The Rio Guadiana dominates the far east of the Algarve. Its name a Castilian derivation of its Arabic name Wadi Ana. Prior to this it had been known as Flumen Anas, river of ducks. As well as a source for fishing and smuggling, the Guadiana was a major trade route for the Iberian peninsular. It is therefore not that surprising there is a museum dedicated to it. Museu do Rio is located in Guerreiros do Rio, about 8km from Alcoutim and opposite one of our favourite cafes to stop for a coffee and pastry. Despite its location though it took us until last month on a rather grey day to step inside. I was feeling quite hopeful after the lovely post by Al Algarve Conmigo.
It started well with some beautiful models of the traditional rivercraft that up until the 1960s were a regular sight. If only they were still plying their trade on the river today. If you click on my gallery below, you’ll discover the name and the purpose of each boat. I photographed less than a quarter of the full collection. There are 28 models in total, all created by Mr José Murta Pereira, a native of Guerreiros do Rio. His very first one was a gift for a wife having promised her a miniature fishing boat 30 years previously! The detail on them is quite extraordinary and I so wanted to be able to take them out and sail them on the river.
Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the models and headed to the next room. It was at this point unfortunately the museum reverted to typical Algarvian curating. We had entered the rather grand film room but the museum assistant gave no indication she would set it up any of the films for us. We suspect she was hoping to get away dot on time for lunch as we had arrived less than hour before! So we didn’t get to see the films about the people who lived on the banks of the Guadiana, nor did we learn about the smuggling or the trade routes. However upstairs there were a few photographs and displays which gave us a flavour of Guadiana’s fishing past.
Museu do Rio aims to give an ‘Inside Look at the Guadiana’, but without the film shows it all felt a little bit dry to us. Particularly the last display (see below) on fauna and flora in a rather bizarre walk in wooden construction. Still haven’t worked out the point of that! If you do decide to pop in, then our tip is ‘make sure you arrive more than an hour before lunch or closing’ as that way you’ll hopefully get to enjoy the film shows.
As well as the displays and films there are a few leaflets available and the one on the traditional boats is very useful. I wouldn’t worry too much though about the main one on the Guadiana as it doesn’t tell you much more than the displays, plus it gives conflicting information on the historical navigation. Talking of which . .
The Guadiana may no longer be a major trade route but the Lower Guadiana is still navigable for boats with a 2m draft or less. 2015 newspaper reports indicate it is only navigable as far as Alcoutim, but some boating websites state it is now navigable up to Pomarão. Either would be an amazing trip from Vila Real de Santo António and if you have one of the smaller traditional boats you’d probably be able to get as far as Mértola. How about it Restless Jo and Paula, shall we take the advice of Ratty in Kenneth Grahame’s ‘Wind in the Willows’ and go on a ‘Tales of the Past‘ adventure together on the beautiful Rio Guadiana?
‘Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats’