15-Jun-2001 -- 41ºN 7ºW - Near Almendra, nr Vila Nova de Foz Coa, Portugal.
Our fifth confluence promised an interesting challenge: it was 150kms on very poor roads from where we were staying and the map showed very rough, steep terrain. Analysis of the 1:25,000 map led us to think the confluence would be up the side of a tight river valley above the Aguiar stream, a minor tributary of the Coa.
This is a dry, mountainous region with some agriculture in terraces along the valleys, mainly olive and almond trees, as well as some vineyards. The district became relatively well known when the recent discovery of paleolithic cave engravings/paintings on the projected site of a major dam stopped all work on the project for good. (See
http://www.ci.uc.pt/fozcoa/index.html for information in Portuguese and French)
The access plan for this confluence called for trekking boots (!), although it began gently enough as we followed a goat track meandering along the contours, high above the river. We walked in and out of olive and almond trees and gradually the valley became narrower, as they do:), and the last olive grove came to an end along with the path. We were still 1000 straight line metres away but had a tributary stream to cross, as well as another largeish ridge to get up before we were in the rough area of the confluence. In the distance, high above us on the other side we saw a shepherd and his sheep going our way in that magical, effortless way of theirs!
We were too far to understand how he had got there, so down to the stream we went/fell and up the ridge we scrambled using all four feet! We then climbed further up along the ridge and finally, following the GPS, dropped down into a slight depression on one of it's sides. There the confluence dance became something more akin to a confluence crawl as we searched for the zeroes, but find them we did.
It was our best confluence yet, lovely view requiring thoughtful route-finding and a little climbing to give satisfaction; we even saw some interesting birds - perfect!