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Portugal walk

In lieu of the fat farm I was being urged to attend by a certain member of the family I elected to do a 2 week walk in Portugal. Santiago do Cacem is a 90 minute train and bus ride south of Lisbon. The walk starts at an inauspicious sign next to the Santiago do Cacem cathedral and ends, 220k away, at the Cape of St Vincent, mainland Europe's most south-westerly point. This is a 12 day walk averaging 19k/day, mercifully mostly flat, but with some long soft sand sections.

Sign near the Santiago do Cacem cathedral

The first 3 days are through dry countryside consisting mostly of cork oak "forest", Tasmanian blue gum plantations, some pine plantation and a little open pasture. Being the end of summer it was brown, brown, brown. The cork oak (Quercus suber) is indigenous to the area but the naturally occurring forests have been so cultivated over the centuries that they are now really in the nature of plantations. The trees survive being stripped of their bark which is stacked for drying (photos) before being sent for processing. About half of world cork production is from Portugal.

Cork oak (Quercus suber)

Cork oak stripped of its bark

Cork oak bark stacked for drying

I saw hardly anyone else during these 3 days - just a few mountain bikers. There are no flowers, few birds - not much sign of life at all.


Day 3 of the walk ends on the coast at Porto Covo and thereafter the next 4 days are basically straight down the Atlantic coast, spending each evening in coastal villages. Quite a few walkers here - mainly senior people in couples or groups. The coast is mainly quite high sheer cliffs broken by the odd sandy beach or river mouth around which the villages are built. The walk is on the cliff top with an occasional diversion inland to skirt a river mouth or ocean intrusion.

Lovely cliff top views

As can be seen, the vegetation is both tough and beautiful.

Coastal walk vegetation

Cliff top walk

The houses in the villages are uniformly terra cotta rooved, painted white with colour ornamentation - indigo blue seems to be de rigueur. I liked the chimneys on this traditional Portuguese cottage in Vila Nova de Milfontes.

Vila Nova de Milfontes

And the public toilet with the Moorish reference in Almograve which was as clean as a hospital.

Public toilet

Also, this garage spoke of an owner with attitude.

Garage

On day 7 the weather closed in making for a pretty miserable day with high winds and rain though not cold. Late in the afternoon the weather cleared as the storm blew through so I arrived at the accommodation merely wet, as opposed to sodden through and dripping.


Continuing south from Odeceixe on day 8, the route moves inland through featureless agricultural countryside though this is actually a welcome change from the oceanside cliff tops. There are some pretty ferocious dogs in many of the farm outbuildings. Their deep throaty growl/roar/bark starts as one approaches and reaches a crescendo as one passes. They noisily test the strength of their restraining chains and, involuntarily, my step quickens.


Passing through what seemed to be the characterless agricultural village of Rogil I was very surprised to find a little housing development in a Modernist style.

Modernist style development

And, nearby, an unfortunately incomplete and apparently abandoned church promisingly showing a somewhat Brutal style.

Partially developed church

Arriving in Aljezur I passed the HQ of the local branch of the Portuguese Communist Party - but the Praesidium was not in session and the comrades were not in attendance.

Portuguese Communist Party HQ

At 24 km, day 10 is a long day. Early in the day it rained heavily and my very expensive waterproof rain jacket again completely failed in its task - sodden again!


But the rain was short-lived and it being warm I soon dried out - so most of the day was passed pleasantly in a mixture of by now familiar oceanside clifftop and inland rural paths. After the downpours, the humid air in the blue gum and pine plantations is richly aromatic.


Days 11 and 12 have the one purpose of reaching the Cape of St Vincent - exposed to winds from both the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. The closer one gets the more Nullabor-like the landscape becomes. Finally, there are no trees, just a featureless windswept plain.

Featureless plain

And there it is! The lighthouse! - of which it is still possible to take a nice pic.

Lighthouse

But the reality is something else.

Lighthouse reality

It’s a great walk; feeling pretty good, though still fat.

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