Jo’s Monday walk : Rocha da Pena

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Some walks are a really hard act to follow.  After last week’s Almond Blossom Trail, in blissful sunshine, I was really looking forward to taking you to the heights of Rocha da Pena.  I envisioned the landscape, dropping away below me, and my eyes gazing far out to sea. Unfortunately, the dismal cloud wrapped around the rock had other ideas.  Every day in the Algarve cannot be paradise, can it?  But what I can offer you is good company, some wonderful plant species, and… oh, yes- cake!  What’s a little drizzle between friends?

The drive out into the Algarve countryside is beautiful in itself.  A little challenging, and you do have to like hairpin bends.  This is another walk that features in the Walking Trails in the Algarve, (p.72) and once you arrive the signage is good.  The walk begins beside a cafe, Bar das Grutas, and a strong coffee is just the thing to set you up.  Don’t expect a smile from the proprietor, however.  Or maybe it was just the weather!  Taking a look at those clouds, I think we’d better get going!

It’s uphill, of course, but not too steep, and there’s plenty to hold your interest.  Plants nestle in unsuspected places.  I’m walking with a group and every now and then a voice sings out ‘don’t miss this one!’  I’m being teased a little, but I like it.  The challenge is to keep up with the group, yet still record my individual delights.

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There are a few signboards, pointing out things of interest, and I’m reminded of the fires that swept this mountain range, soon after we’d bought our Algarve home.  Driving along the coast, or even down on the beach, a black pall of smoke could be seen on the horizon.  It must have been terrifying to be up here, as the fires raged for 4 days, in 2004.  Hard to imagine on this moist day, when so much has renewed and revitalised.

I’m soon on the hunt for the wild bee orchids which, I discover, like this predominantly calcareous outcrop.  I can’t be cross with the weather when I learn that late January/early February is the perfect time to see them, rain or shine.  The plateau rises to a height of 479 metres at Talefe, which roughly translates as ‘trig point’.  All this richness and diversity has led to the Rocha being a ‘Special Protected Area’, by law.

The boards also refer to narcissus calcicola, which I take to be a simple daffodil. I’m wildly excited when I come upon a carpet of these tiny beauties, so much smaller than any I have seen before.  I think I probably have more than one variety here.

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Up on the heights, with the daffodils, lie the remains of a defensive stone wall, believed to date back to the Iron Age.  It’s been attributed to Celtic people who lived on the Iberian peninsula in pre-Roman times. (6th-1st century BC)

There are caves you can explore, currently inhabited by two locally endangered species of bat.  The largest cave, known as ‘Moor’s Grotto’, was used as a final desperate refuge in the 13th century, according to legend.  The Almohad Moors tried to hide there, before being slain by the Portuguese troops of King Afonso III.

After a speck or two of drizzle, a tantalising glimpse of hazy sunlight appears in the distance, as we drop back down the trail.  I look wistfully towards the open door of an unlikely ‘Mini Museum’ in the village of Penina, quietly going about it’s business.  But my walking friends have lunch firmly in mind.  No loitering allowed!  I guess I’ll have to come back, on a sunnier day, and perhaps do the walk in reverse.

If you’re thinking you’ve seen that door before somewhere, it was one of many in Life is full of choices.  Within a matter of minutes we’re back to our start point, and not a moment too soon as the skies open.  The Bar das Grutas supplies food, but we hop into cars and head for the village of São Romão, near São Bras de Alportel, where we have a reservation.  A warm welcome awaits us at Cafe Correia.  And cake, of course!

I’m including a link to an excellent website, Walk Algarve, where you will find full details of the geology, and flora and fauna to be found at Rocha da Pena, with a little more history.  And now, that cake’s made me thirsty.  Time to put the kettle on.

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Thanks everybody for keeping me company on my walks, and for entertaining me with yours.  I hope you enjoyed this one and, if you have a walk you’d like to share, details can be found on my Jo’s Monday walks page.  Just click on the logo above.

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I’m not a huge fan of snow but if anything could persuade me… Anabel just might :

Canadian Rockies : Lake Louise

And Colline gave it a good try!  Canada definitely seems to be the place for it :

A Walk in the Snow

Come over to the ‘dark side’ with Drake?  He does it beautifully!

Abandoned walk

Congratulate Jesh?  She deserves it!

A Short Diversion

Me and Jackie, still singing, down Mexico way!  And why wouldn’t we?

Monday walk : Guadalajara

Jaspa does go to some fascinating places!  I’d really like to visit this one :

The Templar Tunnels of Acre, Israel 

A little summertime warmth, Down Under, with Rosemay would be good too :

The French Connection : Bunker Bay

Geoff and his dog go bounding through the sand dunes!

Life’s a Beach#glorioussuffolk 

While Snowdon Student takes a break from his studies to head for the hills again :

Relaxing by Llyn Idwal

Jude is busy getting ready to move to Cornwall, but still found time to share.  That’s a friend for you!

Scrobbesbyrig/Shrewsbury : Town Trail Part 1 

It looks a bit busy in Macau, for me.  Anyone been there?  Thanks, Lee Ann!

A stroll through the Old Town of Macau

Pauline gave me an early morning nudge this morning!

Early morning beach walk

I’m well and truly re-acclimatised to the UK again.  Not sure where to take you next week, but I’m pretty sure we’ll be walking somewhere.  Many thanks again, and I hope you all have a great week!

176 comments

  1. Thanks (a lot) for linking and mentioning our website, Walkalgarve.com. We’re truly happy that you enjoyed the information. Strangely enough, Rocha da Pena is actually our least popular post. It is a shame, since all we want is to keep our algarvian landscapes protected. Thanks for promoting it. Filipe

      1. Hi Jo! Never been in Masmorra, unfortunately. The people behind the WalkAlgarve website are now absent, and all that is left (for now) is me. The website is being upgraded in order to allow people to read it on mobile devices. There’s one caveat: it will feature more adverts, but we cannot keep it going as it is without it. Would you be willing to write a guest post to us about Masmorra? We would, obviously, link to your site and give you the deserved credits. Filipe

      2. It would have to be in a few weeks time. Dad died last week and I’m heading home for the funeral and a wealth of relatives next week. Will be happy to as soon as life is normal again x

      3. Oh…I’m so sorry – really, even if we do not know each other! Empathy grows spontaneously. We’ll keep in contact. Wish you well. Filipe

  2. Such a lovely walk, the wild flowers look so fragile and yet they must be tough to survive there. The wrapping up event of eating cakes is no doubt the “icing on the cake”.

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