Well, we’ve been back in the Algarve for just over a month now and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve been rather neglecting this blog. It’s not that our hiking activities have ceased, just that we’ve been busy settling down in our favourite region of Portugal (and now we’ve lived on both the Silver Coast and in the Alentejo I can state that with confidence).
To those who reject the Algarve as over-developed and too touristic, I’d challenge them to explore the beautiful countryside you can find just a kilometre or two inland. There are far fewer vehicles on the road here than in the UK, which makes walking along country lanes a delight instead of an exercise in car-dodging. An almost complete lack of hedging and fencing (except those surrounding the priciest villas) means you can see for miles wherever you happen to be walking, plus the vivid colours of the year-round flowers are breathtaking.
Here, it’s possible to walk between two reasonably-sized places, e.g. Albufeira and Armação de Pêra, along completely unspoilt – though often physically demanding in terms of terrain – stretches of coastline. As we enter our fourth winter in the Algarve, we’re discovering stunning new landscapes all the time.
Just before we left Albufeira in March, we stumbled upon an amazing unspoilt valley close to one of the Algarve’s most beautiful beaches, Praia da Marinha. As we meandered along clay-surfaced trails, we could have been miles from civilisation and yet we were within minutes’ walking of a busy car park complete with food van. Needless to say, we’ve already revisited that beautiful landscape since our return.
And don’t get me started on the Algarve’s sunsets … they are just so incredible. I can’t stop photographing them.
In other exciting news, we’ve finally bought a house … and we have sea views! In fact, on our budget, we never expected to be living just one mile from the beach; however, it just goes to show what can happen if you refuse to give up on your dreams. Our new home is a three-bedroom, two-bathroom townhouse with a front and rear garden. No, it’s not a sprawling villa with bougainvillea trailing from the upper terraces, but it’s a perfectly nice house in a lovely rural setting close to a beautiful stretch of coastline. We feel very fortunate to have found it.
I’ve also started doing some hiking routes for walkingworld.com, a brilliant low-cost resource for walkers, especially those interested in exploring new areas in the UK and abroad (people have the option of a yearly subscription or pay-as-you-go walking routes). Walking World is always looking for contributors and when I realised they had no walks in the Algarve on their website I approached them. As someone who had never previously plotted a route with GPX, it’s been a steep learning curve but I’m really enjoying it. My first walk – a circular from Albufeira’s old town – should be going ‘live’ very soon. Not only will I get royalties once a year based on downloads, but joining the Walking World community provides me with a great excuse to get out there walking when Harri is working.
Except … leaving the apartment is extremely hard to do Three weeks ago, my friend (and current landlady) Debbie popped out to get a gas cylinder and spotted a tiny and very distressed kitchen on the pavement outside. The poor little thing was soaked through and shivering like mad. Knowing I love cats, she came charging upstairs to tell me. That little soggy moggy is now a beautiful seven-week old ginger tom who is lying on my legs as I type. Given the circumstances in which he was found, we named him Moses and, though we hadn’t planned to get a kitten while we were still living in a three-bedroom apartment, we wouldn’t be without him now.
Having shunned most apps for years, I’m finally joining the twenty-first century and experimenting with some. My current favourite is Sweatcoin, an app which ‘pays’ you to walk – you can get discounts and even buy some items outright. Okay, it’s going to be quite some time before I have earned sufficient sweatcoins to peruse their deals, but it’s a fun way to keep an eye on your weekly steps. In my first week, I was in the top 10% of all Sweatcoin users in terms of activity; regrettably, this plummeted to the top 20% last week. The biggest challenge for me is actually remembering to take my mobile phone out with me!
That’s it for now. Look out for some proper hiking blogs very soon.