Portugal Day 4

Tuesday November 19th

When we’d flown into The Algarve on Saturday morning, I’d been looking out of the plane window and noticed that all the landscape was littered with buildings. Even the mountains and countryside was regularly dotted with dwellings of some sort.

With this in mind, I didn’t hold out too much hope to get far off the beaten track in the Algarve. So today, Glyn and I attempted to get up a bit earlier than usual and headed inland.

A 40 mile drive west then north took us to the village of Monchique which is walking distance from Serra de Monchique, a volcanic mountain range that is said to have great views over the Algarve.

Monchique was pretty enough, with your usual cobbles, wandering old folk slowly crossing roads and stray dogs sleeping too close to the roads. Apparently it is famous for its altitude (1,500ft) and wooden handicrafts (aren’t these places usually?!) Despite driving past the tourist information place twice, we couldn’t find it and Glyn asked an old lady in Portuguese for directions. It was fortunate that she pointed as well as giving directions, as Glyn’s Portuguese had convinced her he could actually understand it.

The lady at the tourist information place was very helpful and we were quite amazed it was even open. There was a 12km round trip up to the top of Fóia or we could drive there and do a 7km walk. We went for the latter.

Fóia is the highest point of Serra de Monchique at 2,959 ft and arriving at Fóia was a bit of a disappointment at first. It is completely littered with masts and aerials, another crappy obelisk (see Day 2) and an ugly cafe and shop.

I couldn’t open the car door at first, this was because the wind was so strong and blowing hard against the car. Glyn and I don’t own proper walking gear and we certainly wouldn’t lug such stuff in our luggage, so I wore extra leggings under my 3/4 length trousers and a poncho over my hoodie. I had an old pair of trainers and socks pulled up enough to cover as much bare skin as possible without looking too ridiculous – not easy! And then topped off with a cag in a bag over the entire ensemble. Fortunately I’m more concerned with warmth than looking good.

We headed off down the yellow/red path, following markers so we wouldn’t get lost – ha ha!! The system was that there were two parallel lines, one red, one yellow on various rocks and posts that you followed. If the red line went at an angle, you followed the angle. If the yellow and red line crossed, this was the wrong way. Simple.

We went downwards, along stony paths, past a JCB digger to the sounds of electric saws in the not too far distance. The wind ceased and it soon became rather hot in all my layers. We went past a grounded car and near houses – it never felt like we were in the wild for sure and there was no wildlife to be seen.

The path took us down to the road we’d just driven up and we had to follow it for a while, narrowly avoiding cars, logging trucks and a tourist bus. There were cool houses covered in pretty blue then brown ceramic tiles, just like kitchen tiles. We saw the two parallel lines near the brown house and thought this meant we carry along the road.

We walked for some time and soon I asked Glyn if he was concerned that we’d not seen the red/yellow for a while, he was now. But we carried on anyway, further and further down. Then there was a fork in the road, surely the red/yellow should be here, but no. So we stayed on the road closer to the top of the mountain and walked up to a closed restaurant in the false hope of toilet facilities. No loos, so we carried on, hoping that the promised cycle route to Fóia shown on a tattered sign would guide us back to the summit. No such luck and we began to realise that perhaps this way would never get us back to the top, so we decided reluctantly to retrace our steps.

So we walked back up the mountain road, a bit annoyed as we’d not seen much and the quarry that I said was an eyesore on the landscape, Glyn reckoned was the only interesting feature. Eventually we came upon the brown tiled house, and noticed a path beside it – maybe this was the proper route? Shall we risk it? May as well as we’d already walked for an hour and a half down and back along the wrong road, so what’s a bit more wrong direction going to hurt?

But as it goes, it was the right way and we were greeted by many red and yellow lines. The terrain got a bit more interesting, but the view was never without signs of human intervention, random battered old buildings, some shiny new buildings and deep holes in the ground. Naturally we were followed by a couple of ownerless dogs for a while.

By the time we’d made it back to the carpark at the top, we’d been gone for four hours and were a bit knackered – it was only meant to be a small walk! We had a snack at the cafe and were going to visit the other high point at Picota but couldn’t find it.

So we headed back and stopped at Silves. The plan had originally been to spend the afternoon there, but didn’t arrive until almost 5pm. We headed towards the castle and we weren’t sure if we were going to stop, but some bloke waved us into a carpark space, making the decision for us.

The light was going but the castle and church looked golden in the sinking sunshine, so we took photos and wandered about a while. The cobbled back streets held tiny terraced homes with faded coloured peeling paint and howling dogs behind the fences. A few shy street cats stared at us, but didn’t want to come close. We did see one guy feeding a few of the strays, but he ran in his house as we walked by as if he was doing something shady.

Silves looks really interesting, so we will come back tomorrow. It’s also full of many signs counting down how many metres to Lidl, so yes, we went.


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About the author

Having only one cat, Claire is currently failing at being a mad cat lady, but she does have a mad cat, Bod. When Claire isn’t chasing cats and other animals with her camera, she works as a Graphic Design Manager.

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