“These trees are growing men!”

We’re walking in the sun, it’s hot. Our legs are tickled by long, dried-out herbs and our feet dusty with grey dirt. Little by little, as our eyes get used to the blinding Portugal light, we’re distinguishing cork oak trees in the distance. They’re standing, slightly twisted towards the heavenly blue sky, proud and reassuring. Within their bushy embrace, men silhouettes are moving.

As we get closer,  the shadows and forms become colors and people. The cork trees – ochre naked trunks, grey weathered branches, olive-green leaves – are the stage of a curious show of tradition and sensuality.

There, old men are standing on branches, challenging the laws of gravity and cutting through the tree barks with extreme precaution and dignity. There, young men, agile and efficient pull away the bark from the trunk as if undressing a lover.

There, women in straw hats, colourful shirts and weathered skins are picking up the oak’s barks and attending to the men’s water supply whilst animatedly talking to one another. I feel like I’ve traveled back in time.

As we get even closer to the trees, we can see its raw, red bare skin lying on the floor. The smell is overwhelming, it’s humid, heavy, mushroomy, seaweedy even. Intoxicating whiffs of the cork drying in the sun… We reach out to feel it. It’s still alive, wet and rough.

Later, it will be carried away from the forest, dried out and transformed into wine corks (or serve other less glamorous purposes) while the trees will regenerate, grow a new bark for 9 long years before being stripped naked again.. over and over again.. for centuries.

A special thank you to Amorim, for this sensual cork experience.