Walking to Carvoeiro with Google maps

Doorstep in Porches, Lagoa, Algarve
A pretty doorstep in nearby Porches

There were several reasons for me walking to Carvoeiro. First and foremost, I’d set myself the challenge of walking 100 miles in June, which meant I needed to get out for some solitary walking on weekdays as well as at weekends. Secondly, I wanted to visit a recently opened nearly-new clothes shop I’d read about on Facebook. Walking to Carvoeiro was the perfect opportunity to combine the two.

Instinct told me it should be possible to reach a resort south-west of Montes Mourinhos by zigzagging across the country in a general south-westerly direction. Unfortunately, this self-evident approach is thwarted by the presence of two wooded valleys between here and Carvoeiro. Alternatively, I could have strolled down to Armação de Pêra, hugged the coastline and thrown in the Seven Hanging Valleys Trail for good measure. Or maybe not.

As the landscape yellows, the cacti thrive in the heat

Knowing what I’m like for getting lost, Harri recommended I planned walking to Carvoeiro in advance. After several failed attempts to plot a coherent cross-country route from A to B with the fantastic Viewranger app, I’d almost given up. That was when Harri suggested I opted instead for Google Maps’ recommended ‘on foot’ route. When he’d finished work, he helped me transfer the route details onto Viewranger so I could refer to them while walking. So far so good.

Patrick Swift founded Porches Pottery in the late sixties

Walking to Carvoeiro was going to be the longest walk I’d done for some time, i.e. around 14-15 miles (23-24km). There was also the distinct possibility I’d be returning with a rucksack full of new clothes.

Foxy’s Fashion Boutique‘s opening hours were 10am-3pm. I figured if I set off at 8.20am it should allow plenty of time for the odd ‘detour’ or two. The first few miles to Porches were so familiar I didn’t need to refer to my map. We went to a lovely restaurant here (A Rampa) for my birthday at the beginning of June and walked back under the stars.

Helping with the wine harvest in Grandola

The vines grow rapidly during spring and are now laden with bunches of little grapes. Many appear to be growing wild’ in unfenced and untended landscapes and I wonder if they will become a magnet for local people. I enjoyed my experience of grape picking in Grandola last year. Grapes are expensive in the supermarkets here despite their apparent abundance.

My Google route directed me past Porches’ water tower and along the main road, before turning right into Porches Velho, a beautiful area of grassland, cacti and stone pine trees, not to mention some seriously desirable villas.

So many villas are lying empty this year

Soon after, there was a stretch of road walking with a crash barrier and no pavement. It wasn’t much fun and convinced me the criteria for Google-created walking routes is simply keeping pedestrians away from main roads, like the Algarve’s N125. About a third of the way into my outward journey and I was already cursing myself for not persevering with Viewranger. I was tempted to leave the road and head down into the valley to Praia da Barranco; however, if I opted to switch to a coastal route at this point, I knew I’d never reach Carvoeiro before 3pm.

You see more when you’re on foot

I crossed another road and things at last started to look up. I joined a shady lane which delivered me to the rather posh Vale D’El Rei, on the outskirts of Carvoeiro. I try not to feel envious when I pass these beautiful villas with their vast, landscaped gardens and inviting swimming pools, but it’s sometimes difficult. What mostly makes me sad is so many seem to stand empty. Most likely they are second homes or holiday lets (which are still shuttered up).

The landscape opened out and there were stunning distant views towards Fóia and Picota, the Algarve’s highest peaks. Now it’s June, the landscape is yellowing and everything looks dramatically different to just a month ago. One plant that is quite literally blossoming at the moment is bougainvillea. The pink, white and orange flowers are everywhere and the lack of recent gardening activity has resulted in colossal displays of colour (I spotted a tall confer covered in pink flowers). We have two in our front garden.

This passing cyclist had a Barbie doll strapped to his saddle

One of the difficulties I’d had when trying to devise my own walk to Carvoeiro was finding a track that didn’t end at a house with no forward route. It’s hard to tell from satellite images where an apparent track is a public route or is, in fact, just the meandering driveway of one of these grand villas, tucked out of sight behind what Harri’s refers to as F””” Off gates. I just hope the pretty countryside and trails around our own home remain open to everyone.

Even with the assistance of Google and Viewranger, some of us have a natural propensity for heading the wrong way. I spotted a road sign for Carvoeiro and assumed I must follow it. Bad decision. A couple of hundred yards along the road, I realised my mistake and vowed to keep a closer eye on my phone’s tiny screen in future.

Ignore the car signs and stick to the map

I’d reached the sprawling outskirts of Carvoeiro when I spotted what looked like an abandoned mosque through trees. Intrigued, I set off to investigate, following a track to get as close as possible. The six-domed property itself had no vehicle access; however, I was able to clamber up a steep bank to have a closer look at the large and unusual building with its extensive balconies. There were no doors or windows and I was tempted to venture inside, but then I thought better of it. It’s sad to think this deserted property was once somebody’s dream home. An estate agent friend was unaware of it, but said properties that are left unfinished have often been built without the necessary permissions and are thus illegal.

Six-dome house, Carvoeiro
I was bowled over by this beautiful abandoned property

The final stage of walking to Carvoeiro was along the main road and felt endless. Google, you can do better than this. The closer I got to Carvoeiro, the more oppressive the valley felt. There’s no denying this resort’s popularity with tourists; however, I much prefer the open landscapes of Albufeira and Armação. Carvoeiro reminds me of a South Wales valleys town with a beach at the end.

The closer I got to the seafront, the less I liked what I was seeing. There’s necessarily a one-way road system in Carvoeiro and there seemed no shortage of cars and motorcyclists whizzing downhill despite a distinct lack of people (far fewer than on our last visit here in January when the resort was buzzing with winter tourists).

A wall mural in Carvoeiro

Foxy’s Fashion Boutique was easy enough to find. Sharon, the owner is a lovely lady, but unfortunately she couldn’t help me with what I was looking for. I bought a bargain rail tee-shirt and a pair of socks (which I put on over the socks I was already wearing in the hope the extra layer would stop my feet rubbing so much). Sharon is currently donating a portion of her takings to the Bombeiros so please pop along to support her efforts if you can.

Carvoeiro’s main street would usually be buzzing in June

A key part of my mission accomplished, I realised I couldn’t face the long, uphill haul back out of Carvoeiro. I rang Harri for ideas and, above the roar of the traffic, heard him mention something about heading to the Hotel Baia Cristal, where we’ve stayed a few times. There were a few other places mentioned but I didn’t quite catch the names and further conversation was nigh on impossible. Never mind, I consoled myself, there was always Viewranger.

Carvoeiro, Algarve
Carvoeiro is one of the Algarve’s most popular resorts

I ate my leaked tomato lunch on a bench and strode uphill and out of Carvoeiro. As I strolled past the extensive oceanfront boardwalk system, I realised this must be the reason tourists flock here in their thousands (pre-COVID-19). I figured I’d just enjoy the views and head in a generally north-eastwards direction. I never did locate the Cristal Hotel (with hindsight, I know I headed inland far too soon); however, I wasn’t unduly concerned. I mean I’d managed to get to Carvoeiro in the first place, hadn’t I?

Serra de Monchique, Algarve
The mountains were so clear

Belatedly, it dawned on me that I had no online mapping for the area east of Carvoeiro so I stopped to download the relevant sections. Not that it was much help. It’s hard to gauge where you are by squinting at a tiny, scratched screen in bright sunshine. By my reckoning, I’d walked three miles and was still in Carvoeiro, albeit quite enjoying my extended stroll with clear views towards the mountains.

Another false start along an enticing track

My heart sank when I realised I’d inadvertently joined my outward route so I recklessly changed course and headed off along a track for no reason other than it looked interesting. How much nicer to be walking between bamboo and cork oak trees, past traditional dwellings, I thought. Except by now, I really had little idea where I was in the great scheme of things.

I was tiring rapidly and the tops of my toes were rubbing badly. I judged I must be far enough south to cross the valley leading to Praia do Barranco; however, every track I followed ended with big gates and a renovated property. I was worried about running out of water long before I reached the other side of this first valley (with a second yet to come). Frustrated, I was forced to retrace my steps back to the main road and pick up the morning’s recorded track, i.e. the Google route.

Only the beautiful scenery kept me going

By the time I was approaching Porches I’d run out of steam. I must have looked a sorry sight, limping along the road. By some miracle, I’d managed to avoid the pavement-less road of that morning and joined the Ecovia instead. I made a desperate phone call to Harri.

In the car, he reiterated the route he suggested to me earlier. Apparently, I should have passed through Caramujeiro (which I’d never heard of) and crossed the first valley to emerge in Alporchinos. In my eagerness, I’d trekked too far inland and increased the distance I covered substantially. Even with my chauffeur pick-up at Porches, I’d still managed to walk 15.75 miles.

This lizard looks like he had a lucky escape

Would I use Google maps to plot my route in future? I’m not sure. There were some nice sections, but there was also an awful lot of road walking. Carvoeiro has a pretty beach and coastal walks, but I don’t think I’d be in a rush to do the long road stretch heading down into the resort any time soon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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