Morning Hike With A Shepherd
This is Mr. Augosto. He’s 74 and has been a shepherd his entire life. Every morning, after milking his cow and taking care of the other animals, he leads his flock into the highlands to graze for two hours. They know his voice and he knows theirs. After the morning walk, he puts them in a shaded building to stay cool. And then takes them for another evening walk.
Twice a day. Every day. Rain. Snow. Sunshine. Heat. He doesn’t take Sundays off. No days off, really, for 74 years. Why? “Because my sheep need to eat.”
I had the amazing opportunity to accompany him on his morning hike. You see he’s in long pants with the traditional coat, tattered shirt, hat and staff. These hills were steep and yet he was never out of breath.
I discovered him through Air B&B Experiences after booking my cool apartment here in Manteigas. Local ecotourists are trying to promote the art of the shepherd to preserve and pass down the heritage. It is something I have heard throughout my week in Portugal.
Mr. Augosto is a dying breed of man. Young people don’t have the skills, endurance, or desire to live this way. Even his kids have left Portugal to seek more prosperous jobs in Germany and France. Mr. Augosto and his wife live completely off the land–between their garden, pigs, cow, and sheep, they have plenty to eat. His wife sells the goat’s milk and soft sheep cheese.
It was a rare experience that I was thrilled with, walking so closely to all the sheep, having an opportunity to learn what his daily life is like. He has a kind and gentle nature, I guess as you’d expect from a good shepherd. And his little dog is always by his side, except when he’s rounding up the sheep or playing with the little ones.
We stopped at the top of the hill to enjoy a picnic with homemade bread, bacon, sausage, cheeses, jams, figs and wine.
You can hear how Mr. Augosto communicates with the sheep in this short video.
There was a cycling competition happening in the mountains and one of Mr. Augosts’s challenges was getting his flock across the road without causing a cyclist to crash!
We walked down to the cool, shaded pen where he keeps the sheep for the afternoon. You can sense his weariness, but it’s all he’s ever known. Except for his military service in a losing effort to keep Angola from winning its independence in 1974.
He expressed his gratitude by giving me some fresh cheese to take with me on my road trip. I saw a sheep bell hanging by the house as I left and asked if I could buy it from him–he said it was his grandfather’s. But he graciously offered to sell it to me. I will treasure this memory! The sheep bell is hanging on my closet door to this day. Read about my amazing week in Portugal here.
Very grateful for another amazing day. And it’s only just begun! Love to all.