Pitões das Júnias Trail (Montalegre)
The road to Pitões of Júnias is too long, but on arrival I knew immediately that the time spent in the trip would be largely compensated.
This village of Montalegre municipality is located just over 1100m of altitude in the Peneda-Gerês National Park and is therefore the highest village of “Barroso” Lands. The isolation, the climate inhospitable and demand of its inhabitants for better living conditions, led to the gradual abandonment of the village but that made it even more picturesque and today the few inhabitants who resist, mostly farmers and shepherds, are entitled to a story of courage and persistence that embraced over several generations.
I start to walk at the entrance of the village where an image of Sta. Maria das Júnias welcomes the passers by. I leave the asphalt road and I walk the sidewalk that leads me to the center of teh village. The granite houses together with the remote location, promote the tourism here, especially in the summer months. I can easily see why. The beauty of this village is surprising, their framework at this altitude, sharing the tops of the surrounding mountains and the valley at his feet, makes me, as Miguel Torga said, “envy the happy monks that here humbly…pacified the tormented soul”.
I walk through the village streets where some wooden boards show me the way to the most turistic sights of the village. Among the granite walls, I see down below the waters of Paradela Dam while I walk now to the Monastery of “Santa Maria das Júnias”.
The beauty of this village is surprising, their framework at this altitude, sharing the tops of the surrounding mountains and the valley at his feet, makes me, as Miguel Torga said, “envy the happy monks …”
Next to the cemetery, outside the village, I walk by the Guardian Angel Chapel at 1132m fo altitude and start the descent to the monastery by a track well-defined. In the fields you can still see traces of a fire not too distant in time. In contrast to the dry and burned branches, some heathers bloom and will occupy the vacated space on earth. Cattle take advantage of the fertile valley to satiate their hunger and don’t worry too much about people passing by.
The increasingly narrow path is now defined by large slabs that zigzag in the descent to the Monastery of “Santa Maria das Júnias”. And at the end of the valley there he is, camouflaged and isolated from the world, next to a small stream of Camposinho River. The water follows its course freeing up the banks a little further in the great waterfall of about 40 meters. I walk carefully through the ruins of the monastery because the warning “Ruin Unstable – landslide risk” don’t leave any doubts about the degree of conservation of this heritage. Despite the advanced state of disrepair during my visit, it humble beauty still impresses. This monastery of the Cistercian Order dedicated to “Santa Maria”, suffered several fires, abandonment and time erosion but nonetheless, it is possible to distinguish the different areas of the building, like the church and its porch, the tower, the cemetery of the monks in the church and of the population outside teh church, the gothic portal with two guard animals, the imposing oven, the three remaining arches of a Romanesque cloister or the paved floor and the mill on the other side of the small river.
I leave this magical valley and walk up again to find the path that will lead me to the the waterfall. With the mountains of Gêres as a backdrop, I start descending on the trail and then in large granite slabs that lead me in a wooden walkway. I descend the stairs already in the final meters and I found the cascade that dramatically falls from the rocky hills.
The return to the village is now done with the help of the signs, through an old rural path, quietly observing the meadows.
It was with great difficulty that I said goodbye to Pitões das Júnias, but my adventure days in Gêres were finished and the homecoming was inevitable.
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