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.
No matter how hot it gets, I’m not joining her. I’ve swam in this river once and that’s enough, thank you.
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. Which is a shame, because it’s a perfect spot for a river beach and steps have been taken towards providing facilities here.
It would be quite handy to just stroll down the hill for a dip in the summer; instead we end up driving to other river beaches where the water temperature is bearable.
I might not like the cold water but trout seem to. 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.
This post is the first in My Personal A to Z of Portugal series.
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