Martim Longo

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.