As the brave boys have gone in search of more caves for us to do, or talk about, or not do, Stevie Bloom and I opted for a day of high culture. Or rather Stevie needed a driver to take him places he thought he might like to go.
All guidebooks we consulted stated that Fatima was a steaming pile of donkey shite and that before some dubious miracle performed before the Empire had crumbled, to the under 10 population, it was a right old Bill Hickey one-donkey croftsville. However, after said "miracle" 4 million Catholics descend every year in order to do a 3k tab on their knees to some bonfire of burning tat. After a quick mass and flagellation, they head off to the plethora of Catholic tat shops for plastic object 'd' art and shoddy goods banged out in some 3rd world sweatshop.
It was all truly ghastly; the shrine and the tat shops, but it gave Stevie and I something to grin about, which is the main thing really. Oh, and Stevie upset at least 100,000 pilgrims by trying to wear his Club 18-30 shorts around the shrine, till the Religious Rozzers gave him a shoeing and verbals of death by holy candle up the arse. Nice.
While the others were off in Fatima I went with the Puritan brothers to look for Gralhas 7, touted in the guide as "The most beautiful cave in Portugal." The hillside to search was huge and festooned with shitty quarries, the scurf was monstrous and the sun was warm. Eventually found the entrance, next to the 5 branched gorse bush as suggested by the Frog, along with several other holes dotted about the countryside.
On our way back across the quarried wasteland that is the Parque National de Sierra Canderrios we stumbled across a sign pointing back the way we had come to a speleological interpretation center at the "Algar de Peno." Intrigued, we drove 10km through trashed limestone country to the Algar de Peno, the single largest chamber in Portugal. After inquiring tentatively if anyone spoke English, all the cavers there said "Yes!" and pushed us towards their chief beard, who told us we could visit his cave by using the lift and as we were cavers it was free! Touch!
Algar de Peno
So we looked around in total darkness at first as there were a load of youngsters learning SRT, then at a convenient balcony the lights came on and we got a true impression of the size of the cave. Quick chat with the beard, who said we could have a proper look round tomorrow morning, so we left him to it and sped off to look for the Algar de Lomba.
Found the Lomba next to the road and covered in sticks. All the spits were rusty and of the revolving type, so we hatched a cunning plan to do the Peno and the Lomba in a lightening dash the next day. Fantastic view over the Minde polje, probably the biggest polje I have ever seen, except for the even larger one in Bulgaria, but that was covered in trees and the wild horses kept obscuring the view.