Katrina and I were last in Portugal in 2002 with our two sons when we drove our crappy old diesel Peugeot 405 towing a folding poptop camper around Europe for about 4 months or so. If I had to be honest, I'd have to admit that I was less than impressed with Portugal. I guess on two counts, 1 it was bloody difficult to navigate around back in the day, pre smart phones and GPS's. Secondly whilst camped in a camp ground just out of Lisbon Katrina & I had both our expensive push bikes nicked. I was pissed, I mean really pissed and it just left a sour taste in our mouths. I was glad to leave Portugal behind and cross over to Spain. But here we are 16 years later and we just love it. Navigation has got so much better, the weather and landscape is superb. The people as always have been great and it so damn cheap. Hows 1:20 Euro for a beer, 0:60 Euro for a coffee a plate of quality cheeses cold meats, olives and bread for 2 for 3:50 Euro. Even our accommodation, which is about the best we have had is only 15 Euro a night. Whats not to like? It just goes to show how 2 people can have totally opposite experiences and hence opinions about a the same place. But in our case the same people, but 16 years apart and we see the country in a totally different light. We are in the little village of Melo, just chilling, taking walks around the village and out to the small farms. Although today we rode one of the best roads of the entire journey through the National park of Serra da Estrela to the little hillside village of Piodao. But all around and for most of todays riding was the evidence of last years catastrophic fires in both Portugal and NW Spain. They started on the 13th Oct and run for 5 days. Forty eight people perished, most in Portugal. Katrina and I being born and bread in SE Australia are intimately acquainted to the risks and horrors of bush/forrest/wild fires, call them what you will. Only this last February, not more than 35 klms from our home in Australia the small coastal town of Tathra was devastated by fires. Seventy two homes were lost, but fortunately on this occasion no one lost their life. In a slightly unusual way too, today hit home as we passed through the devastated areas. Portugal, like many parts of the world has planted vast swathes of gum or eucalyptus trees. With just a little imagination we felt very comfortable with all these eucalypts about. They are perfectly adapted to this Mediterranean climate, they grow relatively fast and are a high value tree if managed well, especially for pulp. But, in a massive wild fire these trees are like throwing petrol on the fire. But magically just a few weeks after the embers are extinguished the eucalypts reamerge with new growth sprouting from the trunks and limbs. Most will survive a fire, unlike the pines that are also prevalent here, they are all essentially dead. Where as many species of gum tree actually need fire to regenerate the seed pods open and germinate once exposed to fire. The top left hand half of this building is our home for 4 nights, above a pizza and beer emporium, all for 15 Euro a night. I tell you Portugal is like heaven. View from our window over the Melo town square. I'd never seen a device like this before. It's for immobilising horses and other stock for shoeing. My father had horses all his life and used to shoe horses for a little extra money, but his technique was the old fashioned way. Bend over reach for the horses hock, raise, place between your legs or rest on your thigh and get on with it. Of course very few European villages are complete without a ruin or two. This one is religious of course the best kind of ruin. Piodoa, Portugal. It looks lovely and it is, but man it would be a nightmare to live in. No cars can pass through, not even a scooter. It may not be immediately obvious, but the hillsides are covered in ancient terraces. How old I have no idea. But they are literally everywhere. The effort and man power to construct these terraces must have been immense, but most now have run into disrepair and are abandoned. The fires of last year have in many instances stripped away the vegetation and exposed these terraces, which would otherwise be hidden from view.