26 June 2015

Echoes of the past

When we visited it, in 1992, nearly a quarter of a century ago, the Natural Park of Alvão was one of the most remote places in the continental Portugal. At the time, it was short on the famous connecting highways that are today a cause for political controversies.
In those days, however, we'd gladly enjoy their convenience if one existed that could reduce the long voyage from Lisboa to the massif, deep inside the Trás-Os-Montes province, on the NE Portugal. After a ten hour voyage that looked to us, still youngsters in the mountaineering business, like an expedition in itself, we finally arrived, late in the evening, to the high plateau of Serra de Alvão and to a remote small village called Lamas de Ôlo, where we improvised a bivouac in an old and abandoned watermill.
A perfect example of a Portuguese mountain village, this small place, now home of barely one hundred souls, surprised us by the beauty of its archaic architecture, with most houses built with granite and schist.
On the village's highest place stood tall, as a lonely sentinel, the community bell. A remainder of a not-so distant past, when the village had to depend on itself against the many menaces their inhabitants could face. And when words as solidarity, teamwork and union were used on a daily basis.
I have never returned to Alvão.
Old picture taken with a Pentax SF-1 film camera, with the, at the time, standard 50mm f/1.7 Pentax KAF lens and with a Agfapan B/W 100 ASA film. Scanning in Nikon Coolscan V ED and processing in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.