Salema to Vila do Bispo

10 km by road or 19.5 km on foot.

Our feet and legs were a little tired from yesterday’s walk, but the sun was shining and we had a packed lunch. We also had three maps and 10 pages of instructions.

The mad cat lady served us breakfast this morning and explained that a charity was neutering the cats to reduce the feral population. You could tell which cats had been neutered because they have a corner from an ear. It prevents distress to an animal that has already been caught and saves time when rounding up the next group.

We set out, heading west along the coast before turning inland to the village of Figueira.

The views were glorious but the paths are heavy going. Many are rocky and rutted, others are very slippery with gravel.

At Figueira, we walked past small farms and in, what looked like an abandoned field, John took the opportunity to scrump an orange.

As we climbed up the hill we could see Figueira in the distance behind us.

We then negotiated a steep, slippery descent to Praia de Furnas. We stopped at the beach for a snack. We’d been walking for over 2 hours and covered just 6.5km. We’d been looking forward to our orange. Kim carefully peeled and divided it only to spit it out 2 seconds later. It was very juicy but also very bitter, thank goodness for the apple and banana we had brought with us.

Back up another hill and we were walking through more scrubland, similar to that seen yesterday. We continued the almost vertical climb until we could see the sea again. Round a corner and we were above Zavial beach where we saw our first surfers of the trip. This is a great area for surfing but, until now, the sea had been very flat and calm.

We followed the cliff path very carefully while pondering that you wouldn’t see a path like that at home. If you look carefully, you can see the green and blue stripes that are used as way marks.

Our route took us away from the cliff path and a longer way down to the beach. Our feet and legs complained every step of the way. We were just over halfway and had been walking for almost 4 hours.

This is the busiest beach we’ve seen and there was a vague hope the beach cafe would be open. No such luck, so we sat on the cafe steps and watched the surfers while eating our lunch which the cat lady had presented us with, it was very welcome and very nice. The cheese and ham salad sandwiches had travelled better than us.

We stopped to chat to an English surf dude who had spent the last six months here in Portugal while trying decide whether to make it a permanent move. Currently he lives here in a shed with a corrugated asbestos roof and wood burning stove and drives a very beaten up Toyota pickup (which he’d driven the 1000 miles down from England) Back in the UK, work was making him ill so he’s now living a better, simpler life.

Unsurprisingly, there was yet another steep hill away from the beach towards the next cove. It was lovely to walk almost a km on tarmac before rejoining the coastal path. The track was quite treacherous and, in places, difficult to see which route to take, this is the first time we have needed to use a compass to check we are on the right path.

We decided not to take the option for a steep descent to Praia da Barranco, It would be difficult to beat Zavial beach and we were tired and our feet sore.

It is quite alarming when you’re walking in such a remote place where we don’t speak the language. We passed a few houses in the middle of nowhere and saw less than a dozen people on the way.

At the 16km point, the route took us up another steep track, this one was through the garden of a private house. The french owners allow access for walkers we were wishing they also provided a golf buggy! You can just see the track in the left hand corner of the picture.

We endured our last 3.5 km and finally after almost 7 hours of walking Vila do Bispo came into sight.

Luckily our hotel is one of the first buildings you come to. The receptionist carefully explained that our stay included complimentary use of the swimming pool and gym but then looked at our faces and realised we probably wouldn’t be using either. Instead we have collapsed in a heap, it’s going to be a real struggle to get our shoes back on when we go out for dinner later.

Vila do Bispo is the commercial and administrative centre for the area, is has a 16th century church and, more importantly, a selection of restaurants for us to choose from.

Salema to Burgau – 15km (9 miles post Brexit)

Our view from the apartment balcony this morning, it’s a shame we’re only here for one more night.

Our day started with breakfast in the same restaurant as last nights dinner, the Atlantico. We were intercepted on our way by a number of cats followed by a dog chasing a lady on a motor scooter. She stopped to feed them and told us the restaurant was shut. We knew better! It belongs to the family who own the apartment and, as it’s the only restaurant open in town, they have a duty to keep us alive and fed. As John pointed out ‘Cat ladies are often bonkers’.

It was so mild and the sun was shining so we headed back to the apartment and swapped out sensible walking trousers for shorts. Sun tan lotion was applied and we were off accompanied by a GPS watch, map and idiot proof instructions. In reality all we had to do was make sure we kept the Atlantic Ocean on our right and we would be fine.

We walked out of town, up along the cliffs with stunning views back towards Salema, the sea is very blue, the sand very fine and the beaches very empty.

Our first challenge was crossing the river at Boca do Rio. We’d been advised to pack a towel because the river could be unreliable and stepping stones were involved. Kim is not good with stepping stones and has a habit of falling off them. After much searching we found some stones and crossed the first small river.

We were marooned on an island with deep water the other side and the rest of the stepping stones submerged below the water.

Further down river, were the remains of a broken footbridge then a 2km diversion.

In true pioneer spirit, and determined not to walk 2km further than we had to, we retraced our steps, wandered back down the beach to find the river dammed and a nice dry route across.

We have been up and down some severe hills, past some pretty, deserted beaches and held philosophical conversations along the lines of ‘If this walking tour is graded ‘easy’, we’d hate to take part in a ‘moderate’ let alone ‘hard” walk ‘Is this technically mountaineering?’ and ‘how long would it take Matt to run it and would he have even notice the hills?’.

At one point we lost the route and found ourselves scrambling down a scrubby hillside and struggling to find our way. When we finally managed to rejoin the route, we were rewarded with this.

It was a relief to reach Burgau, walking into town past citrus trees.

Our itinerary indicated 2hrs 15 mins and we were pleased to have managed that. It felt an awful lot longer. We had an early lunch and basked in the winter sunshine, overlooking the sea before starting the trek back.

Our return journey took us inland, through rolling hills and valleys, across scrubland and through deserted farms before following the river back to Boca di Rio where we looked at the motorhomes that were free camping by the beach. They were from Holland, the UK, Spain and France.

Our walk is billed as ‘The Coast of Many Colours’ and the Algarve is renowned for its spring flowers. The headlands and valleys are covered in Cistus, Olives, Kermes Oaks and Pistachia lentiscus. Colours are a mix of silver, through to dark green and red, it must be fantastic when fully in flower. We’re too early for that but have seen some almond blossom.

And this covers the wall around the apartments’ swimming pool.


Unusually for Kim, she made a new friend on the plane. For the last 20 years Jan has been living in Lagos, with her Austrian husband. She is keen to move back to the UK, to be nearer their daughter and grandchildren in Harpenden, and wonders if we’d be interested in a house swap for a few weeks, go Kim!!

We were collected from Faro airport by our driver Isobel and were treated to a slight detour through the backstreets to a local fishing tackle shop where a man ran out of the shop carrying a tray and passed it through the car window. Each time Isobel picks up guests from the airport, she also has to collect some special fishing bait for her husband. She was too early on her way to collect us, the bait was still being dug out of the estuary.

It was dark when we arrived in Salema and we were ushered into a simple but modern apartment, overlooking the sea. There will be photos tomorrow, we can’t see the sea tonight but we know it’s there.

Salema seems very quaint and there is only one restaurant open, the Atlantico which is owned by the same family running the apartments.

Fish featured heavily on the menu which rather alarmed John. He views all fish with deep suspicion after a bad encounter with salmon many years ago.

His choice of Tuna and Kim’s Sea Bream were delicious and went down nicely along with a bottle of Portuguese white wine.

We had a short wander through the town before heading back for the night. As you can see it’s rather wild here on a Saturday night.

Breakfast is at 08:00 tomorrow and we have the first walk of the holiday to attempt.

Introducing our first trip of 2019

The original idea was to spend a month, in a villa, somewhere hot and sunny, sipping chilled wine on a balcony. We couldn’t make a decision and then Kim got involved. We’re spending the next seven days on a walking holiday in the Algarve and not quite sure how this happened.

Our walks are self guided, we have four maps and pages of very specific directions. After reading a review, we thought we were walking the Med to Atlantic. It was only after booking that we checked a map.

It is only 11 miles between Salema and Carrapateira but we will walk about 50 miles (excluding detours – we’re bound to get lost). It’ll be interesting, what with Kim’s renowned map reading skills and a complete inability to tell left from right.

We start with two nights in Salema which includes a walk to Burgau tomorrow.

Monday we head west along the coast before moving inland and staying a night in the small town of Vila do Bispo.

Tuesdays plan is a walk to Pedralva, an abandoned hamlet which has been restored to life. We hope that means it has a pub or wine bar, a Pret A Manger and a John Lewis.

Wednesday takes us to Carrapateira where we spend our last three nights with options of two circular walks to explore the area.

Our trip started in grey drizzle at Luton Airport, thank you to Diane for dropping us off. The airport has the distinction of being voted the worst in the country for a number of years but, today, we sailed through spending just a couple of minutes getting through security and all was calm and relaxed in Departures. There are even empty seats! We can’t remember the last time we saw that at Luton. January is the time to travel.

We have arrived safely in Salema and are struggling to connect to WiFi. Updating the blog may be a challenge!