Such a fragile ecosystem! The tide rushes in and out each day, reshaping the shoreline with every sweep. It’s a watery Perspective that I love. Not all square, nor strictly Six Words, but incredibly beautiful. Have a good weekend!
P.S. No Monday walk again. Someone has a birthday and we will be in the Western Algarve. Back soon!
P.P.S. If you are viewing this on a phone or tablet the colours are too harsh. Imagine them a little softer.
Grey is not my favourite colour for sky, but sometimes there are compensations. (not cake- too soon for that!) A friend had suggested a sally through the salt marshes, and I’m always seduced by the fusion of sky and sea. I hadn’t reckoned on a grey day, but it was warm, so, no excuse!
The light on the water here is special on all but the glummest of days. Passing by the fisherman’s huts there’s always a cat or two, trying to appear disinterested in today’s catch. Down in the salt pans, birds wade, flap their wings, and glide across the still waters.
A pomegranate tree clings to the last of its fruit, and the reeds rustle and sway, bleached beige by the sun. Small hillocks of salt gleam, white, against the sullen sky. A mysterious pink has appeared in the salt pans, not reflected from the dense clouds overhead.
The light is changing and, looking to the hills, I realise that the clouds are beginning, ever so slowly, to roll back. The water darkens, inexplicably, to a rich magenta and I watch, transfixed, as grey gives way to blue.
I’m rounding the marshes to reach Fuseta for lunch. If I’m lucky the sky should be clear by the time I get there.
It’s almost unreal, the transformation in the skies as I head towards the sea, and I can only be a grateful witness.
I wander along the quayside, peering at the tiny fish milling around the boats. If they were bigger I’d think they were pushing their luck, but it’ll be a while before they make anyone a decent supper. Well, perhaps a ship’s cat?
Which brings us, of course, to the inevitable subject. Does anyone have space for cake? Someone’s been eating mine, again!
Not such a grey day, after all. Replete, we sat in the sunshine, gazing out across the bay.
Not so many walks this week. Huge thanks to my regular contributors. Please visit each other, if you can, and don’t forget to get out there walking off all those cakes! Join me any time, here on Jo’s Monday walk. You know you’ll always be welcome.
What’s a little rain when you’re with a lovely friend? Welcome back, Gilly!
Something to always bear in mind when walking around our salt marshes is that they are tidal. In a spirit of adventure, just after Christmas, I set out to explore the stretch between Fuseta and Olháo, entirely overlooking this fact. In my defense, I was following the Algarve Cycle Trail and hadn’t envisioned that crossing water would be an issue. On a glorious, sunny morning, I caught the train to Fuseta A (there are 2 stations in this small village, and the other one isn’t Fuseta B!) A right turn will take you past the former fishermen’s houses and onto the coastal path.
Out in the bay the former coastguard station looks on without comment. It’s a calm and peaceful scene, many people having not yet returned from the holiday. Birds wander, pecking and poking in the shallows, completely undisturbed when the occasional cyclist passes by. The railway line also follows the coast, with minimal impact. The colours of the heather are a lovely contrast in this sometimes dowdy landscape.
As often happens, a signpost throws confusion into the calm, either direction appearing to lead to Olháo. The longer of the two, though interesting, doubles back on itself, but not before I have spotted the nesting storks, a rather endearing frog and a hoopoe.
Now it may seem a little early, but the sun is very warm and a decision is needed. The perfect place to make it presents itself, a small restaurant, ‘O Farol’. Does anyone mind a cake stop? His and hers, of course! Mine is the almond tart.
Decision made, we head in the general direction of the coast, hoping to be able to continue around the bay to Praia dos Cavacos. And as luck would have it, we’re able to tiptoe around the edge of the sand and reach a boardwalk that looks quite new. The surrounding buildings are unconventional, and ornamented with some rather wonderful artwork.
We are never out of touch with the quiet salt pans, which breathe life into this landscape. You may have thought it all going swimmingly (bad choice of words 🙂 ) but a slight hiccup is just around the corner.
The railway track, which has followed us so patiently, decides to leap a gully full of water. We shake our heads. It’s too big a leap for human legs. A family of cyclists approach from the direction of Olháo. When they passed this way earlier the tide was out. Bravely they hoist their cycles and cross the precarious track. The alternative for us is a very long walk, so we grimace and hasten across the gap. My heart is thudding. If a train should suddenly appear… but minutes later we are in the heart of the nature reserve known as Quinta de Marim.
The plan was to skirt this park, and stay close to the campsite at Olháo. But it’s simply a relief to be across the water.
The tidal mill is a beautiful sight at high tide. It has not been operational since 1970, but the equipment still looks ready for action. I clamber up to the roof and look out across the water, to the low-lying barrier island, Armona.
The sun is low in the sky as we finally reach Olháo. The contemporary theatre, itself a converted mill, stands in sharp contrast to the crumbling facades of neighbouring buildings. Oblivious, the birds cavort on a high wire above. Soon all trace of Christmas will be gone.
For us, it’s time to catch a train home. If you should happen to repeat this walk, be very aware of the tide times. And meanwhile, many thanks for accompanying me on the adventure that is the new year.
Not too many walks to read as you get back into a routine. Join me any time here on Jo’s Monday walk. The welcome is always the same.
As promised, almond blossom in the Algarve this week. This is a variation on a walk we’ve done previously, this time starting in the small seaside town of Fuseta. It’s just a few stops west of Tavira by train. Wave your passport at the conductor and you’ll get half fare if you’re a pensioner. Well, there have to be some advantages to being over the hill!
Not too many hills this near to the coast, but it’s up and over the railway tracks and out into the countryside. We’ve barely taken a few steps when we’re in a field, surrounded by almond blossom. I stand and stare! Blossom is opening up in trees all along the roadside, but this is the first time I’ve seen the flowers out in such force.
I can’t understand how my walking friends can be so oblivious of their surroundings, and I linger far behind. Maybe it’s the lure of a coffee stop up ahead. On they go, following a path through the fields, a glimpse of sea shimmering on the horizon.
Soon we’re on a paved lane, leading to the E125- a busy road which stretches almost end to end of the Algarve. We are making a stop at Tianica, a pottery workshop with a cafe and terrace at the rear.
Avoiding temptation in order to have space for lunch, it’s back to the lane after coffee. A track leads down to the edge of the salt marshes and we follow it back in the direction of Fuseta. The tide is low, and boats sit silently in the sludge, waiting to be rescued when it turns.
It’s not a long walk, though you can extend it further through the marshes, which continue on the far side of town. We thread between the fishermen’s cottages and the apartment blocks, and I’m delighted to find remnants of Christmas in the yarn bombed trees.
Go on, admit it! You’re more interested in lunch. A leisurely affair at La Plage, on the front at Fuseta, culminating in cake, of course. I stood in line at the cabinet, hopeful that there’d be a morsel of tiramisu left. I must have looked desperate, because the waiter served me the last slice and then added a scoop of profiterole to my plate. Lucky, or what?
Totally replete, I sat by the waterside afterwards, keeping a lazy eye on life. Finally I persuaded myself to stir in the direction of home.
Short but sweet, I hope? I bet you enjoyed the cake. Got a walk you’d like to share? Join me here on Jo’s Monday walk for a warm welcome.
Shall we start with a good clamber? I think Debbie wrote this one just for Sue :
I’m often asked if it’s possible to enjoy the Algarve and its natural beauty without the use of a car. My walk today gives you one example of how to do just that. In much of the Eastern Algarve the railway tracks run quite close to the shoreline. As well as a hands free ride through pleasant countryside and that age old delight of peering into passing gardens, you can hop off the train and pursue a gentle walk. After my brief absence, I’m taking it slowly.
The place I’ve chosen to start is Fuseta, a very laidback town 10km east of Olhão, with an active fishing fleet and a natural harbour. You can easily while away an hour or two here and I’ll give you some thoughts on how later, but first let’s catch that train. There are two railway stations in Fuseta, though I’ve only just discovered tiny Fuseta ‘A’. It’s at the top of a hill, behind the restaurants at the western edge of town. If this doesn’t appeal, Fuseta-Moncarapacho, the main station at the eastern end of town, will serve you just as well for the purposes of this walk.
Fuseta ‘A’ station
A relic from the past
The station at Luz de Tavira
It’s only a couple of stops from Fuseta to Luz de Tavira, a sleepy little spot if ever there was one. Dismounting from the train you cross directly over the railway tracks. A word of warning- there is no official gated crossing, but it’s a very flat area and you can see far along the track in both directions, so please do look both ways. Safely over, turn right at the first corner and follow a leafy lane, passing a couple of country homes. Prickly pear and almond blossom will vie for your attention in this early stage of the year.
Bear left and soon a glimmer of water will appear on the horizon. You are joining a stretch of the Ecovia Litoral, a cycle track which threads its way along the Algarve coastline, but which in many places makes for relaxed and enjoyable walking.
Often times the boats are marooned on these tidal mud flats, beautiful in their ugliness. If you are lucky the tide might be in. In any case, the sea will glitter in the distance. The ruins of a defence tower, Torre d’Aires, are largely ignored, lost in the pellucid landscape.
Along this shoreline, an elevated bungalow with a lovely tumble of garden calls to me, though my more pragmatic other half reminds me that mosquitos will be a severe nuisance in summer. This is the heart of the Ria Formosa Nature Reserve, and a winter haven for migrating birds.
Just past the midway point to Fuseta you will find a cafe, O Conquistador. Virtuously I did not sample them (I was to have a substantial lunch at the end of my walk) but the cakes did look extremely appealing. Following an arrow the path now crosses through the salt marshes, with Fuseta and a towering mound of salt on the horizon and butter yellow oxalis rippling at your feet.
I am delighted to observe, busily guzzling in the briney water, a large flock of flamingos. Their overhead flight makes a lovely ending to my walk.
And no, I didn’t manage to capture them, unless you wish to see a very blurred tail feather or three. But I can share that I ate at Crispins, almost impossible to miss as you walk back into town. The quayside makes a pleasant after dinner stroll, leading as it does to an expanse of river beach. Grab a bench and gaze out to sea, or watch the locals playing boules behind the green. In warm weather you can ferry across to Armona and an endless expanse of beach. Make sure to carry water with you as you are unlikely to find it at this end of the island.
Feeling like something a tiny bit more strenuous? You can climb up through the narrow streets, for a closer look at Igreja Matriz, the Mother Church. Notice the red lighthouse in the bell tower. Legend has it that many years ago, during a mighty storm, the women of Fuseta lit an enormous bonfire in the churchyard, the highest point of the village, to guide their fishermen husbands home. The men were guided safely back by the distant light and the image of Our Lady of Carmel, on June 16th, an event still celebrated every year.
It has its gritty areas but Fuseta is quite an interesting town. This video gives a fairly realistic view of it.
I hope you enjoyed my walk. I do try to include the details you would need if you found yourself in the area, but I can highly recommend Becky’s blog as a walking resource. Based at Olhão, she covers much the same territory as I do, with the very useful addition of an interactive map.
Sorry that I’m overdue in sharing some of these walks, but I do like to step back from the blog sometimes, especially here in the Algarve. I don’t stop walking but I do just relax into glorious scenery and good companionship. Many thanks to you all for your patience and support.
Did you know that Drake is a steadfast Liverpool supporter? :
It was purely by chance that I discovered Barco Casa, the Boat House. A neighbour gave me her copy of the ‘East Algarve Magazine’ and there on the front cover was my ideal of simple perfection on the water. I read the article, wreathed in smiles, and knew I had to follow it up. The Boat House is moored off the shoreline of Fuseta, in the unspoilt Eastern Algarve. The natural park, the Ria Formosa, surrounds the Algarve’s capital, Faro. It was a simple matter to arrange a viewing.
Tiago met me on the quayside and, with building excitement, I was ferried out into the lagoon. He patiently and thoroughly answered all my questions as he skippered the boat. This innovative project is a dream fulfilled for local architect Ricardo Badalo. He and his team at Passeios Ria Formosa have created a sustainable, eco-friendly, high quality home on the water. The surroundings are sublime, with a 360 degree view on this natural marine world.
Take a look at the promotional photo gallery. Imagine waking to watch the sun creep towards you across the water, and sunsets sitting on the sun deck, cradling your glass of wine. Perfect peace and calm, and a retreat from the clamouring world. A breakfast of fresh local fruits and pastries and the day is your own. Take the rowing boat across to the ilha and laze or swim. Snorkeling equipment is provided, for these waters are rich in sea life. A water taxi can take you ashore, if you want to venture further afield.
The Ria Formosa has been a protected natural park since 1987, with the aim of preserving the lagoon system. There is a huge diversity of flora and fauna, including the largest community of seahorses in the world. The area comprises 5 barrier islands and 2 peninsulas, the salt marsh and lagoon areas connected with a dense network of water channels. It has to be seen to be believed, and I’ve yet to discover a better way to observe it than from the Barco Casa.
You can make this a purely self catering experience, or opt to employ the services of a trained chef to add that touch of luxury. Tiago, who is passionate about the project, was formerly a chef in Lisbon, and can provide everything from oysters and champagne on the beach to a simple barbecue, with freshly caught fish.
Be as active or as lazy as you feel inclined. Ricardo has a keen interest in bird watching and marine biology and the company provide a full range of related tours. I’ve started to daydream about my romantic getaway. Maybe you will too.
I’m not given to writing promotional posts. This is my personal space and I like to keep it that way. But if I find something that excites me, it’s only natural to share, isn’t it? Further details can be found on the website http://www.passeios-ria-formosa.com.
It’s that ‘betwixt and between’, Christmas time and the New Year. The weather has been atrocious in so many places and some people will be spending it mopping up and repairing their homes. I haven’t managed too much walking lately myself, but I do still have some happy memories to share. Shall we take a little salt marsh stroll in the Eastern Algarve? Nothing too strenuous! At day’s end, we can even linger by the beach awhile.
The sky is blue, and that’s a good start! I’ve taken you to Fuseta before. It’s a little off the beaten track, but beloved by campers for the beachfront camp site. New development unkindly overshadows the distinctive fishermen’s homes. Prime location is key, after all, but the fishermen pursue their livelihood as they always did. The settlement dates back to 1572, and the fishing boats still cluster together in the mouth of the Rio Tronoco.
Approximately 10km east of Olhão, you turn off the E125 and follow the narrow road, over the railway tracks and down past the river mouth to the shore. Except in high Summer you will find ample parking beside the camp site. With the sea on your left, walk between the fishermen’s houses and the new apartment blocks facing the sea. The salt marshes open out where the road ends.
It’s a distinctive landscape, and habitat for all kinds of birds. I’ve grown to love it’s oft times, unkempt appearance when the tide is low. Spears of sunlight glinting on high water will reward my patience later. Coots bob gently on the surface, while their longer-legged friends peck, and choose.
Paths lead between the salt pans but you would be ill advised to follow any that are not obviously well trodden. Cyclists zip past, some with a smile and a wave. Looking back, houses randomly dot the marsh borders, and in the distance the new builds gleam, whitely.
You can follow the cycle track all the way to Olhao if you wish, but I did promise you a shorter walk, so I’m meandering back, on the main path across the marshes. I know of a good bench or three, where you can watch the locals play boules and still keep an eye on the sea.
You’ll be wanting a stop at the beach cafe, but I might just tempt you to a stroll along the river mouth first? You know I like a boat or two!
It’s a little ragged around the edges, but Fuseta is a real and honest place, with a working population. I hope you enjoyed accompanying me on my stroll. Shall we head back to that cafe now? I hear there’s cake!
I’ve had a great time walking with you all this year. Thank you for the support. It has been amazing! I worry sometimes that the formula is growing stale. I know that I will carry on walking and sharing, because I love it, but I would hate for you to be bored. You can say so, politely, in the comments, if you wish. I promise not to take offense. For now, I’m going to put that kettle on.
Not many shares this week, as you’ve all been busy with Christmas! Hopefully you’ll find time to read just a few excellent ones. Many thanks to my contributors! My Jo’s Monday walk page gives details of how to join in.
Drake’s post was wonderfully Christmassy! Happy New Year to you, sir!
Please do join me on Jo’s Monday walk next week, when I’ll be celebrating the launch of Jude’s new Garden Photography Challenge. I have a rather nice English garden to share. But first, I’d like to wish you a very happy and healthy New Year, and lots of walking!
This is where it all began for me- the knowledge that there were islands off the southern shore of Portugal. And ever since, it has been one of my special delights, whenever I’m in the Algarve, to seek out an ilha, or island, to explore.
As you fly into Faro, often the plane will follow the coastline and dip low over the Ria Formosa, a natural habitat of salt marshes. Still, it does not really prepare you for the fact that there is an island life out there, just waiting for your approach.
If you’re staying in Tavira, of course, it immediately becomes apparent. “Where is the beach?” you enquire, knowing full well that the Algarve boasts some of Europe’s finest. You will be directed to the ferry terminal, and there begins your adventure. If it’s summertime you can catch the ferry from the town, and chug away from Tavira’s beguiling skyline through the salt marshes. In winter you will have to be a little more independent and make your way to Quatro Aguas, on foot or bike. It’s a half hour walk, and not one that you would happily undertake in the heat of summer.
The quayside at Quatro Aguas
Chugging out past the salt marshes
And then you arrive
If you’re feeling lazy, you can just plonk down on the river beach and watch the to and fro-ing of the boats. Occasionally a jet ski might zip past, disturbing the calm, but more often it’s the sailing school, out to practise manouvres. For the wider expanse of the ocean, you can cross over the island, beneath fragrant pines, running the low key gamut of a few restaurants, ever open for business.
On the shoreline, simply stroll, with the tongues of water teasing and licking at your toes. Look back over your shoulder and you will see the ilha of Cabanas. I have a gentle love/hate relationship with Cabanas. To me it represents that commercial face of the Algarve that I came east to escape. Yet poke about in the back streets and the character is there still. In the off season you might even regard it as perfection. The fishing village is undeniably eroded, but catch the water taxi across to the island and all is forgiven. I have walked and walked till I could barely stand, until finally the beach begins to undulate and break up into sandbars.
A Cabanas water taxi
Ilha de Cabanas from the boardwalk
Ria Formosa at Cabanas
A Cabanas sunset
Cabanas is the most easterly of the ilhas. Tavira Island comes next as you head west, and can also be accessed from Santa Luzia and Barril. Yes, it IS that big.
Skipping on along the coast, you come to the village of Fuseta. From here it’s an easy ride across to the easterly tip of the next ilha in the chain, Armona. What will you find? Very little other than endless beach, and in some places an interesting perspective back to the mainland.
Fuseta from the ferry terminal
The salt marshes at Fuzeta
Looking back at Fuzeta from Armona
The main access to Armona is from the bustling fishing port, Olhao, which will be the subject of a later A-Z post. If I were ever to take up residence on one of the islands, it would be Armona. For me, it has everything I would need. A pretty little harbour, lots of shallow inlets for paddling, charming beach houses, a couple of restaurants, a shop and a church. All I would need would be my little boat, and the dream would be complete. Meanwhile, the ferry does a fine job. Saturday mornings, when the islanders come over to Olhao market for provisions, all kinds of everything are transported.
Looking across Armona to the mainland
Armona beach houses
Culatra is the next ilha we meet. Ferries make the round trip out of Olhao, calling first at the easterly tip of the island, and then at Farol, whose namesake, the lighthouse, can be seen from far and wide. Not dissimilar to Armona in style, you will have to judge for yourself where your preference lies. I gather that it’s a great spot for fishing. Myself, I just like to get off at one stop and potter along the beach to the other. Whether you do this on the landward side or by the ocean will affect what you are likely to find at your feet.
Farol, the iconic lighthouse on Culatra
Faro, the capital of the Algarve, also provides access to Armona and Culatra, both by regular ferry and excursion.
The last of the ilhas is only accessible from Faro, unless you have your own boat. Barreta, or Ilha Deserta as it is commonly known, is the most southerly of the islands. Do not attempt a visit here without full sun protection. There is no shelter, other than the restaurant “O Estamine”, from the sun’s blistering rays, although you might not always be aware of this due to a cooling breeze.
That’s as far as my explorations have gone, so far. Until I get that boat, I won’t be able to visit any of the smaller ilhas. Be assured, when I do, you’ll hear of it. Meantime if you have any questions or want details on getting there, you only have to ask.
Many thanks, as ever, to Julie Dawn Fox for providing the opportunity to share this post on the Personal A-Z Challenge. To join in, and read related posts, click on the link or the banner below.
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