One of my favourite sights in Portugal is the huge variety of wildflowers that carpet the countryside in spring as the combination of warm sunshine and damp soil triggers an explosion of growth.
Although, this year there’s so far been rather a lot more dampness than sunshine!
Like most of the northern hemisphere, spring in Portugal has been very late coming. Things were ticking along fairly normally until mid-February, when weather systems everywhere seemed to go haywire – I’ve been told a huge solar flare may be to blame.
Over the next couple of months, Portugal had more rain than it had had in years. Rivers that are normally just a trickle were suddenly gushing brown torrents. Reservoirs that have been half full for years were suddenly brimming.
A tornado hit the coast of the Algarve in late February, ripping the roofs of houses and leaving a number of people temporarily homeless.
Storms battered the coast, ports were closed and waterspouts were seen off the north coast near Viana do Castelo.
Cycling in February also definitely wasn’t as pleasant as normal. It took us over four hours to do about 30km between Serpa and Beja one day simply because the wind was so strong it was blowing us to a standstill and almost knocking us off our bikes.
Luckily since then things have slowly improved. The weather is still being pretty erratic – calm one day, blowing a hoolie (technical term) the next.
But while not consistently up to normal April temperatures, it is getting warmer. And the combination of all that rain and the increasing sunshine is finally working its magic.
The pictures below were taken over the space of about five days, cycling with our second Southern Explorer tour group. They are just a very small sample of the beauty of the Alentejo in spring. (I know what a few of them are but if anyone can give me a full list of names – common or Latin – I’d love to hear what they’re all called.)