In total contrast to last week’s walk, I’m taking you up into the Algarve hills today. Winding 43kms north of Tavira on a delicious roller coaster of a road, you will find the sleepy village of Cachopo. We can stop there on the way back, but for now we’re following signs for Martim Longo. High up, the scenery is beautiful, even though wearing its scorched autumn gown.
A left turn and you’re on barely surfaced roads that lead you, slowly, through three scarcely known villages to your ultimate destination, Mealha. Why so much effort, you might be wondering? Dolmens, or standing stones are the answer. I’m taking a step back in time to the 3rd millennia BC. But first, the village of Mealha, not without its own charms, including these witches’ hat buildings.
These circular buildings, with a conical roof, are known as ‘palheiros’ and are designed to store hay for cattle. Made of slate, the roofs are constructed of reeds from the river bed and ‘thatched’ with hay. Up to 6 metres in diameter and 2.5 metres high, it is not unknown for them to have provided dwelling places in the past. A little cramped, I think.
Distracted as I am, taking photos of the pointed huts and wells, I leave navigation to my partner. He’s usually reliable, but on this occasion it takes 3 false starts to escape the clutches of the village. Despite knowing smiles and hand signs from the villagers, we find ourselves scaling walls, only to end up in a cabbage patch. Not shown on the map! We cross the ‘ribeirinha’, the river bed, and fortunately dry, in entirely the wrong place. Eventually we manage to get back on track, but never with any great conviction. It’s a warm day and I am concerned to conserve our water rations.
Some of the confusion arises because there are 3 trails leading out of the village. We are attempting to follow PR8, which we take to be the Masmorra Trail featured in our guide book. Much of the route seems to be uphill, but the sky has cleared to that lovely blue again, with a nice cooling breeze. More uncertainty as the trails cross over each other, but upwards seems to be the right choice.
Not quite in despair, we are very relieved to spot, in the distance, a pair of ruined windmills. Thank heavens, we are still on course, and we know that the dolmens are close by. True to form, I almost pass them by.
“They’ll only be tiny” said the voice of reason. I hadn’t expected them to be huge, but I could quite easily have gone romping down the other side of the hill and missed them completely. Fortunately, one of us is paying attention. After all, how big does a burial chamber need to be? Somewhat irreverently I hop down inside, in hot pursuit of a dozing lizard. In seconds he is alert and shimmying off into a crevice.
The Masmorra ‘anta’, or burial chamber, is 3.20 metres in diameter and comprised of 9 vertically positioned slabs. The access would have been covered and was through a lower corridor, facing east and aligned to coincide with sunrise at the Summer Solstice. The coverings have disappeared but the slab for the chamber would have been very large. The ‘antas’ are always positioned on high ground, and often marking a territorial boundary. They helped to dissuade unwelcome visitors with their magical, religious aura.
The route back to Mealha was short, downhill and very straightforward, which had us wondering if we mightn’t have been better to tackle it the other way around. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. You might like to compare my account with that of Becky, who was there last year.
Did you realise that I was going to link this post to Paula? It’s perfect for Traces of the Past, isn’t it? Then we’ll have a swift look at Cachopo. The intention was to have a leisurely lunch and rest our weary feet. Palmeiras bar had the prettiest little vine covered garden, but no food. Trying her very best, the lovely lady behind the counter produced a dish of fresh monkey nuts to accompany our wine. Oh, well…
This walk is featured on page 104 in Walking Trails of the Algarve, should you decide to give it a go. If not you might prefer a little wander in the back streets of Cachopo. Now let’s get the kettle on, shall we?
Another bumper selection of wonderful walks this week. I know it takes time but do please find a moment to visit. So much effort goes into these walks and I’m very appreciative. If you’d like to join me, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page. All are welcome.
I know nothing about Williamsburg, but Jackie’s soon going to put that right!
Violet Sky has a real treat in store this week. Don’t miss this one!
Jesh always has something a little different for you :
30 years of walking sounds fearful! Only joking, Geoff :
Making the most of this lovely Autumn with Little Miss Traveler :
And I have a lovely new contributor- welcome Woolly!
BiTi has more wonderful photos from Yosemite :
And Jaspa trespasses on Jude territory. Understandably, he seems to like it!
Tish Farrell is one of the most emotive writers I know, so it was a real pleasure to share a drowsy afternoon with her :
I love the west coast of the Algarve and I know you’ll enjoy seeing it with Jules. Please go and say hi!
Drake, meanwhile is in the very best of company, down on Mathew Street :
I’m sure most of you know Andrew, but if you haven’t had the pleasure…
Denzil has a few ideas for keeping the family entertained on your walks :
Kathryn takes us on ramble no. 20, California style :
And Tobias bestows a little sparkle and shine this Monday morning :
I can’t imagine anybody less idle than my lovely friend Meg. Here’s another treat from her :
Fabulous, aren’t they? Thank you so much for your company, and I hope you all have a great week.