This weekend’s hiking took us to Boliqueime, a small town about four miles inland which happens to have a railway station. Not that we planned to catch the train there. Harri had devised a scenic (and rather convoluted) hiking route that involved following the new Via Algarviana link route from Albufeira to Alte as far as Paderne, then approaching Boliqueime from the north.
The landscape around Albufeira is now very familiar to us and it wasn’t until we crossed the railway line at Ferreiras (where Albufeira’s own railway station is based) that we felt we’d really got going.
Harri had booked our hotel in Boliqueime on Monday when the weekend weather forecast was good; however, it had been changing daily. Fortunately, the forecasters had finally settled on warm weather with some cloud around; the forthcoming storm was now not due to arrive until around midnight on Sunday (by which time we planned to be up in bed).
After Ferreiras, we soon joined a stony track though an area of what was once agricultural land. Sadly, there were no longer any signs of farming, just abandoned fields, crumbling drystone walls and the occasional ruin. We passed no-one but welcomed the solitude and took pleasure from the landscape around us. December in the Algarve feels like spring in the UK, with the vegetation coming back to life thanks to the heavy overnight dew. The clover-like leaves of the invasive Bermuda buttercup was now evident everywhere, although the yellow flowers which blanket the fields (and many gardens) have yet to appear.
There is considerable quarrying taking place in this area as we found out when we walked back from Paderne last winter. Having only arrived in Albufeira a few weeks earlier and still finding our bearings, we got ever-so-slightly lost in the vicinity and found ourselves wandering along endless, dusty tracks between quarrying activities for far longer than we’d have wished.
As we headed north, we were getting closer to the line of hills that the main Via Algarviana route follows. One escarpment is very distinctive and its outline reminds me of the Carmarthen Fans in the Brecon Beacons. Just as I was thinking about Wales, we passed a farm with sheep and lots of lambs.
We crossed the motorway bridge and looked down at the queuing traffic on the A22 … I’m joking, the road below was almost totally devoid of traffic. Considering the tolls aren’t that high (you can travel from west of Lagos all the way to the Spanish border for under nine euros) it’s incredible how few vehicles use it.
In the next village, I almost lost Harri when I stopped to photograph an eye-catching sculpture of a voluptuous woman sunbathing in her bikini.
After a perfectly still start to the day, there was now a bit of a wind whipping up; I hoped the weather forecasters hadn’t got it wrong again because neither of us were dressed for a storm and hadn’t brought raincoats with us.
You don’t have to come very far inland from the main resorts to feel like you have stumbled upon an altogether different Algarve, where people still lead quiet, traditional lives, tilling the rust-coloured soil, growing their own vegetables and sitting outside their homes bidding crazy Welsh hikers ‘bom dia‘. The only downside to this idyllic landscape is the constant barking of dogs! Neither do we understand why there are so many of them guarding one property in a country that’s not known for its high crime rates.
We reached the river which had thwarted our progress last December (the morning after our Christmas dinner with the crowd from Arte Bar when a certain person wasn’t feeling too well. It had recently rained, the stepping stones were half submerged by the river and a lot of debris had built up against them. After demolishing half a cooked chicken, Harri surveyed the scene and decided the river was probably passable if we took off our shoes and socks and kept hold of the steeping stones as we waded through the fast-flowing water. Fortunately, I managed to talk him out of this madness and instead of risking life and limb, we took a long detour to reach the other side. I say ‘fortunately’ because now the water had dropped to its pre-flood level we could see just how big the drop just inches from the stepping stones was. One wrong foot and we’d have tumbled into water at least two metres deep. I may not be great at reading maps or devising routes, but I can spot a dangerous river crossing a mile off!
As we neared Paderne, Harri presented me with an option of following a local walking route directly to the Roman Bridge or following a longer route into Paderne. It was warm and we’d liked the town very much on our last visit, so we opted for a beer in Paderne, even though it meant an avoidable climb afterwards.
The landscape above Paderne is absolutely beautiful with stunning views, an opinion clearly shared by the many people who have built and sympathetically renovated houses on the hillside. Despite climbing for over half a kilometre, we opted to walk a little farther to see the Moinho de Leitão, one of the oldest mills in the area which has now been restored, only to discover it’s closed at weekends. Still, it looked very nice though the fence.
We were meandering past some rather nice villas trying not to feel too envious when we realised we had acquired a walking companion. A young border collie had decided to join us on our walk and nothing we did could persuade him otherwise. We tried everything to drive him back – shouting at him in Portuguese, throwing stones near him, even dashing into vegetation in the hope we’d lose him – but to no avail. It was only when we reached Paderne castle and he spotted a dog walker that he lost interest in us. While we were relieved – we didn’t want him to follow us onto roads – we did feel slightly guilty for inadvertently handing over our problem to someone else.
One day we’ll visit Paderne castle properly, i.e. when it’s open, but on this visit we had to again content ourselves with wandering around the towering outer walls and enjoying the views across the gorge. I was taken aback when Harri announced it was already 3.30pm and we had still to descend to the Quarteira River below then climb out of the gorge. After that, there were still several miles to Boliqueime. If we didn’t want to be walking in the dark, we needed to get a move on.
After a somewhat hairy descent – during which Harri spotted a snake – we reached the Roman Bridge, where we were amazed to find the riverbed was completely dry (and looked like it had been that way for quite some time). There was once a mill here alongside the river. No-one knows exactly when O Moinho de Alfarrobeiro was built but it is known to have operated from the late nineteenth century until the 1930s. Presumably there was more water running past in those days.
We were now ‘off piste’ as Harri put it, having left the local circular walking route to head to Boliqueime, so were relying on Harri’s skill and the excellent Viewranger to deliver us safely to our destination.
Fortunately, the final climb of the day wasn’t as bad in reality as it had appeared from the lofty heights of the castle because I was starting to feel quite tired. Harri’s foot had been bothering him all day too – he’d somehow acquired a splinter in his heel which was very painful to walk on.
The last hour of walking was along historic lanes with fantastic views, including distant sea views towards Quarteira. It’s fair to say that the scenery between Paderne and Boliqueime is among the most beautiful we’d seen here in the Algarve and, from the number of sprawling villas and landscaped gardens we passed, we’re not the only ones who think so.
If you’re interested in doing the same walk, here’s the 26 km route.