What if we walked? | Posted: 07 March 2018
The Costa Vicentina, one of Portugal's best-kept secrets
The ruggedly beautiful Costa Vicentina
Luke & Nell make their way along the coastline

Join Slow travellers Luke & Nell on their exploration of Portugal's ruggedly beautiful – and very little-known – Costa Vicentina.

The alarm clock bleeped, almost shockingly early. It was still dark outside, quiet, cool. One of us turned it off and we drifted back to sleep.

The second alarm went off ten minutes later. More urgently this time – we’d (wisely) set a louder tone. It was time -really time now- to get up.

We’re not the best early birds, but after almost two years of travel together, we now know better. Get past the initial struggle and we’ll begin to feel the usual endorphins: energised, excited for the day ahead. A day of adventure.

We were halfway through walking the Rota Vicentina, a trail down the wildest part of south west Portugal. It’s actually two trails in one: the Fishermen’s Way (coastal) and the Historical Way (inland). They’re not trails that many people know about, and it was only through research on good winter walks for our slow travel blog that we knew about the Rota Vicentina at all.

But we were so glad we did. We’d hit the Fishermen’s Way a couple of days earlier, and it was a trail that had left us breathless with its rugged coastline beauty. We were loving walking every single day.

And interestingly, we had started to walk the day differently. We love taking photographs while we walk and we had found a way to take our time with the camera, to really absorb the places, the incredible landscape and that amazing coastal light.

This day we were on our way to the Portuguese village of Cavaleiro, on the Fishermen’s Way. And it started early early – before dawn early. It’s good to be on the trail just as the sun arrives.

And we walked for hours in the morning. We stopped for a bit, eating croissants we bought from an early-opening pastelaria before we’d left. Because this morning there’s not even a house on the trail. But its isolation is its power to us: it's wild and desolate and freeing.

At around twelve o’clock -after a few hours of walking- just as the sun has got high and the light bald, we hit on the small township of Almograve. There’s a tiny café-restaurant and this is where we headed.

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And here we stayed. We stopped for coffee, then two, which eventually turned to lunch. We ate nata too, served on a little wooden board. We spend the time people watching – locals come in and out, taking espresso at the bar or having bifana (pork) rolls for lunch. We looked through the morning photos, maybe charge our camera a little. We chatted, we planned.

These few hours of rest most days are our secret. We avoid the harsh midday sun, we watch walkers come and go (there are a few dotted around), and the day slows comfortably.

As the afternoon wore on, we took our bags and explored a little bit of the Almograve village. Its blue-and-white prettiness looks a little Greek, like a hamlet you might find in the Cyclades. The sunshine begins to feel softer. By three it’s time to walk again, and we feel happy to haul the bags back on and set off.

In the afternoon we headed up onto the cliffs and the whole landscape lit up. It’s the perfect time to get up there, we realised. This part of the Portuguese coast is sandstone which has slowly oxidised, turning a blood red in the five o’clock light. It’s also eroded pretty dramatically, shelving away right next to us, which is a bit disconcerting, but it reveals all the rainbow layers in the cliff as we walked. A history of the land written into the rock.

Everything was orange, pink, pastel. The golden sunlight shafted through the sea spray unfurling up the cliffs. Seabirds wheeled over our heads lazily.

We were a bit agog, as you might be able to tell.

We ended bang on dusk, at the lighthouse of Cape Sardão which had glimmered in the distance the whole afternoon. We spend the night in nearby Cavaleiro, and the sea mist rolls in. The alarm is set again for the next morning. And then we remember to set the second one too. We were certainly tired at the end of the day, but it’s the most relaxed type, the most fulfilled type.

Another day would soon begin. But this was one good day.

Come follow our walking adventures on our blog: whatifwewalked.com and find us on social media @whatifwewalked




Comments
Luke & Nell
Hi Johanna, thank you very much for your nice comment :)
The area round Almograve, particularly just to the south, is very special. Glad you got to see it!
We're already dreaming of going back!
Luke & Nell
15/03/2018 19:43:01

Johanna Bradley
We stayed up at Vila Nova de Milfontes for a couple of days and touched on Almograve on our way back down to the Algarve. I love your descriptions.
12/03/2018 21:07:52

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