hiking in Algave

THE FISHERMANS TRAIL 2: Lagos to Zavial 3 days

Back in Portugal after last years Camino and back on the Fisherman’s Trail after 4 years. Since then the trail has been extended along the south coast to Lagos so this time we’re starting there and going around the Cape of Sao Vicente and north up the west coast to Aljezur where we started last time. This trip is only about 120 km over 9 days but with the condition our bodies are in and the rugged up and downs of the trail it’ll be enough of a challenge.

And back to the Portuguese cobbles. By plane to Faro, train to Lagos, and cab out of town to the trail at Praia de Dona Ana where after the starting line selfie we clambered onto the boardwalk steps to begin a long stretch of timbered trail past a dazzling selection of rocky coves lapped by crystal clear emerald waters.

The geology was impressive sandstone , limestone, and otherstone in layers and whorles, caves and arches in a colour palette of earthy hues as we crossed the headland to the old lighthouse at Ponta de Piedale ( Point of Mercy) admiring the flowers huddled dry and hot in the forceful winds.

Passing through an enclave of posh villas we came down to a busy Sunday lunch time at Praia de Porto de Mos where we joined the diners at Antonio’s before scaling the path to the cliff top and continuing high above the beautiful beaches to the dramatic black and white monument above the beach of Luz.

A long clamber down into the popular town with its beach and cafe restaurants both of which we enjoyed at leisure before continuing up the cliff top path at the western end of town, passing ever more grand building dreams to our more modest space for the night, although we did have the cool pool I needed.

Next morning we retraced our steps to the cliff top path to carry on west, warned by a local ,(German), to keep away from the crumbling cliff top as every year some folk are lost, in fact just 2 weeks ago- and still no body found. The sky was blue and clear again and we were glad to have made an early start as the temperature rose. A lovely path past many old lime kilns and across high ground full of flowers before a descent to Burgau where we stopped for breakfast at a very good bakery, cafe and supermarket. A popular place we were surrounded by ex pats of many varieties.

Exiting the town through a rather surreal mix of controlled and wild landscape of multicoloured rock, we again climbed up to the high cliff top plateau and continued past what I guessed to be some old mine workings before dropping to another pristine beach where I could no longer resist the cooling ( seriously cooling!) waters.

Another steep climb up away from the beach and along to the 17c fort built by Luis de Sousa in an attempt to protect the coast from pirates and privateers before we again dropped down on a steep and slippy path to Boca do Rio where a snake slithered back to the river as we passed. Once more we ascended on weary legs with panting breath to gain the heights for the final time that day, grateful for the level cliff top but wary of the inevitable descent. Happy when Salema came into view, happier still to discover a fine old “era” or threshing circle nearly lost to the plants.

Before long we were down among its charming streets and making ourselves at home on our top floor balcony (second from left!) before an invigorating dip in the still flat calm sea.

Our third day on the trail was the toughest so far even though we only managed about 9 km. We had split the 20km stage from Salema to Sagres into two, booking a room at the Hostel on the Hill, a couple of km in land from Zavial beach. An easy day we thought. An easy trail altogether we thought. We had studied the altitude profiles of all the days from the comfort of our sitting room and it had all looked benign. Looks can be deceiving.

We were warned by a lady at breakfast in the hotel “It’s horrible”.

“So steep and slippy”

“It’s dangerous, be very careful”

Mind you perhaps we didn’t make it as easy as we could for ourselves by following some shortcut Wikiloc trails and not the official Fishermans but after climbing out of town in the road we veered off on a narrow cliffside rather than cliff top path. It had some challenging sections we’ll say.

There were a few stretches that reminded me of the clambering on the rocky Lycian Way trail but after we rejoined the “official Fisherman’s” things calmed down and we romped along for awhile till we had to tackle another near vertical ascent on rock and tree roots. But the views of the untouched looking beaches and the wild flowers were enough to keep us going.

Another descent another ascent and another unofficial shortcut, that luckily ended well, and we were on the final leg, on a lovely high rocky plateau full of flowers. This led to the Ponta de Torre where suddenly we heard the sound of crashing waves and the wind, as we gained the high point, was a different beast. Things had changed. The calm had gone. The surfers were out.

A much needed drink and food at the beachside restaurant and we started up the hill towards the Hostel on the Hill. Sticking our thumbs out was rewarded by a smart white Range Rover picking us up.

So now we are done for the day. 6 more days to go. It’s going to get easier.