What a walk! The first full day on the trail and a 48km hike on the historical way lie behind me. Today I hardly saw the sea until my arrival in Arrifana, but instead enjoyed the nature of the ‘Parque Natural do Sudoeste Alentejano e Costa Vicentina’ and the villages along the path – Vila do Bispo, Pedralva, Carrapateira, Bordeira, Monte Ruivo and finally Arrifana. 11h walking under blazing sunshine.
I managed to leave about 9am after a quick breakfast in one of the bars in Vila do Bispo. From there a path takes you through the forest, only occasionally alongside roads, under wind farms and along temporary puddles (‘charcos temporarios’, important for reproduction of amphibians) to Pedralva 12km away. On my way I encountered the first other hiker – Tamara. She hikes the route the normal way (from Porto Covo to Cabo de Sao Vicente). We had a quick chat about what lies ahead (mainly very sandy. slow path from Odeceixe on). Ahh .. yes, I also saw a wild pig family crossing my path.
By 1pm I made it to Carrapateira for lunch. I went straight through the village and headed for the beach to find a restaurant. Seems not enough surfers around with most places shut, but eventually i found one close to the beach (‘O Sitio do Rio’ – decent). I took a long break and only got going 2.30pm knowing that I was only half way.
Right after leaving the village I must have missed one turn on the normally well marked route and ended up walking street-side to Bordeira. The actual path, as the map suggested, goes somewhere parallel. An hours walk later and I was back on the path. The roads aren’t too busy anyway.
Cork bark trees: Right after the village Monte Ruivo I first started noticing numbered trees with parts of the bark missing. Upon closer inspection it turns out to be cork bark. Portugal produces 50% of global cork (Spain 30%). The bark grows back if done properly and can be harvested every 9y. That would explain the numbering by and large I think. See here for a bit more detail on this.
The final stretch to Arrifana takes you into hilly territory and some 6km before you reach the village the sea comes into sight. Great sight & sound in fact. Quite a few surfers around too relaxing in their camper vans and getting ready for the next day. Apparently Jan/Feb belong to the better parts of the season here – meaning often good waves. I finished the last hour of walking in complete darkness though under a starry sky before reaching the hostel. Beautiful! The one bit i didn’t like was that the only restaurant open was the last house in the village … another km after a long day, but heh!