Outside the window, the 15:30 sunlight of early October hits squarely on the river. The light dashes about the tiny undulations, so bright that they're hard to look at. Everything else around has a shade of blue, masking its natural colours. The Belém riverside stays behind, and the wooded south bank approaches, subtly changing in hue as the ferry draws near.
From Belém to Trafaria, the boat trip lasts about 25 minutes, with a short stoppage in Porto Brandão. For today's hike of a few hours, I planned to start by Trafaria, walk around the countryside and end at Porto Brandão, where I'll take the ferry back to Belém. As always, crossing the Tejo, it's impossible not to gaze at its banks, at the spreading city of Lisboa, and at the point in the estuary where the river becomes the sea.
The ferry arrives at the village of Trafaria, and the immediate sight is that of the big cargo ships, docked one next to the other under huge cranes, unloading their goods through a massive structure that leads to the big cilinders of Silopor, the distinct industrial building at the entrance of the Tejo. And below, in front of the town's shoreline and looking minuscule in comparison, there is a collection of boats, dispersed at the mercy of the waters. On the sandstrip of Praia da Trafaria, seagulls are standing ground, and closer to the wall of the seaside street, a row of wooden boats dries in the sun.
The pier sits at the edge of a parking lot square, at one end of a breezy street, opposite the industrial structure. Here, the cobblestone pavement is blotched with sand, adding to the stylized naval motives, and along its 200 or so meters you can see glimpses of the rest of the village, growing uphill. Close to the river, there are some cafes and restaurants, aswell as the local fish market, marked 'lota', where men are gathering around a table, under a canopy. The spreading housing shows a mixture of old houses, sometimes vividly colorful, sometimes exposing their age, and a few apartments that break the sillhouete of the rooftops. Clearly some renovation is taking place, but the town seems rather untouched by the modern construction surge that happens in other cities, and still shows its origins.
Walking through the neighbourhood, finding more roaming cats than people, I am slowly heading up to reach the outskirts of the village. Besides the more modest houses, there are some villas with ornamented facades and courtyards, and a few green areas here and there. The quiet market square offers a few benches and esplanades and shade under a few trees, sprouting from the ground. The market building itself, next to the yellow church, reads an expression alluding to this town, 'where the Tejo launches itself to the sea'. Some kids are riding their bicycles, while the adults chat in an esplanade. I get away of the urban area and start following the national road, going up the hillside of the village valley. The building of the Silopor facilities rises above everything else.
The climb leads me by a greener scenery, and a row of shared houses. From their surrounding walls plants, bushes and flowers pop out, and with the trees that accompany the road, they embelish the street. Looking back again, the seaside of Algés and Cruz Quebrada appears between the vegetation. Getting higher and away from town, the sloping road then leads to the real countryside of the parish. Along the way are some old bus stops, and in the gaps of the reeds you get the view of the nearby farms. The landscape has a warm tone of ocre that makes it seem kind of dry, but in the distance nature opens up in big fields, and the faraway towns get a fresher seaside tonality.
The road makes a few turns that insist on the interior side of the land though, loosely paralel to the Tejo. The climbing is made easier by the breeze. I pass by a small village, and for a few meters you can spot Belém in between the hills to the left, before reaching another group of houses. Around these tiny clusters of habitation, the farmland completely covers the ups and downs of the land, offering fantastic sights. It may be hard to spot Costa da Caparica to the southwest, but the simple vista over a small stone wall by the sidewalk, a wide sea of light green pasture, is like a rural postcard of early autumn, asking you to stop by for a few minutes, and admire its quiet atmosphere.
Soon I will be heading to Porto Brandão, another old riverside town by the Tejo that can be found crossing the countryside. There are some sights to be seen along the hike, so stay tuned for the next story!
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