Happy New Year all! I’m back in the Algarve after an action-packed few days in Leeds, culminating in sitting on the plane waiting for the de-icer to arrive and gazing out at overnight snow. It arrived to bid us farewell! Christmas Day with the family was completely wonderful, but it was still rather nice to come back to sunshine.
One sunny day, before our UK Christmas adventures, a few of us had gone up into the hills near the Odeleite dam. Our plan was to walk the circular PR4 trail, which starts from the village of Odeleite. Just days before that, we had been to the village for a Christmas fair that never actually happened. Preparations had been abandoned midway when restrictions on gatherings were imposed. Imagine our surprise to find that the Nativity scene was now complete, and apparently waiting for us. Presepios appear throughout Portugal in the run up to Christmas, and usually remain until 6th January, the traditional Day of Kings. This one, I think, is a bit special.
The cats seemed fond of it too! There was a whole tribe of creamy coloured ones, regarding me with deep suspicion. So I took the hint and moved along. A steep hill leads down through the village, bypassing the church, until you arrive at the river.
A bridge carries you across, and a rough path leads to the start of the trail. Two trails in fact, as you have the choice of joining the GR15, a long distance route between Alcoutim to the north and Vila Real de S. Antonio in the south, and the much shorter, and circular, PR4. The GR15 runs for a total of 65km, so you should choose wisely.
The path climbs steadily away from the village till you reach a point where you can look back across the valley. We were pleasantly surprised to find water in one of the dips as there had been little rain and the reservoir was low. The trail is easy to follow, though a bit steep in places, and marked by red and yellow stripes on convenient boulders or signposts. Cistus, the rock rose, were already starting to bloom on the hillsides. Few people live in these hills, but the odd characterful residence catches your eye.
Most of the farms have guard dogs but, thankfully, most are chained or behind gates. There’s always a moment of uncertainty when a strange dog comes toward you, barking loudly but wagging its tail. We were untroubled on this particular day, and soon had lovely vistas through a sea of umbrella pines. The sky was full of interesting squiggles, and we were at peace with the world.
When the trail eventually flattened out again we were in a wide plain with a bewildering number of sheep. Light and dark, old and young, mingled unconcernedly together. The little ones were mildly curious, their seniors totally focused on food.
It wasn’t long before we rejoined the river, and followed it along to the weir and a former mill. An ideal picnic spot, we felt.
There are few things I like more than following a river, especially one with sinuous twists and curves. Standing stock still and staring hard into the shadows. Might a kingfisher dart past? Is that a heron amongst the tall reeds? Certainly there are fish, blowing bubbles.
But like all lovely walks, eventually it comes to an end, and we haul ourselves back up the hill, into the village. We have the choice of three restaurants, unusual in such a small place, and all at the top of the hill. We opt for the one we haven’t tried before, O Campones. (Peasants) The indoor space is crowded but a large sun terrace looks out to the reservoir. A couple of tables of workmen scarcely look up from demolishing their platefuls. We ogle the menu greedily. We’ve made a great choice.
The tragedy? The restaurant was closing for the holidays the following day and had sold the last of their desserts. Those dreamy chocolate profiteroles! Something tells me we’ll be back. It’s well worth a 10.4km walk!
A choice of trails with Maggie and Richard in this wonderful, watery landscape :
And for those of you who love a snowy adventure, why not join Drake?
Sarah does a stunning job of walking us through these palace gardens :
I’m not the only one who made it to a light show this winter. Follow Jude to the Eden Project for a beautiful spectacle :
And who should I find in my Reader this morning? Cady’s back, with a bit of sunshine!
Hope you all had a great Christmas, and didn’t over indulge at New Year. Alas, I’m a bad example! See you soon!