Praia da Luz looked even more magical in the early morning light than last night. We made our way quickly over to breakfast just after 8am, full of admiration for our lovely surroundings at Club House CLV but not wishing to remain outside in the bitter cold for a moment longer than necessary. Our night here with breakfast for two had cost us a mere 26 euros.
We’d ventured out briefly last night, disappointed it was too cold to enjoy some tapas outside Bar Habana, the seafront eatery recommended by the barmaid at The Bull. One of the downsides of backpacking is not being able to carry thick outer clothing (well, I guess some people do but we prefer to trek as light as possible). Harri might laugh, but I was glad I’d packed my gloves as we strolled along the promenade under clear skies and a full moon.
We were really hungry this morning, having skipped a proper meal last night, and so lingered over breakfast longer than planned. Then, within minutes of setting off at 9.37am, I became convinced I’d left my toilet bag behind. Frantic searching through my rucksack, i.e. chucking everything onto the cobbles, confirmed the presence of said toilet bag but revealed the absence of my phone charger. A resigned Harri waited on the street, while I dashed back to the hotel reception, requested our room key and retrieved the missing item (it was lying on the bed, the white wire and plug ‘disappeared’ against a white sheet).
With my inventory checked and everything finally present, we were ready to go. Our route took us briefly to the seafront where the beach was deserted and then it was all uphill, as we climbed a steep, shady and slippery cobbled lane out of Praia da Luz. We’d have stayed longer, perhaps wandered along the delightful level coast path in a westerly direction to Burgau (a nearby resort); however, the day before we left Harri had accepted a four-day translation job so it was crucial he was home to start work around lunchtime.
Halfway up the lane, Harri spotted the green and white stripes of the Fishermen’s Trail, confirmation of the popular coastal route’s extension (at the end of 2019) to Lagos. I was amused to note this 11km stretch of trail was classified as ‘easy’ despite the early and very steep slog to the top of Rocha Negra (Black Rock). This impressive cliff with its sharply defined strata was formed by volcanic action millions of years ago and linked to the nearby Serra de Monchique. In fact, the prominent headland is more reminiscent of the cliffs along Wales’ Heritage Coast than the Algarve’s familiar sandstone formations.
Soon, we’d left the cobbles behind (having passed a villa called ‘Casa Corrie’ on the way up!!) and emerged onto the open hillside. With the beacon towering above, we set off along a meandering route which avoided the steepest climbing, grateful the sun had not yet risen above the rock. Last time we walked this route it was later in the day and definitely a lot warmer.
Harri spotted some makeshift ‘jumps’ which had clearly been created by mountain bikers and which were scarily ambitious in terms of time in the air and less-than-level landings.
Finally, we reached the graffiti-covered beacon which marks the highest point (109 metres) and set off along the cliff top walk. The views west from Rocha Negra are just breathtaking and from this height you realise the extent of undeveloped countryside in the valley behind Praia da Luz. Possibly it’s too marshy like Salgados? Whatever the reason, it was fabulous to gaze down at the agricultural fields and wooded slopes, even if it meant my walking speed was reduced to a crawl.
The clifftop footpath was far busier than the slog to the top might have suggested; however, I’m guessing that’s because many people were walking in the opposite direction from the more densely-populated Praia do Porto de Mos in Lagos (perhaps skipping the descent into Praia da Luz to do a linear walk).
In fact, the descent to Praia do Porto de Mos was undoubtedly the worst part of our walk. Aside from being steep and slippery, the wide unsurfaced path is literally disappearing in great swatches as heavy rain erodes it. Noticing my nervousness, Harri encouraged me to proceed with my arms and legs wide open to provide me with better balance.
There followed a stretch of steep uphill climbing (along pavements to avoid a crumbling section of the coast path) and then a walk through the leafy Lagos suburbs, before we joined new boardwalks through dense vegetation. We emerged onto the Ponta da Piedade headland, where much progress has been made with the network of footpaths and boardwalks since we were last here. The aim is to stall the erosion of these sandstone cliffs (there are frequent collapses) – and protect the lives of half-witted tourists who insist on straying far too close to the cliff edge (too-often to take selfies).
Finally, we passed the Ponta da Piedade lighthouse, which was built in 1913 and automated in 1983, and whose light can be seen for 18 nautical miles. We were surprised at how busy the car park and headland were but with three days of curfew ahead of us (everyone in Portugal had to stay at home from 1pm on January 1, 2 and 3), it seemed people were making the most of their last day of freedom this week.
We left Praia da Luz in glorious sunshine, but all morning we’d watched as storm clouds bubbling up over Fóia and Picota (the Algarve’s highest peaks). Now it seemed they were heading towards the coast. Our timing was impeccable: we were barely back in our car at Lagos railway station when it started to rain heavily.
By 1.15pm, Harri was sitting at his desk. Our jaunt to the west had been brief but well worthwhile: we’d see some new landscapes (the glorious countryside between Bensafrim and Espiche) and revisited much-loved old haunts. In one-and-a-half days, we’d clocked up an unremarkable but decent enough 33 kilometres.
Finally, if you enjoyed this blog, why not read my ebook about backpacking through the Algarve: The Via Algarviana: walking 300km across the Algarve.