Portugal as a kayaking country is nothing new. The atlantic coast is full of wave kayakers having fun in the biggest waves of Europe. Spots, such as Nazaré, are well known in the scene. But there is something coming up these years. It´s whitewater kayaking in the portugese mountains. To paddle over there you need a good preparation and you need to know some other things to have a nice trip. Maybe I can help you with my top tips! If some of you out there have been to the portugese rivers and you have some additional tips – let me know!
First of all there are not many river guides for the portugese whitewaters – you have to search through the internet to find some sites that describe the rivers. Descriptions are a important step, to find the river is another step – and not an easy one! We worked with the site aguasbravas.net, it is up to date in the season (December to April) and there are lots of river desricptions. Rui Calado, the publisher of the site is "the man" in the portugese whitewater kayaking scene, he is working on a new river guide for the area. This would make this step much easier.
We prepared our map of the region with some orange dots to barely know where we could drop in. GPS data and the river guides, patience and searching are necessary to find all the acceses.
Especially in the mountains it is raining non stop if it is raining. Due to the lack of glaciers and snow rain is important for kayaking, so rain is a good thing you shouldn´t grumble about ;) Staying warm and dry beyond the Jacket will help you with that (for example try the Atlas jacket that keeps me warm and dry!
By the way: The rivers levels are changing fast. At rain the rivers are swelling within a few hours, the can get really full on! When the rain stops at least two days later the water disappears.
Your slippers should stay in the car for the chilling hours at the beach! On the river you will need boots that do not slip away on wet rocks and moss. The rivers are steep so you have to scout many times, some times you have to portage a few meters. Portages in Portugal are mostly heavy. Either you have super slippy rocks ore you have thorn bushes. Thats another reason for preparing your trip well.
Yes you are right, one car is better to safe enviroment and money, the group stays together and it could be even more funny BUT there is one thing you should know: The mountain roads over there are beautiful, lonely and small roads that wriggle around the rocks and mountains. It can be fun to drive there, but for 5 km of paddling you have to drive 16 km on the road IF you have a second car ... otherwise you can have a nice trail run.
The portugese restaurants and cafes are mostly realy nice, kind stuff and awesome food. Additionaly it is very cheap for most of us. A coffee you can get for 40-50 cent, breakfast in a mountain village is around 2,50 € (including some sweets, coffee, bun). If you go for dinner you should try francesinha, a cheese baked bread with sausages and some kind of gravy. A cachorro is a kind of hot dog, normally served with nice vegetables and sauces. All of these foods are not low carb or diet menus, but who needs that after a day of nice creeking? Main dish with some beers and a dessert is normally around 10 € by the way.
The Portugese are realy kind and they always want to help. Not all of them, especialy deeper in the mountains, are speeking English. They try to speak with hands and feets and please with the contact to people that are like from a different world (I mean we are some guys, that are travelling with a hull of plastic to paddle rivers out in the nowhere that can be strange for some people). There are some Portugese phrases you should keep in mind:
pouco de água means it is low water
inundacao means it is highwater
cerveja is beer
At least we shouldn´t forget, that we are there for paddling. The steep rivers are calling for good boofing skills. If you do not have them at the beginning you have best possibilities to learn them on the Paiva or similar rivers. If you miss a boof make sure there is someone with a good safety equipment helping you. Never forget your throwbag – you will need it!