Final day in Carrapateira

For the last couple of nights, we had the hotel to ourselves. Each afternoon, a man appeared and lit the fire despite the under floor heating and warm weather. Rebecca, a Welsh horticulturist and chef has cooked just for us and, after dinner we whiled away the evenings sharing a beer with her. She has tales to tell from saffron farming in Australia to personal chef for world class yachtsmen in New Zealand and the wealthy in Tonga.

On our final morning, John took a stand (which was really a seat). He’d had enough walking and was going to sit and read for a few hours. Kim hatched a plan to walk up to the next hamlet of Vilarinho with Rebecca, the sun was shining so John was left in charge of a very nice hotel.

The cork oaks really have been a highlight this trip. By the time Kim had walked up the valley, Rebecca knew all there was to know about them too!

On the way, a group of enduro riders passed us, John was suitably miffed to have missed them. All week, he’s been wittering on about how good the trails are for off road motorcycling.

Just before 2, our taxi turned up. Isobel’s son was driving but she’d come along for the ride. When she collects people from the airport, she likes to check they’ve had a good time…….and make sure her son drives safely. He must be at least 30!

We chatted all the way to the airport, mainly about Brexit, the EU and it’s effect on Portugal and of course Donald Trump. It’s been interesting to hear some European views, at least everyone agreed that Trump makes the US look dafter than the UK does.

There is one person we met who we haven’t mentioned and he deserves a name check for when we re- read about our trip. Thursday, at the cafe in Carrapateira, our path crossed with Yanni, a French Canadian from Montreal. He’s in Portugal for three months cycling and wild camping. He’s done the same across the Canadian Rockies and was quite clearly bonkers. No sane person would cycle and wild camp, would they? Especially somewhere with wild bears? He told us all about the website which is a hospitality site for touring cyclists and we started to think perhaps he wasn’t so daft after all.

Finally, we arrived at Faro Airport and saw some of the gifts made from cork, these include shoes, ties, purses, hats and umbrellas. It becomes incredibly soft and flexible..

We also managed to find some of the elusive bolo de amendoa cake, a traditional cake made from almonds, figs and Alfarroba. We’d tried it in Vila do Bispo but this version took it to a whole new level of sweetness.

We have had the most amazing time, the scenery was stunning and we’ve explored a part of Portugal that remains quite rural despite its proximity to the sea. Attention to detail by Inntravel in terms of both itinerary and accommodation has been perfect and we’d certainly use them again for an activity holiday.

One of the hotels even had special boot cleaning flannels for walkers.

Finally, remember those pots?

They are specifically designed for catching octopus. They are dropped to the sea bed and the octopi seek them out for shelter, mean but effective.

Pedralva to Carrapateira – 12.5 km

We woke to the sound of heavy rain partly because the Portuguese don’t seem to bother with gutters. Any rain pours straight off the roof onto the cobbled streets making a lot of noise.

At breakfast, the staff were delighted with the rain and proudly announced that it was raining all over Portugal. The rain’s badly needed as the rivers and land are very dry. We made it clear that we didn’t share their enthusiasm but, on a positive note, we’re growing slightly immune to the pains in our feet and legs.

Our route took us out of Pedralva, along a wide track signposted ‘Carrapateira 10km’. Inntravel like to take more scenic routes and obviously felt an extra 2.5km would be well worth the effort. We considered taking the shorter, more direct route before agreeing we were more likely to get lost.

The path took us along a lush valley, past an organic farm with an unusual feature.

Hopefully you can read the sign encouraging hikers to have a swim. The water was very grey and mucky so we declined the kind offer…..

Soon, we left the nice flat path along the valley for a steep, grassy track covered in cistus. The cistus will look amazing in the spring, today in the rain it was a energy sapping trip hazard.

We wound our way up around the valley with the weather alternating between torrential rain and mildly pleasant.

After we’d survived the challenge of the cistus, we joined a steep wide path which promised a view of the sea at the top. No such luck in today’s weather but we could just about see it as we went over the brow of the next hill. In the distance you can see the beach at Amado where we were aiming to stop for lunch.

By now it was raining very heavily and we were soaked. As we were over halfway we decided to shelter under a tree and treat ourselves to a break of fruit juice and a banana. We heard footsteps and met our first serious walker of the holiday. Helen, from Quebec, was trekking in Europe for 3 months, had started out on 12th January and was expecting to walk 300km in Portugal before heading across to Spain. Interestingly, she said it was much cheaper for her to visit Europe than British Columbia which seems bizarre. We parted company, colder and damper from standing still, and round the next bend were treated to our first glimpse of Carrapateira.

We headed down towards the beach through groves of recently coppiced eucalyptus.

The cloud lifted as we approached the beach and, although the cafe was closed, we found a reasonably dry bench to sit at and have lunch. We passed many camper vans in the car park and although a popular surfing area there was no one out surfing today.

As we headed uphill away from beach and along the cliff, the views opened up and became quite dramatic.

We followed the road round to a restaurant renowned for its fish (It was closed!) and took a path down by some restored fishermen’s storehouses. These were relocated when their original port was destroyed. The huts and quay were rebuilt with an EU grant although there was no sign of any fishermen using them.

Our final few km started with a walk through fields of agave, originally planted to weave rope from.

Followed by the welcome sight of Carrapateira through the mist.

We decided to stop in a small cafe in the square for a coffee, yet again another cafe owner who didn’t seem very impressed at having any customers. She was very grumpy and, despite a ‘No Dogs’ sign on the door, there was a grubby little dog clearly very much at home.

Cost of one bottle of beer, a pot of tea together with a slice of local orange pie was €3 (£2.60).

Suitably refreshed we headed out of town to our hotel, it’s set in a valley about a km outside Carrapateira.

There are a couple of lounges with large comfy sofas, a log fire and we have quite a nice view from our terrace.

The rest of our itinerary includes two circular walks, if the sun shines we may just stay here and read!