Chocalhos: music and laughter

The festival of Chocalhos in our neighbouring village of Alpedrinha was again this year full of wonderful surprises.

From 15-17th Sept the village came alive with traditional music associated with the pastoral past and present.

People travelled from all over Portugal to enjoy the activities, food, music and dancing.

For the last number of years the Chocalhos, which celebrates the traditional shepherding ways in the region, has twinned with another region in Europe which still has strong links with sheep and goats. This year the region was Extremadura – so the Spanish over the border brought their delicious cheese and local products.

There was a beautiful family feeling in the village. With singing, people eating and chatting together and enjoying the beautiful weather.

Our super team of volunteers, Kirsty (South Africa), Julia, Henrike and Thomas (Germany) along with Marica’s mum Camilla co-ordinated the stall for the duration of the weekend. Eric and Thomas stayed up until late and the girls did the day shifts!

One of the highlights for Eric of the weekend were the conversations that he had at the stall with Portuguese people who had come from the cities to visit the area. He encountered many from Lisbon and Porto who were delighted to experience as sense of community, celebration and simplicity on the streets of the village.

A group friends had travelled from Lisbon and Porto, organised by our friend Duarte, camped at the Mount of Oaks. They took part in the nightlife and the walk from Fundao to Alpedrinha with the sheep and shepherds on the Sunday.

Above is a picture of Duarte and friends as they were handed a few musical instruments and they gratefully created a tune!

Friday and Saturday nights bands took to the street, at every corner of the tiny cobbled streets groups playing drums or bagpipes were found! It is hard not to dance to this music!!

In the week before Chocalhos we had the pleasure of hosting Nuno and Luisa from the Lisbon area – this amazing couple were on a camping holiday with us, and yet helped in many ways, for example tackling an area of brambles next to one of the stone walls.

On the Sunday there is typically a walk from Fundao to Alpedrinha along the old Roman road. People process after the sheep and shepherds. When they arrive in the village they are blessed by the local priest. Here they are arriving to the cheering of the onlookers!

One of the low-lights this year was that there were less local people out in the celebration than normal. We put this down to the fact it was difficult for people from the area to celebrate when so much had been lost this year due to the fires in the mountain behind the village. There was a sadness too at one of the oldest shepherds, 91 1/2 year old Antonio Lopes from the village passing away, the father of Antonio Lopes, our dear friend.

However, despite the lower numbers for the festival in general, the Home Grown Market on the Sunday, after the sheep walk was VERY well attended – and a huge success.

Many thanks for the success of this goes to Francisco from Ananda Marga – he has been working on the promotion of the local organic markets for months. This was the first to take place in the public space in Alpedrinha, after discussions with local producers and the local authorities.

We look forward to next year’s Chocalhos festival. If you would like to stay at Mount of Oaks for that weekend, remember – Chocalhos normally takes place the 3rd weekend of September every year. Options for associates are camping or booking the straw bale guest house.