I’m back in the Algarve for my last walk of the year. Santa’s been, and I couldn’t ask for more. It’s been an amazing year! I’m taking you back into those hills that I love, to a tiny village called Benafim. We are joining a group of choir singers for one of my nicest ever walking experiences.
The landscape is beautiful, with Rocha de Pena looming quietly in the background. We meet our small group, mostly Portuguese, with uncertain smiles- an opportunity to practise the language- and set off through the village. One of the group is carrying a toddler on his back, and an elderly gent relies heavily on his stick, so we know the pace will not be fast. There are a couple of Scandinavians, who chat easily with us in fluent English.
Christmas is just around the corner and we observe the signs of celebration in the village. It’s not a long walk, just 6.2km to the next village, Alte, but the gradient is steep in places. Our guide is well aware of the limitations of the party, and stops at intervals to point out plants of interest. Medicinal herbs and remedies, and one that was used in these hills before soap was widely available. It’s warm, but with plenty of cloud cover. There’s little shade up here in the heights. We are following a short stretch of the Via Algarviana, which reaches end to end, the length of the Algarve. We puzzle over some symbols on a rock- a message we don’t understand.
At the outset, we were asked if we would like a meal after the walk. We are walking with some members of a choral group called Ossónoba. Afterwards they will perform in the church in Alte, and we will be ‘very welcome’ to join them. It seems like too good an opportunity to miss.
All are working up a healthy appetite when finally the rugged path levels, and we gaze down into a valley. Alte is not far away, and it’s all downhill from here. In the village, the sight of Singer sewing machines doubling as picnic tables makes me smile.
A hint of Autumn? Yet it feels more like Spring. We have been wondering how we will get back to Benafim, but this problem is easily solved. A minivan takes the drivers back to collect our cars and bring them to Alte. The rest of us proceed to the hotel, squeezing into the minivan with the excitedly chattering, choir members. An elegant table awaits.
High on a hill, above the village, Hotel Alte is obviously used to hosting parties. As we wait, a coach pulls into the car park and disgorges the rest of the choir, smartly attired in black and white. Our walking friends disappear off to the toilets, emerging transformed. The choir are 40 strong! Three of them sit at our table, and proceed to talk about their life, while we dine, very well indeed. Meal over, we are treated to a rousing number, to stretch those vocal chords, before they all pile back onto the coach. The best voice? Our richly baritoned, minivan driver!
Is it any wonder that I love this village? Still to come is the Christmas concert. I had never been inside the church, so yet another treat in store. The choir sings its heart out, in several languages; first surrounding us in the body of the church, and then from the gallery above.
Just down the road, Baltazar cocks an ear in his stable, and we drive contentedly home into the sunset.
Grupo Coral Ossónoba travel around Portugal (and occasionally abroad) performing. Our walk together was a collaboration to promote the Via Algarviana. Needless to say, we hope to take part in another, in the New Year. We had a wonderful time.
I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, but even more than that, I hope that the year to come is kind to us. And maybe you’ll join me in another Jo’s Monday walk? You’ll be more than welcome.
I’m sure Jackie ate her share of festive food, aren’t you?
Natalie started the holidays with a list. Check out how she did!
I’m always happy to admire this nation’s Capital, so thanks, Sandra :
There’s nowhere Nicole would rather be than in the mountains :
And such a nice atmosphere on the streets, with Drake :
Not much deters Becky when she feels like a walk :
Margaret and Zoe were more than happy, just playing with bubbles :
And not squidging in mud!
Let’s end with something a little more exotic, from Cathy :
Happy New Year to you all! I shan’t be writing a review of the year, but I expect I’ll look back, as well as forward. Thanks for your company!