Xistopedia

Descending the Great Zêzere Route: A complete and enriching life experience

Descending the Great Zêzere Route: A complete and enriching life experience
active nature
Wild waters and wild landscapes once again charmed ambassadors of the Great Zêzere Route, who covered 37 km on foot, by bicycle and in a canoe, in complete harmony with nature and the riverside communities.

Running, mountain biking and canoeing in the wild waters of the Zêzere, from Silvares in the county of Fundão, to Cambas in the county of Oleiros. It was this 37 Km challenge that the ambassadors of GRZ-the Great Zêzere Routeaccepted and subsequently accomplished on 1st December.

Three years after the inauguration of the GRZ, Emanuel Silva, João Garcia, José Artur Pinto, Luís Coelho, Miguel Caçador, Miguel Tolda, Paulo Coelho, Paulo Mourão, Pedro Pedrosa and Ricardo Gonzalez, amongst others, got together again to undertake a winter version of the Route, thus opening the wild water season on the Zêzere River. The ambassadors were joined by athletes from the local mountain bike club, BTT Gardunha.

 

 

See here the route that the athletes took, crossing unique landscapes from the mining lands to the meanderings of the river. A challenge in complete harmony with nature, accessible to practitioners at all levels.

You can see entire GRZ route here, complete with maps and GPS tracks to download.


At spring, lovers of the outdoors will find the ideal conditions in this area for practising a variety of sports, particularly canoeing. At this time of year, the lively waters of the Zêzere guarantee an incredible and surprising advventure, even for those who are already experienced in this world, as is the case for the GRZ ambassadors.
 

 

In communion with nature

“This is a very well thought-out and refined route. Whoever conceptualised and set it up it is to be congratulated”, says Emanuel Silva, Olympic canoeist.

“There are no roads to speak of, and lots of contact with nature. There are many stretches where we just give ourselves up to nature and instinct”, describes the athlete.

The climber João Garcia agrees: “There are times when we are truly isolated and there’s a great sense of communion with nature”, he says. The well-known mountaineer, who has climbed some of the highest mountains in the world, highlights the “generosity of nature”. “The herons, the wild ducks and the landscapes that we find here prove that there is beautiful nature in Portugal which we have to treasure”, he argues.

 

 

Nature in an almost wild state, where the richness of the flora and fauna is remarkable, combining in perfect harmony with human occupation that, throughout the ages, has adapted to the passage of the river, living from it and with it. Therefore, crossing these lands is more than simply a sporting adventure. It is, above all, a life experience, complete and enriching, which allows you to get to know the habits, traditions and the way of life in the riverside communities, and interact with them.

“It is an area that has been altered by the hand of man, but always in tune with nature. It is, therefore, unique and incredible”, says Paulo Quelhas, head of BTT Club Gardunha, who knows this section well and has a special preference for the Cabeço do Pião area, where the landscape is marked by the Panasqueira Mine slagheaps.

This is taking place at the height of the olive harvesting season, when passing people and receiving a welcoming ‘good afternoon’, was, in the words of João Garcia and Marta Salvador from A2Z, “a very nice surprise”. So much so that both point to this brief exchange as one of the highlights of the day.

From Silvares to Cambas is a distance of 37km

Canoeing is, at this time of year, the queen of sports, but also with mountain-biking or trail-running it is possible to get a close-up view of one of our country's wildest rivers. And that is exactly what happened.

It was a misty start to the day in Silvares, in the county of Fundão. Greetings were exchanged, athletes kitted out and, before setting off, a quick briefing. Manuel Franco, from A2Z Adventures, summarised the first phase of the route and pointed out the places where extra care was required. Along with one certainty, however: “it’s going to be a lot of fun”. Shortly before, and with the sun already peeping through the mist, Pedro Pedrosa, one of the ambassadors, predicted a “relaxed descent to appreciate and enjoy the river”.
 


To this simple but very faithful description of what this day was, other feelings would be added later. Spectacular, fantastic, interesting, surprising were some of the words used most often to describe this adventure,with its guiding principles of a passion for sports and nature, good humour, friendship and companionship.
 


The route that links Silvares to the Aldeia do Xisto village of Barroca, about 9km, was taken by canoe and mountain bike, with the athletes crossing mining terrain. The impressive Panasqueira Mines slag heaps, in Cabeço do Pião, mark the landscape. Here, the river begins its most sinuous and convoluted stretch. Almost inevitably, we are invaded by an overwhelming sense of smallness, mixed with amazement and even a certain euphoria, as we witness the natural beauty that surprises us at every bend of the river. A sensation that will accompany us all the way and will, certainly, remain with us for some time.
 


The entourage arrives at Barroca sooner than expected. After a break to restore energy, the canoes are stored at the Multimodal Station (Estação Intermodal)(EI). Along the GRZ there are 13 EIs that allow you to change your mode of transport without having to interrupt your journey.
 

 

The next stop is in Dornelas, a shorter stretch, 5km, but equally attractive. Then we follow the meanderings of the Zêzere, near the Aldeias do Xisto of Janeiro de Cima and Janeiro de Baixo. A few hours and about 37km later, the day ends at the Cambas Praia Fluvial (River Beach), where the sun has already hidden behind the mountains.

Route shows just what is so beautiful in Portugal

“The whole route is beautiful, with spectacular scenery, for both those on the water and on land. You can see what is so beautiful in Portugal and what we have to treasure”, says Emanuel Silva, confessing that he was “curious” to do the complete GRZ course. “But by bike, to be different”, he says, smiling.
 


For João Garcia, who embraced the GRZ project from the start, “it was a spectacular day and one in which I was delighted to be involved”. Of the route taken, he highlights the water quality, which continues to be “impeccable”, and the final segment, between Janeiro de Baixo and Cambas. ““I very much liked the rapids. It’s a very technical part, less routine and requiring more attention”, he emphasises.

The climber draws attention to the wealth of “natural sports facilities” that exist in Portugal and the climate, a combination that makes an activity like this possible in December. “It’s a privilege that we should enjoy, because this is ours”, he stresses.


“It was very enriching. I felt a great freedom and a great energy”, says Marta Salvador. Adept at all three of the sports practised, she tells of “the environmental richness and the variety of landscapes”, which are always stunning. The adrenaline buzz inherent in constantly changing sport en route and the need to adapt are other aspects that she highlights.
 


Paulo Quelhas has no hesitation when it comes to summing this up. “It was a wonderful and fantastic day, whether for mountain biking, trail running or canoeing”. For the leader of BTT Gardunha, this is “one of the best places in the country to do this” and, therefore, is an experience that he recommends to all those who enjoy adventure sports.

 

“The GRZ is a route of the utmost importance in terms of the entire region’s strategic positioning in the nature and adventure tourism industry”,says the coordinator of ADXTUR - Schist Villages Tourism Development Agency. Rui Simão underlines the dynamism of the Zêzere River, “a product of excellent quality”, which can be enjoyed “all year round” and which “suits many different tastes”.

"It was exceptional to see the passion of people, who have been all over the world, riding this stretch of the GRZ" he remarks.
Initiative applauded by the local authorities

This initiative also merited applause from the Mayor of Silvares Parish Council, the starting point, and the Mayor of the Cambas Parish Council, where the day ended with a social gathering of all those involved in the day.

“It is a river that has not been 100% explored, still having many spots to discover. It’s a river with lively waters that really should be well used”, says Cláudia Pereira, musing that this activity “reactivates an important route and attracts other people to undertake it in the various different ways”.
 


For Luís Alves, this initiative demonstrates the River Zêzere’s potential for numerous sports activities and also represents a turning point in the promotion of the Cambas River Beach. “This is a location that has hardly been exploited and it’s important to let people know about it", considers the mayor.

The GRZ is available to anyone at any time and can be walked independently or done with the support of the various services available along the entire route. Safety is a priority, so careful planning is advisable. We are at your disposal to help you enjoy to the maximum everything the GRZ has to offer.

Text: Andreia Gonçalves

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