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 Walk Across Europe

2003-04-19 - Trip 1 - Leg 6

Portugal, Algarve West

Portimao to Silves

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14.2 km today. Mini came too.
86 km this trip.
86 km from start.
3 metres minimum height.
60 metres maximum height.
119 metres ascent.
76 metres descent.
 Track Log: Reconstruction.
 Travel: Train.

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Busy road at start. Farm land. Rice farmer. Agricultural.

On day six we had to cross the Rio Arade. This was the first river of any size. There was a road bridge, a railway bridge nearby and a dual carriage way suspension bridge some way inland. Further inland there was the new motorway bridge. Finally it was possible to cross at Odelouca far inland northwest of Silves. None of these routes was ideal. We chose the path of least resistance and used the southernmost road bridge. We could not avoid walking along a busy road through north Portimão and Parchal where we finally got off the main road and into back streets. After this, and the sewage works, the route became pleasant and rural again.

We turned left out of the station and went through the car park towards the River Arade. Then we turned right and headed south along the bank (15 minutes). Some English people ask us the way to centre and River Gardens as they think we know where we are going. I suppose having a destination as far away as Istanbul does give you a more purposeful air than other visitors. We directed along the river towards the town and hoped the river gardens were near enough for them to find them.

We go under the road bridge and then up some steps a little further along on the right. We then turn right and over the bridge (20 minutes). There is a café there called Cafe name in Russian (New Bridge in Russian) which was a surprise. We then had quite a long stretch along the main road N125 to get us out of Portimão. Luckily there was a strip at the side which was not surfaced and was much kinder to walk on than tarmac. We took the left turn to Ferragudo Station (45 minutes) and then worked our way along a warren of back streets until we found left turn providing a way over the line.

You could if you preferred carry on along the main road until you get to a left turn heading over the line. Once over the line (1 hour), we carried on along this road also more main than we would have liked. There was a good view of the magnificent new bridge ahead, and as we got closer, the storks' nests at each end. When you get to sign post saying Parque Infantil, Posto Nautico, Cais do Calhau to the left, we turned right back towards the main road. We then turned left towards the Convento do Praxel and Estombar. The view of the bridge is still good.

On the left there are saltings with at least two different kind of waders (see sketches) and the Portimão water tower in the distance - sooo (doggy howl) from the day before. and the new motorway bridge beyond view. Eventually we leave the saltings and walk between two main roads. There is a strange piping sound do si sol mi (1 hour 45 minutes). At a T junction we go left towards a bridge and then cross the main road (Portimão by-pass) and turn right to go parallel with it (1 hour 50 minutes). Soon we turned away from the by-pass taking a left turn (1 hour 55 minutes). We carried on uphill now and followed a narrow track leading north-- east.

We passed cows with huge horns and horses with foals. We had lunch along this stretch. Neil tells me that the backs of my legs are burnt. This is unheard of especially as the sky is cloud-covered. It's the problem of always walking in the same direction rather than in a circular route as we usually do. Our right hands are much browner then our left even though we have creamed them and not the others. When I open my rucksack, I discover that I have failed to put a top on my water bottle. Amazingly nothing has leaked out. I am gah-gah.

We ignore a left turn (2 hours 20 minutes) and, at the end of the track, go right uphill towards a little building (2 hours 30 minutes). Then we headed towards a second house and across the field, and down a wall, then right to get down to the main road after which we turned left to go parallel with it. We went through some barbed wire to achieve this but found a perfectly good hole in the wall a bit later on (2 hours 35 minutes). We could probably have avoided these complicated manoeuvres if we had either turned right earlier or gone left along along the main road in the first place.

At the next T junction, we turned left and soon after headed under a main road (3 hours 10 minutes). We then turned left towards Fontes (springs) and a picnic area. We pass the car park (3 hours 20 minutes) and the entrance to the springs. We notice, as we have frequently done before, that there are actually fewer varieties of flowers here in the nature area than off the beaten track in the countryside. There is a barbecue in the area where some people were cooking up something delicious and their picnic table was covered with bottles and goodies. There was also a nature and exercise trail. In addition, there was a little open-air theatre for special events. We saw all of this from outside over the boundary fence.

We enjoyed this part of the walk. The views are quite stunning. Eventually a track carries on straight but we decided we would bear right on the same track. Needing a rest, we sat down on a wall by the road-side in the approach to someone's house and I even stretched out. A car drove up the drive and the driver put his head out and said, 'Ingleses?' and we nodded. He nodded to as if this explained everything. Soon afterwards, he backed out of the drive again and reversed into a side turning. I said he must come from Alentejo as he was reversing when he could have turned round.

He then got out and started talking to Mini. 'Eu - sou - nadido - em - 1927'. I translated this. I was born in 1927. I told him Mini was born in 1921 and he said, Oh! 76 and more! He then embraced her and suggested that Neil had been born in 1930 which made him very sad. We put him right and he said he had a daughter born in 1952 making her one year older than Neil. We said Neil would like to meet this daughter but when we heard than she had a son of 28, he changed his mind. Our new friend then continued the conversation in rapid Portuguese. I asked him to repeat and then, for our benefit he spoke slowly and carefully but correctly - not in Pidgin as many people do, especially English speakers and it is not helpful - telling us all about his 23 hectares of rice fields which were in the valley beside the estuary and which he cultivates himself and harvests in September.

He asked us where we were going and we told him Silves. He told us we were welcome to walk through his fields and explained the route. He then told us about his painful right knee together with actions and gestures. I have a very painful right knee so I went down the doctor's and she took a look at it and said it was old age. I said, that can't be old age because my other knee is OK and it's the same age as the other one. This made us laugh twice over or even three times because first he said it in Portuguese, then I repeated it in English and then I wrote it down in MY note book. Each time we laughed more than the time before.

We wished him a happy Easter for the following day and he said he would be having a wonderful time with his family. The punch line came when he told us he came from Alentejo. We continued our walk going straight on following our friend's advice. There were now reed beds on the left and yellow irises on the right (3 hours 30 minutes). We went through a gate. The track carries on past some houses and along a yard on the right. We enjoy admiring the rice fields and then head away and uphill past some big green pipes. At a T junction, we go right although left might also have been OK (3 hours 45 minutes).

We got to a main road where we turned left (3 hours 50 minutes). The railway line was now visible on our right (4 hours). We had tea with a view of Silves ahead of us (4 hours 25 minutes). When we got to a roundabout, we went straight across it into Silves (4 hours 40 minutes). At the next roundabout, we turned right (4 hours 55 minutes). towards the station which we soon saw on our right (5 hours). We are impressed by the transport system here and in Spain where a bus stops at the station each time a train passes through dropping off people who are catching and collecting people who are getting off. I forget if I mentioned that we some pale pink orchids (pyramid type) yesterday but they were too high up a precipitous bank for Neil to do a photograph.

We met a nice old rice farmer aged eighty something. He came from Alentejo. Alentejo has a reputation similar to Ireland and Norfolk (England). The people are very nice and they have the gift of the gab. They also have a slow but deep sense of humour.

This old chap developed a painful knee. He went down the doctors and he said "I've got a painful knee". The lady doctor inspected the knee and she said "That's painful because of your old age." The old chap looked a bit put out and then he said "That can't be old age. My other knee doesn't hurt and its just the same age as this one."

Another old Alentejo man was talking to his friend. He told him he was going to drive to Alentejo. His friend said "That's a narrow old road. And you know there isn't anywhere to turn your car around. If you reverse up the hill you can drive out forwards." Later on that day he met his friend reversing down the hill from Alentejo. His friend said "I see you drove up the hill forwards." The old man said "No - and you were wrong you know. There is a place where you can turn around."

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