Jo’s Monday walk : Mealha and surrounds

You might remember that one day last year I took you to some burial tombs, high in the hills of the Algarve.  Not without difficulty, I might add.  The Masmorra Trail was a bit of a challenge.  A couple of my walking friends are hugely enthusiastic about archaeology and history, so we were all delighted when a recent Striders walk included the dolmens of Antas das Pedras Altas.

The trouble is, when I’m walking with the Striders I’m often too busy chatting to pay much attention to the route.  There’s a tendency to ‘switch off’ when walking with a leader, but at least it takes the pressure off the other half.  The start point for this walk was in exactly the same place, a crossroads on the edge of the village of Mealha.  A modest 8.5km circular, with a steep uphill beginning.

We passed by more of the palheiros- the round huts once used by shepherds- and began our climb.  The rewards were almost immediate.  First a grove or two of umbrella pines.  Notice how very dry everything is.  It’s been a long hot Summer.

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There are 12 of these standing stones, aligned with the sun rising in the east.  Astonishing to think that they have held these positions since 4th century BC, protecting the burial chamber.  I have to confess to prattling on a bit at this point, or should I say exchanging information?  Sharper eyes than mine spotted the well, and there wasn’t time for a closer look.

Soon we were dropping down through eucalyptus trees, fresh and green in this light, but a serious hazard should forest fires break out.  This year the Algarve has been spared, but lives were lost further north.  On this walk we had been encouraged to bring a picnic, due to the absence of a suitable restaurant.  At a pleasantly shady spot with benches I munched a healthy apple, confident that we’d find somewhere later.

The walk continued through the dry riverbed of Ribeira de Foupana and back full circle to Mealha.  It was still relatively early, the sun bright in the sky.  The group were heading back to the coast, and stopping off for coffee before separating.  Curiosity impelled me to check out the nearby village of Martim Longo, where I’d seen advertised Feria de Perdiz– a partridge festival.  This area of the Algarve is known for the hunting and shooting of birds, a controversial subject these days.  Seldom have I found a more sleepy place, but there was a bonus- the church was open.

You know when plans go awry?  Seems to happen to me all too often.  We wandered through the somnolent streets.  Where was everybody?  A burst of laughter issued from a bar and we exchanged a hopeful glance.  I stopped to take photos of an interesting old building just as a truck drew up and an overalled worker climbed out.  He looked at me bemusedly as I gestured to his home, then smiled and went inside to lunch.

We continued our circuit of the small village.  Some bakery tiles, scything implements and a couple of water wheels, but almost no people.  They must have been eating, of course, and we were peckish too.  With very little choice, we made a poor selection.  An elderly lady pulled herself to her feet, her companion nodding bom dia, and lumbered behind the counter.  White wine?  They only had tinto, which she proceeded to remove from the chiller.  Seeing her struggling, with arthritic wrists, to remove the cork, the other half took the corkscrew from her to complete the job.  Two large tumblers of red were poured.  Peering hard at the ‘menu’ on the back wall, he then asked for a ham sandwich.  She shook her head.  No food!  Just the prepackaged sweet biscuits on display, and a meagre selection of crisps.  Not quite the lunch we had envisaged.  When I expressed interest in the partridge festival, a beer drinking old lad indicated that there was much fun and dancing in the village.  A little hard to imagine right then, but he went to great pains to produce a magazine (hidden away in the glass fronted, unlit stove!) showing last year’s event.  We should come back?

Maybe not.  A strange little place, but my curiosity was satisfied.

Salt in the wounds- when we talked to our walking friends later it transpired that they’d gone to a nice little restaurant by a pebble beach.  We’d passed it on our way up the valley!  If you’re tempted to follow my walk, there’s a map here.

Thanks for keeping me company this week.  I’m more or less acclimatised to the UK again but I suspect I’ll be bombarding you with Portugal for a while yet.  If you’d like to join me with a walk, long or short, details are on my Jo’s Monday walk page.  I look forward to it.  Meantime, pop the kettle on and let’s settle in for a good read.

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Chocolate and blue skies… now there’s a winning combination!  Please say hello to my new contributor, Maria :

Baroque & Chocolate… This is Modica, Sicily

Debbie managed to find some blue on the sunny south coast too :

Sidford to Sidmouth

Just Jude, doing what she does so well :

Garden Portrait : under an autumn sky

I’m not sure how much walking took place, but Andrew is always welcome here :

Portugal, A Walking Tour of Ovar

Jackie’s whizzing about again!

Salty

Drake’s getting us all in Christmas mode!  Never too early for good feelings :

Arrival of the good feeling

Busy time of year and not so many walks this week.  Many thanks to all of you!  It’s much appreciated.  Wishing you a great week.

103 comments

  1. Lovely walk Jo and those floating snowflakes give the beautiful photos quite a surreal look. I love your first throw away line “A modest 8.5km circular, with a steep uphill beginning” !!! Makes my legs ache just thinking about it, I am not very fit at the moment…That village sounds quite intriguing. This afternoon Jack and I went for a stroll down to the ocean to see what they have been doing to the ocean walkway. It has been closed for months for upgrading and opened again just recently. So walk coming up shortly…

  2. They made sure no one got out of those tombs didn’t they?! When buildings still have some wooden parts left like the shepherds huts, I always think it’s a shame not to restore them, they’re beautiful but I know I’m just nostalgic. I can’t think what you mean about chatting ❤ Lovely walk babe, except for the climb but then that's what creates the views, and I'm sorry you didn't get a tasty lunch x:-)x

    1. It’s so far off the beaten track, Gilly, that I doubt restoration is a possibility. Apart from the roofs they are pretty solid structures, though. 🙂 🙂 One slimming day out of 5 weeks isn’t bad, is it? I think we made up for it. Hugs, darlin!

  3. Fascinating insight into the rural life Jo and some wonderful pictures. The forest must be tinder dry – with all our lush vegetation in the south west bush fires are a perennial summer hazard. We fortunately live away from the high risk areas though occasionally there are fires in reserves and bush lands not too far away and frequently alas deliberately started. The poor birds – not too sure about the shooting can see why it is controversial 😥 At least you got some wine though you must have been very hungry by the end of the walk! Hope you’re having a lovely week 😃

    1. We went to Martim Longo out of a perverse kind of curiosity, Rosemay. I don’t know what I expected to see at a partridge festival other than braces of birds, which doesn’t really appeal at all! Fortunately there wasn’t any evidence other than some scaffolding on the edge of the village. Probably just as well! It must be a hard life up there and not one that I could recommend. The skies are heavy as can be this morning and we’re having a jolly mix of rain, sleet and wind. The Algarve would be grateful for a little of it so I won’t complain. It’ll be a good day for writing Christmas cards, once I’ve been to t’ai chi. Keep smiling! 🙂 🙂

      1. No braces of partridges are not my thing either Jo though it is up in the mountains and it must be a tough life as you say. You’re very good doing your cards – I really need to get a move on as they can take a long time from overseas plus have interstate ones to do as well! I did buy some today though so that’s a start! The weather sounds horrible definitely a day for rugging up! Hope it improves soon 😃

  4. Your walks never fail to fascinate me. 🙂 We’ve never visited Portugal and that’s why I find your excursions so interesting. There’s so much to learn. It’s so different from the places we visited this year!

  5. Another beautiful walk, Jo. We usually take our own lunch on day excursions, to save money. Often, we wished we could eat out and enjoy the local cuisine, but in your case, we would have been just fine. I can imagine you were a tad disappointed after learning where your friends went for lunch. Sometimes, things work out and sometimes they don’t… 🙂

    1. Becky does the same, Liesbet (I’m sure you’ll be familiar with her Algarve site too 🙂 ). It does give you flexibility but both me and Mick are averse to carrying stuff when we walk. And walking in a group is different. The reward at the end is a sociable couple of hours chatting over very inexpensive food and drink. This time curiosity won over stomach. 🙂 🙂

  6. A lovely circuit walk, Jo. Thanks for the walk.
    Q1: Is there good public transportation in the algarve or would I need a car if I were to visit?
    Q2: Does you striders group publish old walks online?

    1. There are excellent bus and train services along the coast, Draco, but if you want to venture inland a hire car gives you much more flexibility. I would say it’s doable without a car on a first visit but if you like to roam it’s easier with a car.
      I am the only source I know of our Striders walks, and I have published several of them. It’s just a small private group. Walking Trails of the Algarve is an excellent book, in pdf format, (there’s a link in my Masmorra Trail walk, mentioned in this post) Also, if you follow the Antas das Pedras Altas link it will take you to a Portuguese walking site which translates to English. Hope this helps. See you in the Algarve sometime? 🙂 🙂

  7. Looks like a quaint village Jo. What a pity your food wasn’t too enjoyable – a risk one takes every time one steps into a restaurant. Such a beautiful walk though. The sky looked so blue.

  8. Your story wouldn’t have been nearly as interesting if you’d gone with the group to that lovely little restaurant. It was nice to read there were no serious fires in your area this year. Eucalypts and dry weather are a bad combination in summer.

      1. This reminds me of our daughter, Melissa – the one you met last year. She’s in Toronto now and they got their first snowfalls a couple of weeks ago. She said everyone was saying, “Oh no, snow” and she was saying “Yay, snow!!” She was excited. 🙂

  9. Well if you had gone with the group we’d have never seen this quiet little spot would we? And I am sure you probably could afford to miss one lunch, though Mick might not agree with me 🙂 When I saw the first photos of the stones I thought they had been in a fire, they look so black. Later photos show some lovely lichens. Thanks for the armchair stroll on a very bleak day, the thought of you rabbiting on to the leader made me smile, the thought of you and young Sue together is hilarious – neither of you would get a word in edgewise.

    1. I actually was rabbiting mostly to my 2 friends who are keen on archaeology, but you know me- I’ll rabbit to anyone. 🙂 🙂 Mick thought I was mad to drag him there but he was complicit, and you’re right- we did our fair share of eating in those 5 weeks.

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