Another long ‘somewhat difficult’ day looms as we leave Odeceixe and head south to Aljezur. At 22.5km, the stage to Aljezur is one of the longest on the Fishermen’s Trail. There is an option of shortening it slightly by choosing to leave Odeceixe on the Historic Way (it’s about 3.5 kilometres less).
Just before we reached Odeceixe yesterday, we’d crossed the Ribeira de Seixe on a bridge. The Seixe rises in the Serra de Monchique and continues for 37.8 kilometres until it reaches the ocean at Praia de Odeceixe. On the west coast, the river marks the border between the Alentejo and the Algarve.
We’d planned an early start; however, it was 8.40am when we finally set off. Once again, we spotted groups of hikers outside their accommodation, presumably waiting to be transported back to Praia de Odeceixe.
We don’t understand this kind of mindset at all. Why commit to walking a long-distance trail, then skip great sections of it? Still, I suppose the local transport providers aren’t complaining.
We waved goodbye to Odeceixe and set off on the three-kilometre walk back to the coast along a farm track crossing what was clearly a fertile, flood plain. As we got nearer the sea, we joined a quiet road and began climbing to the picturesque hamlet of Praia de Odeceixe, enjoying views that just kept getting better.
Another scorcher is forecast for today: 29 degrees is not ideal hiking weather, especially when there’s so little shade on route. Thankfully, there’s been a welcome breeze this morning, but it’s likely to become hotter when we leave the coast and head inland, first reaching Rogil and then on to Aljezur.
Just in case we’d forgotten we were back in the Algarve, we spotted an advertising board for Sand City, an attraction located on the N125 between Armação de Pêra and Lagoa, i.e. literally just up the road from us but a fair distance from Odeceixe. Out of curiosity, I checked and Sand City is actually around 74 kilometres from Praia de Odeceixe – the advertising is undoubtedly targeting people touring the whole region.
Praia de Odeceixe is a delightful spot overlooking the ocean. It provides an alternative overnight stop for Fishermen’s Trail hikers (adding three kilometres to yesterday’s stage and shortening today’s). We stopped to chat to a young American woman with an enormous backpack that swamped her small frame and was slowing her down considerably. Harri was concerned about her plans to ignore the waymarked route and follow coastline to Vale de Telha where she had accommodation booked. In effect, she intended to combine two stages into one day’s hiking by walking a more direct route. Her ‘plan’ involved crossing the Ribeira de Aljezur, which seemed a little foolhardy with no local knowledge of currents or tides. The Fishermen’s Trail heads inland to Aljezur because of the difficulty in crossing the estuary. Unfortunately, she was resolute in her plans despite listening to Harri’s concerns. We desperately hoped she would reach Vale de Telha safely; however, we suspected it would be in a taxi.
Back on the coast, Vale de Telha’s water tower was a tiny speck on the horizon, far too distant to reach on foot today given the terrain and heat.
If possible, the coastline seemed more rugged than ever, making me wonder if anyone ever ventures close in a boat … I’d certainly be fearful of doing so. And if the rocks already in the sea weren’t bad enough, the huge fissures along the clifftops were extremely worrying. Some of this waymarked trail will undoubtedly need re-routing at some point in the future.
There followed a tough inland detour to avoid a large, wooded valley, and then we headed back to the coast to join a narrow sandy footpath surrounded by dense vegetation, including the first cactus we recall seeing on the trail.The waymarking hasn’t been quite so good today and there’s been evidence of a path less walked. We’ve had to push our way through vegetation, and have encountered brambles and gorse growing across the footpath.
It was barely 11 am, and already very hot, when the route headed inland. We won’t see the ocean again today, which will feel odd.
Now the terrain was much easier; however, the heat was beginning to get to us; we stopped to drink our cans of Sumol. Fóia – the Algarve’s highest mountain – was looking decidedly closer but where was Picota? From this angle, the 902-metre Fóia was completely blocking its slightly lower neighbour (Picota stands at around 750 metres).
The approach to Rogil was varied. First, a sandy path through stone pine – where we could hear the cones crackling in the heat – and then a hedge-free, tarmac road stretching out endlessly in front of us. We passed a wide levada and enjoyed the abundance of birdsong, the white and yellow butterflies flittering past us.
The bus to Sines passes through Rogil. Like many South Wales valleys towns, most of the properties line up either side of one main road. Indeed, we were expecting to enjoy our first beer of the day sitting outside a little locals’ bar on red plastic chairs, courtesy of Super Bock or Sagres. Thus, we were delighted to stumble upon the little piece of paradise that is Museu da Batata Doce. There we had our very own socially-distanced pagoda, surrounded by lush vegetation.
It took us quite a while to progress through Rogil. Our second stop was the Spar supermarket (where the prices were surprisingly low), and then we popped into the Tourist Information office and ended up chatting to the friendly member of staff far longer than planned. A little further along the road, we found a bench where we ate our warm bread rolls stuffed with chorizo (Harri) and ham (me) while we chatted to the English-speaking half of an Italian couple.
From Rogil, we were picking up the Historic Way and following it to Aljezur; however, there was a little confusion. The waymarked route didn’t exactly match the GPX route Harri had downloaded from the website (which followed a wide levada). In the end, we decided to stick with the waymarks, which had the advantage of being a more direct route.
The heat was really starting to wear us down now and seeing the long, wide dusty track stretching out ahead of us didn’t help. With 5.5km to go, we were on schedule to arrive in Aljezur around 3.30pm … if we didn’t expire before then!!
The final few kilometres were really beautiful – and the terrain was actually a refreshing change from all those sandy footpaths and high cliffs. We’d bought more Sumol, so we stopped just after the campsite to devour a can each. An intermittent breeze propelled us forward and eventually we began the descent into Aljezur.
Arriving in Aljezur
We first visited Aljezur in October 2015 when we were walking the Via Algarviana link routes and checking out the alternative end to the Via Algarviana (basically picking up the Fishermen’s Trail). We returned to the town in November/December 2018, when we were considering buying a house in Vale de Telha and attended the town’s famous Sweet Potato Festival (which was actually really good fun with great music and food).
We really like Aljezur and only really ruled Vale de Telha out as a place to live because: a) it’s so far from the airport, and b) it’s farther than Lagos than we realised (and the road between the two is full of twists and turns).
We’d booked a night at Guesthouse A Lareira, in the ‘new’ quarter of town. The receptionist took one look at us, disappeared and returned with two ice-cold bottles of water. I guess we really did look that bad!
After that, everything went right. Our large, traditional room had a fabulous view and a clothesline. we found a wonderful restaurant (Taberno do Largo) with great prices for our evening meal (the total bill came to 31,30 euros) and we drank far more wine than two dehydrated hikers ought. We sat outside and chatted to a ‘local’ Englishman, while local children played football in front of the church, a young ‘Zola Budd’ ran around barefoot, full of the exuberance and energy we were lacking, and numerous friendly dogs came over to say ‘hello’ and offer their paws. To the west, the sun set in a cloudless sky and another day on the trail came to an end. The evening was simply magical and just about summed up everything we love about Portugal.
We paid 57,38 euros a double room at Guesthouse A Lareira a short distance from Aljezur’s main church and square – we ended up with a triple room (one double, one single).
The guesthouse has a large, traditional restaurant below; however, for whatever reason, it wasn’t open while we were staying there. Our room was traditional, with a lovely bathroom (and shower gel, shampoo, etc), plus a hairdryer. The terrace and clothesline is shared but we seemed to be the only people staying there.
For me, the highlights of the day’s walking were after we’d left the coast. Museu da Batata Doce in Rogil was just delightful and – if I hadn’t checked their website – I’d have thought the spacing out of the pagodas was a deliberate post-pandemic strategy.
I also loved the walk from Rogil to Aljezur … well perhaps after we got the long, dusty stretch of track under our belts. I loved the views of rolling, wooded hills to our left and the final two kilometres or so into Aljezur are really pretty, even including the steep bits of cobbled lane. Even if you’re not planning to walk the Rota Vicentina, then Aljezur is well worth a visit.
The relentless heat did get to us a bit today and made the approach to Rogil across flat, agricultural fields feel endless. Harri, in particular, disliked this section of walking, although I welcomed the breather from sandy footpaths and scary descents.
If you’re interested in finding out more visit rotavicentina.com