On the other hand, there were hours on the river to enjoy the spectacular scenery and peace of this remote region, and the kayaking at night, with nothing but the silhouettes of the surrounding mountains to give them their bearings. Too long a stretch of straightaway made them wonder if they were moving forward at all, but they finally reached a bend in the river to re-assure them and were able to navigate safely from there to their planned campground.
Nor did they have the luxury of lunch at Malvedos. Instead, they camped out along the river, and enjoyed a three course dinner of freeze dried soup, freeze dried shepherd’s pie and freeze dried rice pudding, all reconstituted with boiled river water.
Yesterday morning, however, Dominic Symington was visiting Quinta do Vale Coelho (opposite Graham’s Quinta do Vale de Malhadas, in the Douro Superior) and spotted the lads on the river and hailed them over. We agreed to meet in the village of Senhora da Ribeira, where Dominic treated them to a round of coffee followed by a round of beer. Breakfast of champions indeed!
When we saw them off, they were hoping to make it to Ferradosa for a sandwich and then to the Valeira dam in time for the scheduled lock opening. They must have paddled like madmen, as later in the afternoon Dominic and I went downriver on the train, and spotted them larking about above the dam in plenty of time. The winery team watched them pass Malvedos in the late afternoon, so they must have made it to Pinhão to meet a friend for sunset drinks. Their plan was to spend the night with Rob’s parents at Quinta das Netas near Warre’s Quinta da Cavadinha in the Pinhão valley and relax on dry land for a few days before returning to England.