Thursday, February 25, 2010

Carrapateira, Cliffs, and Valleys

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Day 3 (February 23, 2010): clifftops and River Valleys of Carrapateira
We stepped off the tour bus, a full size bus that seems almost silly for a group of 12 people, into sunshine and wind. The hamlet of Carrapateira greeted us but we only eould glance st her pastel buildings and cobble streets before heading out towsrds the Pontal Headlands and the overlooks of a national park. Our group cconsisted of the usual suspects. That's not inusual as people decide to do a certain type of walk based on length and time allotted to do the hike. The HF leaders alternate walks so you will get both of them if, like us, you stick to a single class of walk. Today we had Phillip marshalling us down a road to a sand dune that would mark the start of the clifftop walk.

Unlike the first walk of this trip this cliff walk would not lead us down to the sea. We stayed high walking along a pothole ladened dirt road. At intervals very well built boardwalks would push through the sandy soil to the edge and overlooks that afforded views of the tan limestone cliffs and the surf below. The brisk winds would whip seafoam in our direction and everyone picked up a salt patina. The only serious obstecles at this point were the potholes full of water. These little craters were everywhere. We walked along the quiet road and about two hours into the walk, we would have four hours more to go, we came upon a lone cafe whose staff were sitting down to eat a sumptous lunch. They let us sit and eat a snack since we ordered tea and coffee. In the busy season I can see this sturdy looking place doing quite well as it has splendid views of the sea. Today, at noon, we and a pair of cyclists were the only patrons.

We continued on our way heading south towsrds Praia do Amado (Lover's Beach). This must be a favored locale because a decent-sized parking lot is nearby. I expect it's a fine beach but our course took us quickly inland off the dirt road onto a path that followed a river valley. With all the rain they have had the floodplain was a bit on the muddy side but beyond marking up our shoes the track posed no problems for us as it undulated amongst the lush hills of the valley. Those of us with keen eyes for flowers spotted blooms of various sorts. It was quiet in this stretch. Not even the bluster of the wind really for background sound. I heard a couple birds, partridge perhaps, but not much else. We strolled and we chatted. In time we reached our second snack spot on the verge of a tarmac road (ESTR. EN268). Clouds had overwhelmed the sky and the wind had not abated so it was hardly the most picturesque place, but it would do.

The next couple miles of the walk through the oddly name Mount Queimado district were nice enough except for the road (although it was quiet). There is no mountain here. I'm not even sure the area sported a substantially larger hill. It did provide a home for many very large light brown cows and bulls. We walked through a cork oak plantation. The trees lined the road as it wound fown into another valley. The trees have numbers painted on them that inform the workers when they last peeled the bark off the tree. It does feel exactly like it should. Every nine years a tree can be stripped.

The sun reclaimed the sky as we strolled passed working farms with pigs and chickens. As we walked by one big estate that included many horse barns a quartet of dogs announced our presence and trotted down the dirt lane to greet us. A friendly alarm system if ever there was one. With less than four miles to go we strolled along a small river through fledgling forest passing homesteds along the way. In time the dirt lane gave way to pavement as we neared the outskirts of Carrapateira and the cafe we knew marked the end of our 11 mile loop. Drinks and pastries served up by a seemingly inattenyive berista put a nice end to the day.

As always please forgive iPhone typos.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Silves, the Windmill, and Beyond

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Day 2 (February February 23, 2010): Silves and the Countryside
There is morecto the Algarve, the western coast, than just the seaside. Today we began our walk in the town of Silves (Sil-vesh). Centuries ago this was a thriving trading town but nicer time the river silted up and became unnavigable. It is hard to tell how lively the town is today though it certainly seems a good bit larger than Praia da Luz (Luge). The Knights elected to do the harder walk which spanned a bit more than 8 miles rising and falling some 800 feet. The easier walk shared much of the same route.

We left the storks of Silves from the Ponti Roma, a bridge that may be of Roman design but some claim it is of zmoorish vintage, with good weather but that would soon change. The walks took us through the countryside along small roads and dirt lanes. With the clouds quickly conquering the sky we climbed to an old disused classic style windmill. The wind whipped around us and it was becoming clear that we were in for some heavy weather. That weather arrived in the form of high wind and huge raindrops. Short frequent showers caused pastured sheep to scamper for their small hut and us to don our waterproofs. But with the rains also came great swaths of colorful contrasts: deep angry gray clouds, rich dark greens of plants, the vRious shades of tan that make up the potholed filled dirt lanes, and at times to hint if a lightening sky with patches of blue. The combination is somber and yet thrilling to the eye. But it bs a closed-in world and that affected our view of the overall walk I am sure. It wasn't as exciting as it might otherwise have been, except for one monster of a hill. This mud-slick, 100 foot plus hillock was a real chore to descend. It was easily as steep as an average set of stairs but lacked the respites of treads. Ascending this beast would have been awful; descending was tough enough. To date, covering the three hikes we have now done, that hill is the toughest several minutes of work we have had. When we saw the group doing the easier walk pop out on a trail at the base of the beast we were surprised and perhaps a bit chagrinned.

The video will give you a sense of the day. I apologize for the spotty audio. Please keep in mind I am writing this on my iPhone so typos are bound to appear.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

Monday, February 22, 2010

Selema to Praia da Luz, Algarve, Portugal

This is our first walk and it would sport a nice variety of experienced to give us a feel for the Algarve coast of Portugal. Our group would consist of five HF guests plus the HF leader. To add a bit of spice to our lives Dad and I were forced to hike in city shoes. All the Knights were reduced to city attire for the walk (we had our Ibex Icefall jackets and rain jackets). This sad state of affairs was caused by the fact that our luggage hadn't quite made it all the way with us. We had to make do. City shoes are not what you want to wear on dirt paths that have recently been doused with rain.

The walk would run along the coast covering a but more than 8 miles rising to clifftop headlands and plunging down to the sea accumulating 854 feet of ascent and a similar amount of descent. The weather was going to be changeable. We had experienced a squall while at the grocery store earlier in the morning and the potential was there for more rain later.

The walking would be on dirt paths the followed the coastline. A small bit was on small village roads at the start and near the end. Footing ws easy though a bit slick at times due to the mud. Wearing good walking shoes is more than enough. I did not miss my trekking poles even on a couple of the 100-foot hills we had to cross.

If you are lucky enough to pass the cafe that is between the Roman fort and Burgau (sp) stop in for a coffee. The service was good, the restrooms nice, and the view from the rocky beach of the ocean nice. Stopping at what is left of the Roman fort is nice too. It also served us well as a rain shelter. Though I'd not want to garrison there. Perhaps the dining area has vanished but I surely saw no sign of a vent hole for a fire. It'd be smokey in that space.

The ocean was in fine form with waves booming against the shore all day. The colors from frothy emwhute to turquoise and finally deep blue are always a pleassure to see. Sure being able to gaze on the exposed cliffs from time to time is nice but it is the Atlantic that keeps your attention.

This was an excellent first walk and I'd recommend it.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Winter Warriors You Never Knew

This probably says more about me than anything else. It is a sunny afternoon here in town. The first multiple-hour bit of sunshine we have had in quite some time. I decided to go for a walk. I bundled up against the cold, especially the brisk chill wind, and went out for a neighborhood stroll.

The ramble took me into downtown where I found the scene shown in the video. People sitting outside drinking beers and snacking on appetizers. It was a special event: Winter Warriors. Many rstaurants around zmain Street were putting on specials for people braving the sunny cold. Sure it got some press but I missed it. I never saw a tweet from (there may have been one) or heard mention on WEMU or WUOM. I wouldve missed it exvcept I walked into it.

How do we keep up with special events like this? If it was held on a regular basis that would help. But the real problem is information distribution is so fractured now that unless you follow just the right source you miss things. Figuring out what the right sources are is the real challenge. It is a challenge for the consumer and the producer (on this case the restaurants and stores putting on the event are the producers). I don't have an answer for this problem. Perhaps i'm a bad consumer, but I think there must be a better way to share information we care about. Not all bits of information are equal.

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IMG_3233.MOV (1003 KB)

** Ken **

Sent from my iPhone

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