Heading out of Porto was extremely easy, proving the “no rides in Lisbon” theory correct, and we managed to make the roughly 150km to Bragança in three quick hops.
It was once we arrived that it proved a little harder. We turned up in the centre of the city with the plan to hike into Montesinho Natural Park, but light was fading and we had a 5+km hike to what we thought was the edge of the park. We set off and quickly found ourselves walking along the side of the road in the centre of a valley, which meant that there was no way up, no way down, and camping was looking less and less likely.
The temperature was dropping and there was nothing suitable anywhere in sight when our saving grace arrived: a mechanic from the local village pulled up and offered us a lift. As we drove, we explained what we were doing and he excitedly told us about an area close by that had water, flat ground, and spectacular views. He drove straight past his house and to what turned out to be a small church on the top of a hill, which looked out over the whole park and the lights of Bragança.
By this point, we had been on the road for well over 10 hours, and after wandering the top of the hill, we realized we had to pitch on the side of the road. Tents up and wine out, we finally relaxed, made dinner, and ate by moonlight.
It is good to note at this point that whilst it is generally fine, wild camping in Portugal is not 100% within the rules, but on the top of a hill, in the middle of a park, we had little concern.
That is when we saw the headlights of a car climbing the hill. At first we joked about being moved on, but the laughs became nervous as the car circled around and started slowly crawling towards us. We got up and approached, already wondering what our next move could be — when the doors opened and out steps the mechanic that took us to the pitch. With a shout and a wave, his wife, sister, and brother-in-law follow him out, smiling and laughing.
It transpired that they had been having dinner, and after talking about what we were doing, decided to visit. They drew glasses, bottles, and food from the car, and we passed the night talking a wild mix of Portuguese, French, and English over wine and homemade pie.