We went out with the shepherd in Aveloso, Cinfães, in the Montemuro Mountain.
This is an activity from TurismoRuralDouro website – to watch the gathering of the village’s sheep and goats, to go out to the moutain with the shepherd responsible on that day and to follow the path set by the flock.
First of all, a note: this article has lots of photos! Actually, to participate in this activity it is mandatory to bring sunscreen and a camera :D
In Aveloso, Cinfães, there is still this form of community herd. The owners of the animals alternate the escort of the herd. The person that owns more “heads” goes out more often with them. This is an activity that tends to disappear fom these villages as the populations are getting older and the number of animals is decreasing.
When the walk begins, we quickly realize that we must lose our hush habits.
The shepherd and animals’ route begin at 9 am and only ends at 6 pm. For the group of visitors, the total distance is uncertain and will depend on the willingness and disposition of each group. Usually, it finishes at around 02.30 pm. With pic-nic lunch included.
On this day, we were already with the herd, and Mr. Antonio, smiling and cheerful, came to us.
The flock, despite the abundance of grass to eat, it never stops. Going forward, looking for the most appealing heathers and always with the dogs (that belong to villagers too, although they live on the streets).
The pace is slow and, again, without any rush. It’s possible to stop and sit, talk to the shepherd and snack something. Dogs even have a few short naps.
Some dogs have very aggressive metallic and pointed collars – they are for their own safety, in case of attack by wolves (looking for the neck of their prey).
The shepherd is not always very close to the animals. There are even times when he is quite far away. But all he has to do is shout or whistle, in his own way, for dogs to bark and move so that sheep and goats are directed to where the shepherd intends.
One of the funniest moments of this day was when another shepherd came to us :) Using a small moto-4, and with a well-disposed and jolly style, he explained to us how the vehicle allows him to quickly get to his sisters’ to have a coffee, to visit other siblings, to meet other shepherds and to keep watch over his flock (which was far away).
This daily task, even with the alternation regime, is very very solitary. Mr. Antonio told us that he often spends whole days without finding a single person. When he meets “motorized” neighbors or groups of curious visitors those are days of great joy.
Our group had lunch with Mr. Antonio next to the Chapel of St. Peter. Here, on June 29, St. Peter’s Day, there is a great pilgrimage and hundreds of people from the region gather. On that day the flock also leaves to the mountain, as there is never a day-off for them.
After lunch we separated from the shepherd who was still going on to a distant route. We head back to Aveloso by a different track, on another slope, and with different views – more grove and more vegetation.
Going out with the Shepherd
Price: € 15 to € 20
Contacts: +351 918 834 821 / +351 914 884 020
**** The TurismoRuralDouro.com.pt website and the Going out with the Shepherd activity are responsibility of Teresa Montenegro (owner of O Meu Gatinho restaurant in Cinfães) and her brother Ângelo Montenegro (group guide during the walk). ****