Today’s stage of the Fishermen’s Trail – from Vila Nova de Milfontes to Almograve – is one of the shortest on the trail. Despite this, the ‘official’ website describes the 15.5km route to Almograve as ‘somewhat difficult’. How this compares with yesterday’s ‘difficult’ is not clear.
Our receptionist had recommended we head to Mabi for breakfast, a bustling local patisserie a short walk up the hill. It was a great recommendation, though probably not a place to worry about calorie counting. We polished off two warm – and very large – chocolate croissants with tea/coffee and left with two (also very large) triangles of salame du chocolate. The bill for everything came to 7,50 euros.
There was still a definite nip in the air when we set off. This is the west coast, of course, which is notorious for its Atlantic Ocean squalls.
There are two options for reaching Praia das Furnas, a short distance across the estuary from Vila Nova:
- by ferry, at a cost of five euros per person – the fastest option
- crossing the Vila Nova de Milfontes bridge on foot – this involves additional walking, including an unavoidable short section on a main road
The latter is the ‘official’ route; however, it’s roughly two kilometres longer so many trail walkers opt for the ferry ride.
In fact, we might have opted for it too had we not needed to buy some supplies – all the shops were in the opposite direction. Harri also thought the views from the bridge would be well worth the extra walking.
We were astonished at the number of options we had for our early morning shop. In Porto Covo, we’d been restricted to one rather expensive Coviran. Here, in Vila Nova, there were numerous mini mercados, keeping prices competitive. We bought peanuts, savoury snacks, two apples, two bananas and two oranges for the grand sum of 2,43 euros. Our bellies and rucksacks full, we were finally ready to get going.
Harri was right about the views from the bridge … they were absolutely spectacular. But scenic distractions can prove dangerous for hikers. Harri almost lost his walking poles to the tidal waters below when he momentarily laid them on the bridge and they immediately began to roll towards the gap below the barrier. Another second and they’d have been heading back to Vila Nova on the tide!
There was a short section of road walking (behind a barrier) before we joined a footpath heading back down the estuary. The wooded route with its occasional glimpses of the estuary below proved delightful and was a part of the Fishermen’s Trail we’d have missed altogether had we opted for the ferry.
Eventually we reached Praia das Furnas, which was as pretty as our cat sitter had promised. It’s worth taking the short detour to the miradouro (viewpoint) too. From this point, it became busier as those hikers who’d chosen to cross the estuary by ferry joined we hardcore estuary walkers. The waterfront Restaurante Oasis looked idyllic, but it was far too early in the walk to stop for refreshments.
This stage of the Fishermen’s Trail intersects with the Dunas do Almograve Bay circular route so it’s important to pay full attention to the signs.
Our route followed a vast area of parched sandy-soil grassland grazed by cattle, with lingering remnants of the once-vibrant spring flowers. A notice board on a gate advised hikers not to approach the cattle we’d pass but, of course, there is always someone who considers themselves to be an exception to the rule.
Before long, the route returned us to the dramatic coastal landscape … and yet more sandy footpaths. The Fishermen’s Trail is well waymarked; however, you do need to keep your eyes peeled as those familiar green and turquoise stripes could be painted on rocks, on pieces of wood and tree trunks as well as recognisable signposts.
The landscape changed again and we found ourselves under a canopy of acacia trees. While the unexpected shade was certainly welcome, the fast-growing acacia pycnantha threatens to suffocate the natural flora along this stretch of coastline. Later, there were signs of areas alongside the trail being cleared of this invasive species.
Our walking speed varied a lot today. Along sections when there was more rock underneath and shallower sand, we were able to maintain a reasonable pace. When the sand became deeper, Harri calculated we were probably advancing by less than a mile an hour.
The route passes above several beaches but we’d chosen to stick with the clifftops – and were vindicated when we spotted a lone hiker edging around a rocky promontory, the waves lapping against his legs (he wasn’t in any danger or we’d have raised the alarm).
I limped into Almograve, glad to have finished today’s stage. The wind had picked up and the blister on my little toe was hurting like crazy.
Harri had warned me not to expect too much from Almograve, yet we ended up having a very enjoyable time there. We stopped for beers at a restaurant/cafe called Sabores e Mar and got chatting to a German couple who are walking as far as Odiáxere this time and are interested in moving to Portugal full-time.
After checking into Vicentina Rooms, and immediately enjoying a nice cup of tea, we set off – minus the rucksacks – to complete the first few kilometres of tomorrow’s route. This meant we could head straight down to the coast in the morning. The circular route involved walking back into town, along a narrow estuary and onto Foz dos Ouriços beach, then past the beach parking lot and back to the village.
The adjacent restaurant hadn’t yet opened for the season, so we decided to check out a Nepalese restaurant called Mar Azul, recommended by our English-speaking receptionist.
By now it was cold and blustery, and we were dressed inadequately in shorts and long-sleeved t-shirts (we’d gambled that long trousers and fleeces would be unnecessary at the end of May). The 700 metre-walk felt 500 metres too far – this place had better be good!
Fortunately, it was excellent and for the princely sum of 31,80 Harri and I enjoyed poppadoms and dips, one shared meat kebab starter and a garlic naan bread, chicken mango curry (me) and lamb banana curry (him), plus two bottles of Nepalese beer each. We’d also arrived at exactly the right time (just before 7pm) because within ten minutes people (mostly hikers) without reservations were being asked to wait for a table to become available.
We were in bed by 9.30pm, tired but content. The walk to Almograve had been a doddle by Fishermen’s Trail standards.
I wouldn’t have missed walking along the estuary towards Praia das Furnas for the world. The views across the water to Vila Nova de Milfontes are just beautiful. In fact, I loved Vila Nova so much I found myself wishing we weren’t doing a long-distance hike and could just chill out in this picturesque resort for a few days.
Having had no expectations of Almograve, we were pleasantly surprised by the village and its excellent choice of restaurants. While my chicken mango curry was very nice, Harri’s banana curry sauce was a revelation and something I will be seeking out on future menus.
Maybe more of a ‘I wish we’d known’ than a downside.
When Harri was booking our accommodation, he’d assumed (incorrectly as we now know) that only hikers on walking packages had access to luggage carriers. If only we’d known that we could have had our luggage transported every day for just 15 euros!! Too late now because we didn’t have daypacks with us – or sufficient luggage with us to make it worthwhile – but how much nicer the walk to and from the restaurant would have been if we’d been able to put on long trousers and those left-behind fleeces!
We paid 65 euros for a twin room at Vicentina Rooms in Almograve (no breakfast was included but there was a fridge). What a beautiful room! Everything that was missing yesterday was provided here, including a narrow, tiled private laundry wing with its own clothesline and pegs. I loved the colour scheme and décor, particularly the attention to detail (there were fresh flowers on the bed). There were also plenty of surfaces on which we could unpack and get organised. The availability of free tea/coffee in reception was another vote winner for me.
There is an outdoor swimming pool – which looked lovely – but it was just a little bit too cold for a dip.
If you’re interested in finding out more visit rotavicentina.com