What’s the Adventure?
I’m with LRO’s Portugal correspondent José Almeida in his country’s highest mainland mountain range, which tops out at just under 2000m (6560ft). It’s situated about two-thirds of the way up the country, towards the eastern border with Spain.
José, a part-time adventure tour operator and full-time Land Rover obsessive has added a late-model 300Tdi automatic Discovery 1 to his fleet. But this isn’t just any Disco 1. It came out of the Lisbon Land Rover dealership the same day in 1997 as José’s Camel Trophy Edition Discovery. They’re just three registration numbers apart and when it came up for sale he just had to have it.
He’s expanding his Portugal adventure tour operation to include a fly-drive option – with both Discoverys being available to rent.
‘Why don’t you fly out and join me for a test drive in the Discoverys on some exciting new routes I’ve discovered in the Serra da Estrela?’ I quickly book plane tickets to Lisbon with TAP, the country’s state-owned airline.
Unusually for one of my adventures, I’m not camping or cooking campfire meals. In fact, this is going to be a bit of a luxury gourmet tour because José has booked us into some quality hotels and we will be dining out at various restaurants he’s discovered.
Our Favourite Bit?
There’s some scarily thick ice on the track where it narrows past a rock face, with a sheer drop to our left. I’m trickling the Discovery along as close as possible to the cliff wall on the right. As we go further along the valley the scenery becomes ever more breathtaking. There’s the Hollywood backdrop I mentioned earlier, the valley to one side and myriad boulders perfectly placed by nature’s giant hand. The still blue waters of the lake look inviting, but it’s icy cold. Nonetheless, it helps make a perfect photo location.
Further on, a boulder has crashed down on to the track, but we can just squeeze by with some careful spotting from José.
Making it out alive
We take a few minutes at the top to savour the big views we couldn’t see very well yesterday – and it is all really lovely. Our final hotel is the quirky, modern Hotel da Estrela in Lisbon, which was once a schoolhouse.
It’s been another great driving adventure through stunningly beautiful scenery. We’ve also visited a selection of fascinating attractions and enjoyed some of Portugal’s fine food and accommodation.
The tracks José found for us have been a good mix of all-weather terrain, with some technical sections to test us. The Discovery 1 coped well. I’ve taken it over testing rocks, through mud and sand and even ice and snow, but not once has it failed to get through.
José will be fitting out both Discoveryss with fridges, tools and recovery kit, but otherwise they’ll remain in standard trim. They’ve proved that you don’t have to have expensively kitted-out vehicles to see some of Europe’s finest scenery.
The full story can be found in the August 2015 issue of LRO. Download a digital issue, or order a back issue by calling 01858 438884.