We had spent a little over a week travelling through southern Spain and then hopping over the border to Portugal. It was about time for a little break in the journey.
This is Agolada. It’s a rural area situated somewhere in the middle of Portugal. There are a lot of cork trees. Other than that, I don’t think there’s much else to be said.
We were spending our time volunteering at a B&B which functioned more as a children’s summer camp. We’d found the place through a scheme called workaway. Google it and you’ll see what I’m talking about – lodging and food in exchange for a few hours work per day. There was laundry, cleaning, making of beds… I’d say the biggest task was washing dishes and, let me tell you, cleaning up after a meal for seventy-odd people is no small feat.
Nonetheless, we spent one and half weeks there feeling blissful and relaxed. We collected wild blackberries on the cusp of ripeness and swam in the outdoor pool. I have some very fond memories of my time there, and for the people I met too.
There were quite a number of other volunteers from a whole host of countries (two Germans, two Poles, a girl from the Czech Republic, a Dutch girl, a guy from Slovakia, a Brit…). Although I only knew them for a short time, we were like a little Agoladian family (the daily prospect of an hour’s dish-washing most certainly helped to cement the bond).
And then there were the two lovable, no-nonsense motherly ladies who ran the place on a daily basis. They were in charge of everything: cleaning, cooking, laundry, general tasks. They were the ones who issued instructions, who knew what needed to be done. It was only slightly problematic, then, that they spoke barely a word of English between them. To complicate matters further, we only had one and a half Portuguese speakers amongst our number (half for my friend who speaks a smattering of basic Spanish, a similar beast).
So there was a lot of hand waving and pantomiming and a fair deal of general confusion, which only added to the fun of course. For all their fiery temper and affectionate warmth, there is no way you could not love them.
Workaway is such a great way to travel, as are related projects such as Couchsurfing, Airbnb and au-pairing. Whilst it was fun hopping from city to city, we were still invariably tourists skimming the surface of each city’s essence and culture. Tripadvisor and Google can only get you so far when you want to find the best local haunts and specialities. It’s so much more fun when you have a local to show you around.
I sincerely hope that I will be able to visit Agolada again, someday in the foggy future. And hopefully those two dear ladies will still be there, fingers crossed.