Beyond the first hills in the southern Tejo coast, midway between Trafaria and Porto Brandão, there is a handfull of houses, a village called Covas. A road is there aswell, connecting Trafaria to Caparica, and giving access to the riverside through gentle valleys. After a hike in and around the riverside town of Trafaria, I climbed up to this spot and I am now gazing at the farmlands to the south, a beautiful image for rural contemplation, under the afternoon sun. There is another road here, that leads down the hillside to the river, and I am hesitating between continuing east, without fear of missing my ferry ride back to Belém by the end of the day, or checking out the nearby shore.
I know there is a sandstrip below, near a water treatmant plant, and I really want to explore it, so I take a chance, going rather quickly to save time for the climb back up. With twists and turns, the road leads through a dense cluster of vegetation, growing in and around the farms that divide the hill, passing in front of a few entry gates, some of which seem to be only rarely open. Tall trees cover the road in a welcoming shade, and a fresh silence settles. Little by little, the Etar of Portinho da Costa appears at the bottom, in yellow and orange. Above it, the Tejo, a 'cacilheiro', and the Torre de Belém.
At its lowest point, the road spreads between a navy pier and the water treatment station. The facility is fairly well integrated, since the treatment equipment is underground, and the tubes and machines that are visible do not disrupt the landscape. In front of the colored facade of the building, there is a small beach with serene waters and a lovely view. The sand is thick, and the rock formations around it are pitted with holes, like some sort of hard sponge. Just outside the sand bed, a woman is enjoying a sunbath, and atop the rocks to the right of the shoreline, a fisherman throws his fishing rod towards the quiet river. I refresh myself and look up at the riverside of Belém and Algés. Under the housing that climbs the north bank hills, a few sailing boats pass by.
This peaceful hidden beach is a great spot for a sunny afternoon escapade, but I have to get back up the hill and keep going. Meanwhile, the sunlight has started lying on a diagonal, casting long shadows that stretch with the passing of time. Again on the main road, the ambiance is very rural, but past another small cluster of houses I can see a big structure, grey-colored, which I know is the Science and Technology Faculty. The habitation grows around it, and the countryside turns into the suburban area of Caparica. The road spreads out and allows for a tram to operate, connecting the university to the city center. Avenida Timor Loro Sae offers a pleasant walk and a cyclable path aswell, passing by a few green roundabouts.
I got distracted looking at the scenery on each side of the climbing road, and at the nearest underground station I realised I have to turn around. Moving a bit faster to make up for the detour, I cross the neighbourhood, heading west to get to Rua 5 de Outubro, and then Rua 1º de Maio, which goes straight to Porto Brandão. The streets get progressively thinner and much older. Countryside houses gather up next to farmland, only so often climbing the hills, which start to form a valley. The road has patches of squashed figs, and their scent spreads along the houses and down the street, for quite a while actually. The sun has been replaced by a shadow that follows the entire way.
A couple of elderly ladies are chatting on a porch, while another one peeks out of the window as I pass. Among the modest houses are also the ruins of older habitation, some of which would be fantastic villas if they were to be renovated. A sports field and a row of parked cars marks the outskirts of town. A quiet and simple place, almost isolated, enclosed in between big, rocky slopes, lush with vegetation, only interrupted where the housing spreads uphill. When I arrive at the riverside square, the sun is minutes away from plunging in the sea, creating an orange flare that spreads out in the sky. I managed to arrive early after all, so while the ferry isn't there I can walk about and get the feel of this village.
The church and a small park occupy the center, and in front of them are two short rows of houses. Around the foothills sits most of the housing, with faded but lively colours, mixed with restaurants, cafes and a few abandoned buildings you can see through. There are some people around, a few tourists, children playing football in the street. Wooden boats are scattered about. Even though it is a very modest place, it still maintains an honest, picturesque quality. The seaside opens in a small bay to embrace the river, forming a sandstrip, now in the shade. Along the wall, and closer to the ferry docks, I am offered another fantastic view of the seaside from Belém all the way up to Oeiras. On this side of the Tejo, the mechanic silhouete of a crane, together with the ones in the distant Trafaria, cut out the fire-coloured sky. I finally sit down, to watch the horizon of the river burning in the sunset, as the waves crash slowly.
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