An easy routine has been adopted by Colleen, myself and all the animals and 3 weeks has passed surprisingly quickly, helped of course by almost unbroken sunshine.
The day starts with the 5 dogs being let out and the donkeys and sheep receiving some hay - fed in this part of the world to overcome the scorching summer rather than a bare winter. The geese and other poultry then receive their rations and I take the dogs down to the enchanting farm ruin being restored further down the track - usually accompanied by 2/3 of the cats. Various local people arrive during the day to attend to a number of tasks - Anna is building stone walls, Monique is finishing a traditional chimney, Carlos is constructing a wood shed and Raffie and David are fitting in extensive fencing work around their college studies.
I have done a number of odd jobs, read extensively and been out for a spin on the bike a few times but largely stay on site with my scanning in of several hundred slides from 3 decades ago almost complete - it has been good to reawaken old memories of India, Nepal and the heyday of my caving enthusiasm.
An evening up to Marvao to capture the sunset culminated in the discovery of a flat battery which my jumpstart pack overcame but seriously dim lights on the return along narrow and unfamiliar lanes indicated an alternator problem. This was confirmed the following morning with my multimeter so the defective item was removed and I presented myself at a car parts store in Portalegre where despite the language barrier it was fairly obvious what was required. A new one was ordered with delivery after the weekend so I returned to the quinta via the supermarket as I was not keen to use the pool car more than necessary so stocked up with supplies. I put the battery on a 48 hour charge as it had obviously been missing out - probably from somewhere in Spain a couple of weeks ago - and it seems to have recovered well.
On the Monday Colleen's cat required a trip to the same vet that we had taken the Westie to as she had an inflamed leg following an altercation with one of the resident cats. A good hour's attention plus anaesthesia, medication and follow up blood test amounted to £40 - a fraction of the cost in the UK and we had time to collect the new alternator which had confounded my expectations by turning up as promised at the store. On a foul night with strong winds and heavy rain we returned to base and were both soon tucked way as the heavens emptied.
Tuesday however dawned bright and sunny and after the livestock routine I soon had the alternator installed and all was working well - the old one had been fitted in 2009 prior to the Oz/NZ trip and had needed a repair in Melbourne which had never been quite right but anyway I guess 120,000 miles is not too bad.
Today has seen me out on the bike for 5 hours as it was a cloudless sky and the temperatures hovered in the early twenties whilst the sun was up but soon fell away after dusk. The empty roads, stunning scenery and friendly locals made for a memorable day and affirmed my feeling that the Alentejo is one of the most appealing parts of Portugal which in itself is a very rewarding country to explore.
Thus the final week here begins of which the highlight will be the weekend Chestnut (Castanhas) Festival in Marvao which draws in huge crowds - up in the town there was a lot of preparatory work underway and if the weather holds it should be a memorable event so return to this spot for an update early next week.
It seems odd that in two weeks time I will be back in the UK and four weeks after that I will be back here again..........but it will be good to catch up with family and friends and enjoy a Guiness or two