At 6 o’clock in the afternoon, the town of Vale da Trave, felt a strange uproar, it was Saturday and the two cafes that exist in the small town, with about 100 inhabitants, were closed.

The villagers mostly rested because the afternoon was sunny. Cars began to arrive next to the beautiful lagoon, inaugurated in 2014. This lagoon is supplied by a 293-meter-deep artisanal well, it serves the population free of charge in order to take advantage of family gardens and agriculture. It is very important for the water supply during forest fires.

And amazed, one of those days I was, Helena Caetano, manager of Amor Tejo, relaxing at 9 pm, when I observed a fox going to the lagoon to drink water!

We climbed the mountain, towards the Santo António plateau, a place still inhabited today, which in other times attracted some inhabitants due to its fertile land.

On the plateau it is still possible to observe the cobblestone quarries of the ancient portuguese.

On the way we talked about facts of the town, namely the trademark Terra das Ervanárias.

Clarinda Paixão and her husband Jose Manuel, managers of the herbalist, tell us that it all started with an entrepreneur, Aunt Celeste (Clarinda’s grandmother), who went from town to town buying spontaneous plants that grew in the mountains. She sold these plants to herbalists in Lisbon and Porto, who transformed and commercialized them.

It was the middle of the 20th century and Tia Celeste’s son-in-law buys the old herbalist, leaving Vale da Trave as one of the big companies. In 1980, with the entry of a new family generation, the import and export of products was developed. Thus, this company was the first in Portugal to initiate direct commercial relations with India. In addition to the US, the first exports also went to the UK, initiating an ever stronger advance, which allowed the expansion to other countries, such as Germany, Spain, France and Angola.

I always remember that in the town everyone knew from the tip of the tongue the value of plants, what they cured and treated, from teas to medicines, all of us who lived here were used to the miraculous way of our grandmothers to heal some of our diseases. And so the town was transformed into the “Terra das Ervanárias”.

The town has a different dynamic, the young and less young population, in an intergenerational encounter, makes it a reality, and therefore, for development. They also have the Vale da Trave moor, and other organizations that collaborate to keep traditions alive.

The highlight of this end of the day was the recent lagoon, inaugurated before the pandemic and with an identical function to that mentioned above. We fell in love with the oasis in the middle of the mountain.

“There they gave us a surprise, prepared by the women of that town. Here the women empower each other,
and they invited us to a tea from the local herbalist, a homemade cake, some delicious breads, made in a wood oven by Madalena Durão, a delicious melon prepared by Graciete. María Alice, with her more than 60 years and a contagious smile, helped prepare the table, improvised in the van.”

My eyes were teary, as manager of Amor Tejo.

Upon our return, with a full heart, the sun was already setting, we told the story of the Gruta do Pena. Jose Manuel told how they lowered him by ropes when they discovered him. We passed through the track of holm oaks and pine forests and arrived at the town with a full heart, for the hospitality and kindness with which they received us.

We promise to return the last saturday of every month!

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