Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012 Portugal - Monchique

Today we were driven from Silves to Monchique (Mon sheek) up in the Algarve hills.The hotel in Silves was very busy this morning. The cyclist tour group was leaving on their bikes and a couple of tour buses were coming in for coffee or somthing.driver Pete said he had never seen the hotel so busy. Like Tim in Elvas, Pete is English and has lived here permanently for about 6 years.

Monchique is a smallish town on the side of the hills with a steep valley below. It does not seem to have a fort or castle - but the farms and gardens are very interesting because they are all steep terraces. It took about 45 minutes to get to Monchique by car and once we got there, who should appear but the lead group of the German cyclists from our hotel in Silves. There were also quite a few local cyclists groups on the road. Portugal is a great place for cyclists.

Once we had dropped our bags off in our new hotel, our mission was to walk up the Picota - the second highest peak in the Algarve. It was a long steep climb up various linking roads and  tracks and eventaully a scramble up a huge granite hillock to a viewpoint at the top. On the way up we saw all sorts of wild pink peonies in bloom and there was heather, yellow potentilla and and other pretty flowers growing in the cracks of the rocks. The view at the top was spectacular! We could see the lower hills and flat lands of the Algarve and to the south and west we could see the distant blue Atlantic Ocean. We could also see rivers flowing to the ocean and several large cities (Lagos with its many skyscrapers was one). We could also see Cape St Vincent which is the south western point of Portugal where it sticks out into the Atlantic.

We ate our picnic lunch on the Picota and then headed down and down and then up again through eucalyptus plantations. Pete had explained that eucalyptus is sent to spain where it is made into paper. some of the plantations had been logged off and there were stacks of small logs here and there. The weather was much cooler than yesterday because we were much higher - more like the Alentejo.

Eventually our path became just straight down, down, down into the valley through terraced orange and lemon groves and plots of potatoes and peas. Amazingly the walk back up from the valley floor to Monchique was not too bad. Monchique is much lower than the Picota - thank goodness. We can actually see it from our bedroom window. This was a long hard walk with lots of elevation - about 17.5 km. As with the other walks the written directions were good - though we had moments when we didn`t know where we were. This was not helped by the fact that we had adjusted the pedometer to match the distance walked yesterday and the pedomenter and the directions did not match at all. In fact the pedomenter said we had only walked about 11 km which is definitely wrong since it took us about 6 hours. I think we probably walked about 21 km yesterday. So the mileage is adding up and I`m sure we are getting more fit.

There doesn`t seem to be anyone else staying in our small hotel and it is very quiet = just frogs croaking away outside. Now that we have had our showers, done a bit of laundry and had a good dinner (beside a lovely wood stove), it is time to say goodnight. The odd thing for me is that I am reading a detective novel set in India and, honestly, it is easy to think we are back there in India in a cold hill station like Ooty. The Portuguese were early traders in India (Goa) so it is not completely silly - just a bit. 

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