Saturday, March 13, 2010

Over Cliffs, Across A River, To Sagres We Go

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Day 6 (February 26, 2010): Across the River and Over the Cliffs
Our final hike in the Algarve would take us to the southwestern town of Sagres. But in order to reach this little beach town we would have to walk along coastal paths and paved roads, through gorse, on top of slick-as-ice stretches of clay-rich mud, and cross a river.In some respects this 9.3 mile walk with about 940 feet of ascent and descent would be the most stressful.

We left with low clouds threatening and strolled out of the town of Figueira into the low hills that would lead us to single lane dirt tracks that would gradually rise until we reached the Mesa-like low growing grasslands that mark the coastal cliffs around here. Perhaps the grass is kept short by grazing animals as was certainly the case later in the day. Many small dirt roads crisscrossed up here. Without decent notes, it could be easy to get confused. Worse, the mud that the path had been turning into under the recent, and now current, rains was quite slick making for poor footing. At least the rain didn't last long though the cloud cover never really did break.

When we got our first views of the Atlantic we saw an ocean of somber blue-green with hints of grey. It matched the mood of the sky. But the dreary weather did not deter the surfers down in the cove below. We edged down the narrow path along the cliff-face and passed by a small cafe that no doubt does great business in nicer weather. A road-walk beckoned before we would have our big challenge of the walk and perhaps the trip: a river ford.

The river at Azenha do Mar was probably 75 feet across. Waves from the ocean surf lapped at our shorts. Had we walked further out in the ocean we might have been spared the rocks underfoot. The rocks were smooth but still a bit painful to walk on and they affected, at least for me, balance. Had the rocks not been present the water crossing would have been a cakewalk. I have crossed tougher streams but this was I believe the biggest water crossing we've done on an HF trip. Once on the far side towels, courtesy of the hotel (how civilized!)came out and legs and feet were rubbed dry. The cool wind did it's part too. We settled in for lunch in this surfers cove (RVs abounded in the muddy parking area on the other side) but before too long it was time to strike out on the narrow steep hiking path up the cliffs to what would turn out to be a lengthy stroll across vast sheep-grazed fields past a lonely farmhouse along more slick tracks. We would take a long way around to reach the cliffs outside the town of Sagres. Then we dropped down one last time onto a wide and long beach that must be popular when the weather is nicer.

Sagres seemed rather quiet, perhaps a bit run down. We found the cafe that had served the easier walking group a little earlier and shared our last post-walk tea before piling into the bus for the ride to Cape St. Vincent. This windy spot with a couple buildings (lighthouse) is the most western part of mainland Europe. Next stop North America. We didn't hang about as the wind was howling, and beyond the views of the pounding surf against the high cliffs there is not much to see. One thing of note were the fishermen casting improbably long lines from the tip of the headlands out past the surf, perhaps more than 200 feet, fishing for bream (which I had not heard of).

Enjoy the video and photos.

Posted via web from Ken Knight's posterous

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