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Rota Vicentina

Break between contracts so hiking some of the Rota Vicentina in Portugal
+19/10/2014Faro
Faro, Portugal
Landed in Faro at 8pm. The bus at the airport seemed to be a no show so jumped in a taxi which only cost €10. For a Sunday night it's a pretty noisy place even though the streets a mostly quite. There's a big market festival thing going on in the old town and the noise is from that I guess.
+20/10/2014Lagos
Lagos, Portugal
Got the train in the morning from Faro to Lagos. Straight forward trip and not too busy. The place I'm staying is not far from the train station and even closer to the bus station I'll be using in the morning. Lagos is a cute little town though mainly full of older English tourists and the odd family. Certainly set up for the tourist trade with heaps off restaurants along the cobble streets. The main attraction here I'm guessing is the beach on the other side of the marina, a long write stretch that curves away up the cost. I wasn't planning to stay here originally but there's only one bus to St Vincent Cape at 10:30 and I wasn't going to make it yesterday. So I've taken the opportunity to stock up on a few supplies and will head out to the cape in the morning to start the hike.
+21/10/2014Cape St Vincent to Vilo do Bispo
Cape St. Vincent, Portugal
I'd heard the buses could be a bit dodgy but the 10:30 to Cape St Vincent wasn't a problem. It was about an hour to the lighthouse and the start (more typically end) of the trail. The cape itself was a bit touristy with a number of shops and stalls but in a pretty laid back kind of way. The cliffs were impressive dropping straight down into the ocean. The trail head wasn't too hard to find though it did require walking down the road for a bit until the markers pointed the way. I almost missed the turn off for the coastal path and only found the pile of stones marking the way because my phone said it should be there. The scenery was pretty flat ignoring the steep dip off the side and covered in a variety of small bushes and grasses. The surface was quite sandy given the wind that must rip across here but helps explain the small vegetation. It was a hot day, about thirty degrees and the lack of wind and shade over the last stretch had me sweating a fair bit. This is one of the shorter legs at 16km but I was happy to see the end of it and find some shade. The guest house I'm staying in, Flor de Esteva, is a nice quiet little pace with a quirky vibe to it. Great place to chill out with a bottle of port after a hot days effort.
+22/10/2014Vila do Bispo to Carrapateira
Vila do Bispo, Portugal
Long but easy walk today with scenery becoming both greener and more hilly the further north I went. Spent most of the day walking with Sonja, a German girl who seems to be the only other person doing the path in the same direction. Not that there're many coming the other way. A lot of the trees had had there bottom halves stripped of bark which Sonja told me is used for cork. Apparently this is one of the biggest cork producing areas in the world and a tree can only be stripped every seven years. There was the odd spot of wind and more shade from the trees which made the hike feel easier than yesterday even though at 22km it was a bit longer.
+23/10/2014Carrapateira to Arrifana
Carrapateira, Portugal
A more diverse and hilly climb today. The morning was quite nice, some steep climbs but also a lot of valleys full with chill air from the night before. I met up with Sonja again 5k out of Carrapateira having a coffee at the only stop along the 24k route. We met an eccentric but nice Portuguese couple not long after that showed us a local berry you can eat and tried to convince us that we shouldn't be drinking water but 20% alcohol. Turns out they turn the berries into a local liquor. By midday the sun was out in full force and there wasn't much shelter apart from a small eucalyptus groove we stopped at for lunch. We reached the coast in the afternoon at a charming little village called Affrina. It was a gorgeous afternoon and the small beach was full of surfers as the sun was setting. I caught up with Sonja again at the beach and we grabbed dinner at a cheap local restaurant as the one by the beach that had been recommended was closed for a private function. The bnb I was staying at, Affrina Retreat, was really nice, run by an English surfer couple that made the stay really enjoyable. The midnight whiskeys didn't set me up well for the next day though.
+24/10/2014Arrifana to Aljezur
Praia Arrifana, Portugal
I made the debatable choice to take the longer route to Aljezur along the coast adding an extra 6km to my trek. The early path along the coast was spectacular and well worth it. The middle section along a tarmac road in the heat of the midday sun definitely wasn't. Sonja had taken the more sensible choice of lunch on the beach then the easier 12km inland route. Aljezur was a nice enough little town though not much going I on. There remains of a little fort on the top of the hill but not much else.
+25/10/2014Aljezur to Odeceixe
Aljezur, Portugal
The 18km to Odeceixe was the easiest yet. The weather was milder and apart from a steep climb at the start it was pretty much flat following an irrigation ditch through the local countryside. A couple of dogs started following us early on and we couldn't convince them to head back. Eventually when we got to the next down one turned back and I had to case the other off. It was nice having them along but we really didn't want to walk some random dogs all the way to Odeceixe. Odeceixe is a nice little town. Having a late lunch of beer and mussels and working out whether I should finish now or continue on along the fishermens trail. Sonja finished her hike here so I'll be on my own for the rest of it. Had a nice dinner with Sonja to celebrate our five days of hiking and hopefully we'll catch up in Lisbon again.
+26/10/2014Odeceixe to Zambujeira do Mar
Odeceixe, Portugal
An 18km walk along the coast. Quite spectacular and the best yet. I think I'll complete the rest off the fishermen's trail based on today. The walk started off pretty quite but became really enjoyable as I reached the coast. It's more of a real trekking path than the country roads I've been along so far. There was a nice breeze from the coast and the sun wasn't as hot as it has been. There was a lovely beach in the middle with a couple of old fat nudists strutting their stuff in the middle of it to contrast the view. From the top of the cliffs it was fortunately a distant view but helped break up the hike. Zambujeira do Mar was really nice. A little touristy town but the place I'm staying is lovely and the sunset I sat through tonight was just gorgeous. Haven't felt so chilled and content in a while. After I sat down for food and wine the trees across the road became populated with a few hundred birds that proceeded to chirp away for the next hour or so as the sun set spectacularly behind them. I just enjoyed my meal and the moment only grabbing a pic after the sun had finally set. After that I spend an hour sitting on the cliffs watching the sea crash on the rocks below as the light slowly faded before stumbling back in the dark as the final remnants of light disappeared.
+27/10/2014Zambujeira do Mar to Vila Nova de Milfontes
Zambujeira do Mar, Portugal
Big hike today. I skipped the stop at Almograve and instead kept on hiking up the coast. The start of the trek was on a path by the main road followed by a dirt road until I got to the lighthouse that marked the halfway point to Almograve. Here a Portuguese couple pointed out the stalks standing in the nests on the cliff side that I was walking past. The rest of the path to Almograve was really enjoyable, more of a hiking path winding along the coast. I managed to miss a turn at some point and used my GPS to stumble through the brush and up the dunes back to the path. The last couple of days have been really easy at 18km so I'd decided not to book accommodation for tonight and give myself the option to keep on going. At the 20km mark where I could stop for the night at Almograve I was feeling good and it was still early so I decided to push on. The first 5km of the trail north of Almograve was quite sandy and I was starting to think I'd made a mistake. However it moved on to farm trails and a more solid track for the last section. Right at the end I ran into some roadworks for the last stretch but was able to walk around them easily enough including the ones working on the bridge. I found a cafe on the road into town for a beer and wi-fi to check for accommodation. There was a place right across the road conveniently rated quite highly so I dragged myself across and got a room. Now I'm having a dinner of local black sausage, Morcela, and a big plate of fried cod and potato, Bacalhau à Brás. Soon I'll be laying back, having a port and nursing my blisters.
+28/10/2014Vila Nova de Milfontes to Porto Covo
Vila Nova de Milfontes, Portugal
20 km section along the beaches to finish out the path. The sand was hard to walk on but gentler on my feet so I didn't mind. Porto Covo is a quiet little town with not much going on. I've booked a bus to Lisbon for tomorrow morning so won't be here too long. It's satisfying to reach the end of the path but I could have skipped the last couple of days. I reached my Zen point two nights ago in Zambujeira do Mar. Still 169km along the Rota Vicentina over the last 8 days feels like a good effort and I'm happy I've made it to the end.
+29/10/2014Bus to Lisbon
Porto Covo, Portugal
I took the bus from Porto Covo to Lisbon on Wednesday and basically just crashed when I got to my hotel.
+30/10/2014Lisbon
Lisbon, Portugal
On Thursday I set out in the morning to explore after a quick google to identify the main sites. I started out by getting a bus into town then walked the rest of the way to Belem, a district that’s highly recommended. I visited Casa Pasteis De Belem to try out the famous custard tarts but didn’t come away that impressed. I followed this with a visit to the nearby monastery but only entered the church not bothering with the paid section though it sounds as though it’s quite impressive. Next I headed to the sea front to check out the massive Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) and the Torre de Belém. Both were impressive structures and it was a glorious sunny day so it was a lovely place to be. I decided to walk the 8km back into the old town along the sea front; it’s a nicely done stretch and was full of runners and people just going for a walk like me and nicely interspersed with cafes along the way. I grabbed lunch at a marina near the bridge that towers across to the other side of the harbour (quite noisy from the traffic above) and arranged to meet Sonja in the old town later. After lunch I headed into the old town and checked out the Lisbon Cathedral and São Jorge Castle on the hill above. The castle was quite impressive, lovely grounds with a beautiful view over Lisbon and you can walk all around the battlements. From the castle I headed down to Miradouro da Graca to meet up with Sonja and watch the sun set over Lisbon. We headed to a little a tapas bar Sonja had found called Taberna da Rua das Flores where we were lucky to get seated straight away. Really nice little place with good food, the Mackerel Tartare was especially good. After that we headed to a rooftop bar above a parking garage one of Sonja’s friends have told her of and had some drinks before realising how late it was and that we both had flights in the morning. Lisbon was a really nice city and one day really wasn’t enough but it was a brilliant way to finish up what’s been a great trip.