We’ve taken to calling our little daily jaunts around Montes Mourinhas our ‘outdoor moments’ simply because that’s the delightful way the permitted daily exercise was translated on official guidance.
I’ve always loved being by the sea, which was the main reason we chose a townhouse close to Armação de Pêra instead of a detached house several miles inland. In what already feels like a previous lifetime, we used to enjoy regular walks around nearby Salgados and along the rugged coastline of Lagoa.
The coronavirus pandemic has created challenges for everyone – and heartache for many – and complaining about the lack of walking opportunities locally feels misplaced and just wrong. Like everybody, I applaud the heroic efforts of health workers throughout the world, plus the tireless and selfless dedication of many others who are belatedly being acknowledged as being absolutely essential to our lives, people like social care workers, lorry drivers, transport workers, food production/supermarket staff, utility employees, etc. The list goes on … I sincerely hope the politicians will give these people the recognition and salaries they deserve when the crisis is finally over. Thank you to each and every one of you who is continuing to work and look after us throughout this crisis.
But back to walking, which is what this blog has mostly been about. With our local beaches closed since March 28 and coastal footpaths no-go areas, it has fallen to Harri to devise new routes closer to home, keeping as far away from other people as possible.
This week’s walks may have been short compared to what we’re used to, but they certainly haven’t been dull. Thanks to Harri’s proclivity for exploration and well-honed online mapping skills, we’ve been getting acquainted with the beautiful landscape right here on our doorstep. Using a combination of Viewranger and Google maps, he has unveiled some intriguing off-piste opportunities close to home.
And because we are exploring little-used footpaths and tracks, we have mostly been able to stay clear of other people as per the guidelines.
As an outdoor writer of several months’ experience (you don’t know how much I love writing those words!), I thought I was relatively well-acquainted with the labyrinth of narrow roads, tracks and footpaths between here and Porches (a pretty traditional village two miles away); however, one morning last week I was in for a pleasant surprise. Having skirted around the edge of a deserted village, we joined the prettiest of downhill tracks to emerge on an undulating landscape dotted with trees.
The track ended at a ruin and we climbed down onto the grassy slope below, passing what we believed to be a simple shepherd’s hut, in good condition but without access. Just two miles from home and I was discovering a completely new and delightful landscape. And no people anywhere!
Our ‘funnest’ new route (to appropriate the once favourite word of my youngest daughter) was when we battled our way through undergrowth to follow the dry riverbed leading down to Armação. This valley has fascinated us since we moved to this part of the Algarve, specifically because there appeared to be no way of accessing its lower reaches. While we were still living in Alcantarilha, I’d attempted various routes into the valley, only to find the way ahead blocked by building sites and new villas.
I’d more or less accepted the only way to descend into the valley (or cross it) was much higher up. Then, earlier this week, Harri returned from a run with exciting news. From his higher vantage point, he thought he could see a path running into the valley and heading downhill. It was time for us to investigate.
Afterwards, I couldn’t believe how often we’d come within metres of the footpath leading down to the valley, without ever noticing it on the ground. Down on the riverbed the terrain alternated between sandy and rocky; in several places we were forced to clamber out of the riverbed to pass overgrown vegetation. We shall return with secateurs!
Despite several bouts of heavy rain this week, there was no water in the stream at all, except for the occasional puddle. After a while, several villas came into view above, and eventually we emerged at the bottom of some rickety wooden steps which delivered us back to civilisation, a flight of concrete steps and and a private tennis court. Looking around, I realised my surroundings looked familiar. I’d come so close to finding the valley footpath back in November, but had stopped just short of those wooden steps.
When things finally return to normal, I’ll be revisiting some of these stunning landscapes to devise more circular walks from Armação de Pêra for Walkingworld. In the mean time, we’ll enjoy having these hidden landscapes on our doorstep all to ourselves.
Stay safe everyone.