Note from Julie: This blog post was the first in My Personal A to Z of Portugal series, which I started in 2012 as a way of reflecting on life in Portugal.
Look downhill from my balcony and you’ll see a U-bend of the River Alva flowing past our house before it curls back around the village. The water froths and tumbles over the rocks beneath the tiny weir, providing a constant soundtrack to life in Moura Morta. I hardly notice it these days but on hot summer nights, when the bedroom window is open, its constant dull roar is quite soothing.
The chameleon qualities of the Alva fascinate me. Its water is usually clear, and appears dark from above, but when the sun’s at the right level, it’s transformed into a patchy silver snake.
Occasionally, diamonds of light flash on the surface like fireflies providing a mini light show below the balcony. At other times, the sunlight turns the pebbles into golden coins. After heavy rains, the water turns to a swirling, churning caramel milkshake or a cloudy pea soup.
Down by the ruined mill on misty mornings, I can’t help humming Deep Purple’s Smoke on the Water and conjuring up images from the Heart of Darkness as whorls of steam rise from the dark liquid. On clearer days, the mimosa trees and clumps of reeds are mirrored back from the still, glassy surface. Until Daisy decides to go for a swim, that is.
I used to be a bit of a wimp about swimming in the river myself, finding the waters a tad too bracing for my comfort levels. However, I’ve since decided to stop being such a baby about cold water and have found that having a river beach just 7 minutes walk from my house is something to be truly grateful for.
The Alva starts way up in the Serra da Estrela Mountains and retains that icy feel all year round in Moura Morta, thanks to the dam a few kilometres upstream in Fronhas. Despite this, it’s a perfect spot for a river beach and the local authorities steps have started providing facilities here such as a portaloo, barbecue and picnic tables.
The Praia Fluvial de Moura Morta is still a very off-the-beaten-track location and I appreciate having it to myself most days.
Trout seem to love the cold water so we’re more likely to see fishermen in waders than bikini-clad bathers as there are several spots along this part of the river that are used for fly fishing competitions.