With no obvious accommodation available at the end of today’s 30km section, the ever-resourceful (and far too energetic) Harri had a brainwave: we could make an already long day’s hiking even tougher by adding another six kilometres to the distance.
This might have been a good idea had we enjoyed a decent’s night sleep, but nothing was farther from the truth. As we tried to settle on our makeshift bed on the first floor landing of Marmelete’s unfinished hostel, the wind had again picked up. With the main doors of the building continuously rattling and clanking, a seriously bright street light right outside the window and a noisy boiler alongside us, sleep was proving impossible.
We must have dozed intermittently because each of us recalled the other being asleep, but we were so wide awake (and grouchy) when Harri rose to let Antonio out of the building at 6am there seemed little point in lingering in Marmelete.
We dropped the key through the mailbox of the Junto de Freguesias as arranged (this being Saturday) together with a brief thank you note and our €10 donation, hung around outside the building just long enough to make use of the free Wi-Fi and book future accommodation and then we were off.
Marmelete looked beautiful in the early morning light and we were incredibly grateful to the townsfolk for attempting to resolve their accommodation problem … it’s just that we were so tired and we ached all over. Only 36 kilometres before you can lie down on a proper bed, I kept telling myself, but my shoulders and back weren’t in the mood to listen.
Compared to previous sections, the walking was straightforward and not particularly taxing; however, as the morning progressed it was clear my body was protesting from its night on the floor. My pace had slowed to a dawdle and, realising we’d never reach Barão de São João at this rate, Harri insisted on transferring some of the weight from my rucksack to his.
The Via Algarviana guide describes this incredibly pretty area as ‘a very wild unpopulated area’ and our own impression was that many of the better-maintained properties looked like they might have been recently renovated, perhaps by overseas buyers who were seeking to live simpler lives in the foothills. The only bar we passed was closed and on the market, which just emphasised how few permanent residents there were in these parts.
We followed the jagged eastern shoreline of the vast Bravura reservoir for a while looking for the promised picnic areas but finding nothing (we later discovered all the facilities were some distance away in the south-west). When we couldn’t listen to our rumbling stomachs a moment longer, we plonked ourselves down uncomfortably at the side of the track to eat.
It was hot and there had been scant shade for hours. By the time, our weary selves spotted the sign to the Restaurante Solar do Pincho our willpower was non-existent. Leaving the main route, we trudged up a steep hill and found a really nice restaurant, with a large stone terrace overlooking rolling hills. It was so pleasant sitting there in the shade, watching the house martens doing their spectacular aerial displays above our heads, that we talked ourselves into having a second beer.
If the purpose of the Via Algarviana is to introduce visitors to vastly differing landscapes then it’s doing a grand job. The fertile, agricultural Sobrosa valley was in complete contrast to this morning’s wooded slopes and our route meandered through vineyards and alongside a stream into Bensafrim.
It’s likely this sleepy little inland town of two thousand residents will change forever when the much-heralded High Performance Football Centre Algarve is up and running in a few years’ time. As well as a central football complex, eight football/rugby fields, eight tennis courts, a swimming pool, off-road bike trails and an advanced-technology gym and spa, a 36-hole footgolf course is also in the pipeline. And yes, footgolf is exactly what it sounds like, i.e. grown men kicking a football into a series of football-sized holes.
After a third quick beer (believe me, when faced with a choice between the warm water in our bottles or ice-cold beers, beer wins every time!), we set off to cover the final few kilometres of the day … those extra kilometres.
With the terrain now fairly level, the walking should have felt easier; however, the relentless heat, too-many beers and lack of sleep were taking their toll. I almost cried with relief as we hobbled into Barão de São João, a delightful village perfectly located between coast and mountains
Harri had booked us a room at Casa de João for the princely sum of €30, but we initially struggled to locate the establishment (we later learned it straddles two streets, with a shop front on one). The elderly owner showed us several rooms, inviting us to choose which one we preferred. The accommodation was basic and dated but, as always in Portugal, scrupulously clean … and the views from the various terraces were gorgeous.
After an average meal in a local tapas bar, we finally climbed into bed around nine o’clock. There were times today when I thought I’d be phoning a taxi, but Harri and I had pulled together and kept putting one foot in front of the other. Now, finally, we could get a good night’s sleep.
For more information about walking the Via Algarviana visit the official website. A printed guide with individual maps of each section, plus all the link routes are available free of charge (postage is payable).
The Via Algarviana – an English guide to the ‘Algarve Way’ by Harri Garrod Roberts is available from online bookstores, included Amazon’s Kindle store and is priced at £2.99.
A ‘Made for iBooks’ version is also available from Apple’s iBookstore.
The Via Algarviana: walking 300km across the Algarve by Tracy Burton is available in paperback (£5.99) and Kindle edition (£2.99) from Amazon.
For more photographs of the Via Algarviana visit Pinterest.