This course runs along a quiet section of the Guadiana, upstream of the famous Pulo do Lobo, and between the Moinhos Velhos and Azenha da Ordem watermills. It can be divided into 3 sections of 4 to 6.5 kilometres each. The trail is calm and fluid and much of it on serene waters, with the exception of some small rapids, found mainly in the watermills’ weirs, which add emotion to the trip. With a difficulty level that does not exceed level 2, the course is accessible to inexperienced participants.
• Type: Course along the Guadiana river
• Distance: 16,5km
• Difficulty level: 1 and 2
• Point of departure and arrival:
A - Moinhos Velhos a Ponte de Serpa (6km)
B - Ponte de Serpa a Moinho da Amendoeira (4km)
C - Moinho da Amendoeira a Azenha da Ordem (6,5km)
• GPS Coordinates: N: 40º 02.752’ W:007º48.155’
• Points of interest: Guadiana river; Moinhos Velhos watermills; Moinho da Amendoeira watermill; Azenha da Ordem watermill
© Vasco Neves
This section of the Great River of the South reveals the unique beauty of a territory essentially untouched by man and that evokes a certain return to the origins. The old Guadiana watermills enchant us with their presence.
The Azenhas are the old watermills of the Guadiana River. Their solid and robust construction was adapted to the torrential regime of floods which characterised the river at the time but disappeared with the construction of the Alqueva dam.
These watermills ground much of the grain produced in the vast Alentejo plains. The grinding was assured by these mills but also by smaller mills powered by streams and windmills, which worked in complementarity so that there was no lack of flour all year round.
Their appearance in the Guadiana dates back to the thirteenth century, but it was in the seventeenth century that most of them were built, in order to meet the needs of a growing population.
They were owned by the Crown, by the great nobility and clergy and later by peasants, millers, and maquilões (the men who carried the flour to and from the mills).
In the 30s of the last century these watermills began to decay and in the 1960s they finally succumbed, replaced by the more efficient industrial mills.
Today they are testimonies of a traditional way of life, on which they played a major role in this region. Imagining the hustle and bustle of these places when they were in operation or picturing what the miller's day would be like are good recreation exercises. If you have the chance to talk to someone knowledgeable about the activity or to family of former millers, do so; the experience will be unforgettable.
© Vasco Neves