Last Christmas Eve we walked the levada near Silves for the first time. In July, we enjoyed the route for a second time and our friend Jörg introduced us to the fabulous Clube Nautico Silves. Well, it would appear we just can’t keep away from this wonderful place because we were back again in August with our family.
On previous visits, we’d parked close to the Restaurante Miro Rio on the N124, but Jörg mentioned there was a different route we could take. Harri did some research and thought it looked a pleasant route so we decided to combine a nice day out with a new walk for Walkingworld. I’m up to 21 walks now and I’d love to hit 30 by the end of this year.
This time around we parked a little closer to Silves, turning of the N124 just before Falacho and following a rough track to a parking area. The plan was to walk to Clube Nautico along the levada, then spend half an hour or so in their riverside swimming pool before eating. Our table was booked for 1.30pm so there was plenty of time to enjoy our walk.
Fluffy little clouds bobbed above foothills so picturesque they looked as if they’d been painted onto the landscape. The houses themselves seem to nestle into the hillside and the agricultural efforts are on a small scale: corn grows alongside fig, while clusters of citrus trees are interspersed with carob.
Despite Harri’s earlier assurances of a level route, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves climbing steadily between traditional housing. I stopped to admire a particularly charming garden and must have been overheard by the man who was chatting to an older woman outside one of the houses. When he translated my compliments, she rushed over, asked me to indicate which plants I’d like and uprooted several to hand to me.
I never fail to be surprised by the kindness and generosity of Portuguese people. The woman’s gifts are now planted in my own garden where I hope they continue to flourish. Sadly, my garden project hasn’t been a huge success this summer. Due to the need to remove the above-ground pool first, we planted far too late – mid-March – and underestimated the devastating effect of the Algarve sun on freshly-planted gardens. My plan is to start again around October and be certain to choose only drought-resistant plants (water is metered here).
We joined the levada, which was just as lush and heavenly as we remembered it. What’s not to like about level, shady walking on a hot summer’s day? I picked the odd fresh fig from an overgrowing branch and lingered behind, savouring the moment. A bright green chameleon crossed the path in front of us and I rushed for my camera. Within seconds it had changed to a colour so similar to the stony ground I could no longer see it.
We did the little detour to the confluence of the rivers Arade and Odelouca, marvelling how the high tide transformed the landscape. It’s a delightful spot and perfect for elevenses – or even a picnic lunch – if you’re not planning to eat out.
We had a lovely warm welcome at Clube Nautico. Chris, the waiter, and the owner Ivan remembered us from our last visit.
Within minutes we’d grabbed beers, stripped off our shorts and were in the pool. Perhaps it’s more accurate to say the rest of our group were in the pool … I prefer a more cautious approach, easing myself into the water inch by inch. By the time I was finally immersed, the others had played several games of water volleyball and Harri was climbing out.
If you’re local to Silves and haven’t yet visited Clube Nautico Silves you’re missing a treat. This is a very special place with a real holiday vibe. If we’d loved the open air restaurant at low tide, its riverside setting is even more congenial with the water lapping gently against the timber deck. Elinor and I wandered along the jetty and leapt onto the bobbing pontoon, laughing as we steadied ourselves. Such was my mood, I don’t think I’d have cared if I’d fallen in!
There are no printed menus, just a blackboard and Chris’s excellent memory. Harri and I opted for bacalhau à bras (my choice last time too), while Muni chose tuna and Elinor had one of the vegetarian options. We didn’t bother with couverts, just some olives.
Service is good but relaxed. The food is fresh and takes time to cook. We chatted and watched passing storks and jet skiers. The high tide meant the river was navigable to boats and the occasional passenger raised a hand to wave as they passed our ‘Caribbean’ paradise.
After lunch, it was time to resume our walk. The route we’ve followed on previous occasions leaves the river at Clube Nautico and climbs steeply before dropping back to the levada and retracing the outward route. Fortunately – because we had very full bellies – our circular walk was staying with the levada (and river) for as long as possible.
The outgoing tide inevitably meant the reappearance of mudflats, which were acting like a magnet to the local storks. I counted around 50 at one point.
The post-lunch walk was short and easy, with wide, level footpaths and no climbing. I experienced the briefest moment of panic when we reached the point where the levada bears right to cross an aqueduct: surely we didn’t have to get down on all fours and crawl across it? Thankfully not. Harri directly us onto an adjacent track and within five or so minutes we were back at the car.
Interestingly, I’ve since looked at the map and realised the levada continues all the way to Silves. Harri thinks there may be no footpath after the aqueduct but I’d love to find out just how far I can follow it. A solo expedition for the future perhaps?