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.

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