Inspired by friends (young friends) who have travelled this way, I have always wanted to give it a try as I believe it is a great way to become immersed in local culture and community.
So on the second day of our stay in Sintra when Ger was unfortunately sick, and needed the day to rest and recuperate, the plan to proceed with a Work Away experience was born. For us as a couple to join the program, the cost was 42 Euros. The deal is that you work for about 4 to 6 hours a day on whatever tasks a host may require help with and in return you get a place to sleep and are fed three meals per day.
After registering, I applied to a few hosts that were looking for help on their farms or properties and got a reply almost instantly from Pedro. We were excited to go to his farm as he and his wife, Maria were a local Portuguese couple who spoke English and their farm was located in an area that we were going to be cycling through.
Remember, the slogan on the front of our web page, that says we like to explore, experience and learn. This definitely was one of those times.
We spent the week chopping down an invasive tree species, “Acaica”, that grows rampant on their 1.5 hobby farm, scything bamboo trees, cutting back blackberry bushes, creating monster piles of brush for them to burn, bucking any usable wood and stacking it in a wood pile, mowing the large grassy areas with an heavy duty indestructible mower and weeding around a variety of fruit trees.
Gerald got attacked by spikes from all the blackberry bushes as he tried to manage those that were closing in a path, and I acquired an allergic reaction on my ankles, arms and stomach from contacting invisible caterpillars that are found in pine trees during the winter months. We were a bit of a mess and we figured we were likely not cut out to be working on the land (haha). Thankfully the weather was warm and we enjoyed being outside and seeing the fruits of our labour. Maria and Pedro both kept telling us to stop working but we really wanted to fulfill our end of the bargain. We did take one day off to explore the area and some of the local beaches. Check out the photos of these spectacular areas of Vila Nova de Milfonte.
In the meantime, Pedro and Maria were great cooks and we were well fed including a good supply of sweets and chocolate which they both love to indulge in, well mostly Pedro. We were surprised how easy it was to cohabitate with Pedro and Maria. They were easy going and were comfortable with having extra folks in their home. With their flexible work and life schedules, we were able to enjoy great chats about “everything under the sun” with them. Pedro operates a local newspaper and Maria is a psychology teacher at a local professional school, which means she teachers students who are choosing practical careers instead of the academic route. They were originally from Lisbon and moved to this farm just outside of Vila Nova de Milfonte just over 20 years ago to get away from the fast paced life of the city and to raise their two daughters.
The other treat at the end of the day was a warm fire in their living room, that they lit each day around 5:30pm to ward off the coolness of the winter evening. By the end of the week, we were ready to be on our bikes again but were grateful for the experience and for having had a glimpse into the life of a local Portuguese family.
Pictures from around the home
Mary and the Machine
It was not all work, at our Work Away and we did have some time to play. Pedro and Maria recommended that we check out some local beaches in the area. So on two different occasions we hopped on our bikes ( without all the gear, which was so nice) and rode off to explore. We were fortunate to have great weather and hang out on beaches that were deserted. It wasn’t warm enough to swim , but it was wonderful to watch the tide and winter waves come crashing in. It was also so great to finish off the explore with a local beer called Sagres at a local corner store.
Pictures from exploring the area
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